Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Battle of the Elite: Westminster Abbey vs. Winsor Castle

Well folks, we've arrived to the title game and without a moment to spare. Because I feel I've discussed both sights quite a few times now, I will be forthright and announce Westminster Abbey the winner!

I now have a burning desire to write some literary masterpiece so I can be buried there, but in the meantime, I think I'll just reiterate that Westminster Abbey may offer the best example of worldly compromise I've ever witnessed...a little something I think we can all learn from.

If Charles Darwin can be buried at one of the world's most historic churches, then I think we should all be just a bit more understanding of one anothers' viewpoints. I mean, c'mon, how much further can opinions get than from Darwin and church?

Didn't know you would get a morale lesson out of "Carly's Mad March in London" did you? Mwahaha...

Winner: Westminster Abbey

Update: Carly Mad March in London

So it's come down to the battle of Royal splendor - which will it be? Could it be the massive church where only the pure of blood can get married and be buried or the little home where the Queen Mum goes to relax and occasionally dabble in the adorable little town of Windsor? Wouldn't you like to know...

Final Four: Carly's Mad March in London

It only took a week and a half, but at last we have arrived to the Final Four of "Carly Mad March in London" - I'll keep this to one post as it shouldn't take too long to sort this out. Drumroll please...

Buckingham Palace vs. Westminster Abbey
While Buckingham Palace and its park (St. James) absolutely blew me away, Westminster has since stayed with me, and inspired me to write more so that I could be buried alongside Chaucer.

Winner: Westminster Abbey

Stonehenge vs. Windsor Castle This was much harder to decide than the game before as I absolutely loved Stonehenge and it's bit of creepy mystery. In the end however, it was Windsor that gave me chills and made my mom gasp, and therefore edges out the rocks.

Winner: Windsor Castle

And then there were four...

We are down to the final four and shortly the winner - stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Elite Eight: Windsor Castle vs. Roman Baths

Windsor Castle vs. Roman Baths

Well this was yet another hard decision, seeing as the historic nerd in me was quite conflicted. Here's the breakdown.

Windsor Castle
Call me crazy, but there's something about an over the top home that just gets me revved up. Aside from St. George Chapel, my favorite portion of the Castle were the extravagant State Apartments housing an array of elaborate designs and historic artifacts - an abundance of war weapons, murals of queens who didn't bare any sons, pictures painted by Rembrandt, golden lions stolen from's quite amazing.

Roman Baths
Well, most of what I wanted to say I previously posted, but I can't help but express how eerie and exciting it is to walk on and around something that was built some 3,000 years ago. It took everything in me to not leap into the Bath to experience the same waters Romans lounged in, but with my parents present, I remained civil.

One portion I didn't love so much, though I suppose on paper it was a good idea, was the actors walking around as if they were modern day Romans. They looked alright I suppose, but it added an unnecessary cheese factor - as if it were an amusement park rather than standing history.

Windsor Castle eeks out the win.

Winner: Windsor Castle

Elite Eight: Stonehenge. vs. Thames Boat Cruise

Stonehenge. vs. Thames River Cruise
I don't think this post needs much because literally the Thames Boat Cruise got to this point literally by default. Not that it isn't amazing, it just really can't compare to Stonehenge. So, I will leave this one short and to the point.

Winner (by a landslide): Stonehenge

Elite Eight: Abbey Road. vs. Westminster Abbey

Abbey Road. vs. Westminster Abbey
Tis the battle of the Abbeys. Sigh, and it is so freaking hard. Again, this side of the bracket completely goes down as the equivalent of the "East" in this year's NCAA tournament. Had I payed a bit more attention, I don't think I would've had Abbey Road, Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London, all of which deserve to be in the final four, on one side. But I suppose it makes it all a little more interesting...or that's what I'll keep telling myself.

Abbey Road
The beauty in Abbey Road is what it represents, symbolizes. I'm not sure I would ever have the interest in England that I do without the Fab Four. Sure, my family speaks of its history often, and my mom frequently tells me of Ms. Marple and Hercule Poirot episodes she's watched I'm sure a dozen or so more times, but would it have gotten to the point it has? Sure, I'd still drool over Mr. Darcy in the BBC's version of Pride & Prejudice, but would I have that deep, burning desire to visit and perhaps one day live there? I can't say I would.

So when I came to Abbey Road, when I looked at the crossing, a flood of emotions came over me. Accomplished dreams, unreached goals and an array of pride all took over. Observing the passion of so many others, written on the wall in front of the studios for all to see, only made me feel closer to a land thousands of miles away from me - reunited by our love for The Beatles. If this all seems a bit dramatic, it's because it is, and because I am. No apologies here. I love those freakin mop tops.

Westminster Abbey
Oh let me count the way I love thy. Again, this was such a surprise for me because as I will reiterate for the hundredth time, I am would never expect I would feel so emotional in a religous setting. I was not expecting what I saw let alone how I felt when I saw it. It really was all much more than I can describe to you.

So with all that said, I have to declare the upset in this bracket - yes, it is true, Abbey Road will not move on. Not because Abbey Road disappointed by any means, how could it, but more that Westminster far exceed expectations. As sad it is to say it, Westminster it is.

Winner: Westminster Abbey

Elite Eight: Hyde Park vs. Buckingham Palace

Hyde Park vs. Buckingham Palace So we've made it to the elite eight, only one week behind schedule. :)

This is where it's beginning to get increasingly difficult. As you know, I selected the eight sights I loved most, so choosing between the best of the best is quite tough, but I'm always up for a challenge, so let's do it to it!

Buckingham Palace

As I mentioned before, it really was St. James park that impressed me most about Buckingham Palace...and that's saying a lot considering its detail and extravagance. Home to the Royal Family and the Queen Mum, it demands respect and class, but I couldn't resist gallivanting through its park and stalking its inhabitants (animals not humans, that may have been grounds to dismissal). I took multiple photos of its squirrels, swans and pelicans - all of which were rather tame and allowed me to get rather close. The photo I included here is looking at Buckingham from St. James park - I like to think it reinforces the home's elegance.

My mom was pretty geeked out about the Palace's famous balcony where the Royals go to address its public (it's slightly hidden behind up in the photo above). It's here where Colin Firth, er, King George VI, restored confidence in Britain during the WWII attacks. It will be here where Prince William will be announced an honest man and wave to the broken hearts of many English girls. Tis a fine balcony indeed.

Hyde Park
While I did love the park, I found I could not resist comparing it to my current boyfriend, Central Park (refer to March 12 post). It is truly beautiful and vast, and while I can see why many would appreciate it's open space for recreation and sunbathing, or demonstrations if that's what you're into, I think I was expecting more of a cluttering of nature - more trails, hills, greens. I'm not sure if this makes any sense at all, but it may be due to my overwhelming love of Central Park. I shouldn't have compared, but again, couldn't help it. This may be my bad.

I did come across an "Andre the Giant Has a Posse" sticker which made me quite happy (see picture). That definitely gave some bonus points.

But in the end, Andre and the random hand holding the little black car (refer to Hyde Park vs. Trafalgar Square post) just didn't surpass the beauty and history of Buckingham Palace. I do hope to visit Hyde Park again, and I do believe that if on my own, lost in the powers of my iPod, I may find myself rather inspired and writing a good bit. If this is to happen, I suppose that new connection would have the power to oust competitors, but because it didn't happen this time around, I have to stay true to my current feelings. Buckingham Palace moves on.

Winner: Buckingham Palace

Monday, April 4, 2011

Update: Carly's Mad March in London

So it has taken me some time, but the bracket is slowly unveiling the sights I found most interesting. Tomorrow I will update with the next two rounds and Wednesday I will reveal which sight made its way to the center of the bracket and the center of my heart.

Stay tuned for more details on the prize and the winner of "Carly Mad March in London!"

Carly's Mad March: Roman Baths vs. Piccadilly Circus

Roman Baths vs. Piccadilly Circus
So this was yet another easy game for me to decide upon. I think it's probably clear that the Baths easily trumped Piccadilly, but for discussion sake, let's review.

Roman Baths
This goes back to two of my loves: History and ancient religions. I was extremely excited to visit the Baths because they date back to 70s AD - I was walking in something thousands of years old! The Roman empire has always been much discussed in my family, mainly because my brother believes himself to be a dictator and because The Aeneid (about the founding of Rome) is one of my favorite classics of all time. So again, I was very, very excited to see this place.

We took a bus tour, in combination with Stonehenge, to get to Bath. Now, before I even get into the Roman Baths, I must say the town itself goes down as one of the neatest places I've ever visited. Talk about history! It turns out Johnny Depp and Nicholas Cage (but who really cares about Nicholas Cage) both have houses there because of its beauty and history. The city has many protective laws that shields its original architecture from being demolished, and the result is absolutely breathtaking.

The Baths themselves - well, what can I say? Their history was beyond comprehensible and it's obvious to me, even more than before, that the Romans knew what was up. They utilized natural hot springs to create what I would like to think has to be one of the first spas. What was also really cool was the surrounding museum which held artifacts from the original plaza where the Baths were located - from coins to clothing and pieces of the original temple, I was taken back by what good shape everything was in for its age.

Piccadilly Circus (picture coming soon)
So I didn't know much about this area except that it was explained to me at London's version of Times Square, which, I can now confirm. In visiting though, I did also learn that the word "circus" in England actually refers to "circle," and not the circus one may think of here in the States. It kind of bummed me out in a weird way because I thought it was a clever title for a place I would definitely refer to as a circus.

Piccadilly was neat for what it was, and housed some good shopping and I assume great shows, but up against the wonder of the Baths, it simply fell short.

Winner: Roman Baths

Carly's Mad March: Windsor Castle vs. The Monument

Windsor Castle vs. The Monument
So this wasn't much a competition, but for consistency sake, here's the low down.

Windsor Castle
Let me start by saying that my parents accentuated this trip and made it more than memorable. My mother's passion for the royal family made her an impeccable tour guide, often times knowing more than the tour guides we actually had. So with her by my side, this quickly became a favorite sight.

We took a train to Windsor from London and thanks to a colleague here back in New York, I learned that Slough, where we transferred to catch the train, is the city where the British series, The Office, takes place (equivalent to the American version's Scranton). And when we arrived, we were delighted to come across a quaint little town, full of character and good shopping. We caught a brew at a local pub, The Three Tuns, which turned out to be the oldest building in the town where I was delighted to hear a little Lou Reed while dining, "Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side" - a perfect soundtrack to my first overseas experience.

Moving onto the castle, I must state it was outstanding, but what I found of most interest was it's on site church. Buried there is Henry the VIII as well as King George VI (Colin Firth in the King's Speech) and his wife. Needless to say, my mom was freaking out.

We explored the state rooms, near where Queen Elizabeth still resides today - as you may know, Windsor is her weekend/country home to Buckingham Palace. Between the paintings, the mural and opulent wood and marble work, I was blown away by the castle's extravagance.

The Monument (picture coming soon)
The Monument was interesting, but a bit disappointing in the same fashion. It was built as a memorial to the Great Fire in which most of London was singed to pieces (although few casualties we were told). The statue was built to be exactly 202 feet tall which represents its distance from the site of the fire - a baker's shop on Pudding Lane (I know, I was excited too that a baker worked on Pudding Lane).

While it was tall and towered over many of its surrounding buildings, there really wasn't much to it, and so Windsor Castle, which its rich history and lavish nature steals this one easily.

Winner: Windsor Castle

Carly's Mad March: Chatsworth House vs. Thames River Boat Cruise

Carly's Mad March: Chatsworth House vs. Thames River Boat Cruise

So this may mess up some brackets because turns out, I never made my way to Chatsworth House, much to my dismay. I completely bit off more than we could chew, and I think ran my parents to the ground (or did they run me?). So here, by default, the winner is the Thames River Boat Cruise, which is nothing to scoff at.

We picked up the cruise from the Tower of London, and took it to the House of Parliament. It was a gorgeous day, so I was able to catch some really great photos (refer to the Abbey Road vs. London Eye for another photo).

I learned here that much to popular believe, the attached picture is the London Bridge, and not the much photographed Tower Bridge, which is what I think of when I hear, "London Bridge is falling down, falling down," and so on. In fact, that reminds me of the Beefeater at the Tower of London, who sang the Mother Goose rhyme, and ended it with "no it isn't," rather than "my fair lady." I found it amusing.

I also learned, but sort of knew from my "Who Knew"s at work, that the original London Bridge is in fact in Arizona, and the one in London today was built back in the 1970's. There you go.

Winner: Thames River Boat Cruise

Carly's Mad March: Stonehenge vs. Kensington Palace

Stonehenge vs. Kensington Palace
This was quite interesting because I had higher hopes for Kensington Palace, despite it's #4 seed. Here's the breakdown.

Okay, by now I'm sure you've established that I'm a bit of geek, so let me reiterate that with my love of the Beatles and history, I also have a lot of cults. Yes, cults. As I mentioned earlier (see Tower of London vs. Westminster Abbey, now with more pictures), I am not a religious person. With that said, religion has always fascinated me, especially ancient religions and yes, cults.

Now, there are many debates on Stonehenge, but to me, it had to have been a sacred land where people gathered to worship someone...or something. This has not been proven, but I like to believe it, so let me just run with that, will you?

This past Saturday (April 2), my parents and I took an amazing bus trip to Stonehenge and Bath. The countryside views along the way were beyond description, but I'm sure you can imagine the beauty. In fact, between the landscape and Mumford and Sons in my iPod, I was able to pump out 10 pages for my book, so that should provide some insight into how breathtaking it must've been.

Our tour guide, a good-looking English professor (well, that's the story my mother and I gave him), told us the little known history of Stonehenge along the away. It was fascinating. The first stones were believed to be placed there sometime in 3000 or 2000 BC...BC! I didn't realize that it actually went through several iterations before it became what it is today with the last known construction around 1600 BC...BC! So that means, on Saturday, I was walking near a monument constructed nearly 1,000 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. Tell me you have chills because I know I certainly do and did.
There are several theories as to what Stonehenge actually is/was, but what really stood out to me is that is served, and still does I suppose, as a clock and calendar. In fact, the Summer and Winter Solstices are the busiest tourist dates for the wonder because the sun will align with several of the rocks during those days. I mean, the rocks in of themselves are remarkable - I can't imagine what is must've taken to get them there. Simply amazing.

Last note on Stonehenge - I actually viewed it the same day Kentucky played in the Final Four. Considering this was the first time my boys have made it that far since 1998, I was a beyond proud (hence my picture). Though we lost to UConn and lame Calhoun, it's hard for me to be disappointed. We went further than anyone anticipated, leading me to win my office pool. Woo, freaking, woo!

Kensington Palace
Okay, I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting here, but it was a let down. All I knew of this place was that it was the last residence of Princess Diana before her untimely death and according to Mom, the residence of the other, slightly less important royals (translation: family to the queen who need some digs but aren't cool enough for Buckingham Palace).

I actually found the walk through Hyde Park to the Palace to be prettier and cooler than the Palace itself. The gardens were nothing short of beautiful, and I had a fun, small photoshoot with a squirrel that followed us for a short time.

Here are my mom and Pops standing outside the gates to Kensington. The gates were beautiful, but much of it was under construction. What was rather annoying was that because of the construction, the company heading up the tourist portion of the palace, erected an "Enchanted Castle" near the home. It appeared very fake and somewhat out of place for this historic Palace, and in my mind, took away from the sight.

In the end, it was very clear that Stonehenge would take this win, and deserving so.

Winner: Stonehenge

Carly's Mad March: Abbey Rd. vs. London Eye

Abbey Rd. vs. London Eye
So no real suprise here, it's Abbey Road by a landslide. For anyone who knows me, I am a Beatles fanatic (hello title of my blog), and have been since I was around eight years old. I look at the Beatles as the soundtrack to my childhood - while everyone else was listening to old school rap or Pearl Jam, I was humming along to "She Loves You" or "Drive my Car." This of course made me a bit different from my classmates who never understood why I didn't know all the words to the latest pop songs, but led to great conversations with their parents. In the end, my understanding of 1960's British rock became an advantage when my friends wanted to sneak out and party. Their parents would never believe Carly McLean would do anything bad, not after quoting lines from Help.

But enough of that and on to why the London Eye was blinded by Abbey from the start.

Abbey Road
What can I say other than I almost cried as I approached this crosswalk. In such a silly way, I was nervous as it came into sight. Who knew a simple intersection could represent so much for this midwestern girl. Well, I suppose I did, and from my parent's proud smiles, I suppose they did as well.

As I came up to it, I just stared for a bit. I may have jumped up and down, but will not confirm that at the expense of sounding too much like a nerd. It was busier than I thought it would be, but what I really enjoyed what that we met a family of four from Philadelphia who came to do the same as we - photograph themselves crossing the road just as the iconic Beatles' record illustrates. A young girl, must've been in high school, was driving the image for her family, even going as far removing her shoes and socks to mirror the image of Paul. She was very set in how the picture must look, and so I offered to take the photo and direct as needed. I knew what she was looking for, and was a bit jealous I didn't have more of my family with me to create the same image which represents a musical phenomena.
In return, they took a few photos of me and Fasha (otherwise known as dad). We didn't adhere to the Abbey Road code, but rather looked at the camera and smiled. It was okay though - us McLeans are always creating our own versions of history.

The other fabulous part of my Abbey adventure was that the same young girl (reminded me much of myself at that age) brought a Sharpie to write on the walls lining the actual studios. When she was finished making her mark, she offered it to me. I was so taken back that I was at an actual loss of words (must be the first time in my short history), so I simply wrote "From Strawberry Fields to Abbey Road, Love Carly." I know I could've been more clever, but my hand was shaking from the excitement of it all. It is also an incomplete sentence, so that bugs me a bit too. Ah well, I suppose I can always go back and elaborate.

Here I am attempting to point to where I wrote (actually it's a bit more toward my leg), but you can see Abbey Studios behind me. Still so cool.

London Eye
Now, I don't mean to diminish how cool the Eye is, simply because it went against the awesomeness of Abbey Road because it is great spectacular. It is quite grand in person, and though I didn't ride it, I can only imagine it's views.

Sitting on the Thames River, it serves as the perfect backdrop to a skyline well known around the world. I came across it several times, but really liked this photo from a river cruise I took earlier in the week. I have another nice photo with Big Ben in the middle of the Eye (taken from Tower Bridge), but selected this one as it was just a bit different that most views you may come across.

Again, I think it's clear where my heart is with this one. Abbey had the #1 seed and for many reasons. It was A Long and Winding Road that finally got me there, but Abbey Road, anyone can tell you, She Loves You. But this girl really does.

Winner: Abbey Road

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Update: Carly's Mad March in London

After teaching myself a bit of HTML coding in order to properly blog, I have finally updated with the first few games of "Carly's Mad March in London," and as you may have noticed, well behind schedule. This trip has far exceeded my expectations (which were pretty high), and so it has been hard to sit down long enough to blog. Also, I've had spotty internet at my hotel, so now in the office, I can finally play a little catch up.

In completely unrelated news, I would like to note to those who may care that the keyboard in Europe, or at least England, is a bit different. The quote symbol (") is not in the same place as one would find in America - it's on the 2 key, which continues to trip me up well into day two here in the office. Why this matters is because I pretty much love to put quotes around anything - neccesary or no. Also, because I know you're dying for this exclusive scoop, the parenthesis (which I also use extrememy too much) is located on the 9 key like American keyboards; however as I typed that sentence (breaking news in real time here folks), I learned that the hashtag is not located in the same spot either. Right. So now that we've cleared that up, we can carry on.

As you see, I still have quite a few places to visit - mostly in the countryside (Stonehenge, Windsor, etc.), hence why the right side of the bracket is blank. Many may also be suprised to see that I have yet to hit Abbey Road which is mainly because I firmly believe in saving the best for the last. That's actually a lie - I really just have been gallivanting too much in Westminster to make it there yet. I promise, I won't lie to you again.

One last note, I have began purchasing the gifts for the winner of the competition, and all I have to say is: lucky you. More updates coming in the next fews days, but in the meantime, check out the following games below:

Game #1: Hyde Park vs. Trafalgar Square
Game #2: Buckinhgam Palace vs. Big Ben
Game #3: Abbey Road vs. London Eye (Rescheduled for later this week)
Game #4: Westminster Abbey vs. Tower of London

Note: For those not aware or with my agency, I created a bracket of the top sights I planned to visit while in England. I develoepd it similar to the NCAA tournament bracket, and even seeded the sights based on how badly I wanted to see them. Much like this year's tournament, I did improperly seed two of the sites (Westminster Abbey and Tower of London) - they should never have met in the first round. I apologize Tower of London...please do not behead me.

Carly's Mad March: Westminster Abbey vs. Tower of London

Controversy Alert:
Now that I'm here in London and seeing the sites I've longed to see since I first watched A Hard Day's Night, I'm wondering to myself why in the hell I would ever place these two against one another. This was worse seeding than this year's NCAA tournament bracket. Nonetheless, full of regret for doing so, I must choose a here we go.

Tower of London
I fell madly in love with the Tower of London after a tour by a hilarious Yeoman Guard, the ceremonial guardian of the Tower, otherwise known as a Beefeater. The tour was informative, funny and quite disturbing, but most importantly fascinating! From torture and beheadings to the burial sites of Anne Boleyn and Kathryn Howard (two of Henry the VIII wives executed there) to the Crown Jewels, it was everything a girl from central Illinois could ever want.

One interesting point of the Tower that stayed with me was the housing of its ravens. The Beefeater explained that legend has it the kingdom and the Tower will fall if the six resident ravens are to ever leave the fortress. This of course led to the natural position of "Ravenmaster" which ensures the birds are well taken care of and protected. Funny enough, the guide told us that the Ravens were briefly removed from the Tower during WWII during the German attacks for safety reasons. This temporary maneuver was kept from the public until the mid 1990's as the country is rather superstitious. Remember now, they believe(d) that if the Ravers were to ever leave the Tower, the kingdom would fall. Had the public known the ravens were removed, during the historic WWII, this of course wouldn't be good for Britain's morale. PR at its finest.

As we exited the vast Tower (much larger than I ever conceived), I told my parents that this had to be my favorite by far. I was positive it would advance to the final challenge, but then came Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey
I first want to state that I'm not a religious person, but I could not help but be moved by the beauty, elegance and history of this church. Construction began in the late 1080's and today houses the remains of many notable figures of history: Kings and queens (including Queen Elizabeth I), poets (Chaucer, Tennyson, Dickens) and scientists (Newton, Darwin).

At one point of our tour, we were asked to stop and take a moment of silence in prayer. Again, not being the most religious person, I was surprised at how touched I became. Toward the end of the tour, a choir began singing which could move the even the coldest of hearts.

As a reminder, a certain small wedding will take place here next month, and so when I watch Kate come down the aisle, I will not only think, "that so should've been me," I will also remember how beautiful tradition and history can be.

All in all, this was a lousy match up on my part as they both deserve to advance. If I could, this most definitely would be a tie, but since I must choose, Westminster Abbey pulls the win with a crazy-style buzzer beater.

Winner: Westminster Abbey

Editors Note: Charles Darwin buried in one of the world's most famous churches makes my soul smile a bit.

Carly's Mad March: Buckingham Palace vs. Big Ben

Buckingham Palace vs. Big Ben
This was a hard call, but I'm going to be upfront here and say as expected, the Queen Mum has this one. But here's the background of that decision.

Big Ben
Now don't get me wrong now, Big Ben (of course referring to the bell and not the clock) is quite magnificent as it is connected to the House of Parliament and even larger than one might expect in person. It's intricate detail and golden hues were rather impressive and actually more than what I had in mind. We have not visited this area quite a bit, and I find myself amazed with every visit.

Buckingham Palace
With that said, Buckingham Palace was nothing short of gorgeous. What really sold me is that the Queen Mum was actually home while I visited, and though I missed the Changing the Guard, it was quite a site to see. I was also quite extrememly impressed with St. James park which backs up to the palace. I found a black swan here (no boys, not Ms. Portman) and was able to catch this amazing shot with the London Eye in the background. St. James did Big Ben in and advanced the palace onto the next round.

Winner: Buckingham Palace

Carly's Mad March: Hyde Park vs. Trafalgar Square

So after some technical difficulties and delayed travel, it's time to kick off: "Carly's Mad March in London!" The following series of posts will concentrate on my personal favorite sites of London since arriving late last week. I again apologize in the delay of posting the bracket explorations have taken longer than expected. But enough of that, let's move onto the first match shall we?

Hyde Park vs. Trafalgar Square
To be honest, I thought this would be a clear cut winner when I first drafted the bracket. Those who know me, know I absolutely love Central Park and try to spend as much time there whether to exercise, write or people watch, so I assume Hyde Park would cruise this round like no other. I actually purposely found a hotel close to Hyde Park so I could do the same - wonder about and draw inspiration from it's landscape and inhabitants. With that said, I greatly underestimated Trafalgar Square.

Trafalgar Square
To be honest, before I came to London, I wasn't exactly sure what Trafalgar Square was and what its significance. Until arriving upon its magnificent memorial to Admiral Nelson, I didn't realize that the square commemorated his victory against Napoleon in the Battle of Trafalgar in the early 1800's. I also didn't realize that amazing sights of Big Ben and Buckingham Palace were more than visible from the square. I was also rather impressed that the square represents a gathering place for Londoners to speak out - most recently against the tax cuts and war in Libya.

Exactly one day after visiting the square, demonstrators graffitied and littered the site with their opinions of such hot topics. Nelson's column now sported protests signs and his "protective" lions were decorated with expressions of government frustration. A large countdown to the Olympic Games now sported a large red blob, blocking a portion of the days to the Games. What's interesting is that we drove by the square the evening of the protests, and by the time we returned to our hotel and turned on the news, the square was now filled with an angry mob, a small fire and broken glass. I'm quite glad I was fortunate to experience the before and after.

Hyde Park
On my first day in London, my parents and I spent an hour or so exploring our surroundings which included the perimeter of Hyde Park. There, we found the Marble Arch (original entrance to Buckingham Palace before it was moved) as well as some interesting statues including a rather large horse head with its nose facing the ground.

Later on this past weekend, we watched as more than 250,000 demonstrators protested potential government action of tax and job cuts. They were mostly peaceful until the evening (hence the trashing of Trafalgar Square). We also ventured through the park to Kensington Palace (last residence of Princess Diana) and its gardens. Gorgeous is just one of the adjectives I can use here.

But me being the person I am finds the suspended hand grasping a black car the most interesting art piece in the park. It stands across from the Dorchester with no explanation, rhyme or reason (picture above). I find it fascinating and so far, my favorite piece in the city.

While Trafalgar Square definitely made a strong run for my attention, I still have to go with my initial instincts and declare Hyde Park as the winner of this hard fought match. What can I say? I'm a sucker for green space and friendly squirrels.

Winner: Hyde Park

Monday, March 28, 2011

Stand by...

Trying to update blog with the "Mad March" games, but experiencing some difficulties - will get these up soon!

One Mad March

So, as any PR professional can appreciate, my schedule in London has been thrown a bit off course. Like any logistics nerd, I tried to plan everyday to the last minute, and like any event I've ever worked, that naturally didn't work. Needless to say, the bracket is a bit off schedule. I've been to most of the sights, but haven't been to the countryside which makes up most of the right side of the bracket. Since I'll be in the MSL London office on Tuesday and Wednesday, this won't happen until Thursday. Here's what I've thought of on the fly: Later today, after some more sight-seeing, I will update the bracket with the "games" I can finish. On Thursday/Friday, I will update with the other games. On Monday (April 4), I will finish the bracket and award the prizes. Sorry for the delay, but again, I'm sure you have all been there...which makes this post that much easier to write! Upward & onward. Cheerio!

Love & Kentucky Basketball

If anyone would've told an 18-year old me - young, naive and full of enough ambition to lead an army - that she'd spend almost two weeks in London while the Kentucky Wildcats made one hell of a run to the Final Four...well, she'd probably say, "Atta girl!" So I started an article last week before I left that I hope to submit to the Lexington Herald-Leader before the big game on Saturday (editors note: Kentucky advanced to the Final Four, if not obvious). The article is titled, "Love and Kentucky Basketball." It chronicles my 'relationship' with the team, tongue-in-cheek as though I've been dating Kentucky ball for the past fifteen years. We've had our ups and downs, our happy times (like now) and our share of controversy...which of course leads to Coach Cal. Oh Coach Cal. You are rapidly becoming the cheese to my macaroni. In two short years, Mr. Calipari has taken us from nothing to an Elite 8 and Final Four - say wha? Many will say it'll be revoked due to recruiting violations. Yeah, so what if Coach Cal has a worse reputation than Charlie Sheen. Anyone outside of Kentucky is likely to dislike Cali, at best, but I'd like to think he's off to a fresh start at UK. Okay, okay, I know, I am totally drinking his kool-aid, but boy just took us to the Final Four for the first time since '98, you must understand. I'll post the article when I finish it. In the meantime, know this: Coach Cal is currently walking a red carpet in Lexington, Kentucky. If he wins the whole thing, he'll be upgraded to a walking God...if he hasn't already.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

UK in the UK

So I've been MIA for a few days but that's simply because I've hopped across the pond to a little town called London. You may have heard of it. I've been having a blast with Mom and Fasha - we've hit most of the big sights and now are starting the tours today. We're a little off schedule, but hey, what's the fun in sticking to a schedule written before we knew what we were even in for?

So the big news today is that my beloved Cats are in the Elite 8 after ousting the Ohio St. Buckeyes (refer to previous post when I predicted this). Mom says I shouldn't gloat, so I'll try my best to be subdued, especially after last year. Try is the key term here.

I can't help but smile from ear to ear. I had full intentions of watching at least part of the game on Friday, though it started at 1:45 am here. I met up with an old college friend, and needless to say, he and alcohol prevented me from score updates. So how did I find out that my alma mater pulled the upset? Well, none other than Fasha walking in Saturday morning, simply stating, "Get up Carls. We've got to go get your 'S'." He of course was referring to my project of creating a picture of C-A-T-S with notable London sites. Mission accomplished. See above.

Even if the buck stops here (pun well intended), I am still so proud of this team. And now I get to watch my boys fight the Argyle clad UNC for the Final Four...while in London.

Is life not grand?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Weekend in Review: Totinos, Kentucky and Central Park

You may be wondering to yourself - did Carly have a good weekend? It may have been bothering you all morning, so I shall put you out of your misery and answer: why yes thank you. It was actually quite lovely. And here's the breakdown:

There is nothing better than watching Kentucky advance in the tournament with the windows open, the sun shining and the knowledge that a deliciously perfect ratio of gooey cheese to crispy crust extravaganza is waiting for you in your freezer. It actually makes me emotional.

I have long loved Totinos pizza, and chances are, you may be judging me slightly right now. But I ask why? Totinos has done nothing for this world but offer seductive pizza at a more than affordable price all at the convenience of a mild-to-severe hangover or Kentucky victory. Who would you be to say that frozen pizza is less than acceptable when living in New York City? I'll have you know I have both NYC pizza and Totinos on the regular - I'm a pro at this. It's all about rotation and preference. That's the beauty of pizza - it can never get old if you switch it up (like marriage?). Throw in a Chicago-style every now and again for good measure. Life is limitless with pizza.

But when that fateful day comes, when NYC pizza and I must part ways (but never memories!), I will still have the comfort of a little pizza, sold nationwide, that will always want to come party with me. Can you say that? Can you?

Totinos, you're a prince and don't let anyone tell you differently.

Aww my boys looked great didn't they? I mean, there were a few times where it was a bit too close for comfort, but they fought through the mental ups and downs. It's the mental aspect of the game that kills us really. I mean, there's no denying our talent and's the maturity. Here's to hoping we become men before Friday.

Central Park
And last thought, yes, boyfriend was good to me this weekend. We spent the gorgeous weekend walking, taking photos, listening to some music and thinking about what the next week has in store:

Dream fulfilment. Deep.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bongos for Banjos

Thought of the day: My life is freaking fantastic.

Tonight Room-dizzle and I will go see Steven Martin for the third time since moving to NYC. We have watched him pick his banjo at Carnegie, read excerpts of his new book in Union Square and tonight we again witness Steve's mad banjo chops. Stevie and the banjo. There hasn't been a greater pairing since peanut butter and chocolate.

And that's just tonight. As I look forward to the next week, I can't believe how cool I am: Kentucky basketball, sightseeing with Flat Stan, Mama and Fasha in New York and my first trip to London. Did you just get goosebumps? Not the R.L. Stine books, I mean the skin ticklers?

It boggles my mind that in one week's time, I will boarding a flight with my parents to a city I've spent my life (well since 2nd grade when I discovered A Hard Days Night) trying to visit/live. And now it's happening. And how/why? Because of a writing contest. Telling myself that will never get old. And I'm also extremely excited to have my parents in my current hometown - New York freaking City! They can finally see what their daughter has been up to for the past few years - it's a good feeling.

But tonight, we focus. Do it to it Steve. Do it to it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ohio State? Buck It.

Ever wonder what goes through my head as I walk into work every morning? Well, here it goes, but note, this is the tame of the tame.

So it's my favorite time of year and yet, I have a pit in my stomach about Kentucky. Or actually, it's more like a buckeye. While I may be looking too far ahead, I will make the assumption, along with the rest of the country, that Kentucky will play Ohio St. in the Sweet Sixteen. And who is favored at the moment? Better yet, who is favored to win the whole freakin' thing? Let's just say it's round on the edges and "hi" in the middle.

Of course, this is completely cramping my style as well as my bracket. I mean, not only were we screwed in seeding, but now we have to face the favored OSU in the third round. Third round! Absurd.
Since the moment Kentucky appeared on bracket, this game has taken over my thoughts. I both dread and anticipate it. At least I'll be in Londontown for it, so that may give me a boost - a little "UK in the UK" if you will. But sigh. It weighs heavy on my blue heart nonetheless.

And to think, earlier this season I verbally committed to being satisfied with just a Sweet Sixteen appearance. And I suppose I should stand on that, but um, hello - I think Carly-three-months-ago didn't see what we all saw in the SEC tournament, so screw you McLean (three months ago).

Oh, and do you want to know what I think of when I hear the word "buckeye?" Surely not the Big Ten team threatening my basketball wellness. No, no. I think of my grandpa - Pop we called him. He always carried buckeyes in his pocket for good luck. And it makes me wonder - should I carry a buckeye in my pocket if we do indeed meet these boys in the Sweet Sixteen? Would that backfire? Would that betray Kentucky? Considering I can't carry a wildcat in my purse, I think it's okay, but to some peeps in Sexy Lexy, this may not be a wise choice. Ack. Life is hard.

Well that's that for the moment. You may now go back to your worlds, but think about this first: If Kentucky pulls the upset, you won't be suprised will you? Nope, not you. Not now. And why? Because you read this blog post. And now what you will think when the announcer is all "Oh my God - Kentucky has done it again!"

You will think: "Did or didn't she put a buckeye in her pocket?"

Saturday, March 12, 2011

My boyfriend, Central Park

I went to Central Park this morning, mostly to take pictures for my niece's Flat Stanley project, but also to test out my new camera. Let me tell you - in addition to Kentucky's win today - I deem it success, especially for a first go around!

I came across these young kids playing and chasing large bubbles. I thought it was so cute, but the pictures came out a whole other thing. Also, this pedicab - I saw it and thought how cool it was, but the pictures take it to a new level.

Examples of why Central Park and I have been dating since 2008.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Inspiration Hide & Seek

So I feel like I've been playing cat and mouse with the book and inspiration lately. As soon as I try to get myself on a writing schedule and committed, I freeze - much like myself with men. I can't force it. My mind rejects being told when to write. And can I just say, that is one seriously frustrating mind game. As soon as I told myself this year would be it for me - the year to finish the book, the year to find a lit agent, the year I make this writing thing official - inspiration said screw you McLean, I'm out. Insert sigh here.

But once I let go and backed off, things started coming back. I found reading other works helped. So here's the deal. I am not going to say I'm finishing the book in the next few months. I'm not saying crap. I'm not holding myself to anything, I'm just going to let it come to me. When it's finished, it's finished. Because when I let it come naturally, that's when I get the good stuff. Force it, and my writing is shoddy at best. So with that, screw my last few posts. This is a new day of Carly finding her way.

I am going to do my best to blog as much as I can, but I can't promise it'll always be about writing. It may be about a rando day, my trip to London, my hatred of dog walkers and love of Kentucky basketball. But I find that in continuing to write, even if mundane observations, I keep my thoughts going. And as my client would say, "that's a good thing."

Where Have You Gone Joe DiMaggio, er Carly McLean?
So I have been writing for the past month, just not on the book. I focused my time on a "Family Guy" spec script I recently submitted to a contest. It was quite amusing to write, full of random flashbacks (we're talking Superman 2, an evil Mickey Mouse, Werther's Original commercial, Bill Clinton speech and Grandpa Jones skits). Essentially the script focused on Meg rising to an inappropriate fame after joining "Teen Mom." This of course led to other girls at James Wood's High wanting to get pregnant so they could be on tabloid covers. Peter was stoked to be a "grandpa," but Lois was furious, and ended up acting like Dina Lohan. It was comical.

The thing is, I rushed the ending, and I'm mad at myself for it. But it turns out there's a similar contest that I think I may go after as well. So now I need to beef this guy up - it needs a better ending. I'm thinking all the children of the pregnant fame-chasers could be adopted by Angelina Jolie or Madonna. Something stupid like that. We'll see.

Oh and the thing about writing a script - I had no freaking idea about the format. All "self taught" - though I will only claim that if it turned out to be correct.

How Stella, I mean, Carly Got Her Groove Back
So I did do a tad bit of writing for the book last night thankfully. I could have done more but was too tired to get out of bed and type. That's the thing - inspiration loves to hang out with me around the time my eyes are closed, cuddled for a good night's sleep. Boom. Wake your ass up McLeaner, we've got some things to say.

I will leave with you an excerpt I wrote last night (yay for figuring out how to paste into this template!). It's set during a conversation between Harper and Oscar after they run into each other in New York. Oscar is complaining about the place where they had met and fallen in love. I'm really excited about it because while I was writing the script the last few weeks, I was frustrated with my novel writing. I felt in comparison to works I like, it was lacking and immature. The writing wasn't strong and the way I was telling the story was missing something. I haven't figured out all the kinks, but I like this excerpt. It gives me hope I'm headed in the direction I want to be headed: Me.

"I wondered how my memories of Lexington could differ so much from his. We had once thought so similarly. It boggled my mind to look back and remember a past so unlike his. To me, Lexington was opportunity, a new found freedom and independence. It was gooey derbie pie, fizzy Ale 8 and two dollars bets at Keeneland. It was midday country cruises, vast horse farms and Dave Matthews. It was summer weekends at the lake, great friends and dancing in hot rain. It was proudly blue, rabid with Wildcats and relentlessly mad in March. It was innocence, a first love and green shoes. It was everything."

Thursday, February 10, 2011


So as mentioned, I suck at updating, so I thought to myself this weekend, why Carly? Why? And you know what answer I found lurking in my heart? Limitation.

I designed this blog to follow my journey to getting published, so it's weird to talk about all the other things I'm doing unrelated to Lie in Our Graves. So, to change that, I'm slightly shaking up this blog up to suit reality. It will still relate back to writing, and hopefully through it you will see my journey to becoming a published actor, but let's open up a little. You with me? Good because you didn't have a choice. I kid, I kid.

So today I am focused on finishing up the Family Guy script. My trouble, and has always been my trouble in writing, is as a colleague noted, the "it." The thing that drives the story - I mean, I have some good stuff down, funny...hilarious in fact (at least to this skewed reader), but I need the build. Deadline is Feb. 28th, so trying to finish this weekend to leave 2 weeks of editing time. And then the fateful submission. If I could copy and paste with Blogspot, I'd share some of it. But since I am unable, I'll rewrite some of it on here this weekend - it makes me laugh at least.

In other news, I've been reading The Kite Runner which has been really good. It's a bit disturbing in places, but has evoked some inspiration as far as how to tell a story. I have realized that reading other works really helps me visualize how I want my story to come together...that is except when I was reading War and Peace. I'm about half way through, and am learning a lot - creatively and intellectually. The first half takes place in Kabul, an area I'm not too versed. It's been insightful to learn about their culture through the eyes of the narrarator. Very interesting. Suggest you check it out if you haven't already.

Adios for now - once Family Guy is down, think I may submit for a short story (still deciding) and then back to Lie in Our Graves - I write better when I miss it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Pistol Pete Griffin

So I've been uber lame and lazy, and haven't been updating like I promised. But let me tell you why: Family Guy spec script. Yeeesss!

Turns out I'm entering a writing contest where you submit a sample script for any 30-minute television show, currently on air. It can be anything but reality (because they "don't have scripts"), so I chose Family Guy. Oh yes, I chose Family Guy.

And why did I chose a cartoon? A) Because it's flippin hilarious. B) The flashbacks allow me to say and do so many things I've always wanted a show to do and say C) They show is at times inappropriate, and they makes me happy.

So what's my episode about? Well, I can't say too much until I submit it, but let's just say there's a Superman 2 flash back as well as a strung out Mickey Mouse forcing Demi Lovato to cut herself. Oh and Peter telling the world he hates Betty White.

The contest deadline is Feb. 28, so my focus from the book has been shifted until I complete this. It's been a fun break, and I find myself compiling new ideas for the book naturally, rather than forcing myself to think about a situation. It's nice to still be writing, but not necessarily on the book. Keeps the juices flowin' I suppose.