Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Day-Old Bread

Today I went to Jimmy John's to pick up some day-old bread that will pass as garlic bread for my roommate's orzo, feta, tomato, and parsley dinner tonight.

As I walked out with the loaf, wrapped in red and white checkered paper, I thought about baguettes.

I wished that my Jimmy John's 48-cents-day-old bread was a Parisian baguette. And I wished I could stroll into a local boulangerie, say "Bon jour!" to the shopkeeper like Julia Child, and prance back home to a red-checkered tablecloth of Chianti, brie and a warm, crusty baguette. Instead, I pranced out of Jimmy John's. 

The shopping trip reminded me of how people shop in Paris. If Parisians need soap, they go to the pharmacy on the corner, if it's cheese, the cheese shop down the street, baby clothes, they have way too many around, and toilet paper, well I'm sure they have a toilet paper shop too. 

Shopping for a meal in Paris is like a scene out of Julie and Julia (can you tell I just saw the movie?) A robust, rosy-cheeked Julia Child skips from orange vendor to meat vendor, huffing and puffing "Mmmm!" and "OhhhH!" at every stop. She can't keep her hands off that fruit.

If I were a street vendor, I'd probably tell her to stop sniffing my stuff and fondling it like it's her teenage boyfriend, but that's me.

At Marquette, if I want to grab some make shift items for dinner, I head first to Marquette Gyros, where 59-year-old Gus, the gray-bearded Greek owner, will hand me a warm pita wrapped in tin foil for free (He has since I wrote about him in our college newspaper. I try to pay every time, I swear). I'd consider Marquette Gyros my warped-college-lamb-scented boulangerie. 

Then I'd go to Open Pantry, a haven for...Miller, Tostidos, unripe bananas and Stride gum. After picking up the necessities (Digiorno), my shopping trip is complete. 

Only I have a multi-patterned, beer-stained tablecloth to come home to, month-old Busch Lights and day-old bread.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Job Hunting

After frivilously frolicking around Europe for five months, buying too many nutella crepes and Strongbow liters, I've returned to the cold dark world of unemployment. 

I knew I had to find a job quickly, after amassing a massive debt to my parents, as well as those lovely little overdraft fees from the superb U.S. Bank (383.33 dollars worth).  

I assumed finding a job in GM-ravaged Detroit would be too hard, so I set my sights on Milwaukee. 

I spent one day filing out applications on Water St., a street lined with college bars like Tequila Rita's and Buffalo Wild Wings. 

I stumbled upon an Italian gangster bar/restaurant called Capone's, where I convinced the owner that while my serving experience consisted of selling smoothies to anorexic, constipated 40-year-olds and hostessing, I could learn quickly.

He bought it. When I asked him what I should wear, he told me he likes the waitresses to dress "gangsta-like." Hmm. Ah ... 50-cent style? I don't own baggy pants and Flava Flav pizza clocks. 

And if it's Al Capone style, which it is, I refuse to don pin stripe pants and vests like the other waitresses. I'm just not investing in my gangster future, I guess. 

Over the past couple weeks of working at Capone's, I've been told that I have a "rump," one that "guys would wanna bump up against in da club." Also, Bobo, a 58-year-old hand many at Capone's, drunkenly bought me a Miller High Life, which he hid in his "briefcase," tucked securely next to his revolver named Debbie.

After that night and following nights of making diddlysquat, I half-heartedly tried to job search some more.

I just went to a group-interview at Anthropologie. I showed up in a Banana Republic pink jersey dress, next to girls in white lace Anthropologie-esque dresses and vintage bowling shoes, who were "sign language majors," teaching art therapy to students at Wellsley, or studying psychology and fashion merchandising. So much for a journalism major.

When we were asked how to describe Anthropologie's style, one girl replied, "I think it's very pastoral, very natural, with the threads..." I haven't used the word pastoral outside of a William Wordsworth essay. I went with, "Ah, I think it's really classic, and uh, can appeal to a wide range of ages..."

The worst was when the managers asked us who our style icons were. Shit. Style? I mean, I like Jcrew's style, I like Anthropologie's style, I often shop at Gap and Old Navy...
Lacy white dress pulled out Natalie Portman and another one said Zooey Deschanel for "the way her style oozes into her music." 

"Ah, Grace Kelly?" I said. Safe. You can't debate it. 

I left confident I would return to my gangster clothes while Wellesley college would don her bowling shoes with Anthropologie tailored blouses. 

Still waiting on that call...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Back to America

Study abroad advisors prepare students for the three phases of study abroad: One, honeymoon stage, "Oh how cute they drive on the other side of the road!" Two, bitterness and anger: "WTF, why do they do everything wrong and drive on the wrong side?" Three, acceptance, "I don't know why they do it, but I'll learn to look left...bloody hell." What they don't prepare you for is the last stage, the culture shock you experience in your home country.

I didn't think I'd have much of a problem adjusting to life in good ole' Detroit. I consider myself a pretty adaptable person. The trip home though set me straight.

The 12-hour plane ride from London to Chicago to Detroit wasn't a comfortable, reclining chair affair. I was sitting in my un-cushioned, blue chair that seemed to bend more forward than backward, with Vanity Fair and a pile of Cadbury eggs on my lap, trying to reason myself that going home to Detroit would be Ok and that London sucks, when Little Miss Alma College Sweatshirt with the worst Michigan accent I've ever heard hovers over me.

"You're gonna haave to move. I need to sit there," she said haughtily. 

I said nothing, moved, and gritted my teeth as Miss Alma pushed her way in, plopping her big behind right next to me and her Coach purse against my ankles. Here's America, ladies and gentlemen. I sat back in my forward chair, popped a Cadbury egg and turned on my iPod. Simon and Garfunkel's "America" came on. I tried not to cry, but an overwhelming desire to sob and punch Miss Alma came over me. America here I come.

The rest of the trip was spent playing Evil Eye Tag with Miss Alma as she didn't have any concept of personal space and would bonk, shove and elbow me the entire trip. I huddled to the edge of my uncomfortable chair for eight hours, in between defiantly taking over her arm rest.

I believe I cried 10 times on that trip. Three times during Bridewars, The Office episode when Jim finally asks Karen out on a date and in He's Just Not That Into You, because he just wasn't into her...it got pathetic.

I felt removed from where I was going, apprehensive of landing and wishing I was back with Big Ben. 

Over the past week things have gotten much better, and I haven't cried during The Office since. Still, things are different. Being around Midwestern accents and Bob Evans is a bit jarring after hearing Colin Firth talkers for five months. 

Here are a few things I miss about the UK:

1. "Cheers." I miss hearing this after I bag my own groceries, pay for something, trip, wink, eat, whatever. It has such a nice ring to it.

2. Pounds. I don't miss the conversion rate, but I miss how regal their money looks. It's thick, unmistakably British, and you feel like a Brit carrying them around. 

3. Cadbury eggs. I love them. I think they are now appearing like tumors all over my body, but they taste good.

4. Public transportation. Double decker buses, efficient trains, cleanliness...ahh...

5. Cajun Squirrel Potato Chips, Chili and Chocolate Potato Chips and my favorite, Crispy Duck & Hoisin Flavour Potato Chips. Just kidding. But they are a great representative of English food. What will they think of next?

6. Strongbow. Hello, my name is Rosemary Lane and I am, addicted to Strongbow. It's amazing. Strongbow is a cheap, hard cider that tastes like apple juice and champagne combined. I just found it by my house and I think I almost slapped the salesman out of joy.

7. Iranian-Kurdish-Swedish roommate hacking up phlegm every morning. Enough said.

8. Taxis. The taxis look like elegant, black Volkeswagens. I feel like James Bond every time I ride in them...and they don't have enough money pay...

9. The drinking age. God bless that drinking age. And taking two classes. And having a month and a half off to study for one final. And the drinking age. Amazing.

10. The people. Cheesy to end with that one on No. 10, but I met awesome roommates and friends that I'll keep in touch with. You get to know people fast when traveling, and I'll never forgot my time there. 

Things I won't miss (short list):

1. English food. I still don't understand "mushy peas" (literally, mashed up peas), why chicken has to taste like my stale flat and why there are no preservatives in bread.

2. Bad teeth. It's true.

3. Driving on the wrong side of the road. 

4. My Iranian-Kurdish-Swedish roommate hacking up phlegm every morning.

5. Bagging your own bags at Tesco and then paying for it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

First Taste of English Exams

The University of Kent in Canterbury give its students the entire month of April off to study. All of April off. Hear that American schools? Which means English kids dutifully head to the library every day to "revise" and American kids go on European grand "backpacking" tours to Barcelona, Brussels and Santorini. Living the life.

I'm not excepted from this either. From April 1st, I left the UK and headed to the Eiffel Tower, the Ponte Vecchio, the Grand Canal, the Berlin Wall and the gyro capital of the world/slightly dangerous protest city/Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants set (Athens and Santorini).

When I returned, I spent the end of April doing nothing and most of May doing nothing, while English kids scurried off to "revise," English for study. On the day before my exam, I finally picked up my books and made my one trip to the library for a hellish day of I Told You Rosemary You Should Have Been Studying All Of April And All Of May Instead of Watching The Hills Every Day reminders to myself.

My grades don't count, so I wasn't that worried for exam day, but English kids were. They clumped outside the exam hall an hour before, smoking, heads bent over notes, quizzing each other on the answers, "Marketing, Premium...what's the other one? Bloody hell what's the other one?... Oh, enterprise!" (Those probably aren't the exact words).

You aren't allowed to bring anything into the exam hall except writing utensils, ID, a cell phone turned off and a jacket. One girl had a few extra items in a zip locked bag as if she were going through security at the airport.

My exam was in the Sports Centre. About 200 desks covered the basketball court in an orderly fashion. I had an assigned seat and my test was already propped on my desk. I felt like I was taking the SAT all over again as kids sat quietly with their hands folded, a sense of anxiety pervading the hall. Then a loud speaker out of Star Wars or Aldous Huxley's Brave New World booms "There will be no smoking." Duh. Then other directions. Then, "It is now 9:30. Begin." Woah! I'm used to starting at your leisure. But it was the SAT; people picked up their pencils and began.

Proctors prowl the aisles like stormtroopers in Star Wars during the entire three hour exam. Five minutes in one stormtrooper told me my jacket had to be under desk, not on the back of my chair. I'm sorry but I don't know how to tuck an entire essay in my thin, Old Navy throw that I would wear to the beach. Chill, stormtrooper.

I left the hall an hour before the 200 other kids taking exams, which is a little worrisome. But I strolled home excited to watch The Hills, maybe eat a pie and continue doing diddlysquat.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Canterbury Checklist

For the past three weeks, I've been doing nothing. Absolutely nothing. And it feels wonderful. I have nowhere to go, no grimy backpack to lug, no train to Potsdam to catch, no impending shower to take (well, maybe yes to the last one).

I've enjoyed getting up at 12:45, lounging in moccasins and a College t-shirt all day, watching endless rounds of The Hills, Gossip Girl and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2. Add in cheese and crackers and a pot of nutella? Heaven. 

But as my time in Canterbury dwindles, I'm realizing I still have a ton I need to see. Screw The Hills, I have a English checklist to complete.

Here is the checklist, checked and unchecked.

1. Afternoon Tea at Harrods. Check. 

I half expected to run into Queen Elizabeth or Joan Rivers. For a 
21 pound tea (yikes), we
 were served salmon and cucumber finger sandwiches, raison scones and miniature fruit pies. Our waiter introduced our tea like a wine coinoisseur, describing the Georgian tea's "oakey" taste as he elegantly poured it from the sparkling silver kettle. Plus, the meal was all you can eat (I later had to unbutton my pants during the meal).  

Afterwards, we scoured Harrods' bajillion floors, gawked at the glass-caged, 1,000 pound Lady and the Tramp puppies (who are "socialized" every hour), supervised by the Pet Concierge, then checked out
 Armani jackets for two-year-olds and sprayed Harrods perfumes all over our bodies. When at Harrods...

2. Mousetrap. Check

No, we do not have mice in our house (just creepy worm-like creatures with suction cups that like to attach to my computer cord and don't move until my Swedish-Kuridsh-Iranian roommate, who was in the middle of waxing his upper arms, forcefully removed it). 
I'm talking about the play. The longest running play in England. Fifty-seven years. A murder mystery. And it's by Agatha Christie. I thought it had to be good.

Wrong. Unfortunately the Mousetrap's writing seems to be stuck in Pleasantville, 1950. And the suspense? The murder? Letdown. But I can't say more, the murderer told the audience to "intertwine the secret in our hearts." 

3. Camden Market, London. Check.
My roommates and I hit up where People magazine often captures Mischa Barton strolling. The giant market is full of tattoo parlors, leather shops, knock-off Ray Ban sunglass stands, Indian food, and headbands with giant white birds attached to them. 

We grabbed Styrofoam plates of chicken tikka marsala and lay down in nearby Regents Park to settle our hung-over stomachs. Always a good cure. Mischa probably does it too.

4. Run to Whitstable. Check.

Today I ran the five and a half, six or seven miles to Whitstable, a nearby seaside town. All the mile makers and the Internet report different distances from Canterbury to Whitstable, so I'll just go with seven miles.  Along the way, I found convenient excuses to walk, like, "a bug just flew up my nose!" or "my phone just dropped!" or "look at this view!" But I made it, bug and all.

5. Oxford. No check.

This is absolutely necessary. My roommate says if I die on this trip, she'll carry my ashes to Oxford. A little morbid, I know. But I'm longing to see Harry Potter's lunch room, mingle with Dumbledore and feel smart for the day. 

Monday, April 27, 2009

Traveling and Waiting, Waiting, Waiting

Picture my mom calls my "hooker pose"

For the past month, I've been living like John Candy in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. I've been traveling/backpacking through Europe, and have spent a good part of my time waiting. Waiting for a plane to take off, a bus to arrive...no automobiles, sadly, but I was trying for the metaphor. Patience has been a virtue.

While we were in route to Santorini from Athens (my most anticipated destination), our 10:50 a.m. flight was canceled. We were rescheduled for an 8 p.m. flight. Spending ten hours in the Athens airport was a real treat. I am now thoroughly acquainted with its spotless bathrooms, Bailey's testing table, suspicious Greek airline receptionists and its swanky McDonald's.

We spent the time aimlessly wandering up and down the white aisles of the airport, and then drinking and playing Never Have I Ever (I hate that game) in the posh hotel across the street where the waiters were reluctant to let six greasy backpackers mix with Japanese business men eating gourmet mousaka.

I felt like a caged pigeon. I kept checking my phone. Only 3 p.m.? Five more hours of sipping beer and feeling like I needed to run wild through the airport streaking like Will Ferrell in Old School? Shoot me.

Hour 7

Hour 9

To cope, my friend Graydon got drunk at McDonald's and did the Elf up the escalator (when Will Ferrell spreads his legs up the escalator). Our flight was delayed and delayed, but finally took off at 10 p.m. I call sitting in Athens airport for ten hours an accomplishment. I bet John Candy is giving me a thumbs up.

McDonald's beer

The next round of waiting was a lot more scary, and sober. I was finally leaving to go back to London from Athens, and my flight landed at 12:30 a.m. I took a train to the Victoria Train Station, which arrived at 2 a.m. When I got to the vast, empty station, a kind attendant informed me that the station was closed from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m., and the next train to Canterbury wouldn't leave till 8. Great. Real great. But I felt like it was a backpacker's rite of passage to sit outside in the cold and wait.

Outside, I immediately grabbed a large steak Cornish Pasty and sat down amidst gothic kids huddled against a wall, wasted blonde girls stumbling in barefoot (I think one later peed on the ground), couples holding hands, a boy in an Oxford shirt slouching against a wall with his eyes closed while he unconsciously chewed a kebab, homeless people, sketchy people and a man in a cheap tuxedo and bow tie eating a pasty. If it hadn't been so cold, I would have been fascinated. It was like exposing the ocean at night, you see all the wild life emerge and light up. "The freaks come out at night," kind of thing.

Once I got into the station, I huddled over the Dubliners, tried to stay warm, and watched group after group of drunkards scream and sprint into the station. I sat next to a man who kept saying "sweetie," and moved next to a kind old lady.

It's funny the things people to do amuse themselves to pass the time. Two girls started dancing the Macarena while Mexican kids next to me hummed the tune for them. The dancers then would squeal with laughter and ask for "coffee and tea" from passerbys (the train attendant finally bought them coffee to shut them up). Another drunk man with a massive pregnant belly and skinny hips made conversation with everyone around him. "You homeless?" "Why you here so early?" And to the old lady, "I saw you last week!"

I finally caught a 7 a.m. bus home and am happy to never travel again. Sitting at my computer and watching Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is more than enough.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Catching a Whiff of Public Toilets

I've been traveling in London and Paris now for two weeks, and have been at the mercy of public bathrooms, or loos, or toilets, or however you want to term the crapper.

I'm no germophob; I can handle hairy hostel showers, mildewed bed and breakfast loos, but I do like a little cleanliness when it comes to public bathrooms (I realize that's an oxymoron).

I've been in and out of so many public toilets that you could call me Rick Steves' Toilets.

When I was in London, the bathrooms were lovely. Pub restrooms were tight, but clean and rustic. At Heathrow airport's bathroom, the stall doors were wooden and modern, there were pristine individual sinks, glowing mirrors and a horizontal bronze opening where your hands air dried. I felt like I was vacationing at Oprah's house.

The only hitch is that English loos have no water pressure, so you literally have to break your arm to flush them. It takes time to learn the proper technique, as I have learned after cursing and pacing the bathroom stalls.

Otherwise, Rick gives London toilets a thumbs up.

As for Paris, I expected better. In a city that is the epicenter of style, where pates, children, fine wine and Coco Chanel are idolized, you'd think you'd have some tasteful, exquisite public bathrooms. You'd think.

Yesterday, my mom, sister and I went to Le Bon Marche, Paris' oldest department store-the Harrods of Paris. Le Bon Marche has Chanel make-up counters, lacy lingerie, waxed white staircases, and a bathroom that smelled like, in the words of Veronica Corningstone from Anchorman, "a used diaper filled with Indian food."

I did not expect a sticky stall that smelled like the airport bathroom Christ Farley gets stuck in in Tommy Boy.

The biggest disappointment was the palace of Versailles. This is where Marie Antoinette created a pseudo-peasant-Disney-like-dairy village, where gondoladeers were flown in from Venice, where flowers were changed every day for the King's eye. I expected bathrooms with at least gold-plated toilet paper.

Instead, peeling, orange, 70's counters greeted me and my stall smelled like its last victim. Oo lala!

I guess I have too high of standards. Back to the hostel bathrooms...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Scotland: the land of haggis, kilts and stags

I've just discovered my new favorite country abroad.
It's the land of the savage, skirted Mel Gibson, locks, kilts, Harry Potter, whiskey and sheep (which equals cashmere). 

And world famous for haggis, a "meat" made up of sheep's lungs, heart and liver, cooked in a sheep's stomach. Stupendous.

We spent last weekend in Scotland, scoping out Edinburgh and then scanning the countryside on a tour.

Here are the top five reasons why I love Scotland:

1. Kilts. I thought these were only worn by bearded bagpipe players. Wrong. I learned kilts represent family clans and are quite expensive. Our countryside tour guide said he didn't receive his first kilt until he was 21, and that was a big deal. 

At Edinburgh Castle

There's something captivating though about watching grown men strut around town in plaid skirts with their hairy legs poking out.

2. Countryside tour. We went on a nine-hour tour led by Greg, a Scot with a lip ring and almost indiscernible accent, who told bad jokes involving "baby, mommy and daddy balloon." Don't ask.
Posing in front of Lock Lomond

Overlooking the countryside from the William Wallace monument

More pretty countryside

Greg drove us through the rambling heathers of the Scottish highlands in a dinky blue bus. Along the way, he pointed out important landmarks, like the Monty Python castle, where 700 women's bodies were found in a drained moat outside Edinburgh castle (they were supposed witches), a 16-year-old cow (pronounced "airy coo") named Hamish who has become a cultural attraction and may or may not have given someone on our tour Mad Cow Disease, and the building were his fellow tour guide lost his virginity. Highly informative.

Monty Python castle

Princes Garden, outside Edinburgh Castle, where the bodies were found

The famous 16-year-old Hamish

Kid who maybe received Mad Cow Disease from Hamish

3. Tea and scones. I have finally come around to this English tradition. Especially when you add raspberry jam. Yum. We tried some at the Elephant Cafe, where J.K. Rowling scribbled down the beginning of Harry Potter on napkins. 

We were hoping to see tons of Harry Potter paraphernalia, and instead found kid illustrations of elephants, shot down elephants, and elephant chairs. Bogus. What was I saying about scones again?

The coffee shop where J.K. Rowling created Harry Potter

4. Stag Night. We ran into two groups of "stags" or bachelor parties at the bar The Three Sisters while watching the Scotland v. Holland futbol match. The first bachelor we met was dressed in a Ken Barbie, neon pink spandex outfit, complete with pink tights and a belly shirt. Every time you said "stag" he had to do 10 pushups, which he did with tissues under his hands for cleanliness.

Posing with Bachelor No. 1

Full body shot

Just say "stag" and he'll do pushups-with tissues of course

The second group of stags were English 40-year-olds dressed as Sherlock Holmes (who by the way, was created in Edinburgh). They were more rambunctious, asking if we wanted to play a game where they could make our knockers move without touching them. Hmm...not remembering by I love stag night.

Bachelor No. 2

Jamie talking to the Sherlock Holmes clan

5. Haggis. Ok, not really. But I did try it.

My roommate about to try haggis

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

St. Patrick's Day in Dublin

Last weekend, I spent the weekend before St. Patrick's Day in Dublin-an Irish girl in a college kid's dream.

But it wasn't what I thought.

On my first night, I went to Temple Bar, a notorious breeding ground for booze-hungry tourists. We elbowed our way through college boys wearing Virginia t-shirts and drunk girls swaying to "Oh Danny Boy."

After ordering Guinesses, my friends and I met two friendly Irishmen who bought us another round and danced a jig with us to Van Morrison. So far so good.

But then, one of the Irishmen said, "Why did you come here? Don't spend your time in pubs."

What? This is Ireland! This is St. Patrick's Day weekend!

He explained he wanted me to see Ireland's history and not think of the Irish as drunkards.

And after that weekend, I don't.

Surveying the streets at 3 a.m., I saw huddled Spanish kids chanting and clapping, a U.S. girls' sports team booty-shaking to bongo drums and our American group singing S Club 7 songs.

Live band in Temple Bar

I saw drunk Chicagoans with shamrock tattoos stumbling around the streets demanding Subway and two Spanish men wearing wife beaters that said "Kiss Me, I'm Maybe Irish."

The Irish do go out, but Americans and other nationalities far outnumbered them this weekend.

In Ireland, St. Patrick's Day is a day of holy obligation and usually celebrated as a religious holiday-not like it is in the states.

Two years ago, I went to Savanna, Ga., for the world's largest St. Patrick's Day parade. In between kids clamoring for beads from floats and tripping over beers cans, a sea of green shirts poured out of every bar like a fresh Guiness tap. It was impossible to even enter a bar.

And back in Milwaukee, our college bar, Murphy's, opened at 6 a.m.

"I'm gonna open and close Murphy's!" one friend said.

What did you do this St. Patrick's Day? Was it filled with green beer bongs and 7 a.m. bar call times? Did it seem crazier than Dublin?

And one more thing-don't order Irish Car Bombs in Ireland.

Monday, March 16, 2009

"My New Air-cut" (in the Jersey accent from YouTube)

I just got the worst haircut. Think Marilyn Manson, a dread locked hobo and an aspiring 80's prom queen combined. Plus a little Golden Retriever. Ok, maybe it was just a lot of hairspray, but still. 

My roommate and I wanted to get a new European chic haircut, like Kate Moss or Amy Winehouse.

We heard about this "Salon Chocolat," where they give free hot chocolate, free chocolate samples and have such a French sounding name. 

We were all for it. The night before we picked out styles from a British hair magazine called "YourHair." Clever, I know. I gravitated toward Heidi Klum's sleek, shoulder-length haircut. It was no Amy Winehouse, but it would do.

We show up to the salon, which is in back of a chocolate display. My hairdressor's name was Brent. He lives in France, commutes to Canterbury twice a week, and spends the rest of the week teaching the latest styles from Paris to hairdressors in Belgium. Legit, right?

I told him about the Klum look, and he talked me out of it. "You've got such great curly hair!"he said.  Tell me about it. He convinced me of a look that's popular in Paris right now. The hair is cut to be angled behind the head, with a little fringe in the front draped back. Sick. But if it's all the rage in Paris and he teaches in Belgium...what the heck, I thought, I'll go for it. When in Rome...

He let his "assistant" wash my hair, which turned into a creepy thumb massage, and "assistant" blow dried my hair. My hair came out straight. I was praying that now Brent would work my hair like putty into something Parisian-fantastic.

Putty he used, all right. Brent applied gobs of wax and hair spray for my "wavy-fringe-Paris look." I peered in the mirror. I looked like a wet dog that had just ran through a tornado of dirty wax. Not joking. I sat in my chair fuming.

"Isn't my hair supposed to be curly?" I asked.

"Yeah, it is. That's funny. Hm..." he said. 

Apparently "assistant" used the bean-chocolate-whatever-conditioner, which is wrong. It makes dry hair very straight and flat. Smart. And "assistant" didn't curl my hair but blow-dried it straight.

"Well, come back in a few weeks and I'll blow dry your hair for free so you'll get your money's worth," he said.

My money's worth? What? Isn't that what I'm here for today? I asked if he could start over, which he did. I came out looking much the same, just with curly, individually sticky hairs. It was sick. I think if I fell over my hair would stick to the floor. And then they could use it to wax a speedboat. I sat in my chair on fire with anger. "Yeah, it's really great, nice how cuurly it is now," I kept saying.

My new "haircut"

From the back

Are these people delusional or just know they screwed up and are trying to sell it to you? I don't get it. I paid 40 frickin' pounds for my natural hair to be sprayed with a gallon of hairspray. 

I think he felt bad for me, because he gave me a box of chocolates, which I gave up for Lent. 

I ran outside and chomped them down like T-Rex, enraged. I then went into every single store on my way to the bus stop, looking to buy something, anything, to make me feel better. 

I kept saying to myself, people in Somalia are starving and you're ready to cry about your hair? But our hair is so personal. It says something about us. If you have a bob, you're not afraid to be different. If you have a mushroom cut, well, God help you. But whatever the style, it's a part of you. I did not want to cry to the world that I wanted to be Ryan Seacrest with moussed extensions. Shoot me. I'm still a little bitter. 

I ended up buying nothing and then dunking my head in the shower to wash all the goo out.  It actually wasn't a horrible cut, just bad styling. Last time I trust the French with style. 

Monday, March 9, 2009

Nuts for Nutella

I have a new obsession (it doesn't involve plucking eyebrows or black labradors): Nutella. 

Nutella on pretzels, toast, crepes with strawberries, celery, Carr's crackers, fingers, naan, anything I can find, basically. 

I feel cliche to pine over it, like Mary Kate and Ashley in Our Lips Are Sealed when they first discover surfers and nutella in Australia, but it is amazing.

I first tried it with my boyfriend in Rome on crackers, and since then, nutella and I have not separated. It's sweet, dependable, alluring, full of surprises--you can't go wrong. I even gave up all sweets for Lent, but reasoned that nutella is hazelnut and a spread, therefore, not a sweet.

Yesterday, I wandered through Portobello Road in Notting Hill, a trendy street with markets and American Apparel, and smacked on a warm nutella crepe with strawberries. I told the Italian woman who made it about my new obsession and she warned me.

"I used to have three a day and I was much bigger," she said as she gestured her arms in a big circle.

Yikes. Well, I'm willing to turn into Kirstie Allie for nutella.

No Sandwiches in Sandwich

Last Friday, I was bored. I looked at the pile of pamphlets on my desk like "25 Fun Things To Do in Kent" or "Flying Pig Amsterdam" (don't ask), and the little town of Sandwich caught my eye. 

The brochure said Sandwich was "the best preserved medieval city" and I thought I saw something about the ocean. It sounded like a small Cape Cod destination, where you can eat crab sandwiches on the sea. 

So I grabbed a friend and went. As we approached some wooded cottages on a river, I asked an old man where the city centre was. 

"Sandwich is not a city," he said as he shook his finger at me. "It's a town." 

Sandwich's "town centre"

It certainly was. We made our way through "town," looking to eat a sandwich in Sandwich, and encountered pubs, pubs, pubs and a flower shop. Since all restaurants in Britain seem to close from two till six (for siestas?) we tried to look for the sea.

We asked a purple-haired old woman for directions. 

"The sea? That's a long way off! We have a river..." she said.

Sandwich's river

Standoff by the river

So we saw the river...and the town...in about half an hour. We then walked two miles through moorish countryside to an old Roman fort that's now an eroded pile of rocks. On the way, we got chased down by a horse, barked at by dogs and stood feet away from cows. Breathtaking, really.

At "Gallows Field" where they buried people alive

Sandwich countryside

The Roman fort/amphitheatre

We treated ourselves to a well-earned crab cake dinner on the river. We decided Sandwich was a retirement village for wealthy old people driving red porches, and then left. So much for sandwiches...

My friend Angela excited for crab cakes

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Our first Sunday Roast

In Canterbury, students have a designated going-out spot for every night.

Monday is The Works, a sleezy nightclub that had a "Sex" theme last week welcoming students dressed like prostitutes and pimps. The club also hosted a stripper, who wore gloves and professor-ish glasses. Classy.

Tuesday, Thursday and Friday students go to more bars on campus. Every academic building has a bar, which are surprisingly popular. It would be strange to go wasted into Johnston Hall dressed like a rejected 80's prom queen or a bloated cow, but here, it's the norm.

Massive Mungo's, in a school building

Wednesday and Saturdays are the Venue, the University of Kent's own nightclub. You'd think it would be like the Annex, where you get chili cheese fries on Sundays but otherwise wouldn't go. Not here.

The Venue on Friday night

Girls dress up in black Topshop tube top dresses (a popular store where Kate Moss has a line), with black tights and black patent leather heels. The Venue also has a swanky bar and a two-level dance floor with a semi-cage and people grinding to Girltalk. It's an experience.

But Sunday, Sunday is Roast Night. No, not a roast of Bob Saget (which my friend thought), but a legitimate pot roast dinner at a pub. My roommates and I have tried all the other weekday activities, so tonight we made our way to the Penny Theatre for a full-on roast.

I was expecting to sit down at a rustic dining room table with a skewered melt-in-my-mouth pot roast while a guitarist strummed Bob Dylan.

Ah, no. We walked into the low-lighted bar, where kids were playing pool and "Lady Marmalade" blasted. We walked into a cozy dark corner, sat on stools, searched for the non-existent pot roast, and settled on burgers and beer.

While you eat, they have Quiz Night, where every table receives an answer sheet filled with different categories like "Celebrities" and "Sports." An announcer reads questions and you write them down, hoping to win free pints or horse shoes (don't ask).

I was excited to participate, confident of my Trivia Pursuit skills. Question one: "What second-rate star recently got a boob job?" Ah, Audrina Partridge? Joan Rivers? Wait, we're in England, shoot. No idea.

We were clueless for the rest of the questions as well, and put answers like "Charlie bit my finger" and "Pete Doherty."

We left slightly tipsy and with a score of zero, but glad we finally made it to Roast Night. Now for more academic bars...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Visiting the Canterbury Tales

Canterbury is famous for two reasons: One, Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162-1170, was cane-slaughtered in front of the Canterbury Cathredal. Two, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the gaudy, boozy stories of pilgrims venturing to Canterbury.

I've already been on Canterbury's "ghost tour" where a man in a black cape and top hat showed us where Becket was murdered. I visited the Canterbury Cathredal. I figured all that was left on my must-see list was the Canterbury Tales.

Luckily, there is a Canterbury Tales exhibit where you can tour musty-smelling rooms and hear/see each pilgrim's story. One lackadaisical Sunday my roommates and I decided to do it, excited to see our 9th grade reading assignment unfold.

The exhibit is in an old medieval church, where, according to our ghost tour, they used to throw naughty (or Catholic) nuns off the top of the building. With that in mind, we headed inside to the brown-paneled room. 

                  Zoe posing with the priest                 

Me imitating the Wife of Bath

You take an audio guide and are hustled into the first dark room, where the dungeon doors to the lobby shut menacingly behind you. I think they sprinkled horse manure about the area to give it that "medieval-chic" smell, because it stunk. Molded casts of double-chinned priests, beggars with beard stubble and empty flasks and bacteria-laden porridge bowls littered the room, only seen by firelight. 

                 The first room on your pilgrimage                     

Drunken buffoon

We wandered room by room, with our audio guides pressed against our cheeks, wondering why we paid 3.50 for manure and dirty casts of horses. 

We saw the Wife of Bath riding in a glossy forest, which reminded me of  being in the Rainforest Cafe, saw murals of Chauntecleer, a naked bum hanging out the window and getting branded, fake rats, dirty streets and smelled that lovely manure. Thank goodness I'm not a pilgrim.

Typical medieval street

The trip was a great refresher of Chaucer's tales, but I was ready to get my hand sanitizer and fresh air as soon as I left those dungeon doors.