Thursday

I'm Back In The USS[A]

When reflecting on my time spent in London, I realized that what I have learned about the city and about myself is somewhat difficult to express in writing. During my time in the city, I learned how to operate the tube system, I tried new foods, adapted to the British “lingo,” discovered different clothing trends, and experienced countless concepts of historical and cultural significance through visiting museums and houses, watching plays and just walking around. However, what I have taken from this trip is far greater than things like mastering transportation systems. London is a place that habitually thrives on art. Before this trip, I did not completely believe that such a place existed. It literally seems to be everywhere, even in the tube stations where the city has commissioned artists, musicians and writers to display their talents. It’s like the whole city is one big artistic union. In Ruston, there is not a large public demand for art; therefore, the supply is limited. I believe a large part of that has to do with the people. There is a communal acceptance of art in London that everyone seems so comfortable with. Due to my experience with local theatre, my expectations for the theatrical productions in London were mediocre, but that ended up being my favorite part of the trip. Each play and performance was uniquely innovative and exciting. I will forever be amazed by the level of creativity that exists in the places I visited. The artistic vibe of London is the thing that had the greatest affect on me and I will continue to draw on these experiences for inspiration and encouragement.

Cheerio, y'all.

Sitting In An English Garden Waiting For The Sun

The English might not be famous for their (tasteless) cuisine but their gardens are kick ass. I was looking through my photos from this trip and probably around half of them are of various English gardens, so I thought I would share a few of my favorites. Enjoy!







Cheerio, y'all.

Writing The Words Of A Sermon That No One Will Hear

For our last excursion outside of London, we traveled to Kent to visit Dover Castle. Known as the 'Gateway to England', this giant of a castle displays a solid strength and determination that has obviously carried it through many troubled times. Proudly standing atop the White Cliffs, overlooking this busy port, Dover Castle has withstood the test of time remarkably well throughout its long and eventful history. Dover Castle, as it stands today, dates from the rebuilding work during Henry II's reign, but the site has been of vital importance since the Iron Age. At the highest point in the castle stand two buildings which predate the castle -the remains of a Roman lighthouse and a Saxon church. The surrounding bank dates from the thirteenth century but underlies one dated by archaeologists to the mid-eleventh century, suggesting that this area could be the site of the first small castle built by William the Conqueror. Pretty cool if you ask me. We also got a nice view (from afar) of France.

Our pilgrimage coincidently ended at Canterbury where we had lunch with Grandfather Geoffrey and then toured the Canterbury Cathedral. The Cathedral's history goes back to 597AD when St Augustine, sent by Pope Gregory the Great as a missionary, established his seat (or 'Cathedra') in Canterbury. In 1170 Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in the Cathedral and ever since, the Cathedral has attracted thousands of pilgrims (now including me), as told famously in Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Canterbury Cathedral is also the Mother Church of the Anglican Communion and the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury…apparently making it more legit than St. Paul’s. jk.


Roman Lighthouse(Pharos)1st Century AD and Saxon Church


Me with France in the background


White Cliffs


Tomb of King Henry IV at Canterbury Cathedral



Where Thomas Becket was murdered


Cheerio, y'all.

Wednesday

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

Before the trip, probably the thing I was most worried about was not being able to play my instruments for three weeks. I don’t remember a time where I have gone even a few days without playing the piano or guitar so I did not know how I would handle three weeks without either. But then I heard about London’s street piano project. Presented for “Sing London” and the City of London Festival, 30 street pianos have been installed on streets, in public squares and parks, train stations, and markets. Like a creative blank canvas, the pianos are there for any member of the public to play and engage with. So, a big thank you goes out to Luke Jerram for creating this project. You helped me not go crazy.

To read more about the street pianos, check out
http://www.streetpianos.com/london2009/




Cheerio, y'all.

Have You Heard The Word Is Love

The next day we took another trip to the English countryside to visit Burghley House located in Stamford, Lincs. We had to walk a few miles from the train station to get there but it the weather was great so it was a nice walk. Burghley is one of the largest and grandest houses of the first Elizabethan Age. It was built and mostly designed by William Cecil, Lord High Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth I, between 1555 and 1587; the building period of the house extended over a period of 32 years. The main part of the House has 35 major rooms on the ground and first floors. There are more than 80 lesser rooms and numerous halls, corridors, bathrooms and service areas. The lead roof extends to three quarters of an acre, restoration and rebuilding of which began in 1983 and took nearly ten years to complete. Needless to say, this place is HUGE. It is also the set for Lady Catherine De Bourgh’s house in the movie, Pride and Prejudice.






Cheerio, y'all.

One And One And One Is Three

On Tuesday, I had the entire day off so a few of us traveled over to the City of Westminster to see the famous Abbey Road. After taking photos on the crosswalk and signing the wall, we walked around and found Paul McCartney’s house. A few days earlier, I was fortunate to get a ticket to the sold out Kings of Leon concert at the O2 area. The O2 is the place where several of the events for the 2012 Olympics will be held. The week before, Brittany Spears and Beyonce played there and if you didn’t know, it is the place where Michael Jackson is performing his final tour, “This Is It.”

I was a bit worried/excited about going to the show alone but everything turned out great. I got to the venue really early because I had a standing ticket and wanted to get as close to the stage as possible. Luckily I was able to get a nice spot on the front row by the barricades. The band, location, crowd and overall environment of the show definitely made this concert one of the best I have ever seen. They even played my favorite song! The whole day was a spiritual experience.







Here are some shots from the show.





Cheerio, y'all.

Sunday

Strawberry Fields Forever

I felt as if the title for this post was the most appropriate considering strawberries and crème is the official “treat” of the Wimbledon Championship tournament and on Sunday I got to take a tour of the facilities. The special thing about this day was that it was the last day to take tours before the tournament started so many of the players were already there getting ready. For those of you unfamiliar with Wimbledon, I’ll give you a very brief summary. Wimbledon was the first club dedicated to furthering the sport of tennis. The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, which is responsible for staging the world's leading tennis tournament, is a private Club founded in 1868, originally as 'The All England Croquet Club'. Still today, Wimbledon is acknowledge to be the premier tennis tournament in the world and the priority of The All England Lawn Tennis Club, which hosts The Championships, is to maintain its leadership into the twenty-first century. When Wimbledon is not hosting the tournament, it serves as a tennis club. One thing that I particularly found interesting is that there are less than 500 members and furthermore, their annual fee is only around 100 pounds (about 165 US dollars). Our tour guide said that wealth did not constitute club membership; club members merely have to be hard-core tennis fanatics who are dedicated to promoting the game. It is, however, the most exclusive club in the world.







Cheerio, y'all.

Saturday

Her Majesty's A Pretty Nice Girl...

What a week! I know I promised to update more often but sleep has been winning that debate. But now, I can officially say that I’ve been to London to visit the Queen. Last Saturday I got to experience an old English tradition called “Trooping the Colour.” The custom of Trooping the Colour dates back to the time of Charles II in the 17th Century when the Colours of a regiment were used as a rallying point in battle and were therefore trooped in front of the soldiers every day to make sure that every man could recognize those of his own regiment. This impressive display of pageantry is now held on the occasion of the Queen's official birthday. It takes place in June each year to celebrate the official Birthday of the Sovereign and is carried out by her personal troops, the Household Division, on Horse Guards Parade, with the Queen herself attending and taking the salute. One aspect that I was a little surprised by is that the Queen, Princes, and Royal family etcetera ride around the public roads surrounding Buckingham Palace in open carriages. That’s something you won’t often see of political leaders in America…for justifiable reasons nonetheless. Here are some shots of the ceremony. I was on the front row but still pretty far away.


Sophie, Countess of Wessex and wife to Britain's Prince Edward in pink --I do not know who the others are.


Camilla sitting next to Prince William and across from Prince Harry


The Queen sits with Prince Philip. She looks pretty good for 83.


Cheerio, y'all.

Wednesday

The Magical Mystery Tour Is Waiting To Take You Away

Thursday, on our way back to London, we stopped off at Oxford University to tour some of the colleges there. For many of the students on this trip, including myself, the most exciting part was getting to see the scenery used in the Harry Potter movies. Here are just a few photos from the day.


Ladies and Gents, welcome to Hogwarts


The courtyard at Christ Church College, Oxford University


The Great Hall


Another Harry Potter filming spot


Mixed fruit tart, yum!


These are not from Oxford, but they fit the HP motif...

Trying to get to Hogwarts


We were all very eager to get there.

More photos coming soon!

Cheerio, y'all

Thursday

There Are Places I Remember; All My Life

I have not posted lately because the past few days have been extremely busy. Monday was my first day of class and that afternoon we toured the City of London Museum. The museum was different from the others we have visited. It was very modern and had interactive stations at each display. Each section also showed an introduction video where you could learn more about the events that greatly impacted the city such as the great fire and the black plague. One thing I particularly enjoyed was the display of an original copperplate map of London, extending north to south from Shoreditch to London Bridge. These plates are the only known surviving sections of a much larger picture map. Although the maps cannot be dated precisely, they are believed to be circa 1559 and represent a portion of the earliest known map of London.

The next morning, we left London at 8 a.m. for Stratford Upon Avon. The whole trip to Stratford was dedicated to all things Shakespeare. Tuesday was spent by seeing back-to-back plays at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre by the Royal Shakespeare Company – go figure. The RSC has long been recognized as the world's leading classical theatre company and its annual repertoire of productions features plays by Shakespeare, his contemporaries, other classical playwrights as well as many new plays specially commissioned by the RSC. We got to see the matinee performance of “As You Like It” and the evening performance of “Julius Caesar.” Both, of course, were fantastic. “As You Like It” had the most creative set. At the beginning of the play, the stage was bare, a white floor and a white back wall. Through the course of the play it gradually transformed into the Forest of Arden.

After each performance we walked down to this little pub called the Dirty Duck. It reminded me of Sundown in some ways, but it wasn’t as dirty. In between the plays, I got to meet a charming little woman named Joyce, who comes to the river and feeds the ducks and swans every evening. Each day, she collects the discarded food from her neighbor’s trashcans and saves it so she can feed the birds. She is definitely the nicest local I have met since I have been here. I also met a mean old man who ran an original chain boat ferry. I tried, various times throughout the afternoon, to strike up a conversation with him. I even went across the river and back but he was just plain grumpy…but in a charming way nonetheless. If I lived there, I know we would be friends.





Wednesday, again, was an ALL Shakespeare day. We toured 6 different estates that were connected to Shakespeare including his birthplace, Mary Arden’s house (where his mother was raised), Anne Hathaway’s Cottage (where his wife was raised), Halls Croft (where his daughter lived) and Nash House (where his granddaughter lived). We finished the Shakespeare day with a visit to Shakespeare’s grave at Holy Trinity Church.

After the tours I took a nice long walk down by the river. It was the perfect remedy for some much overdue alone time that I desperately needed. Stratford is such a peaceful place; a place I will remember. I was sad to leave.



Stay tuned: My next post will be on our day at Oxford --and all the cool Harry Potter movie locations I saw!

Cheerio, y’all

Monday

Na Na Na, Na Na Na Na, Na Na Na Na, Hey Jude

On Sunday I spent some time with a boy named Jude, who could make any sad song in the world better. I began this Sunday by attending the 10:00 Matins at Westminster Abbey. Westminster is one of the oldest churches in England. It has been the official coronation church since 1066 when William the Conqueror was crowned. Before 1066 there was no fixed place for the coronation ceremony. The most recent coronation was that of Queen Elizabeth II on 2 June 1953. Westminster is also the burial site for the country’s legendary kings and queens. Their monuments are intertwined with those of many other famous leaders, artists and intellectuals including Geoffrey Chaucer, Winston Churchill, Oliver Cromwell, Lewis Carroll, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Frances Burney, George Fredric Handel, Ben Johnson, Sir Isaac Newton, Edmund Spenser –just to name a few. It might sound a bit morbid but it really was a beautiful experience to be able to walk through the church and see the resting places of these great people. The best part of going to church, however, was hearing the Choir of Westminster Abbey. They were phenomenal. I will probably go back next Sunday just to hear it again.



Although Westminster was a wonderful experience, it isn’t the event I was referring to in my previous post. Soon after we got to London, I found out that Shakespeare’s Hamlet was currently running at the Donmar West End at Wyndham’s Theatre. So Saturday, I went over to the theatre to see if they had any tickets still available and they just had some come up on the second row of the “Royal Circle.” Needless to say, I purchased them. Now, in addition to it being one of my favorite Shakes plays, the role of Hamlet was being played by one of my favorite actors…okay…wait for it…JUDE LAW. Yes, that’s right. I saw Hamlet, staring Jude Law yesterday afternoon. I got to spend 3 whole hours looking at him from the second row. That in itself was worth going; however, he surprisingly is an exceptional stage actor. Also in the show was Kevin R. McNally, who played Gibbs in Pirates of the Caribbean movies, as Claudius. Peter Eyre, who doubled as the ghost of King Hamlet and the player King in young Hamlet’s play, was my second favorite actor in the performance, but no doubt Jude was the best. I am still giddy about the whole experience. As of now, it is almost 1:00 and I am off to the City of London Museum so I will leave you all to reflect on Jude Law and how I am the luckiest girl in the world…well, almost. I haven’t married him yet ;)


Cheerio, y'all.

Sunday

One Sweet Dream Came True Today, Came True Today

I have had an innate desire to visit Notting Hill ever since I saw the movie. Saturday, that dream came true. It was a free day so a few of us decided to head over to the area and check out the famous Portobello Market. There was a plethora of assorted clothes, jewelry, food, books, electronics and antique trinkets galore. Although I do not plan to bring china tea cups back to the states, they were nice to look at. We also had our first celebrity spotting on the trip. While walking through the market, Mary Margaret, another girl on the trip, ran straight into Maggie Gyllanhaal. We knew it was her because she was on her phone and said, “Hey, It’s Maggie”--and bunch of girls around us got all giddy and started taking photographs.

On the way back from the market, we stopped by George Orwell’s house then decided to venture off the tourist path a bit. Earlier that morning, I found out through the World Wide Web that Jimi Hendrix died in Notting Hill. After a bit of walking around a very ritzy neighborhood, we finally found the place on Lansdowne Crescent. Instead of turning around and going back the way we came, we kept walking and eventually circled around the town. Along the way, we passed the private gardens Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant explored in the movie, Notting Hill. I even got to see the little bench they sat on after the “whoopsie daisies” part. We have already planned to go back later this week and find The Traveler’s Bookshop. It was all very charming.

One thing that a lot of the students have been trying to do on this trip is to try new foods so once we got back to Bloomsbury, we ate at this Indian restaurant. It was not my first time trying Indian food, however, it was the first time I actually liked it. - Just in case you wanted to know, I had chicken curry. It’s getting close to 2 a.m. over here and I have class at 9 a.m. so I better be off to bed. I can’t wait to write about my adventures from today (Sunday). Seriously, I get extremely excited when I think about what and who I saw. I promise to write on it tomorrow, but get ready because it’s good.

Cheerio, y’all

Saturday

Hey, You've Got To Hide Your Love Away

You definitely didn't have to hide your love away at Charleston House. In fact, there was freedom at Charleston to do whatever, whenever (and whomever)...for all who sought to do so. Keep reading, I'll explain.

On Friday, we spent the day at Charleston House in Lewes. Lewes (pronounced Lewis)is a country town of East Sussex. It took an hour by train to get to Lewes, then we had good 15 minute cab ride out to the estate. Charleston was the home of Vanessa Bell (Virginia Woolf’s sister) and her lover, Duncan Grant. It was also the country meeting place for the writers, painters and intellectuals known as the Bloomsbury Group. Vanessa’s husband, Clive Bell, also lived at Charleston at various times as did Duncan Grant’s gay lover, David Garnett. It was pretty much just your average case of polyfidelity. Whereas this living situation might seem very strange to us, evidently, they all got along and accepted each others “preferences.” As Dr. Kacz put it, "The Bloomsbury Group was a gathering of friends who lived in squares and loved in circles."

Indeed, the romantic rapport of this group was ever changing (and sometimes repeating) but they maintained their friendships I suppose by respecting the emotion involved in the journey of love. I believe Quentin Bell, Vanessa and Clive’s youngest son, offered a nice explanation of the group when he said, “I think the achievement of Bloomsbury has been to make us more tolerant people.” --I believe it is a message worth considering more often.



The tour of the house was especially exciting for those of us taking the class on Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group. Just about every inch of the interior was painted by Vanessa and Duncan and luckily, most of it had been preserved. We were not allowed to take photos in the house but I purchased an art book that documents the house. My favorite part of Charleston was the gardens. In my whole life I have not seen so many different kinds and colors of flowers and plants as I did there. I'll try to post some images later.

After a bittersweet goodbye to Charleston House, we came back to the city and got all dolled up to go to the symphony. That night we saw the London Philharmonic Orchestra perform Debussy’s La Mer, Edgar’s Cello Concerto and da dadada Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. Although I do not frequent symphonies often, this one definitely trumped all that I have seen. We were all very hungry after the show so we came back to Russell Square and had a late dinner at an Italian restaurant a few blocks from our hotel. I had gnocchi and it was delicious. That is all, for now.



Cheerio, y’all

Friday

Love Is All You Need


"All you need is love" is a mantra commonly endorced by Shakespeare's foolish lovers that usually results in fatality. Romeo and Juliet are staple characters in confirming this idea...more on them later. I woke up at 6a.m. Thursday morning; a little earlier than I normally do. When I walked downstairs to the hotel lobby, I was greeted with a traditional English breakfast that consisted of the following:


toast with strawberry jam

bacon

sausage

a fried egg

a fried tomato

baked beans

a baked potato square

tea with lemon


Normally I am a bit finicky about meat but I did try everything and it was quite good. At 10:00 we got on a bus and took a tour around London. The tour was a good way to officially begin the trip, as it provided a nice overview of the city and its boroughs. During the course of the bus tour, we stopped off at the Royal Albert Hall which is mostly used as a venue for concerts and theatrical productions. The hall was named “Albert” by Queen Victoria as homage to her late husband. There was also a HUGE gilded statue of Prince Albert across the street. While visiting the hall, I saw a sign advertising the musical “The King and I”-- staring, none other than Daniel Dae Kim!!! (he plays Jin on the show “Lost”) The show opens on June 12th, so several students booked tickets for that afternoon. I did not get a ticket because I am still weighing that show with some others I want to see.

Other places from the tour include Hyde Park, Kensington Palace, the new Scotland Yard headquarters, Westminster Abby, Big Ben, the London Eye, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral and many more.


Thursday evening we went to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and saw “Romeo and Juliet.” I am fairly certain that it is the best theatrical performance I have ever seen. The most brilliant element of the play was the comedic execution. Specifically, many of the characters dramatized several phallic and yonic allusions that I had not previously read into the text. It was absolutely hilarious.


In short, every other Shakespeare play and movie adaptation pales in comparison to a performance at the Globe. More later on Thursday's outings at the Charleston House and the London Philharmonic Symphony.








Cheerio, y'all

Thursday

It's Been A Hard Day's Night

It is 2:30pm in London and I am still trying to adjust to the time change. We got here around 10:45 yesterday (Wed) morning. Not to be dramatic or anything, but the 10 hour plane flight was ABSOLUTELY miserable! I took two Dramamine in hopes that I would pass out, but as it turns out, I never fell asleep. In addition this drowsy stupor, I got stuck in a middle seat. Okay, done complaining. London is pretty fabulous.



After we landed and got settled in the hotel, we made a quick trip to exchange currency at an ATM, or as they call it, "Hole in the Wall." After that, we walked around Bloomsbury and eventually found the place where our classes will be. As it turns out, our classrooms are in the upper floors of an old bookshop that is dedicated to publishing the works of philosopher/scientist/etcetera, Emanuel Swedenborg. From there, we walked to the British Museum and saw various exhibits including sculptures from ancient Egypt, the Aztecs and the Parthenon. We also saw the Rosetta Stone--the Egyptian artifact, not the language software. I might go back to the BM while I am here as I was too tired yesterday to truly appreciate it. Yesterday seems like a drunken memory. However, last nights sleep was the best I've ever had.

I will have to post of my adventures from today a little later, as they are not yet over. As of now, I need to go get ready for tonight. We are going to see "Romeo and Juliet" at the Globe Theatre! Jealous?



Who/which is older? The professors or the Rosetta Stone ;)

Cheerio, y'all