University is a time of firsts. Clichéd as it may sound, it is true of a great many things. Such novel experiences are not confined to the start of a degree; case in point: last week was my first trip to the student-run Imperial Cinema.
Quite why it has taken me nearly four years to do so, I am unsure – the cinema, hosted in the Imperial College Union building, boats a superb 8m-wide screen, bolstered with surround sound Dolby audio and plays host to the best films, be that big blockbuster or niche indie, trickling out of cinemas. All this, for a very affordable £4 (for non-members).
Thankfully I managed to avoid being dragged to see the Oxford Street Christmas lights this year but as my Christmas-loving boyfriend was visiting it would be rude to not show him any and he was happy with seeing some of the Regent Street lights during a day out in London.
Regent Street Christmas lights
As I described in an earlier blog post, work last week consisted of mostly Christmas parties! Starting off with the the Natural History Museum Student Association Christmas Party and moving on to the Soil Biodiversity Group Christmas gathering where my supervisor Paul Eggleton tried on my Christmas hat!
I actually am not keen on Christmas or parties, but do try to go along to a few to try and get in the spirit of things, chat with people I haven’t seen for a while and eat free/cheap food and drink. Between the Museum and and various Imperial College departments I have been overwhelmed with invitations and have only been able to attend a few, but I thought I would list some of the others so you can see all the different opportunities for partying at Imperial.
Parties at the Natural History Museum
The Museum has a reputation for boozy parties (although we have to be careful not to upset security and neighbours).
I have been experiencing the twin miseries of house hunting and a heavy cold, my mum came down to help with the latter, but to brighten the day we also visited the Camellia show at Chiswick Gardens in west London.
Chiswick House is a neo-Palladian villa built by the third Earl of Burlington in 1729. The conservatory was originally built for growing fruit but was then given over to Camellias which were new arrivals from plant explorers in China. Some of these plants are still here, but were nearly lost when the conservatory fell into disrepair. A £12.1 million project to restore the gardens was unveiled in June 2010.
I took a day off from studying to visit the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill, South East London. The museum has been on my ‘places to visit list’ for sometime, and I was particularly looking forward to meeting its famous walrus specimen, which even has its own Twitter account.
The exterior of the Horniman Museum
Since rain was forecast we decided to look around the grounds of the museum before heading inside. The building is in the arts and style and was founded in 1901 by Frederick John Horniman. The wall features a mosaic called Humanity in the House of Circumstance.
Bandstand with London skyline
The museum has extensive gardens which include a bandstand overlooking the London skyline and some farm animals.
I month into my PhD I moved from my family home in Portsmouth to a rented flat in outer London, it’s a short commute away but I get a lot more for my money. Unfortunately logistical problems meant I spent the first few weeks with minimal furniture etc. which wasn’t ideal on top of having trouble settling into the first real home of my own. So Andrew took me off to Ikea Croydon, to buy some items to make the place more homely (and to take advantage of the the free coffee).
Andrew admiring the chimneys at Ikea Croydon
I have since found out that the Croydon store is the biggest Ikea in the UK, which partly explained how we managed to spend nearly seven(!) hours there.
My friend Andrew loves Christmas, so it would be cruel if I didn’t let him visit the Winter Festival at the Southbank Centre after the trip to Tower Bridge (although mercifully I avoided taking him to see the Christmas lights in Oxford Street this year!).
After enjoying some traditional roast Chestnuts by the River Thames I said goodbye while I spent a few days finishing up some university work before heading home for Christmas and the New Year.
Christmas lights with the London Eye behind, at the Winter Festival, Southbank Centre
On the 16th December the PREDICTS team had planned a Christmassy day which included a visit to our neighbours the Victoria and Albert Museum where the joint-museum choir was performing.
Studying in London gives plenty of opportunities for ‘going tourist’ and visiting attractions in London, so for a treat after two busy weeks away in France my friend Andrew visited and we went to see the Tower Bridge Exhibition. The Exhibition had been in the London newspapers recently as it had just opened a glass floor on the high level walkways, giving views from over 100 feet above the River Thames, and so we wanted to pay a visit – despite Andrew being afraid of heights!
The Tower of London
Tower Bridge is in the eastern part of London so it was exciting to see a part of London I am not familiar with, emerging from the Tower Hill underground station we saw the Tower of London – another attraction on the list to visit while I am here studying.