Weekend Warrior

Weekend Warrior

It's time to update again and I've got to point out what I've learned at the end of my first month in the UK. London Life is all about the weekend. Now, I can see how if you have ever been to London, or even have distinct perceptions of it, you might disagree with this. London is a major world city, there is always SOMETHING happening in London. Actually, it's more like five or six things are happening in London at once that you want to be a part of. But Monday through Thursday, there is still work and class to be taken care of. I did come over here to study and work (right?). And even though fun and exciting events take place during the week, it's actually pretty low key. The Tube is only open so late, most businesses close by seven and pubs have a quiet atmosphere when football's not on. A lot of London work life is evenly paced for me and not very strenuous. Don't get me wrong, work can be challenging but it does not have the same culture as a lot of American work environments. For instance, my internship doesn't start until 10 a.m. and at least one cup of tea. It is routinely interrupted by more tea, offers of cake, and the head of our office yelling at the news on TV (i.e. a scene of amusement). After work, it's a calm stroll around Westminster where I work or Maida Vale where I live. I'll take a trip to the pub in the evenings, get some homework done and prepare for the next day.

But the weekends are a different story, they are packed with things to do outside your routine. When you don't have class or work you've got to cram in as much excitement as you can and the past two weekends have had exactly that. Cardiff, Wales was on the agenda last Friday. Cardiff is a great little city near a gorgeous bay. Unlike London, it's not overly crowded on a Friday afternoon and the road signs actually make a bit of sense! Being the only ones brave enough to venture into Celtic grounds, Ryne and I made the day trip by ourselves. We took a visit to Cardiff Castle, a gorgeous nearly thousand year old castle with strong Asian and Middle Eastern influences. Unlike most the other castles I've visited, much of the interior and decorations were intact including the wood paneling on the walls and carpeted floors. The castle felt lived in and was a great representation of what it would have been like to live there in medieval times.

The rest of the castle, such as the keep and the remains of the wall, were not preserved as they would have been seen centuries ago exactly, but still gave a lot of insight into the original structure and use of the castle. The grounds had a wide open courtyard, and we were lucky enough to witness a wedding reception there! Happy family posed for pictures and small kids played in the grass, it only added to the warm and fuzzy feeling I never expected to get from a castle or such a major city.

The rest of the day had a happy, fairy-tale weekend feeling to it. Strolling through Cardiff was easy, the weather was bright with a nice breeze, and the prices on, well, everything, were significantly lower. I actually managed to leave at the end of the day without feeling like I'd broken the bank. But before I left, I managed to take a trip down the arcades and then to the bay. Cardiff arcades, unlike the arcades in London, are shopping malls full of vintage, thrift, and music stores. The merchandise is affordable and original. It doesn't have the same air of exclusivity, but it doesn't lack in character. It also felt great to make it down to the bay. Fresh air, coffee shops, and even sea gulls - those food-snatching squawkers from home that I never thought I'd miss. It was a great trip away from the bustle of London still filled with plenty to experience.

This weekend packed just as big of a punch and of course, another trip out of town. This one was a little last minute, but Tuesday night the decision was made to high-tail it all the way to Manchester for a concert. We (the Travelling Twosome) hopped on the train as soon as class was out Thursday just so we could get to the Warehouse Project. The Warehouse Project is a series of concerts put on in Manchester in the fall right underneath Piccadilly train station. Huge names in the electronic and dance music industry play there every year, but this year the first concert was one of the early 2000s greatest UK alternative rock groups (and if you couldn't tell, a personal favorite of mine) Maximo Park! Nevermind that the venue was not actually in a warehouse, but a covered car park or the only "select" beer available was Budweiser, the place definitely had its charms. Just enough space, great lighting, extra loud sound (yes!) and a band with an unstoppable energy made this one of the best concerts I've been to. It was just the way you'd like a concert to be, where the crowd goes wild for every song. Unlike Londoners, the inhabitants of Manchester know how to get excited for a great show. And the band played every song I wanted to hear with an excellent sound. So Paul Smith, this entry is dedicated to you.

But things didn't stop there! Saturday was a surprise trip to the Division 1 Football Championship! CAPA had extra tickets lying around to the game from other students that opted out of going. Eight of the eleven of us decided to take advantage and headed on out to the QPR stadium to watch them play Doncaster. The best part of a footie game is definitely the football hooligans! The game was great! I'm quickly becoming a footie fan after catching a few games on the telly in the local pubs, an excellent way to spend a weekend afternoon. But being there live gives you a chance to see the biggest of the fans "battle chant" the opposing team in the stands. Even if you don't know a thing about football, five minutes into the game, you are hyped! And picking a team to stand for makes it even better, because now you're invested in the outcome. Needless to say after catching a great win (3-0), I proudly wore my new QPR scarf home. Go Rangers!

Last but not least, after a celebration of Marfo's and Ryne's birthdays at the Green Man for karaoke, a few of us managed to get up Sunday morning for the Great Gorilla Run! Unlike the Warehouse Project (remember, which was not in a warehouse) this is just what it sounds like. Londoners in gorilla suits running a marathon to raise money for saving gorillas in the wild! We posted up at the finish line to cheer on the runners as they crossed over, praising them for their commitment, charity, and wild costumes (please excuse the pun). Friends, family, and excited Londonders gathered around to listen to the gorilla band and go "bananas" (punned again!) for the event.

But now it's back to homework, work, and the peace of the 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. week. And if you made it all the way to the end of this post, then you have an idea of just how exhausting time off in London is, I'm ready for a nap just after writing about it. So starting tomorrow, I'll wade through the endless paper work of my desk job, keeping an ear out for the quirky remarks of our office head. There will be my routine trips to the pubs, side-stepping of stopped tourists on the pavement, and sipping cups of tea as I finish class readings. But the weeks are only four days, which doesn't leave much time to enjoy the peace. Soon I'll realize it's 5 p.m. on a Thursday, and the weekend is fast approaching. My comrades chattering about weekend plans will act as a drum beat as I contemplate my own preparations. It won't be long before we are forced to (in the wise words of my boss) "gird our loins for the battle ahead."

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