Top Ten of My First Month in London

Lindsey Needels is a Modern Literary Studies major who studied abroad in London, England at the UC Bloomsbury Center for the fall 2012 semester. While abroad, Lindsay made new connections, both with her fellow UC peers and with the diverse denizens of London. Currently, Lindsay writes for many publications including TWANAS Press Collective (where she is soon to be an editor), and many blogs, both on her own and with ULoop as a student blogger. Besides writing, Lindsay enjoys photography and is very excited to share both her stories and pictures on the UCSC Programs Abroad Blog!


“I admit that it has been way too long since I last updated everyone on my travels. Part of the reason for that is so many things have happened, that this post was starting to become a little overwhelming. So in order to ease the process a bit, I’ve decided to make a list of the top 10 things that have transpired from August 22 to now. Hopefully after this I will write more regularly, and therefore in more detail about specific events. But until then, enjoy this list…

top 10 of month 1

D-Dog and J-Dog

FRIENDS WERE MADE: In the past month I have made many friends, all of which were promptly given nicknames. Joyce became J-Dog, Nicole N-Dog, Michelle M-Dog, and Dean’s name is so cute already that it has become the flat catchphrase, and is easily inserted into every song that gets stuck in our heads. She is also called D-Dog (spoken like a stutter).  What I love most about my flatmates is that they all have a very ridiculous senses of humor, not unlike myself. They also enjoy a lot of my other favorite activities including, but not limited to, watching scary movies, singing, going to restaurants, thrifting, and doing random things, like late night charades and bubble tea trips and spontaneous hair makeovers. I definitely lucked out with this bunch. It has honestly never been easier for me to connect with a group of people before.

HAIR WAS DYED: I dyed my hair almost black again. No one who knows me is surprised. I do this a lot. What can I say? It makes my eyes pop. I’m lookin’ all kinds of fierce right now.

Ain’t Nothing But the Blues Bar, which I had to visit for class 😉

CLASSES BEGAN: Classes started on August 27, and so far they have been very interesting. I’m taking four: London-Space and Society, British Cinema, London Music Scene, and Theatre in London. All of the classes require some sort of city exploration, which is really great. They’re designed to make you get out and take advantage of your time in London. While I think they are all pretty interesting and many fascinating conversations have taken place in all of them, my favorite is easily The London Music Scene. So far, we’ve been talking about blues music and the little known “American Invasion” (in which Blues and R&B became extremely popular in Britain) that took place before the “British Invasion” of America. For those who know me, it will come as no surprise that it has made me very happy to be listening to songs like “Cross Road Blues” and “Smokestack Lighting” in class. So far, I would say the most noticeable difference between British and American instructors is that the British are less afraid to let their personal opinions be known and, consequently, can sometimes be a little more narrow minded in discussion. It hasn’t stopped me from enjoying class, though. I learned in one of the articles I read that given the overly-politeness (saying “sorry” when some one steps on your foot) and self-deprecating sense of humor inherent in British culture, I would fit in perfectly here if I wanted to move.

Beatle fans from all over write messages in front of Abbey Road Studios. I chose this lyric from “Dear Prudence” because when I first heard it at 12 years old, a love affair/obsession began that would last two and a half years.

SIGHTS WERE SEEN: In the past month, I have acted the tourist on quite a few occasions. I saw the changing of the guard and St. Paul’s Cathedral. I have learned a number of facts on it’s architect, Sir Christopher Wren, on various guided tours. (Did you know that every time he built a church he would also build a pub?) On one of the first nights here, we walked down The Thames at night and saw Big Ben and The London Eye all lit up and blue. On the first weekend, we went to The Notting Hill Carnival and discussed it’s post-colonial significance. We went to Camden Market (the Berkley, CA, Woodstock, NY, and Santa Cruz, CA of London). I saw platform 9 3/4 and remembered waiting for an owl to come to my house when I was 11. We went to Abbey Road and I remembered that moment when I was 12 when I heard The White Album for the first time. We spent a day of class talking about Jimi Hendrix, only to realize it was the anniversary of his death. That day, D-Dog and I went to were he choked to death in Notting Hill. We’ve been to Brick Lane on multiple occasions, ate some curry, thrifted, and watched the hoards of hipsters descend, drink, and litter after 6:00 PM on a Saturday. And you can rest assured we have barely scratched the surface of what there is to see here.

Deanna Rodger is perfect.

SHOWS WERE SEEN: Some of my favorite experiences of the past month involve seeing people preform. We went to a cafe in Bethnal Green and saw slam poets like Deanna Rodger and Buddy Wakefield. Roger reminded me of the political and social struggles that our generation faces. Wakefield taught me to finally let go. Dean and I saw Beirut in concert, and I made two Greek friends who claimed to be cousins. I’m not convinced of this, given the closeness of their bodies and incessant hand-holding. Luckily, there are many more concerts planned for the future (including The Tallest Man on Earth and Jack White). I forgot to realize that coming to a huge city like London would give me access to all kinds of awesome concert opportunities.

From the British Museum.

MUSEUMS WERE VISITED: In the UK, museums are free. The public ones, anyway. We went to the National Gallery a day after the program started and saw famous paintings by Monet and many others. We live about 120 seconds form The British Museum and often pop in for no reason at all, just because we have the time. Seeing real Ancient Egyptian artifacts was unexpectedly emotional for me, as it brought me back to my childhood obsession with the era. We also saw The Wellcome Collection, in all of its eccentric, Napoleon’s toothbrush and anti-masturbation ringed-glory.

CAFES WERE FREQUENTED: No, not Starbucks. They are here, but I refuse to enter one while abroad. It’s not particularly necessary anyway, living in the Bloomsbury area of London, which is renowned for its mom and pop coffee shops. It might seem like a silly thing to mention, but I have found in the past month that one of my favorite things to do is go to a cafe, order a latte, crank up the Mississippi Fred McDowell and read away.

FOOD WAS EATEN: Before coming to London, I heard horror stories about the food. Indeed, we have had some rather unfortunate pub-related culinary experiences. However, given the vast ethnic diversity of London, it isn’t hard to imagine that one can pretty much get any kind of food they want to eat here (except Mexican…a Californian’s worst food-nightmare, but we’re all hanging in there). While here, we’ve had all kinds of Chinese food (and you can order the real kind here, pig stomach and all), ramen at Wagamamas (awesome, super cheap place that specializes in the dish), Turkish, Indian, macaroons, homemade ice cream, and one time we ordered Dominoes. You didn’t read that. What? Nothing.

DEBIT CARDS WERE LOST: Once again, no one who knows me is surprised.

Detail from a costume made at Shakespeare’s Globe

SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE: I suppose that this event technically falls under the “shows were seen” category, but I feel like it was worth its own spot. Shakespeare’s Globe theater is an incredibly successful attempt to re-create the actual theater where Shakespeare’s plays were performed back in the Elizabethan period. They built the building in the same way they would have done back then, they make the costumes in the same way, sometimes they even use all-male casts like they did back then. The production we saw of Richard III was this way. We read the play for my Theater in London class, and being that it is incredibly dark and kind of depressing, and we were seated in the Yard (meaning we weren’t seated at all, since we had to stand, as the poorer audience members did back then), I was kind of concerned that I would be unhappy there. But, of course, I was wrong. The actor playing Richard, Mark Ryland, took his role in a very unconventional, comic direction, which made standing through one of Shakespeare’s longest plays much easier. There was also an added level of excitement because Barty Crouch Sr. from Harry Potter (Roger Lloyd-Pack) played Buckingham, and none other than Hollywood pretty boy and Captain Kirk impersonator, Chris Pine, was seen watching the play with us. Now, of course, everyone told me that in London it rains quite a bit. Really it hasn’t been that bad here, though. Except that one time when we were watching Richard III in the Yard (which, by the way, is roofless). I didn’t realize it would be raining that night, so I got soaked. But, honestly, standing in Shakespeare’s Globe, in the rain, laughing at the horrible man that is Richard III in the Yard like a true groundling (as they were called) was one of the most memorable experiences of my trip so far. The modernity of the city was invisible from where we were standing, getting drenched. For a moment I got caught in the history of the city I’ve been calling my home for the past month. It was a truly time-transcending moment.”