Saturday, January 7, 2012

My First Week in London Interning at Decanter Magazine

Although this blog has predominantly been used to post links to my published articles, I am now additionally going to use it to chronicle my time in London interning for Decanter Magazine. This will help keep my loved ones in the loop and inform potential future employers of what I am gaining from this experience. But I will have to keep the logistics of my tasks at Decanter to a minimum due to confidential information. 

Although I want to tell you about this week, I want to start from the beginning to provide context. Let’s just say that getting here wasn’t easy. This whole journey started off six months ago when I hastily sent my CV, bio and links to my published work to the editor of Decanter, the most respected wine publication in the world. I was on my way to completing my Master of Science in Journalism from the highly acclaimed Medill School of Journalism of Northwestern University and nothing was going to stop me from pursuing my dream.

I never thought in a million years that I would even receive a response. But to my surprise, they responded AND were interested in arranging an interview! After completing an hour phone interview with three managers (in English and French) and a timed wine exam, they were interested in creating an internship for me.

Although they had interns before, they had never hired an American. Little did both of us know, the road ahead (aka – getting a visa) would not be easy. Roughly 100 emails (not an exaggeration) and a rollercoaster of ups and downs later, I received confirmation to apply for my visa…two weeks before my departure date.

When I finally had my visa in hand, I believe I shed a small tear and hugged it closely. My journey was just around the corner and I could taste it.

When I boarded the plane, I ran through the checklist in my head one last time to ensure I was fully prepared. My nap pillow was comfortably around my neck, my book “The New Connoisseurs’ Guidebook to California Wine and Wineries” was propped open in my lap and I popped my sleeping pill down the hatch and was ready to sink into a state of slumber for the next 8 and a half hour plane ride.

Then the announcement was made; the plane we were on was unfit for travel across the Atlantic Ocean and we were going to have to switch planes. Groan.

Two and a half hours later, we were on our merry way.

I was pleased to see a familiar face when I landed. Alessa, who I studied with in Paris in 2006 and now calls London home, was at the airport to greet me. I was also thankful to have assistance with my two large suitcases going up and down the many sets of stairs on the tube.

When we arrived to the flat in Clapham, it all sunk in. I was here. All of the minor setbacks along the way became a distant memory and I was thrilled to go explore.

The flat was much nicer than was advertised. It is five stories (the bathroom has its own floor) and three bedrooms. It is in a safe area and within walking distance to everything I could possible need (grocery stores, restaurants, bars and most importantly, the Northern line tube).

That evening, I met up with Alessa, her boyfriend Dave and Bethany (a fellow Medill graduate in London for a three-month internship) for drinks and dinner. We went to a pub in Borough for a few rounds of beer and a nice Moroccan restaurant for dinner that had splendid hand-crafted cocktails.

I slept in the next morning until 11 am due to jetlag. But I had an accomplished day running errands such as grocery shopping, going to the bank and purchasing a blow-dryer. Bethany and I both had orientation at BUNAC, the visa sponsoring company, at 3 pm. I successfully made my way there using the public transit system, and was very proud of myself. (But I should have knocked on wood) We went to purchase a phone and grabbed dinner at a pub in Angel, a cute area with a lot of shops.

The next day, my direction-challenged self shined through. I decided to take a bus to the Victoria and Albert Museum to meet up with Alessa, despite her recommendation of using the tube. I got on the 345 bus and climbed to the top floor sitting in the very front. In my head, I thought this would be a perfect way to get a lay of the land and sight-see on the way. Killing two birds with one stone – yes please!

Little did I know, the bus was headed in the wrong direction. Three hours and two bus rides later, I arrived at my destination two and a half hours late.

The museum was lovely and right next door to the natural history museum (pictured). We explored the Renaissance paintings and sculptures, jewelry (of course), 20th century art, and British furniture.

The entrance has a breathtaking blown-glass hanging chandelier by Dale Chihuly (pictured), the same artist who designed the chandeliers at NoMI, the Park Hyatt Chicago.

The museum also holds the most extensive collection of Cast courts, divided into casts of Northern European and Spanish sculpture and Trajan's column (pictured) in the west court and casts of Italian monuments in the east.

Trajan Cast court column's to the left and a close-up shot to the right.

The next day was my first day at Decanter. Breath. I decided to dress business casual per my friend Marnie’s recommendation. I wore black tweed slacks with a mustard yellow cashmere cardigan and my grandmothers’ long gold chain. I did get lost on the way there, but it was only a 10-minute detour this time. Phew! The office is inside the Blue Fin building in Southwark, which is home to 60 of IPC Media’s magazines and to Time Inc’s Time (where friend from Medill, Lauren, will be interning) and Fortune Magazines.

The first day consisting of being introduced to everyone, getting a tour and becoming acquainted with my set tasks for the month. Everyone was extremely warm and hospitable. I was beaming with happiness inside and in shock that I was finally there. On the way home, I purchased a bottle of Carta Roja, Jumilla, Monastrell, Gran Reserva 2005 for a whopping 6 pounds to celebrate. I highly recommend it, but only on the first day open.

The second day at Decanter (Friday) was just as exciting. I wore a vintage tan canvas collared dress with tall brown boots (pictured). I had my list of tasks and already felt comfortable fulfilling them. I have been extremely pleased with my boss and how well she communicates what she needs accomplished.

They have already invited me to a few Burgundy en premiere tastings in the city next week which I am very much looking forward to. I have a feeling that I will be learning invaluable lessons while I am here and making strong networking connections.

Last night, Alessa, her boyfriend Dave, Bethany and I went to the Savoy Hotel for cocktails. The Savoy is in the city of Westminster in central London, is the oldest hotel in London opened August 6, 1889, and has the only street leading up to its lobby entrance where it is required to drive on the right-hand side of the road.

It was made famous by the "Savoy Cocktail Book," published in 1930, and having invented the white lady cocktail. The lobby was absolutely breathtaking and the cocktails were deliciously well-balanced.

My mixologist friends would be proud of me for branching out to a genever gin-based beverage called the Piano Man, named after the Frank Sinatra-style of music being played in the bar.

Tonight we are going to explore SoHo and I am planning on being a tourist tomorrow (if I finish my RMGT column in time).

I am one week into this incredible adventure and thankful for every moment. Thank you to my loving parents for making this possible.

Until my next posting…


Amy Payne

Ps. Here are two signs that I found entertaining this week.



  1. Amy - what a wonderful blog. I will be following your adventures in London and at Decanter closely. I am planning a two and half week trip to London this July/August with my family to enjoy the city and the Olympics. I look forward to all of your recommendations, especially local wine shops in London! Cheers.

  2. Amy, Enjoyed the blog ! Thank you for including pictures! Enjoy your time there. love you !

  3. Thanks for the mention. Love the blog and I can't wait to read the next one. The best is yet to come.

  4. Amazing - just amazing. I am so glad you are fulfilling a hard earned dream Amy! Your story made me think of my happiest accomplishments in life and how no matter how hard it is to attain them, once you do, the feeling is impossible to really put into words.