London: Days 33-34// Underbelly Festival + An American in Paris

Monday was a recovery day, or at least it was intended to be. After the very long and eventful weekend I found myself needing a very long and very deep sleep; unfortunately, class started back up again and I all but dragged myself out of bed. The class felt longer than usual because of my fatigue; focusing during the discussion was a bit of a struggle but I managed.

This week in class we’ve been focusing on apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic writing; experimenting with ideas of what an apocalyptic London would be like, with 500+ word assignments to be written, edited and discussed amongst our groups every day of class. As an English major I’m not unfamiliar with this type of writer’s workload but along with my own personal blog, article writing for one of my organizations, and recuperating from my weekend shenanigans,  I’ve somehow managed to fall slightly behind in my writings. After class my intent was to get to my room, eat some food, take a nap and to catch up on much of the writing I have seemed to have accumulated within the last couple of days. Here is where things take a different route than I had planned.

After having discussed how much we were craving some of the American fast food from home, a  classmate of mine suggested that we’d get pizza after class, the deal of 2 large pizzas for only 20 pounds having caught her eye.  I couldn’t say no; I missed the food of back home and Dominoes had the special ability to comfort me in even my most stressful of situations. I took her up on her offer and after several failed attempts at ordering online, we eventually made it happen, or so we thought…

Two hours. Two hours is how long we waited for our Dominos to arrive. Because both of us lacked a UK mobile number we used the school number as a contact (which wasn’t the smartest thing but when you’re hungry and dying for some good unhealthy fast food from home you just don’t think straight). The delivery man also dropped the pizza at the wrong location; Rohamapton is located on a somewhat large campus, and as a result, it has several entrances. The Dominos guy was to meet us with our pizza at the farthest campus entrance from our dorms (again, due to our lack of sense we forgot to adjust the drop off location to our dorm specifically not the general campus entrance.oops). As a result of these two mistakes, we ended up walking across campus in order to meet with the delivery man; once we got there he was nowhere in sight so we assumed we had just gotten there before him and decided to wait what felt like an eternity.

After several methods of remedying this situation (one of which being to call Dominos to ask what was going on), we eventually got our pizza. To say that situation was stressful might seem a little dramatic to you but with all the writing I had to catch up on and the sleep my body craved I feel the word is more than accurate. My classmate and I closed the ordeal with a shrug of our shoulders and an agreement that the pizza was worth it.

Relocating and settling into my dorm, I placed myself back on route; I ate, I took a nap and afterward I began to diligently write as to not fall any more behind than I already was. By the end of the evening, I had accomplished all that I needed to. Hangry girl was no more, body was fully rested and my assignments (both my class and my personal)  were completed. As a reward for my work (because I am a strong supporter of the “treat yo self” mentality) I accepted an invite by some of my other friends in the program who planned to go to the Underbelly Festival in the South Bank area of London. South Bank is an area of London along the famous river of Thames, occupied by countless amounts of restaurants and bars; a place great for a night out. I hadn’t been there for some time, the last time was during the first weekend upon my arrival in London when I decided to explore the major parts of the city.

I had gotten my work done in a timely manner and thought a relaxing night with friends in the city sounded perfect. My friend and I ventured into the city to meet up with some others at South Bank for the Underbelly Festival, we caught the train at Barnes station and made our way. Navigating through the city has become much more natural over time; train stations and stops have become much more natural, I find myself instinctively knowing where to go already on certain occasions without the use of the usual navigation apps like Google Maps and Citymapper (which is essentially a Godsend btw, it’s saved my life countless times).

The festival was destined to be a  very chill and cool experience; there was an assortment of food and bars (one of which had tequila infused beer that was amazing but I don’t recommend it if  you’ve got class in the morning ),  live music, lights that added to the ambiance, a performance going on later on in that night. The area of the festival was very quaint but comfy and featured a gorgeous view of the London Eye from below (pictured above in the featured image). Going to the Underbelly Festival was a great way for me to unwind after the intense weekend and anxiety-filled day I had just had. The night ended late, approximately midnight, but perfectly.

The following morning I returned to class still high off the good vibes of the night prior, so class discussions and workshop went smoothly. We began discussing our final group presentations for next week as a part of our final grade for the course. It came as a surprise to me when my professor asked us about presentation topics,  I felt like I had just started this class yesterday and already it was coming to a close. Just a little over a week left and I’d be saying goodbye to all the friends I’d made here; it was bittersweet. I’d be free of the responsibilities and expectations of this class but I’d be leaving behind many of the friends I’d made. Some of the people I’ve met here were from New York City, just like myself,  but more than half of them came from parts of the United States I’d never imagined visiting.

I find it interesting how we all came from different parts of the world (because there are even some of us who have come from places like the Netherlands and Australia to participate in this program) but by fate, we’ve all come together to be in London this summer. None of us would have met if we hadn’t decided to take this program during this summer and at this university; none of us would have become friends if we hadn’t taken this grand opportunity.

We all had a date tonight, a date at the Dominon Theatre to see An American in Paris. Admittedly, I’d never heard of the production prior to this program but I was very excited about it regardless. Prior to the show, a group of friends and I decided to make most of our time between class and the production. I had a deep desire to try some authentic Indian food here in London after having heard from various sources that it was “the best”. I had done some research on my own and found a restaurant (conveniently located near the Dominion Theatre) with great reviews, decent prices, and delicious food. After bringing up the suggestion amongst my group of friends, it was revealed that many of them had the same desire as myself to delve into the world of Indian food, so we agreed to have a dinner date before the show.

We all met promptly at 4:15p.m.so that we could head off to the restaurant together, giving us ample town to get to the city eat our food and digest before the show. The weather was far unlike any other day we’ve had this week, we seemed to have a break from the intense heat wave and were experiencing some rain (finally). Just as we exited class earlier that day at 1 p.m. the rain came tumbling down but seemed to have stopped somewhere between 1 p.m. and 4 pm..and managed to start up again as we exited the tube station in the city.

The restaurant was small and decoration was very minimalistic but it ended up living up to its reputation on Yelp. Compared to some of the other restaurants I found online with excellent reviews, this one was unlike the others because it was not a part of a restaurant chain; I was searching for a more authentic food experience and wanted to avoid anything other than that. The workers were very welcoming and pleasant, we were sat down immediately and given menus promptly; to which featured some humorous descriptions of foods such as “If you have an erotic activities planned for after you leave us, perhaps you should resist this sensational garlic naan” and “Our chicken curry dishes can be very addictive. They really do stimulate your endorphins and electrify your nerves”.  I got a kick out of reading the menu and it gave me a pretty good idea what was worth ordering.  I decided to get the Chicken Tikka Masala, with garlic Naan and a Mango Lassi drink to accompany my meal (which was pure heaven, by the way. I’m a sucker for anything with mango). When I say the food was delicious, I mean it was delicious. If you’re ever in London I highly recommend Punjab Indian restaurant, located in Convent Gardens, even if you’re not big on Indian cuisine this food will have you in love.

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After we ate till out heart’s content (and our bellies couldn’t take anymore) we made our way to the theater so that we could meet up with the others of our program and gain entrance into the theater. The rain made the 10-minute walk to the theater feel like a journey of its own. The streets were overrrun by umbrella-wielding Londoners and the wind and rain were so fierce that the umbrella of one of my friends was essentially murdered and we had to conduct a quick funeral.

We made it into the theater (pretty wet but in one piece), took our seats after finding the rest of our Roehampton group and waited for the show to begin.

The theater itself was a sight to see; although it was very dark you could spot a single grand piano amidst the darkness. The seats of the theater sported a beautiful red color reminiscent of the red carpet of Hollywood.

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The play itself was an interesting one, ballet was heavily incorporated into the production, so much so that it was a little difficult to follow the story (because of so little dialogue). Although I wasn’t too much of a fan of the story or characters of the production, I must admit the most striking part of it was the dancing. The choreography was undeniably excellent; I stared with great envy as the dancers synced graciously with one another across the stage. The colorful lighting and intricate dance movements made me wonder if the dialogue was even necessary for a play with this much fluid movement. Despite the play ending in a somewhat predictable manner (there are only so many ways one can end a love story set in Paris.), in combination with our dinner prior, the night was overall a memorable one.

It was still pouring rain when we exited the venue, my friends and I opted to take the bus route; it was the smartest way to save money on transportation. The commute was a little longer than if we would have taken the tube but for a slightly cheaper fare, none of us objected. The long bus ride gave us all time to talk; it was filled with a lot of laughs, a lot of discussion on An American in Paris, on our abroad experience thus far….and how we only had a little more than a week left being in the presence of one another. I honestly feel like the time here flew by; I blinked and now we were so close to our final week. I talked a lot in my previous posts about how when the time comes I’ll be ready to go home, but I’m not completely sure I’ll be ready to let go some of the amazing people I’ve befriended this summer. I’m not saying I don’t want to go home but can I bring some of my new friends with me?

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