Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Lazy American Elevators

Hi Again,

I just have to say that the elevators in this country are a lot more social than those back home. The elevators in the states hardly ever talk to me; they just sit there and sluggishly carry me from point A to B, as if I’m some sort of soon-to-be-discarded day old Danish.

The elevators here, on the other hand, always inform me of which floor I’m currently passing (or stopped at), and they always let me know before the doors close.

Don’t get me wrong … talking elevators aren’t always a good thing … sometimes they get a bit cheeky and annoying, but at least they’re putting in the effort – I can’t say that about most American elevators.

Anyway … just thought I’d share that thought,



Saturday, July 19, 2008

Mind the Gap --- Making Sense of London's Underground

Hello all,

I just thought I’d give a few tips about how to survive the London Underground (subway) system … aka The Tube.

First off, always make sure to know where you’re going before you leave the dorm … don’t wander around aimlessly, expecting any station to take you directly to where you need to be (correction = don't wander aimlessly at all - it let's pickpockets know you're a prime target). Just grab yourself a Tube map and you’re good to go (they’re available at all Tube Stations, and are graciously provided near the reception area of the dorm – right by the couches).

The OYSTER CARD --- it’s a life saver. Buying single tickets is cool for about half a minute (slip the ticket into one end of the machine, and it pops out of the other … instantly granting you access to London’s Underground – like a wonderful game you just can’t lose), but then you realize you could be paying half the price and saving tons of time with a little blue card. Why they call it an Oyster card is beyond me at this point – I have several theories, but they all involve 80’s contemporary jazz icon Tom Grant.

Anyway … just buy the card, it’s faster and cheaper than individual tickets. There are different kinds of Oyster cards … you could buy the unlimited pass (which costs something like 90 pounds for the month), or you could just get a regular card and top up (add money) as needed (it all depends on how much you think you’re going to ride the tube).

Oyster cards also work on the city’s many buses, but you can only top up at the Tube stations – so I would recommend keeping at least 5 pounds on your card at all times (in case a mob of little kids with cockney accents are chasing you, and topping up is not an option).

Crowds --- The Tube can/does get crowded … so be prepared. Sometimes you have to get up close and personal with complete strangers (which can be good or bad, depending on the stranger). When the tube gets crowded, it can get hot and uncomfortable … so you might want to scope out the system for a few days and get a feel for the best times and stations (ex #1/riding at 5:30pm from Oxford Circus = bad)(ex #2/riding at 2pm from Goodge Street = good).

Also … you can judge when to top up depending on when the stations get crowded. Topping up at 6pm is a much longer process than topping up at 11pm.

One more thing --- when the train speaks … listen! When the train operator says to mind the doors, please do … because those doors are closing, with or without you in their way. Also … if the magically robotic voice says “Mind the Gap” … listen to that as well --- the train is sometimes a bit further from the platform than at others … so just be careful.

That’s it for now,



Friday, July 18, 2008

Anyone Hungry?

With it being summer, I have many friends traveling to Europe—more specifically, to London. Once people find that I am studying overseas in London, one of the first questions is, “How’s the food?” Many people are shocked when I say that the food here is good. For some reason, people have an idea in their head that the food in London is not good. This is simply not true. It seems that every day we find a new place that we would like to eat at in London. As the program comes closer to the end, it seems less and less probable that we will be able to eat at many of these places, but I can still recommend several restaurants to eat while in London.

Let me begin by saying that I do not know if I have a favorite restaurant in the city. Since there is no kitchen in the house, almost all of us find ourselves going out to dinner every night, and it is usually to a different restaurant. However, lunch tends to always be Pret. It is a sandwich shop. Pret is cheap, good, and on almost every corner.

Dinner is a little more complicated than lunch. For pizza, the best place that we found is DaMario’s in South Kensington. This was a favorite pizzeria of Princess Diana, and is the closest to authentic Italian pizza that I have found since being in London. The pizza goes great with a nice bottle of red wine. For Asian food, we frequently go to Wagamama’s. It is a chain here, but you cannot tell by the food. The restaurant tends to dwell on how it is more health conscious than other restaurants in the city, and because of that, features a large range of health conscious fruit drinks. The drinks go great with the chicken curry and fried rice.

Sometime the group wants a more casual place to grab a drink and have a bite to eat. That is when we go to All Bar One. It is another chain that is all around London. The sangria there is great, and you cannot go wrong with the tapas or a burger. Another casual dining place that we frequent is Hummus Brothers: a restaurant whose primary dish is hummus. How a restaurant found a way to make hummus a meal is well beyond me. However, the food is great and cheap.

Of course my food commentary could not be complete without noting at least one dessert place. Well, I have not been able to find one yet, but as soon as I do I will be sure to include it in a blog entry. Until then, CHEERS.

Chad Martin

Sunday, July 13, 2008

There's Something Going Around

I’ve noticed that recently some people haven’t been feeling as well as they could/should be. I think, therefore, that something is happening (not to be confused with M. Night Shyamalan’s terribly overhyped eco-thriller).

To protect myself from catching the unknown disease … I’ve spent the last few days masquerading as a Grandfather Clock or end table when passing people in the halls or anywhere a potentially contagious conversation might take place.

Personally, I think people are getting sick b/c of the rapid changes in weather … hot one minute, freezing the next … I think this is why they invented the saying ‘Under the Weather.’ (of course I’ve never agreed with that saying … because technically we’re all under the weather … if we were over the weather we would be in a space shuttle, and I gave up on my dreams of becoming an astronaut several weeks ago).

So this is my theory … but remember … I’m in law school (not med school) – so take this with a grain of salt.

Anyway … I hope everyone under the weather gets over it soon.




For any future program attendees … London is full of wonderful parks to visit. Today I visited a particular favorite – Hyde Park – mostly because it always hosts interesting events, like concerts, on the weekends. This weekend Hyde Park hosted ‘Music Village’ – showcasing London-based musicians of many different cultures and traditions. The park also has many other attractions … including a memorial playground and fountain for Princess Diana.
Of course … Hyde isn’t the only park around … we also have Regent’s Park, St. James’s Park, The Green Park, Kensington Gardens, and a host of others .

It’s good to get away from the stress of city life and wander the park pathways for a while. You can see locals playing football (soccer), walking their dogs, and helping tourists find the nearest exit.

Anyway … when in London … visiting one of the parks is a must … just make sure to keep an eye out for the weather and bring some bug repellant (the flies are relentless).

That’s it for now,



Monday, July 7, 2008

Tennis Anyone? SW Does Wimbledon

After class last Monday, the SW crew decided to take a trip to Wimbledon to catch some tennis. Since tennis is obviously a gentleman's sport, we donned our classiest Polo's, khakis, and plaid shorts and hopped on the tube. Once there we made our way to the queue (the line) and collected our Queue Cards which essentially held our spot in line so that we could partake on other adventures. The crew was hungry, and since Wimbledon is a classy place, we decided to act on our best behavior. After venturing off the grounds, we found a fried chicken restaurant and a store that served British Ales. Thus, we grabbed some chicken and ales and had a proper picnic while waiting to get onto the Wimbledon grounds.

After an hour or so we were permitted to enter the sacred Wimbledon grounds. Like typical tourists, we took pictures in front of anything that said "Wimbledon" or "Tennis" and proceeded to the gift shop to contribute to the UK's GDP. We eventually made it to the resale line which is where Wimbledon resells tickets of guests that have left. After waiting in this line for about 30 mins, we scored tickets to see Safin play Wawrinka. The 9 of us split up into groups of 4, 3, and 2 and had great seats. Now, I personally have never found tennis to be an interesting sport, but I can honestly say that my opinion has changed after this whole experience.
Here are some pics...MDM

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

London Gets Dark Really Late

This has been an adventurous week for the Southwestern London Program. While some students are already tired of the site seeing, and are in turn just want to shop, others are unable to get enough of the marvelous sites around London.

On Thursday, June 26, we finished up our first week of classes. By this point, many people were exhausted and opted to take a nap before heading for a night out. Others decided to continue to explore the city. After the napping and the meandering about town, many students from the program decided to go out to a local, posh nightclub to congratulate themselves on finishing an atrocious amount of reading in a four day span. While at the club, the DJ was playing some nasty tunes that got the club grooving, and made the students from the program break out some dance moves that would rival Justin Timberlake or Michael Jackson from the 80’s. We even decided to get table service so that we could have a seat and a bottle of alcohol to sip on while we danced circles around each other. However, in typical European fashion, the table ended up being quite small, and only two people could sit down. But that did not stop the party!

Friday, June 27, brought all new adventures as many of the students were woken up by the dorm maid coming to empty the trash in the dorm rooms at around 9 in the morning. This probably would have been more of a welcomed wake up call had it been 15 minutes earlier so that students could have at least gotten the free hot breakfast that ends at 9. The day continued with a guided tour of the Tower of London by Professor Epstein. Professor Epstein is one of the most knowledgeable people on the history of London and conveys his knowledge in an interesting way. While at the Tower of London, students saw many things, but the highlights were probably the location that Ann Boleyn was beheaded and the Royal Jewels. The Royal Jewels are literally in a vault…yes, like a bank. Students were in aw, over the 563 ct. diamond in a scepter that students in the program calculated to be worth more than $110,000,000. And that is just for the diamond on the top of the scepter.

After the Tower of London, the students joined the professor for a drink at a nearby pub to reflect on the Tower. While that was fun, the students could not stay too long because they had to scurry off in order to be spotted at another posh club in London later that night for one of the student’s birthdays.