March 30, 2004

English National Opera

This past Friday, we went to see Tosca at the English National Opera. The old theatre had recently finished the exterior restorations. It's close to Trafalgar Square, so I walk by it frequently. The building had scaffolding on it for several months.

So, "how was the show?" you ask. It was good, but it wasn't what I wanted. I neglected the name "English" National Opera. The opera was sung in English! That's just wrong... it's like watching "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" or "Amelie" in English. I don't recommend it. What was even more annoying was that I had bought the expensive (expensive to me) seats. That will be my first and last time to the ENO. Royal Opera Theatre... here I come.

Posted by oneray at 5:20 AM

March 20, 2004


It was so windy today, I thought I was going to get blown away!

But keeping to my promise yesterday, I went to Camden Lock Markets today.

When you exit the Camden Town tube station, turn right and you'll basically see this picture above. I thought this was it. The market that everyone was talking about. There were market vedors on both sides of the street. However, if you keep walking, you'll come to an area near the river/canal/stream... that's the market everyone talks about... lots of different ethnic goodies and artisans showcasing their work... lots of foods too.

If you're young and can appreciate ethnic and artisan handicrafts, this is definitely a place for you. I'm definitely coming back here.

Posted by oneray at 11:48 AM

March 19, 2004

A little sun here and there

Last weekend, the sun finally warmed the weather up a bit. Unfortunately, the multitude of tourists flocked in as well. The Covent Garden area was full of people. I got so frustrated bumping into people and getting stabbed by shopping bags that I had to give up shopping for the day.

I don't understand how the British do it. The cost of living is so high here. The prices for things are the same. Relatively, the British do not get paid any more that the Americans. So, why do I see people with dozens of shopping bags? Why are the stores so jam packed? One of my coworkers said that many British people our age still live with their parents or live with a roomate or two, so that helps them out financially.

It's always funny to me when I'm walking around and I hear an American talking because most of the time, they're tourists... and I'm not. They don't know where they're going, but I do. Not surprisingly, someone has stopped me to ask for directions to Chinatown. On another note, when I hear an American and he or she is not a tourist, deep down, I really want to make friends with them, but I'm not sure what to say. I might was well be a hermit.

Sunday was just the opposite. It drizzled all day. So, I only managed to go to the Tesco (grocery store) to buy a few items.

The grocery stores here are not like your average HEB, Randalls, etc. If you want a bigger selection of fruits and vegetables, you better find the fresh produce vendors near Soho. One section of a street is blocked off and the vendors sell their goods on tables. You can always get a better deal at the end of the day. :)

I haven't been very good at venturing out of my immediate area. The areas that I frequent are: Covent Garden, Leicester (pronounced "Lester") Square, Soho, Chinatown. That's why I've decided to make this weekend a market weekend: Camden Lock on Saturday and Old Spitalfields Market, London's oldest market, on Sunday. I actually have to take the tube to get to these places.

The last episode of Sex and the City finally broadcasted here. This was my second time watching it... and I still enjoyed every minute of it. I know everyone's favorite character is Carrie, but for me I like Charlotte and Samantha the best.

Here's a picture of Trafalgar Square earlier this week... just a little bit of sun midday.



Posted by oneray at 6:52 PM

March 12, 2004

The Texas Embassy

The Texas Embassy is a Tex-Mex restaurant in Trafalgar Square. It's the closest thing to good chips and salsa you can find in London.

The decor is similar to that of a Pappasito's chain. You can find some ten-gallon hats and Texas license plates around the place. The restaurant owner is from Texas, so that is reassuring.

We had the quesadillas to share as an appetizer, which was rather tastey. I do recommend those. I had the veggie enchiladas with black beans, spanish rice, and corn. Everything was good on the plate, except... the enchiladas. The spinach didn't look fresh, and the enchilada itself was not warm enough. Almost as if they didn't pop it in the microwave long enough. My coworkers got the hard-shell tacos and what looked like a burrito wrap. They both seemed to have enjoyed it.

I'm not fully vegetarian, but I did notice lots of veggie dishes on their menu. They have a separate lunch menu with lunch specials that look very appetizing and a good deal.

The chips, salsa, and tortillas were not the best (surprise!), but it does satisfy the Mexican-food craving every once in a while. Boy, do I miss El Chile!

Posted by oneray at 9:26 AM

March 8, 2004

East Grinstead on Saturday

We ventured out of the City and into East Grinstead this past Saturday. East Grinstead is about an hour train-ride South of London and minutes away from Gatwick.

Two observations:
1. The taxi driver knew about the house we were going to and said it was some music school.
2. The houses there are not numbered; they are named. Each house has a clearly labeled sign next to the door. So, if you house is called "Lightfoot" and you live on "Chamomile Street", your address wouuld be "Lightfoot, Chamomile Street".

I had scheduled a private class with the world famous Serena Ramzy (wife of Hossam Ramzy). She came highly recommended by friends and instructors in Austin who know her. Her fees are high, and, like I said before, it takes me an hour train-ride to get to her home... but let me tell you, it is worth it!

She has a wealth of knowledge about dance, music, and rhythms. Her experience in giving workshops has made her an excellent instructor. I danced for her one song. Then we talked about the song, broke it up into phrases and by instruments. She explained that when an instrument is having a solo, like the trumpet , the flute, or the accordian, you must acknowledge that instrument's solo and stay in place. It is important to demonstrate the contrast between an instrument's solo and the entire orchestra.

Next, I danced a drum solo for her. She was most impressed with my "vocabulary". The main thing I needed to improve on was the delivery. For big pops, give it a little preparation, but don't make it too forceful. Most importantly, it is better to keep things simple. It's ok to do 8 counts of one thing. I think that is hard for lots of dancers because we're afriad of our dance becoming too boring. It won't as long as you're enjoying it!

Points taken from class:
1. melodic instruments and styles
- the flute is spiritual. on sections of music where the flute solos, grow tall and use flowy arms. the flute is typically played slowly, so move slow.
- the accordion is earthy. use low hip movements. hands should be down and close to hips. the accordion could be fast or slow, so move accordingly.
- the violin is more contemporary. combine both tall flowy arms with big hip movements.
- hanoun is a multi-string instrument. one stroke causes many strings to sound. so shimmy, shimmy, shimmy.
- in Hossam's Source of Fire, each track solos a different instrument. this is a good practice cd to help train your body to match the type of movement to the instrument.

2. tabla solos
- when the phrase is steady, do something steady, like side pops... but take a chance and stick in something different if the phrase is long.
- other than side-to-side hip moves, there is also forward and back. doing hip pops side to side is different when you have your knees bent.
- when you bend your knees a little and start a little to the opposite side (or what I call the preparation), scoop down and up, then your side hip pops give the illusion of a much bigger pop.
- stop when the music stops.
- in Hossam's Sabla Tolo CD's, the inside booklet contains the breakdown of the music. he has the names, count, time of the rhythm, etc.

I'm glad she was impressed with my dance because I am extremely impressed with her dance style, grace, and ability to explain the knowledge well enough for me to write this! She is so genuine and beautiful. I feel very lucky to have had a class with her. Hope you are as lucky as me. - Lily

Posted by oneray at 5:50 AM