Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Very London (Hostel) Christmas

“I am not alone at all, I thought. I was never alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses.”
~Taylor Caldwell

I knew that Christmas was going to be different from the get go this year. It's the first time away from my family, my friends, and all our traditions. I didn't get any of Mama's candy, Bre and I didn't get to watch The Grinch with Daddy, Michele and I didn't get to make our Christmas cookies then veg out on the couch with half the dough, etc, etc, etc. It was hard also because it was an Andersen Christmas this year (my family went to Grammy and Grandpa's in Connecticut) AND Aunt Kate was home in Maine. But I was pleasantly surprised when I ended up having a very busy and awesome Christmas :)

I worked right up until Christmas Eve day. The night before, Jac and I went to our favorite pub for food, and really got to catch up. We talked about taking more trips, especially since we're both working and I'll be in my own place soon. So, Christmas Eve Day I come into work to find out that all the offices are basically shutting down at noon for the annual hallway Christmas party. I helped them set things up: there were 4 tables of food (cheese, crackers, bread, meats, olives, cookies, cake, etc.) and then 2 of wine, beer, and champagne. Thats right--when the Brits do an office holiday party in the middle of the day, they really do it up. The deal was that everyone came out at noon, had some munchies, downed a few drinks, then snuck out around 2. I ended up leaving at 1:30 after my boss tried to give me a third glass of white wine. I went from the party to Bunac because a Christmas miracle had occurred, and my Christmas present had arrived from my family. Woohoo!!! I picked it up, and was back at the hostel by 4pm.

I got back here, and got a call from Allie Packard. She is this total sweetheart who I met through Aunt Kate. She is an actress, New England, and does some voices on Mr. Men. She had decided to come to London for the holiday, and had just flown in. We chatted for a bit, then decided to meet for dinner in Trafalgar. I took the tube in, and met her under the huge Norwegian Christmas tree:

We walked around the area for a while, then found a nice little Italian place for dinner. Our waiter was a very very flamboyant gay man from Poland. He tapping our shoulders with his fingertips while we were ordering food. We both had wine and sea food, and split a piece of the most amazing cheesecake. From there, we walked down to the Christmas Fair in Leicester Square, and grabbed coffee. We clicked really quick, and she was so funny and friendly. She had no problem making friends, and it was nice to spend some time with someone who reminded me so much of home.

After parting ways with well wishes, I headed over to St. Paul's Cathedral. I'm not sure why, but I really wanted to go to Midnight Mass. I heard the service at St. Paul's was amazing due to their choir. I called Nathalie, and she met me there. We were so early, but when we went around the Cathedral (which I have to go back to--it was so beautiful) there was already a line wrapped halfway around the building. We waited for an hour and a half, but it was worth it--we were part of the first hundred people in the door, so we got to sit in the 15th row back, right under the dome:
It was beautiful. There were candles everywhere, and the music was lovely. The service was a Catholic one, which I was a little uncomfortable with, but overall, I'm really happy I went.We sung three of my favorite carols, and it just felt nice to be with people from all over the world and of all faiths. Afterwords, I took a taxi home, and went to bed.

Christmas morning, I actually got up early…ish. A few of the guys were up as well, so we all wished each other a Merry Christmas and puttered around until the others got up for secret santa. While we were doing this, Steven tricked Harry into running out to buy a bunch of breakfast stuff by saying that I had already cooked everything we had, and there was nothing left. 10 minutes, 2 loaves of bread, a liter of milk, a dozen eggs, and a pack of bacon, and I was a French toast machine. They were getting eaten faster then I could make them. Luckily, the boys broke out the goods for champagne breakfast, and made sure to keep my glass full.

Weird tidbit: Aussies and Kiwis eat their French toast cooked in oil, covered in salt and chilli sauce, and without anything like syrup or powdered sugar. So basically, it’s just fried bread. Me and Casey the Canadian were totally grossed out.

Finally, everyone was up and we handed out presents. I was really proud of mine. There is this long running joke in the hostel that I never really got the whole story. For anyone living there for more then a month, the two most common phrases (picked up from a French girl who stayed there a while back) are ‘F*ck my life’ and ‘Oh my Buddha!’. No idea why, its just the way we roll. So I was wandering around the kind of ghetto Elephant and Castle shopping center (think Westbrook) and I found a little Asian cart that had Buddha necklaces. Fairly unisex, and since we had a £5 limit, it worked out great at £4.95. Casey ended up getting it. I got this really pretty little paperweight thing. It’s a piece of cut crystal with a miniature skyline of the Southbank carved in it. (Big Ben, London Eye, etc) I really like it.

After that, everyone kind of drifted around and did their own thing. We watched a movie, had more drinks (Christmas is a HUGE drinking holiday here….) took naps, hung out. I had gotten a package from home that had my stocking on it. I talked to my folks on Skype for a while, then called them back and Mom, Dad, Bre and I all opened our stockings together. We were such dorks—going around in a circle, each opening something and showing it off—just like I was home. It made me really really happy. Best gift: a hamster finger puppet. I love it so friggin’ much!! He is now my travel buddy….still gotta name the little guy….Other then that, got a lot of smelly stuff (because I complained about my room smelling like feet) and just little odds and ends. It was nice to read all the messages from my parents on why they picked each thing.

The rest of the night kind of descended into debauchery, as you can imagine with a hostel full of especially drunk friends who became family. There was food in the afternoon—just cold ham slices, Brie cheese, crackers, mini pizzas, etc. We all drank a lot of champagne and got loopy. There may have been an incident with three streakers…all boys…cute toushies ; -) I took a nap in the late afternoon, then sat up talking with people into the wee hours of the morning. Overall, it was a good Christmas. We were all really happy to be together with people we had become so close to, and weren’t too homesick. For the traditional Boxing Day of shopping and insanity, I stuck with the Andersen family tradition of going to the movies and sneaking around to see more then one. I saw Yes Man with Jim Carry (very similar to Bruce Almighty, funny, but it made me unexpectedly homesick for California) and then Twilight (which I really loved. The scenes were shot so beautifully, I love the soundtrack, and they did a decent job of sticking the original storyline. I agree with Yun—it was a lot funnier they I was expecting). I may have to go back to the theatre and do more day trips like that.

Now New Years...


anr002 said...

aaahhhh!!!! (so, ps, i found your blog... lol)
but ahhhhhh!!!!!! your christmas party is JUST the same as in The Holiday!!! AAAHHHHHHH!!!!! that is just too wicked cool!! :D
(haha sorry, i love that movie and you, so, you know... lol)

Glitter Girl said...

Sounds like you had a great christmas. This was my first Christmas away from home, certainly wasnt easy but we got through it.
Did you take the photo of St Pauls? its an awesome photo!