British Invasion

 I have not written for a while!  I guess I can attribute that to classes starting and traveling, but I know I should be keeping up with this. 

What is with all of the British references?  I’m Italy, right?  Well just know that the British Empire is alive and well even here in Lucca.

After returning from London I started my Italian language classes and absolutely love them.  It is really amazing to be in a small class with people from all over the world.  My first week there were two Brits, an Australian, a woman from Norway and a woman from Denmark, a Russian, a German another American and I.  My second week it was even more diverse.  But for the four hours we are in class we all speak the same language, which to me is really extraordinary.  You have people from all over the world with different customs, accents, and cultures and when we are all in our classroom we understand each other.

Aside from the joy of classes starting, I also had the pleasure of meeting a new member of the Lucca society.  Frances is a young woman from Great Britain who- like me- decided to drop it all and move to Lucca.  She doesn’t speak any Italian but took a job working as an Au Pair (similar to a nanny in the States) with an Italian family.  Talk about bravery! 

We met up one day for coffee and haven’t stopped since!  It is really nice to have someone who is around my ago and speaks English to talk to about our experience here.  We are both so new and finding our own ways.  On top of that, she was an ancient history major at school, which has proved amazingly helpful and interesting.  And we have each other as fun and willing travel companions as we explore this crazy place called Italy.  A place where you can go to the beach in October!  Insanity.

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The first night we went out, I remembered The Oxford.  A British pub in the middle of the little Medieval Italian city.  It could not be more out of place or more fun.  I went there with the “Canta” crew in June to watch calico and I think there might still be prices on our heads for the night we all went in a rooted for Italy when they played England.  However, the owner, Ben, was ecstatic to welcome me back and to welcome Frances in.  The Brits immediately formed a camaraderie because…well, they are British.  And I got to sit back and hear why England is better at everything than everywhere else.  I do have to agree with most of these facts.

After taking the British Politics class in London the week before, it was neat to hear their points of view on the monarchy, government and politics of America.

With the American election just a few weeks away, it is difficult not to address this topic.  My British friends absolutely favor Obama.  Frances even asked, “how is gay marriage not legal yet in the states?  It isn’t even an issue that is brought up in our government because everyone has that right.”

Great question!  I ponder this too.  And also how women’s rights in America seem to be up for debate.  I did not realize we were living in a third world country in the 1800’s.  But I digress….

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Disappointed Brits. I hadn’t seen a movie that is epic in England.

Great Britain seems to have their issues in order.  It is amazing how a small island has produced such massive history and is one of the most successful countries in the world.  I am sure I will not soon forget this as long as I spend time with Frances and Ben 😉  But hey, I get free wine and free politics lessons every time so I am completely content.

London Calling

On a wonderful whim, I decided it was time to visit one of my amazing friends, Kyrie.  She is a wonderful actress that I went to college with and is studying abroad in London for the semester.  Any excuse to go to London is always one that I take.  And after a month away from home, seeing a familiar face was a notion I could not be happier about.  I booked my tickets and was suddenly off!

It still amazes me at how close everything is here.  The fact that I can get on a plane and be in London in under two hours just…makes me want to go to London every weekend.  It’s great!  Until you arrive at customs in the UK.  I felt like a criminal by the time I got up there after watching a bunch of people get turned away or asked to wait to the side.  I had that face on like when someone does something wrong and you’re trying really hard to prove it wasn’t you and then you just end up looking like you did it.

After that adventure was over, I got on a train to meet sweet Kyrie at Liverpool Street.  Not having a functioning cellphone in another country makes everything a little more…exciting?  No, more like horrifying.  How did we all survive before cellphones were invented?  Kyrie and I set a meeting place but after my plane had been delayed and I was at customs for over an hour, I was slightly more than “late”.  But, there she was!  I got off the train and saw a red scarf jumping up and down and above it was Kyrie’s face.  We had a movie moment and ran through the train station (in slow-motion obviously.  Commitment to craft, people) into each other’s arms.  Both of us are so far from home that having some sort of connection from the States was amazing and overwhelming.

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Seriously…

I did not necessarily forget how much I love London, but I underestimated my consuming passion for this place.  It’s just perfect.  Simply put.  I love it here.  I love the feel and energy of this city- the sounds the smell, everything.  I felt internally conflicted when I was there because I wanted to stay.  The original plan from two years ago: move here after college.  A lot has changed since then.  When I told Kyrie, she called me a “gypsy”.  For someone who “hates” change so much, I seem to want to move around a lot.

While she was at class the next morning I had time to wander.  I am one of those people who, when visiting a new place absolutely needs to see everything.  London the first two times was like a rampant run and Paris…oh my god…I still do not know how my mom and I did so much.  But this time, I had the wonderful feeling of ease that comes with being in a familiar place.  I’ve seen and done pretty much everything in London and now I could enjoy my time and take in the city at a walk instead of a mad dash.

I walked through Kennsington Gardens/Hyde Park.  I could not stop smiling.  How was I here?  Yesterday I was walking around Italy and now I was in London.

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Hampton Court

There was one place that I had not been and cannot believe that I hadn’t.  Hampton Court.  I do not know if I can put into words my fascination- nay, obsession with the Tudor dynasty.  So this was like a religious pilgrimage for me.  When Kyrie got out of class, we headed to the train and arrived in no time.

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Touch and listen.

Incredible.  To walk where Henry VIII, his court and all of his wives had been was surreal.  It was hard to wrap my head around this and the more I tried, the farther away that notion went so I just let it go and enjoyed the experience feeling the walls, watching my feet stop in grooves where they all once walked, and experiencing the energy they left behind.

Kyrie and I walked through nearly the entire place, taking extra time in the gardens.  All of them.  It was kind of like the ADD tour, “what’s over here?”  “Wanna go look around this corner?” “Stop looking at me, swan!”.  There was an exhibit too called, “The Beautiful and the Damned” which was appropriately laid throughout Anne Boleyn’s chambers.  It was a celebration of the beautiful women in court painted as Cleopatra, Minerva, and yours truly, Venus.

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After we had quenched our Tudor thirst we headed back only to head out again later that night to a piano bar.  What a wonderful time!  Who would have thought piano bars would be a trendy place to hang out at midnight?!  We were all screaming lyrics to Elton John, Adele, Maroon Five and my favorite- Radiohead.  I  can now say that I have heard “Creep” in three countries.  He did not, however, play “Piano Man”.  And that is unacceptable.

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Trafalgar Square

The following day, Kyrie and I took a leisurely stroll around my favorite spots in London.  Trafalgar Square is magnificent.  As we walked around the fountains, I wondered why I liked this area so much and then it hit me.  It is the closest thing London has to a “piazza” like in Italy.  It is a large wide-open space with statues and fountains.  Could Italy be trying to sneak back in to my subconscious?

We walked through Oxford Circus and then headed to the river.  This, truly, is my favorite part of the city:  The River Thames.  It is this silent force that summons everyone.  There is so much history in these waters and you have the sense that people know and respect that as the walk beside it.  It took us to Southwark Cathedral, which is a very special place for me.  When I came to England for the first time when I was 15, I sang at this cathedral with my choir.  That is when my love-affair with this place began and has never let me go.

Before I could get anymore nostalgic, Kyrie and I hopped on the tube and headed back to her school.  I had asked her if I could come to her British Politics class after she had spoken so passionately about it the day before (her excitement was contagious!) and her professor had said yes!  For three hours, 11 Americans and one British professor talked about the British monarchy, the Prime Minister, and British traditions versus American traditions.

Her professor was so engaging and it was really neat to see Americans so fervently debating British laws and customs.  When we got to the topic of America and what makes it unique, I had a very hard time coming up with anything.  Every time I went to write something down I thought, no, that cannot be.  When we went around the room sharing pieces of our lists, I made the point that there really is not anything that is 100% American- that represents our country.  It has all been stolen from other cultures, everything is an extension of something that came from somewhere else.

Corn.  There, that’s American.

What do you guys think?  What do you think is all American? Maybe I am missing something.

The class was amazing.  I really enjoyed it.  I mean, if someone had asked me before my trip if I wanted to sit in a three-hour long British Politics class, I would have hesitated to say “yes”.  But this was truly enjoyable and very interesting.

The next morning I headed back to Italy.  A large part of me was sad to leave.  Sad to leave one of my best friends and sad to leave this glorious city.  Listen, I am not allowed to complain at all ever because I LIVE in Italy.  My heart is just all over this world it seems.  But when I looked out the window during our descent into Pisa, I felt like I was coming home.  And then I felt completely panic-stricken because I was in some of the worst turbulence I’ve ever experienced…but, I did feel…home.

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