Excursions a Cavall

I’ve been in Spain—Catalonia, about an hour north of Girona, specifically—since Sunday evening and I have to say, it’s really lovely. I’m spending spring break at a lodge called Can Jou with my roommate Natalie, where we get to ride every day, all our meals are included (and come with good red wine) and our private balcony looks out over the Pyrenées.

So obviously, it’s been miserable.

The riding is great; I hadn’t properly been riding in years, but I’m getting back into the swing of it (by which I mean that I’m no longer so sore I can’t move). It’s so much fun. My horse is a lovely mare named Lluvia, which means something in Spanish but I can’t remember what. I’ve even getting to practice my French, because one of the people in our tour (there are only four people) is a pharmacist from Lille who doesn’t speak very good English.

This post would be a lot more poignant with pictures, but the internet here isn’t that good, so I’m going to hold off on uploading those until I get home to London.

All the scenery is stunning, though. Today, we rode across a 25-meter high (that’s 82 feet, if you’re curious) Roman bridge and then had lunch on the rocks by the river underneath it. After lunch, we all relaxed (read: napped) and I now have a lovely sunburn on one side of my face. But seriously, we see loads of lovely views of the mountains every day, and ride past 15th century monasteries and even older churches; everything is gorgeous. The weather is great, too. It’s been in the high 60’s every day this week (that’s around 19ºC for any non-Americans reading this) and sunny.

Basically it’s awesome. I’m such a city girl at heart that I forgot how much I love being out in the mountains. This trip has been a great reminder.

Okay, I did forget to mention the one less-than-awesome thing, which is that we’re pretty sure Natalie fractured her little toe when she dropped her horse’s hoof on it yesterday. It was apparently all black, and you can still see the hoof marks on it, and she’s in pain. Not that it’s keeping her from riding, since that hurts less than walking anyway. But it’s definitely adding a level of danger to the trip. (Well, not really. But she’s taking a lot of ibuprofen and taping her toe.)

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Paris!

It’s been ages since I updated, because I’m really terrible at keeping blogs like this, but there you are. I’m in Spain for a week now, but I spent Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in Paris.

Thursday was kind of a mess; I accidentally booked the wrong hotel, so getting that all sorted was a hassle. But I explored Montmartre, which I’d never really done before. Every other time I’ve been to Paris, Sacré Coeur has been under construction, so getting to go in was new and exciting. It was a gorgeous, clear day, too; the view was incredible!

On Friday, I went to the Musée d’Orsay, which was just incredibly lovely, and then I walked along the Seine to the Quartier Latin and wandered around there for a while. Ended up having dinner at a restaurant on the Boulevard Saint Germain. Nothing too fancy, just some sort of potato and blue cheese concoction.

Saturday was the day where, by the end, I thought my feet were just going to remove themselves from my legs in protest. I went to the Louvre for a while; they lose points for not doing discount tickets for 18-25-year-olds from outside the EU (the Musée d’Orsay charged me 2.50€ less than the normal price). It was really awesome, though! Obviously, I appreciated it a lot more at 20 than I did at 8, though I blew off the Venus de Milo and the Code of Hammurabi because I’d already seen them. I couldn’t find the Caravaggios, though! I looked through so much Italian art and never did see them. Alas. There was a lot of really interesting stuff; I saw one Renoir painting that I’m totally certain was the same girls from the famous one at Orsay of two girls playing the piano, which was neat.

After the Louvre, I had lunch in the Jardin Tuileries and then went to the Galeries Lafayette, which was pretty incredible. I found some lovely $3,000 dresses I’d like, as well. Resisted buying them, though.

As always, I wasn’t quite read to leave Paris—it’s such an amazing city. Sitting at the little café with free wifi near my hotel in Montmartre on Friday night, I saw a woman twirling flaming batons! (I have a video and if you’re really interested, I can email it to you.)

There aren’t any pictures with this yet because I haven’t been through them all yet, but hopefully I’ll have time during this week in the middle of nowhere in Spain riding horses.

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general adventures, part the first

Hello from London! I got here about a week and a half ago—my plane landed at Gatwick at an unreasonably early hour on January 14th. (It was so early that, as we were landing, we were flying into the sunrise; it was beautiful.)

The first exciting thing was that, in the poor light of the early morning, we flew over things that looked like blimps. As I am pretty literate with pop culture, I immediately became worried that I was flying into an alternate version of London where I might be turned into a Cyberman. Luckily, that hasn’t happened yet, but I’m keeping my guard up.

I spent most of the day Saturday accomplishing a few basic tasks—getting my UK cell phone hooked up with a pay-as-you-go SIM card, buying a couple groceries, checking in with the director of my program, and so forth. By the evening, I was so tired that I could barely move (I didn’t sleep at all on the plane). I actually managed to force myself to stay away until 8:30 by chain-watching Battlestar Galactica* but it was pretty rough. So of course, because I hadn’t slept for two days, I woke up at 4 in the morning and was unable to get back to sleep. Which, in turn, meant that I got tired really early on Sunday.

Me in front of Big Ben and Parliament!

By the beginning of the week, I’d gotten my sleep schedule pretty much sorted, which
was a relief, because the week itself was insanelybusy. We had a bus tour of London on Sunday, orientation on Monday, classes and more orientation Tuesday, and then classes Wednesday and Thursday. I shopped all the classes and have ended up taking the following: The London Art World, Contemporary British Politics, British History 1850-1950, Imagining London (which is a lit class), and Global Access to Work.

The classes weren’t the really exciting part of last week, though. On Monday night, we went to see One Man, Two Guvnors at the Adelphi Theatre. It stars James Corden, better known for being in The History Boys and Doctor Who. I had a blast; the play was hilarious; it was altogether a great experience.

The oldest text that corroborates a Bible story.

Then, on Wednesday evening, everyone in my program got an after-hours tour of part of the British museum. A Carolina alum who apparently was archaeologist of the year in 2011 gave us a great tour of some of the exhibits from Assyria. I’ve never known much about that era or part of the world, but the stuff he told us was fascinating. I think we’re going to get a few more tours with him later in the semester and I really look forward to them.

On Thursday morning, with the art class, we went back to the British Museum. (If you’re curious, it’s close enough to our flats to throw a rock and hit it.) There, we looked at the Elgin marbles from the Parthenon and I have to confess, it made me angry. I’d never seen them in London before (despite having been to London), but I saw both the Acropolis and the New Acropolis Museum in the summer of 2012, and I was struck by how brilliant the display was there was. At the British Museum, they weren’t as well displayed, there was no mention whatsoever of the approximately half of the frieze that’s still in Athens, and I was generally really underwhelmed by the display. Give the Greeks back their stuff, yo.

Friday, I was totally free, so I slept in and then spent about three hours at the Victoria and Albert Museum. They had some really neat exhibits, including some of the costumes from the Lion King musical.

On both Saturday and Sunday, I relaxed a lot, and went for long walks. Saturday, I went south to the river, wandered around the South Bank a bit, walked across the Millennium Bridge and up into Trafalgar Square. On Sunday, I headed north, accidentally passed the British Library’s new building (so of course I went in to gawk at things like handwritten Beatles lyrics on the back of a card sent to John Lennon’s son) and then headed on to King’s Cross. I didn’t go in, but I did find it.

The past two days have been pretty uneventful. Yesterday morning, we went to the National Gallery for my art class, and looked at some Van Goghs (including the famous sunflowers still life) and a bunch of lovely impressionist paintings.

*An important footnote to this post is that I spent much (though not all) of my spare time between Saturday evening and Sunday a week later mainlining Battlestar Galactica. I’m not going to talk about that here because it’s not really relevant, but it did happen. It was brilliant and you should all watch it, though!

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here goes nothing!

Well, I wasn’t going to make a blog about being in London, but I’ve been here a week and already have quite a few people wanting to know everything that I’m up to and, frankly, I love you all dearly and I’m incredibly touched that you care, but I also don’t want to spent the next three months typing out the same email over and over.

So a blog seemed like the way to go.

I’m spending the semester in London, as anyone actually reading this probably already knows, through UNC’s Honors Semester in London Program. Hopefully, I’ll have a proper post about my first week up later tonight, but in the meantime here is some other miscellaneous contact information.

My address here is:

20 Bedford Place
Flat D
London
WC1B 5JA

I have a twitter, @sketchingbirds, which I’m good about updating and checking (and I get @-replies texted to my UK mobile, so there’s that), but I would caution you against following it unless you can deal with my tweets about things like the TV shows I’m watching in addition to more general life updates.

You can obviously email me at maggiebarrows@gmail.com (or any other email I’ve answered regularly in the recent past, frankly). I have a cell phone, and there’s a land line in the flat, but I can’t imagine any reason someone reading this would want those numbers. If you do, just let me know.

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