Friday, April 20, 2012

Pixley Invasion Part I

It has been almost two months since my last blog post, but my excuse is a little more legitimate this time. I finished classes two weeks ago, and spent 90% of March working on final projects for the four classes I am in the process of completing (I slept the other 10%). The MAMC students finished classes on April 5th and began our three week spring break! I spent the first couple of days getting caught up with laundry, cleaning, and sleep and then began to prepare for the arrival of my parents!! My parents have come and gone and it is back to the books as I prepare for final exams in May.


My parents arrived in London on April 11th! I was so excited because it had been 3 1/2 months since I had seen them. There was never really a point from the time I arrived that I was super homesick, but I was so excited to physically see them, Skype only helps so much. I could not wait to show them around the city and to give them a feel for my life here. I had a blast playing tourist for a week, and spent the week with my parents at the beautiful Langham London.

The Langham is located on Regent Street, just 3 blocks north of Oxford Street, the main shopping district in London. It was so beautiful and there is nothing I love more than staying in a hotel, even if it is only 2 miles from where I live. It is right across the street from the All Souls Church Langham Place, a beautiful and famous church in central London. I used the WONDERFUL site to book the hotel. They specialize in flash discounted sales of luxury hotels and resorts around the world and are a part of Gilt Groupe. I highly recommend the site! It was the first time I have used it and was very pleased to say the least!

The Langham London

My parents and I ran around London at high speed for seven fantastic days. We took in all of the London sights with a two day bus and river tour with The Big Bus Company. We were able to hop on and off the bus anytime we wanted and saw famous London landmarks such as Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, St. Paul's Cathedral, and the Tower Bridge. We also took a river cruise from Westminster to the Tower of London. I think bus tours are the best way to see a city, allowing great flexibility about travel time and fantastic information and history about the city. 

Those who know the Pixley family know we are MAJOR theatre buffs, which is why we went to see four fantastic West End shows during my parent's visit. The first show we saw was Ghost the Musical. It is based on the film, staring Demi Moore and Patrick Swazye (Rest in Peace, I loved him!), and has a fantastic pop score with heartbreaking ballads. It is also one of the most impressive shows, technically, I have ever seen. The character of Sam literally walks through set pieces. I spent half of the show trying to figure out how they could do that but I quit and was completely stumped. Ghost the Musical just began its Broadway run, and I am sure it will show up at the Tony Awards. I have linked the trailer below if you want to check it out!

Ghost the Musical - West End trailer

We also went to see Jersey Boys, which both of my parents had seen but I had not. They insisted that we go, seeing as it is one of their favorite shows. I absolutely loved it! It also provided a theatre first for me. It was the first time I had been in an audience where they sang along out loud with the performers. It was such a cool and energetic experience.

The last two shows were Les Miserables and Billy Elliot. Billy Elliot is one of my favorite shows, and the first time I saw it was right when it opened on the West End in 2006. I was able to see it with my Mom and Aunt Debbie when I was in London for EuroChorale, and my Mom and myself insisted that we take my Dad. It was fantastic, as expected.

We had a very unique experience when we went to see Les Miserable this past Monday. Les Mis has been a huge part of my life since I was little. It was the first professional show I ever saw (I think I was 6 or 7), and my sister and I both had the privilege of being a part of it in 2003 (Khaki as Eponine) and 2007 (Myself as Gavroche) at our high school. We went on Monday thinking it was just going to be an amazing performance, which it was. We were confused when we arrived at the theatre because every seat had a Les Mis souvenir bag with a champagne flute in it. We ignored it and put them under our seat. After the curtain call the actor who played Jean Valjean began to talk about how Les Mis had won an Olivier Award (UK equivalent of the Tony Awards) the night before and that we were all here to celebrate with the cast. The whole audience had a champagne toast with the cast, which included an appearance by Les Mis and theatre producer Cameron Macintosh and Les Mis Music and Book writer Claude-Michel Schonberg. I lost my mind a cried like a baby, seeing as two of the most famous and influential people involved in theatre were feet away from me. I will relive that night over and over again!

 More to come this weekend about our adventures! Time to hit the books! Also, if you want to see pictures from the trip check out my Mom's Facebook page. She was the official photographer for the week.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


OK, OK, I's been almost a month since I have posted anything. I can justify it though because school has been all consuming (in a good way) and nothing super interesting has happened to me...I'm more or less just working really hard on school stuff, my wonderful MAMC peeps will agree about the work load! So here is an update on the past...well...month. I apologize and won't let it happen again. If you wonderful people are taking the time to read about my adventures I need to make sure I give you something to read about...also I got a lot of pressure from my Mom. Thanks Lulu!

So I turned 23 on February 20th! I celebrated with my friends on the 18th because we had school on my actual birthday! I spent the day buying myself birthday presents at Westfield London. The only way to describe Westfield is to refer to it as the mother ship...well my mother ship! It is this MASSIVE shopping complex/mall in Shepherd's Bush in West London. It is about a 15 minute bus ride from my flat...which is both convenient and dangerous for me. It is much closer than Oxford/Regents Street and Kensington High Street, making it that much easier and faster for me to get to my favorite stores. I walked in on the side of the complex where all of the designer stores are. They are all in a semi circle with this GORGEOUS Champagne bar in the center of them. I almost cried. I was so overwhelmed and happy. I have to say it even beats Somerset in Troy and the 900 Shops in Chicago...which I never thought was possible. I tried to find a picture of the interior to post here but they were all super I recommend just checking out the website. I also received beautiful flowers from my parents and sister and enjoyed some sweet treats from Patisserie Valerie.

In the past few weeks I have been able to enjoy London nightlife. I have spent a bit of time at the bars & clubs in Covent Garden and Leicester Square, and the unofficially MAMC bar in Marylebone. Some great places include Roadhouse & Zoo Bar. We went to Roadhouse for a friends Birthday, arrived early enough for happy hour and stayed and danced the night away. Roadhouse is a retro American themed bar in Covent Garden. I loved that they had a live band, who played great music (mostly rock).

For my birthday we headed to Zoo Bar in Leicester Square. They have two floors and about 5 or 6 different rooms/bars. Each room has a different music genre playing including Pop, R&B, Hip-Hop, and Classic Rock. We spent most of our time dancing to the Pop and Classic Rock jams! Also, a few weeks ago the module leaders from the MA Marketing Communications program held a little get together at the Met Bar in Marylebone. It was both MAMC classes, all of the module leaders, and a bar tab covered by the school....nicely done UofW!

This past Sunday I headed over to Camden Town and enjoyed Camden Market, which happens every Sunday and has great pop-up shops and food stalls. Camden is a very funky, alternative area of London with a lot of young people, great food, and crazy stores. I met up with my friend Pooja and we ate our way through the market. They have AMAZING food stands on Sundays and I cannot wait to go back!

Camden Lock

Enjoying Sangria and Dolmades!

Dutch Dunkers - Warm mini pancakes with Nutella!

Pooja & I enjoying the food market!

The Stables! Shopping area filled with Vintage clothes and antiques!

I promise to update my blog more often, and I also promise to have a more interesting life here in London. I spend most of my time at school and have yet to see a lot of this great city! I am very used to living here now...the culture shock has worn off and it is now just the city in which I live!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

London Sounds

I apologize for the lack of updates! This week has been really crazy with school, but I am loving all of it. This will be a relatively short post today but I wanted to share with you some of the music currently topping the UK music charts. I think UK artists do pop music much better than in the States. So here are a couple of my favorites!

Cher Lloyd feat. Astro - Want You Back
The first video is Cher Lloyd feat. Astro. Cher is from UK XFactor and Astro is from the US XFactor. Nice work Simon Cowell! Cher is super goofy and her music is a lot of fun! 

Pixie Lott feat. Pusha T - What Do You Take Me For
 I love Pixie Lott, and not just because her name is Pixie (which is actually what people in my MA program have started to call me!). I'm a fan! She is pretty big here in the UK and I can't wait for her to emerge onto the US music scene. 

David Guetta feat. Sia - Titanium
David Guetta is pretty big in the US so I have no idea if this song is also. This is currently the #1 song in the UK, and I love the Florence + the Machine vibe. I have been a huge fan of Sia for a long time and her album We Are Born is great, so if you like this song I would maybe check out her music.

Gotya feat. Kimbra - Somebody That I Used To Know
I absolutely love this song, but am not a huge fan of the video. I don't really know anything about this artist but I think this song is great! Let me know what you think!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sicky Icky

This week has been a little tough! I spent most of the week in bed with the flu, had to miss a few classes, and felt really about a GREAT first impression to my classmates. It is hard to be sick and so far away from family....when I was in Grand Rapids and was sick I could at least call and complain to my mom every 15 minutes...this different time zone thing does not help very well with that. I am not very proactive when I am sick and usually don't do anything to help make myself better. I would always get reminders from my parents saying "Did you take Tylenol?" "Did you have something to eat?" "Did you take a nap?" I didn't really do any of those this week, I kind of just sat in my room and felt sorry for myself...then a good chat with Jimbo (my dad) whipped me into shape. He called me a big baby, and yes I was being a big baby! So today I made up for my sickly, whiny ways. I jumped on the bus with the intention of going for a walk in Hyde Park, when I saw this cafe outside the bus window called Patisserie Valerie, which was recommended to me by a friend in Chicago (Thanks Steve!). I got off the bus at the next stop and went inside for a strawberry yummy french cake thing and a latte. They were both delicious but next time I will actually have a meal instead of dessert for lunch, which I know will happen because it is right across the street from where my parents are staying when they visit. YAY!

Patisserie Valerie

Strawberry Gateaux

Following my lunch I walked down Edgware Road to Oxford Street and explored a couple of stores. Now, I have to say London does fashion way better than the States when it comes to reasonably priced items. I checked out Dorothy Perkins and Next and loved how everything was super stylish and super reasonable. It makes sense though since most of the fashion trends in the United States start in Europe. Also, stores here are much more willing to provide discounts for students. I received 25% off at both stores for showing my student id, which trumps the 10% off I usually receive at every store in the states. I then walked over to Selfridges and explored the accessories/ beauty floor...which was magical. I love department stores...for me the happiest place on earth is the shoe/beauty/accessories floor of Nordstrom, not Disney World. I then walked over to Marble Arch and through Hyde Park for a little bit, but headed home around 4:30 because I was getting very tired and wasn't feeling well. I have a 4 day weekend this week because one of my professors is in Brazil for business and cancelled class today. I am excited to explore a little more this weekend and also get to work on some of my projects for school. I am really enjoying my classes, professors, and classmates! I know we are all going to accomplish some great things! Until next time, happy weekend everyone!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Notting Hill Living

Today was the first day it felt like London, mostly because it was raining! I have been very fortunate to have many sunny days since arriving in London...not typical for this time of year or of this city. I started classes this past week and am very excited about what I am going to be doing. I will walk out of this program with a lot of great pieces of work to show potential employers when job interview time arrives, and they will cover just about every area of marketing (i.e public relations, market research, consumer behavior, advertising, etc.).

Today I walked to Notting Hill, which is about a mile from my flat and explored the famous Portobello Road and Westbourne Grove. I love the pastel colored townhouses and the small boutiques, which easily took up the majority of my day.

Portobello Road, Notting Hill  

 Westbourne Grove

 Westbourne Grove is a favorite of the lovely Duchess of Cambridge! Many of the designers she often wears are located here, including Reiss and L.K Bennett. Some of my favorite, like Nanette Lepore and Helmut Lang are also located on this adorable street. There is a restaurant right near here called Beach Blanket Babylon that I cannot wait to try, but I am saving it until my parents come to visit in April. 

 Beach Blanket Babylon, Ledbury Road

I also ventured to a great bakery on Portobello Road called Hummingbird Bakery. I stopped for a wonderful Sticky Toffee Cupcake ( I know, it's not a chocolate cupcake, which is a huge surprise coming from me) and sparkling water. Hummingbird Bakery has a couple other locations around London, including SoHo, South Kensington, and Spitalfields. I also found a great top at Appletree Boutique, which was right next to Hummingbird Bakery...a perfect combination, cupcakes and clothes! 

Hummingbird Bakery, Portobello Road

Sticky Toffee Cupcake

New Top From Appletree Boutique 
(It is actually a dark red, not pink...thanks camera!)

I am getting more and more comfortable with my surroundings and love getting to know my new friends! More adventures to come, thanks everybody!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Culture Kinda

I have had a very tiring but exciting week. The MarCom (fancy abbreviation, I know) students went through six days of orientation, including Saturday! We had some fantastic lecturers who have some of the most impressive resumes I have ever seen. Many of them were VP's and executives of organizations like Unilever, Shell Oil, Coca-Cola, etc. There was never a moment during their lectures when I was bored or not interested, which I believe is a great start to the program. We start real classes tomorrow and have each module one day a week for three hours, which is half lecture and half seminar, where we are broken into two smaller groups for discussion, case studies, etc. I absolutely feel as though I choose the right program. The difference between the MarCom M.A and a regular Marketing Masters Degree as that we are taught to work in an agency setting, and not as a marketer for other organizations. This course is very much driven by creativity, we will be the ones to pitch marketing strategies, advertising strategies, public relations strategies, etc. to the organizations in which we were hired as a outside consultants. I am very excited to get going on the courses!

Facade of The British Museum
I started my British cultural education on Friday evening with a trip to The British Museum. It is such a beautiful building I could have spent the evening drinking tea of the outside stairs, but I figured I should head inside. I love the interior of Museums, they are so big with incredible architecture, but are also very quiet, allowing those who pass through to take in everything offered.  A couple of friends and I spent about an hour and a half wandering through Ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt. One of my friends is from Athens and had a lot of great insight into the history of some of the important pieces. For example, the pieces of the Parthenon on display were actually stolen and brought back to the Museum 300 years ago. It is still a debate today about the rightful owners of the pieces. 

Interior of The British Museum

I have been very lucky with the weather so far! It has been almost 50 degrees everyday and mostly sunny, although I hear we are going to have the typical London weather next week with a couple rainy days. I am heading to Notting Hill today to explore the famous Portobello Road. Hope you all have had a wonderful week and are enjoying (kind of) the snow!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

#2 Pencil

So it's back to school for me! I officially started graduate school on Monday. There are 35 people in the M.A. Marketing Communications program and I am the only American...which actually shocked the head of the department because last years program had 10 Americans. I have met some wonderful people from all over the world....Germany, Austria, Thailand, Japan, Brazil, Spain, Croatia, India, Italy, Greece, Denmark!! I am going to love having friends from all over the world, it provides a great international perspective on marketing and also a great world prospective. I am excited to learn about all of their different cultures and create some wonderful memories with them. I have been very busy this week with orientation (usually about 8 hours a day) so I haven't had much time to explore other areas other than around my flat and around my school. I feel very comfortable with the transportation system...very similar to Chicago's...although the buses come about every 4 or 5 minutes, which is a nice change from the often 15-20 minutes in Chicago.

One topic of conversation I have enjoyed with my classmates is discussing the difference between the University systems in our home countries, and all of the people I have spoken with are very surprised by the lack of security in American higher education institutions. At Westminster we must swipe our i.d card to get past front security as well as when we exit, this is also true with my apartment building. They were all very surprised that very few universities in the states didn't have that type of security system...I guess I was too. I never really thought about it but at many schools I have toured/attended (remember I attended 3 different ones! haha) there was no way to account for where students were, with the exception of some dorm/housing facilities. Maybe the states can learn a thing or two from International Universities...just something I noticed. I am LOVING the food stores are awesome and try to provide as such local and organic options as possible! They also put weird things on a prawn, tomato, and mayo sandwich...eeeewwwwww! I am adjusting well and am excited to get rolling with my studies. Thanks for following me, I hope to keep things interesting. Let me know if they get boring, I can always spice it up!