What I originally planned as a day exploration in Hampstead ended up as a six hour residence in the kitchen talking to British freshers. It was quite ridiculous, I can’t even remember what we said. Mostly it was pitting America versus British and trying to trade words. For example, Anna and I wanted them to say ranch the American way in exchange for saying basil the British way. (baasil, like a sheep saying it). They refused and hence we refused.

Another funny incident was about popping collars. We explained that American boys (pay attention Aman) think it makes them super cool and an imitation of a British trend. Robert proceeded to explain he had never heard of that expression and that no one really pops their collar.

It’s slightly bizarre coming in as a second semester American because they already have preconceived notions about us. Like Anna is staying in first semester abroad student Jen’s room, but they all still think of it was Jen’s room. Similarly, I’m in “Patrick’s” old room. I’m on the tails of their shadows and we can never quite measure up because they began their friendships with Americans, whereas we’re entering it in halfway. I was a little worried that might happen but we’ll see how it goes, eh?

*****

Today (Sunday) was a little more promising as I forced my fellow Americans to come a-exploring with me. (We might have stayed in the kitchen forever.) I’ll let the pictures tell the tale.

img_0018This is an alleyway towards a cafe called cafe rouge. It’s a franchise french cafe that I haven’t been to, but looks very cute. Hampstead is full of little alleys. In one (that I didn’t take a picture of) there’s a used bookstore with books everywhere, falling on your head, and in the alley, a woman sells second hand goods. I bought a small goblet for 50 p (pence).

img_0028Not terribly interesting, but Hampstead Village consists of many rows of shops like these. Shops range from cafes, to pattiseries, boutiques and American franchises including McDonalds and Gap.

stripclubThis is a very unassuming looking building (pardon my poor photo taking skills) called King William. It is actually a strip club. But I’ve heard they serve great cocktails. It’s almost like having a stripclub in Swarthmore…very incongruent with the town.

img_0030We went into a two-storied coffee, tea and hot chocolate shop. This is a row of different types of tea, it’s quite amazing. There are so many possible flavors! Tina and I bought a can of dried mango dipped in chocolate, which couldn’t even have sounded good, as Parth pointed out to me later. We like mangos and chocolate and it just seemed natural that they should go well together. The magno was too tough and the chocolate just came off so it ended up tasting like mango and chocolate seperately instead of creating a beautiful new taste. All in good fun, though.

img_0032Among delicious mixes, the store also sold adorable teapots, mugs and pitchers.

img_00331I have no idea why wordpress is making this photo sideways. Essentially its a picture of me pointing to a kit of hot chocolate that comes with a mug, hot cocoa powder and cocoa sprinkles. There were lots of different types of sets including white hot chocolate etc. Upstairs there was a whole row of different types of hot cooas including mint hot chocolate, orange…so many flavors. If you notice in the blogroll, I have another blog at http://coocacaliente.wordpress.com where I write about my hot chocolate experiences. So more about that there.

img_0036The flash messed this one up, but its a sign for Philly cheese steak on a bagel. We also found a diner that sold hamburgers and a variety of milkshakes and malts. Even if the Brits hate us, they are very taken with American culture.

img_0038There were so many delicious bakeries that opened their doors and had brilliant displays. Tina and I peered through the windows at all the delicious goods like the cash-strapped students we were. At one point, we stood in the doorway of the bakery because it yielded the strong smell of warm bread. I was hoping we could just go inside and have a lookie but the space is so small that its either buy or you’re out. This particular one, Louis, was Hungarian and very small. You had to pay more to sit down, so the front of the shop where people just bought bakeries on the spot, was very crowded. Tina really wanted to come here and we split a chocolate wafer that cost 2.50 pounds. That’s more than 4 dollars for something quite small. All my money is going to food in London.

Unfortunately, I was unable to snap any photos of the bakeries, but Tina is a great photographer and when she puts hers up, I’ll share with y’all.

*****

In response to Aman, yes, I had researched Hampstead before. After taking with senior student Allie, I came to the conclusion that Hampstead is far better than any alternative. 1) The rooms are actually nice 2) It’s a dorm so I get to meet loads more people 3) It’s a beautiful area and very safe compared to Stamford Street and Great Dover 4) It would take just as much time to get to class if I lived in any of the other self-catered residence areas. I was just unhappy when I had to walk a long way at night, (passed a graveyard) very hungry and tired. But now I know better, that will never happen to me.

******

Sorry this is all very scattered. The small differences surprise me the most, particularly the toilets. Honestly, they are cross between American toilets and Indian toilets. In general, they look far dingier because its just a hole and there’s not much water. But it actually has a seat so it’s not quite desi-style. In Guy’s campus, they provided a sanitary soap to wipe the seat three times after you’ve used it. I really like that system but I wonder how many people actually do it.

****

Finally, the mustard. I had no idea that American mustard is so weak! I buy items based on price so I bought this British mustard because it had the lowest price for the highest volume. Assuming that it was like sharples mustard where I can add lots of dollops with no problem, I smeared my bread with it. Unfortunately, no one told me that it is quite like Wasabi and it went up my nose into my head. It was such a painful experience that I had to throw away half my sandwich! Allie said Americans make that mistake all the time and it’s because this mustard is straight mustard powder with water, making it a very strong condiment. Well, now I know.

Note: I’ve added photos to the previous entries, so just scroll down a bit.

Advertisements