25/10/12 – A couple weeks later and Brighton
Attn: This post is coming to you from the past. Creepy, right? Quite in form for Halloween this Wednesday. Here’s the story. I didn’t have enough time to post this when I wrote it last Thursday (because I was packing for Wales). Therefore, all of what you’ll read below has already happened. P.s. the Wales trip was AMAZING but I’ll be writing a blog about that later this week. For now, pretend like it is last Thursday and work with me on this one.
Here we go.
After returning from Edinburgh, I started to feel the typical autumn sickness that religiously presents itself with the turning of the seasons. My stuffy nose, cough, and congestion kept me in the following weekend all except for one day. Saturday was spent at the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace and shopping up and down Oxford Street. I temporarily banished my sickness to spend some pounds on impulse buys, gifts and, most importantly, waffles. There happens to be a fantastic waffle stand almost hidden next to an Underground Station on Oxford Street. When I say fantastic I really mean ridiculously, un-categorically, immensely, supremely amazing (and not to mention counted for double my daily caloric intake in one waffle). The caramelized treat was topped with real whipped cream, halved Oreos and drizzled with white chocolate sauce. I’m almost positive it was one of the (if not the) best desserts I’ve ever allowed myself to eat. I was so sad to see the last bites of my waffle disappear but I vowed, like Mr. Schwarzenegger, “I’ll be back.”
The next few days flew by as I leapt back from my sickness and immediately into working four days straight at the Knitting and Stitching Conference at Alexandra Palace. Yes, I know, it sounds thrilling! TRAID, the company I am interning for, put on an Upcycling Workshop at the conference. Upcycling is similar to recycling but more focused on adding value to the reused item. At the workshop, we had donated clothing that people could purchase and upcycle into something new. I was there to spread the word about TRAID and our mission as a charity. After the first few hours it was clear that, come Sunday, I would surely have ‘broken record’ syndrome after repeating myself about every 5-10 minutes. Occasionally, there were those gems that you’d catch every half hour or so who were really interested in what we do as a charity. Otherwise, it was 15 year old girls who would do the, ‘I’m really not interested in anything you say so I’m just going to keep walking’ move or the old ladies who would basically yell at me that they’ve been upcycling old clothing/textiles since their conception and that the last thing they needed was a lesson in simple sewing. Well, sorry. Needless to say, after four days of this, I was pooped.
My social life finally returned to normal as my schedule swung back into place last week. Sans a presentation and an in-class journal article assignment, it was a fairly low-key week. Then came the weekend (cheers!) and by Friday at 10pm I was finally able to enjoy a girls’ night out in Piccadilly Circus. Saturday brought the usual ‘I need of a Venti latte forget the milk I need that much caffeine’ kind of morning as I darned my granola gear and headed to Borough Market for the second time. The term “granola” is what people who aren’t earth-conscience call people who are, like me. I was channeling my inner hippie as I sported barefoot shoes (usually Keen or Teva brand), burlap produce bag, and braided hair tied back with a bandana. It was time for another go at the delicious meals, tempting samples, fresh produce and dangerously decadent chocolates.
After successfully walking away with a basket full of peppers, out-of-this-world hummus, raspberries and a stomach full of a SuperVeg Burger I headed to Covent Garden for a workshop with TRAID at Patagonia. TRAID works with many clothing designers, retailers and outfitters to further their influence in the industry and attract customers to the charity. Most designers want to be part of TRAID because it gives them good press and helps them to sleep at night. Patagonia had a few recalled waterproof jackets where the waterproof lining had started to deteriorate. Instead of throwing out these jackets, they donated them to TRAID and challenged us to make them into something completely new. We were instantly inspired and my colleagues designed a rucksack bag out of one jacket. Brilliant, I tell you. The workshop was designed to draw people into the Patagonia shop for a tutorial of how to create the rucksack (or any upcycling project) with the reclaimed jackets. The turnout was great and it was a ton of fun to work with the Patagonia crew. As I am a die-hard Patagonia fan and immensely admire their company ethics so, needless to say, I was in heaven.
Come Sunday, I was off to Brighton! Brighton is one of England’s southern ports and was primarily used for fishing and trading. Brighton’s West Pier was the main trading base in the South until a series of storms and fires ripped the majority of it down (the iron beams still stand from the historical treasure). In its wake another pier was built to bring joy to the Brighton and Hove communities. Brighton Pier (originally named Brighton Marine Palace and Pier) is adorned with carnival rides, cotton candy stands and lousy fish and chips booths. Everything a person needs! Greasy food that will make your stomach upset and rides that will make you want to vomit afterwards. It reminded me of a tame Navy Pier in Chicago, Illinois.
Unfortunately, the trip had only scheduled four hours in Brighton. I was unable to walk around as much as I would have liked but I still enjoyed myself thoroughly. The group I was with got free entrance into the Royal Pavilion which looks like it came fresh from India. The intricate designs and domes of the exterior were enough to make me stop in awe but the interior was on another level. Visitors are not allowed to take pictures within the Pavilion but I can say it was like stepping into a fantasy. King George IV had designed it to replicate an Asian rainforest with bamboo and bells lining the walls and dazzling chandeliers that imitated dragons and water lilies. Unfortunately, the tour lasted for about an hour and a half which took a large chunk out of the allotted time I had to explore the city.
For lunch, I knew exactly what I wanted to get. Fish and Chips. Where better to get it than the coast? I had a local fish smokehouse in mind that had amazing reviews and had extremely affordable prices. Sadly, when I found said smokehouse, it was closed on Sundays. The group and I finally decided on another pub along the beach under the pier which served a serious fish and chip meal. Accompanied by a half pint of cider, the fish and chips were some of the best I’ve ever tasted (and it wasn’t because of the cider). Since the weather was a typical autumn day in the UK (drizzling and grey) it was nice to sit inside the warm pub looking out to the blue sea and avoiding the occasional raindrop.
After successfully stuffing ourselves, we ventured on to the Pier to snag some artsy photos of the contradictory flashing carnival lights and the serine seaside in front of the Brighton cityscape. The light grey sky made the water glow an eerie opaque blue which contrasted nicely with the ambers of the beach rocks. I’m thankful for my artistic eye which was trained by my dad (a phenomenal artist). I’m sure if I were to paint the lakefront of Brighton he’d look at it and say, “Good work, Maddy. C plus.” This is an ongoing inside joke that was passed from a professor to my dad and finally to me. An artist’s work is never finished and one can always improve. Practice makes perfect!
Once stepping off the Pier, I headed to roam the historic Lanes of Brighton. The Lanes are a cluster of narrow streets (narrower than usual European streets which, I can vouch for, are pretty frickin’ narrow) that are not named for their small width or their winding nature. The “lanes” actually referred to the lines upon lines of fish that the fisherman would haul in on a daily basis. They would string the fish along the streets, between the streets, on the streets or basically anywhere they could find space. This was a mecca of trade and I’m sure it smelled like roses. Today the Lanes are full of small boutique shops, colorful cafes, coffee roasters and hole-in-the-wall pubs. It is great place to get lost in for an afternoon.
Back to the old grind this week with school and work as usual. I’ve come to settle into my little routine here in London and I quite like it; business during the week and bashing about Europe on the weekends. I’ve got a hell of a month coming up as well full of weekend excursions and family time for Thanksgiving. This weekend I’m headed to Wales for an Adventure Weekend sponsored by my school here. I’ll be in my element as we hike through the Pembrokeshire National Park, surf and coasteer (cliff dive)! After that, it’s a day trip to Norwich, Dover or Cardiff. Then a weekend trip to Ireland followed by a full week of family time as my mom, aunt and uncle jump the pond to spend Thanksgiving week with me! I can’t believe October is almost over already. This most amazing experience is flying by and in a blink of an eye it is going to be over. I just keep telling myself to live life to the fullest and have no regrets. My friends and I have changed the phrase, “YOLO” (You Only Live Once) into, “You Only London Once” and have made a commitment to filling our time here with great memories, delicious food, full-bodied ales and lasting friendships. So, to these remaining two months I only have one thing to say. Bring it on.