London with the TMB

I’ve completed the first leg of my two month exploration of European capitals, a very busy 6 day visit to London. I’m not sure where exactly to start because I experienced so much in so little time, but the trip was extremely worth while. Luckily, the weather remained cool and cloudy without ever being rainy which made for great conditions to get around and see the sights; the people I spent time with made it an even more special trip.

On my first day in town, the Wednesday after arriving on Tuesday the 15th, I decided to join some friends from the trumpet section of the USC marching band as we hit up major London landmarks. In just the first day we saw parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus, and Harrods; in addition, we finished off our day with a pub crawl funded by the USC Alumni Association of London (thanks guys!). We got lunch at what I think was my favorite pub from my time in London, a place called Waxy O’Connor’s in Piccadilly Circus (for lunch I shared a steak and Guinness pie and a bacon, brie, and cranberry sandwich with a friend alongside a couple brews to get us through the long day).

Westminster Abbey
At Westminster Abbey

On day two we took the tube to Wimbledon to see the famed lawn courts. After getting distracted by some odd geese in a beautiful park near the stadiums, we made it to the courts just in time to take our pictures, see the gift shop, and jump back on the tube for a tour of the London 2012 Olympic Village. There we saw the stadiums and land that will be used for the Olympics, an impressive sight. Following this we booked it back to the tube for our first performance, a gig in the middle of a large square in the financial area of Canary Wharf. It took the crowd a little while to understand what watching an American marching band was like but in the end they thoroughly enjoyed the performance.

Outside Wimbledon

Friday was a busy day of more tube traveling (I guess that’s what happens when the trip planner gives us a hotel in Zone 4 near Harrow), seeing the London Tower and Tower Bridge, and a performance at Potter’s Field Park (directly across the Thames from the London Tower). I really enjoyed the London Tower experience because of extent of its history and the amazing artifacts and architecture at the location. The crown jewels were stunning and a tour by a Beefeater provided a massive insight to the history of the tower.

London Tower
With a Beefeater at the London Tower

A day off from performances, we had Saturday entirely to ourselves. A scheduled tour of the parliament building proved to be a huge eye-opening experience into the history and tradition of the nation; I don’t believe I’ve ever been more impressed by the interior of a building (though I have yet to make it to Italy for the churches) and again I found the historical background to the traditions of the location to be wonderful. The rest of the day included a visit to the Tate Britain (one of my lesser favorite locations I visited) and then one of the most exciting nights of sports viewing I’ve participated in. Saturday was the UEFA Champions League Final between Bayern Munich and Chelsea, and what better place is there to watch the match than a packed bar in Chelsea? Being a part of that crowd was exhilarating and to win the match in penalties made it even more memorable.

In line for the Parliament tour

Our final day of exploration was Sunday, which also included our biggest performance of the trip: an hour long gig on the steps of Trafalgar Square leading up to the National Gallery. The morning began with a tour of the National Gallery which contained awe-inspiring masterpieces from all over Europe. I don’t believe there was a room that did not impress me but, as usual, the French impressionists struck me the most and the medieval altarpieces and Renaissance paintings stood out as well. Following the performance, I continued to visit new areas in London including the eclectic Covet Gardens where I finished off the night visiting a few pubs to celebrate a successful trip to London.

Trafalgar Square
At Trafalgar Square

It’s currently 1am and I’m now in Paris ready to really kick off the second part of my summer travels. I’ve already had time to get some of the most amazing food I’ve ever had (baguette panini’s, dessert crepes, and a chocolat mousse dessert called a Bolero, I believe), and tomorrow I pick up my museum pass in order to see as much as I can in my short time here. I’ll post updates as I continue from Paris to Berlin, my final destination where I will be for the following six weeks. I look forward to writing again about my amazing cultural experiences across Europe!


Travel Blogging: London, Paris, and Berlin!

This has been slowly sneaking up on me for a little while now, but tomorrow I leave on my trip to London, Paris, and Berlin for the next two months! I will be enjoying the first two cities with members of the USC Trojan Marching Band as we play at various pre-Olympic festivities in London. Following seven days in the English capital, we head to Paris to see the city and explore, including a day trip I will take to the WWII beaches of Normandy with a friend of mine. My final destination will be Berlin to study composition under Dr. Samuel Adler for six weeks—something I am sure will be an invaluable experience for me.

At this point in my life, I have never been further east than the state of Indiana. In 2008 I traveled with my high school wind ensemble to China for ten days and my family has taken me on vacations including Mexico and Hawaii, but this is my first real opportunity to immerse myself in a completely foreign culture(s). Unfortunately, my foreign language studies from high school fail me in two ways for this trip: I never got any good and the only language I studied was Spanish. Armed with city guidebooks and a polite American demeanor (whatever that means), hopefully my language barrier will not become too large of an issue for me! (I’m not too worried about London at this point, and I’ve heard Germans speak quite good English as well.. we shall see.)

As I explore these amazing European capital cities, I will do my best to share my experiences here in my blog. I’ll share about everything from food I eat to places I see and concerts I attend. I’ll even post pictures and hopefully share some funny stories. Hopefully I can keep these posts as up to date as possible so check back to hear more from me!


Summer Composition Study

This summer I will participate in an exciting composition course taught by Dr. Samuel Adler of the Juilliard School. The program will take place at the Freie Universitat Berlin and will also include a conducting course taught by Dr. Emily Freeman Brown of Bowling Green State University. I will be living and studying in Berlin for 6 weeks following a 10 day trip to London and Paris with the USC Trojan Marching Band. I am looking forward to a wonderful summer of new cultural and musical experiences!