Saturday, July 16, 2011

Money Matters

I'm not a saver; I'm a spender. But London is an expensive city. In a restaurant tonight, a bottle of Coke was listed at £2.95. At today's exchange rate, that's $4.75. (I mentioned that this was a good time to kick a Coke habit, and got some concerned looks.) It gets even worse when you realize that:
  1. there are never free refills,
  2. bread on the table will be charged to your bill unless you ask them to take it away, and
  3. unless you specify "tap" water, you'll get bottled--and yes, there's a charge for that.
It's sometimes difficult to remember that the play money you're spending (look, the Queen!) is, in fact, directly connected to what is--or rather, what WAS--in your bank account back home.

Today I tried to stiff a street vendor out of 5p. That's 5 pence, and if you don't know, there are 100 pence to a pound (£). But a 5p coin looks remarkably like a dime. So I was just confused, not dishonest.

The British currency system was decimalized in 1971, making 100 pence to the pound. This is when they did away with the shilling. It used to be that twelve pence equaled a shilling, and there were twenty shillings to a pound. So, each pound had 240 pence (pennies). Confusing? Sure, but we Americans are still measuring things with twelve inches to a foot and 5280 feet to a mile!

Considering that so many of the European Union countries have adopted a single currency, the Euro (€), it makes me wonder why Britain hasn't made the switch. An article from July 14 in the Daily Mail, claims that "workers are £20 worse off than they would be if Britain joined the single currency, according to a European pay report out today." I think it's just a matter of time before Britain adopts the Euro and a person can travel all over Europe using the same currency.

Now, does anyone remember how many knuts to a galleon?

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Anglophile Explores

This is a bit of news for me, something I didn't realize before: I'm an Anglophile. I could blame it on high school BFF, Becky, who came to Oregon from the island of Guernsey when she was fifteen. She introduced me to my all time favorite music (80s Brit pop) and made it more likely that I would jump at the chance to spend a week in London a few years later.

But it actually goes back farther. Many kids pretend that they are being mistakenly raised by people who are not their real parents (King Arthur Syndrome perhaps?). I used to play that Queen Elizabeth II was my mother and my big brother Prince Edward and I were best friends. (Although I always say I was fine with being an only child, I did have a long and varied succession of imaginary siblings.)

And get this. As an adult, my two biggest expenses of the past couple of years: three weeks in London and a bright red Mini Cooper.


Today we spent a full day in the classroom, talking about upcoming excursions, assignments, and Web 2.0 technology. I'm going to get the opportunity to try a lot of different things which I know will make me a better blogger, publisher, and librarian.

Our group activity today was a fish & chips dinner at The Marlborough Arms. Claire, our waitress was really cute and friendly. I also had a pint of Strongbow cider.

I left the pub to explore on my own. There is so much within walking distance of our Study Center and flats. I wandered a lot, finally making it to Piccadilly Circus, where I caught some street performers, including a limbo dancer.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


On the excited!
London is huge. When you fly over the city, you see just how massive it is. And as you get closer to the runway, the plane flies over all these neighborhoods full of matching houses--but unlike in the States, where the cookie-cutter houses were built with particle board in the last 10 years, these houses in London are really old. Almost beyond understanding for your average American, who thinks 1776 is the start of history.

You can't help but be surrounded by real history here. The building that houses the Florida State University Study Center was built in the 1700s in the heart of a ritzy area now known for publishing houses and education. The British Museum (we'll be there on July 22nd!) is just a block down the street. Many things are within walking distance.

I met my roommates. I unpacked. (And I think I packed well, since I made sure that I could carry everything I brought at once, by myself.) I walked around the neighborhood. I had dinner. It was all fun, and exhausting.

Tomorrow we have a long day of class. I'll be presenting information about Xtranormal, together with two other women. Apparently we're now experts.

Here's Chick, checking out a bigger chicken 
in the Bloomsbury Square playground, close to our flat.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Train-ing Day

Today I caught the train from Vancouver, Washington to Tacoma. This was the first leg of my journey to London. From Tacoma, I took a bus to the Seattle airport, where I am now waiting for Icelandair Flight 680 to Reykjavik, Iceland.

It's been a long time since I took a train anywhere--over eleven years, in fact. Back in 2000, I took my family from Lawrence, Kansas to Victoria, British Columbia for a two-week vacation. Part of that trip was the gorgeous north-bound train ride from Seattle to Vancouver, BC.

Americans don't take the train much. Before I spent my senior year of high school in Finland, I don't think I'd been on a train at all, if you don't count the monorail at Disneyland and the railray at the Oregon Zoo. In Finland, riding the train was commonplace, cheap and easy. I rode all over the country--to visit friends, attend music festivals, camp. Since one of Rotary International's many rules for exchange students was "no driving," we all used the public transportation extensively. (The other Rotary rules--termed the Four D's--were no drinking, no dating, no drugs.)

I think the 1980s were sort of the dark ages for trains in the United States. Amtrak now is efficient and clean. There is free wi-fi on the train. I'd much rather take the train than the bus. (Though the bus driver today did chat me up and give me a butterscotch candy.)

The London multimedia students have been requested to bring a personal mascot to star in photos and videos. I don't think Chick is particularly impressed by the train, particularly considering that he probably came to the United States on a container ship from China.