Thursday, July 14, 2011

Harry Potter in Oxford

I can take advantage of living in London to visit the city itself, but also the other places around like Stonehenge, Brighton, Oxford, Cambridge, Canterbury… Maybe I will never come back, so it’s now or never!

This weekend, I went to Oxford, a real lovely town just 1 hour by train from London. I am sure you know this town because of its university, which is famous all over the world.

As for me, another reason made me go there: do you know Harry Potter, the small wizard who studies at Hogwarts School? (the name is Poudlard if you read it in French, I don’t know if the name has been changed in the other countries). The producer was inspired by Oxford university to shoot some scenes of the film. So if you want to see some of the best sights England has to offer, book a ticket to go to Oxford! However, you don’t need to be interested by Harry Potter to visit this town full of beautiful colleges and churches and pace up and down the pavement.

Nevertheless, if you are interested…

You can visit the Bodleian library and Christ Church Cathedral, which inspired the producer of the film. In the latter, you will see the stairs were professor McGonagall was standing on to welcome the first year pupils during the first film. You will see, as well, the dining room from the films. (No parts of the film were actually shot there but the producer used the original tables and chairs and reproduced the set in his studio). It was amazing! I took so many pictures. I was really impressed by this dining room and these long tables. However, the dining room is not as big as in the film and there is not four but only three rows. Moreover, there is no ghost, so no chance to see “Nearly Headless Nick” (Nick quasi-sans-tĂȘte) or Moaning Myrtle (Mimi Geignarde)!! Nevertheless, you should visit this place.

Unfortunately, you have to pay to visit these places but if you are a student at Twin or another college, you will receive a discount on the price.

Christ Church is also well known because Lewis Caroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland, studied there.

If you want to follow Harry Potter’s steps, you can also visit New College. Do you remember the second film when Ron and Harry miss the Hogwarts express? (or Poudlard express for french people). They took the flying car of Ron’s Dad and when they arrived at Hogwarts they land in a tree, you will see this tree!

I really enjoyed spending time in Oxford and feeling in another world for one day. The English architecture is really dfferent from my country and each time it surprises me.

A last tip before you go there, print a town map! It is very useful to help find the places you want to visit. If you go to the tourist office, they will ask to you pay for the same map you can print for free online.

Enjoy your trip in Oxford.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Visiting Brighton

When I arrived at Twin English school, it was easy for me to make a lot of friends. English courses are really friendly and each new week, the teacher asks everybody to introduce him or herself so everyone can get to know them (news students start courses every week).

In my first week, I began talking with an Italian guy who had been in London for four months. Bit by bit, we became good friends and we decided to visit other places in England. The first time, we went with some of his friends who were Italian but also Spanish and everybody had to speak in English! (Italian was not accepted!)

For our first trip we went to Brighton. It is a very lovely, vibrant, colourful and fun town in the south of the United-Kingdom on the seaside, just one hour from London by train. We met up one Saturday morning at London Bridge Station and travelled together. When visiting places in England, it very interesting to travel by group and it can save you a lot of money: travelling as a group to Brighton cost us £10 return each instead of £20.

As soon as we left the train at Brighton station, we saw the sea. It was amazing! I love the sea, the sand, the gulls... it breathed holiday around us! Unfortunately the weather was not so good to go swimming, or even to put one toe in the sea! You have to remember we are in England, the weather changes every hour, so we just spent some time on the beach and relaxed.

At mid-day we decided to find a place to have our lunch. We began to pace up and down in Brighton streets and lanes full of sweet shops. Finally, we sat down in a typical pub: we drank a local beer (of course) and ate a pie. Is this a traditional English lunch? No clue, but it was delicious!

During the afternoon we continued our exploration of Brighton. We visited the Royal Pavilion (the palace of George IV, which is so nice), had a look at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery and spent some time at Brighton Pier, which is full of attractions.

After this full day, we drank a last beer before to come back to London: during the return nobody talked, everybody slept but before we fell asleep we exchanged our email addresses to keep in touch.

I spend such a good time with my friends there that we planed to visit Oxford two weeks later.


How I improved my English with Twin

It has just been five months I arrived in London in order to improve my English. I have just finished my studies in Communication and English is very important if I want to get a good job in my professional area, that's why I left my lovely France to enhance my language skills.
Maybe when you were at school, you were lazy like me during your English lessons thinking learning another language wasn't useful! It was a non-sense obviously because English is the first language spoken in the world. Nevertheless, I don't regret my lazy attitude because now I'm living in one of the most beautiful capital in the world and it is a fantastic experience!

Since I arrived, I take English lessons at Twin. The school is based in South East London near the DLR, train and bus stations so it is really easy to travel up to Twin's premises. Although Twin is a school, you don't learn English with boring lessons! Here, teachers are enthusiastic, funny, helpful, and don't stress you with exams. They make you love learning English! (I promise you!) You will learn English by playing games, listening to tapes, watching films, speaking in groups with other foreign students and obviously speaking with teachers. I remembered my English lessons in my country and I can't compare the quality of the teaching. Twin's teachers are available at any time of the day and invite you to speak (which the first step because a lot of students are shy about their accent, and then, they correct you).

Here you want to speak and communicate, talk about different topics, learn grammar and spelling, you want people to correct your mistakes... I never wanted to speak English during the lessons in my country but here it is totally different. I can tell you now: nothing is better for learning a language than spending time in a country and being in contact with local people.

After five month here, I can't say I am fluent but my English is much better (I hope so lol!). I can understand native English speakers easier (I am so proud of myself! At the beginning it was so hard!) but I admit some people have strong accents and sometimes it takes me time to get used to it. Now, I treat it like a game and I don't feel guilty to ask them to repeat themselves if I don't understand. Most Londoners are very nice to foreign students.

Concerning my writing, you can judge for yourself! Of course I continue to make mistakes but the most important thing is to be understood by everybody and I think now I am almost there!

I hope you will really enjoy your time in London and at Twin school like I still enjoy mine. I hope to see you during break time.