Sunday, July 15, 2007

London: A Day Trip

Long-ass, picture heavy post a-ho.It is now Sunday and I am very exhausted from the trip to London yesterday. Originally I had planned to stay the night, but numerous things made me come to terms with the fact that I just couldn't afford -- in numerous senses of the word -- to waste a day aimlessly walking around London when I could get a free ride home and my own bed for no money at all just by coming back last night.

I'm SO glad I did. But before that...

LONDON! I don't feel as though I've been to London before, despite my experiences in 3 of it's airports and one night in a hostel where I went absolutely nowhere, so this was very exciting to get to go with a huge group of people, ie. the entire PKP programme.

Half the group (my half) got dropped off at Trafalgar Square, which was exciting and very busy, it being a Saturday afternoon in the summer and all.

We started off at the National Portrait Gallery, which was really great, as far as museums go -- much more organized and easier to navigate than the Met, I'll tell you that much. There were far too many Madonna and Child, Virgin and Baby paintings for my taste, and it's like... We get it. Jesus died for our sins. Can we stop painting about it already?! So the early stuff wasn't quite my taste, except for this one by da Vinci (not surprisingly) which I feel has such a dark, subtle beauty. Like I've said before, I prefer to see the brush strokes. I want to see a painting, not a photograph (though, don't get me wrong, those are extremely impressive and worthwhile as well, yadda yadda...), OK and moving on.

Carlin, Michelle and I sort of jumped through the museum since we were needing coffee and had only a little while until needing to meet our group, so we went straight for all the modernist, expressionist stuff. You know, the stuff I like.

Probably the most amazing for me was Van Gogh's "The Wheatfield with Cypresses," because (I dunno if you can tell) but it looks exactly like "Starry Night." I mean, exactly. Just day time. And in the country. And opposite sides. I was stunned by it, and got to thinking about why one piece of art is more famous than another. That's always a question I guess, but this one... well, I find it just as beautiful, and the brush strokes up close are absolutely breathtaking.

Several other great things we got to see were a few gorgeous sketches by Toulouse-Lautrec, some Cezanne, tons of Monet's, more Van Gogh's and even more Picasso's. The coolest thing for me was probably seeing "The Rokeby Venus" by Valazquez -- what I think is probably one of the most famous and beautiful images ever to display the female form. It's a flawlessly intricate and beautiful painting, in my opinion. And interestingly enough, my favorite part is probably Cupid's wings. Continuing on with my love of noticeable brush strokes, I could probably have stared at the wings for an hour. Anyway, it was cool to see another famous painting, among many.

OK! Enough of museums (until later...), and on to London, the city! Or what we saw of it. Oh, here is me, trying to get into a phone booth. I intended to take a picture of me inside it, but I think it might have been Armageddon-proof, because I just couldn't get inside. Though it was full of garbage. I'm just very easily confused.

After getting some sandwiches nearby (here's Bree, Caitlin, Dan and Austin), a small group of us were led by two of our amazing TA's around central London on a little "guided" tour. I've been meaning to post about the TA's, because they're awesome and hysterical, but I didn't have any pictures or video of them. Until now. This is Aileen and Dave. Carlin and I love Dave. We love all of them, but particularly Dave, because he is like a puppy we want to take home with us. Actually, we wish he was pocket-sized so we can carry him around and have him entertain us at our beckon call. (We're pretty sure he is scared of us because we tell him all the time how much we love him. He just laughs when we tell him, but I'm also pretty sure he thinks we are in love with him, which is just silliness.) Here they are explaining the statue of King Charles I, right on the edge of Trafalgar Square (with Carlin and Austin looking on at the end).

Hehehe. Just times Dave's adorable-ness by one hundred and you can get an idea of how amazing it is to watch him frolic. He taught everyone to frolic at Sports Day last week. He is a master.

Our trail through Central London took us through the Admiralty Arch, down The Mall, past Buckingham Palace, back all the way through St. James's Park, past the Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall, Downing Street and Parliament Square and finally ended at The Palace of Westminster and Big Ben (which is the name of the bell, not the tower/clock, fyi.) Unfortunately, everything past us pretty quickly, because we had to make it to our river boat cruise thing on the Thames, but I don't usually like looking at buildings too long anyway.

(I included links instead of all the pictures I took of everything, simply because I'm not in any pictures and these Wiki-links include pics and facts. I will never be as informative as The Great and Powerful Wiki.)

The only downer was that we didn't get to see the front of Westminster Abbey, just the back of it. Poop. BUT, seeing Westminster Tower was a lot like seeing the Eiffel Tower: not quite real. Even though it was right in front of me, it still felt super-imposed. It was the only building I got starstruck seeing.

After this we took a 15-min. River Thames cruise, which let us out down the river on the South Bank, right next to the Tate Modern and the Globe Theatre, which was so trippy to see. But we still had 3 hours to spare before seeing the play...

The group kind of split up at that point -- the people who were planning to stay the night going off to check into the hotel, and Maxine and I got some food and heading into the Tate. I was feeling a little museumed-out, but that has never stopped me in the past. I love Modern art, but c'mon. I mean... c'mon. Really? That video? Oy. Either way, I just can't deny how incredible I find certain paintings, and I will never be too tired or cranky to stare at some Kandinsky (to the right: "Swinging") or Pollock or... well, the list goes on.

There was a Dali & Film exhibit, but it was £11, meaning a whopping $22. Not worth it, at least as of yesterday. We might go back, though, 'cause it would be an amazing thing to get to see. Dali was on crack, especially in the films he did with Walt Disney. And I dig crack-induced artists.

A few of the paintings I saw and loved, shown below, in this order, were Picasso's "Seated Nude," Nicola Tyson's "Swimmer," and Francis Picabia's "Otaïti."

At this point, my legs hurt so badly I didn't think I could walk anymore (I have tendon/muscle problems, don't ask). But we still had Othello ahead of us, and normally that would mean 3 hours of sitting and watching a play, which would have been GREAT. Except, we're commoners. And commoners, in the Globe, get to stand for the entire performance. Now, I'm all about authenticity, and Lord knows I love me some Shakespeare, especially when people are brutally murdered, but I did not think I could make it through. But I did. And I'm alive. And my feet/legs still (kind of) work.

The show was sensational. Talk about a minimalist production -- my favorite kind! Period-appropriate costumes, no sets except for a table, benches and a bed (of course). No lighting, no sound. The man playing Othello was so good. He was scaring the crap out of Bree and I, because of his intensity, and we were right near the front of the stage and, not sitting in seats, there was nothing to grab hold of. Desdemona was cute as hell, and died the kind of death that Claire Danes in Stage Beauty would be proud of. My favorite of them all was Rodrigo. I thought he was hot, everyone thought I was crazy, and they maybe would have settled for "cute." But I love me the fool, especially when he steals the show. (Merry Wives of Windsor, Shad Willingham, OSF 2006, anyone??) Fools are the best characters to play, and the most entertaining, because they are open to the most interpretation. Every production, the fool is different. ::sigh:: Rodrigo was the best part of the show for me, and the perfect amount of comic relief.

Afterwards, I filmed a very brief video of Carlin and London at nighttime. If you're interested.

So we made it through the show, with just a little bit of rain trickling down on us, and Carlin, Maxine and I hiked our asses to the buses so we could get home. It was 11 pm and we had a 2 hour bus ride ahead of us, and chips from the Trailer of Life food cart in the Market Square were screaming our name.

Unfortunately, though, some girl who sat across the aisle from us had been drinking what must have been 2 bottles of wine during the Othello performance and she started throwing up on herself about half-way through the drive.

It was the nastiest smell to have to sit with for an hour, but luckily we had AC, and being completely frozen was a small price to pay for slightly fresher air. But nothing really helped. As a result, Carlin and I became bandits using the two pashmina scarves I bought.

That's right. You wish you were us.

London was definitely fun. Gonna plan another day-trip or more than one to be able to take our time with non-touristy stuff. It is definitely a city that is over-run with tourists. Ughy ugh.


  1. Guess what!! The guy who played Roderigo was my British Theatre tutor's son! I got to meet him! He's very nice, but he just got married 3 weeks ago. Very Shad...I agree.

  2. We were in London at the same time!

    But I was hardly there, like a day and a half.

    Your friends seem like tons of fun, and I am so happy you're enjoying all of the traveling!

    I can't believe my year abroad is ending...I am actually feeling pretty sad about it. But I am living vicariously through you now, reading your blogs (I wish I had kept a better one during the year). Write me an email PLEASE when you can!


  3. LONDON!! Awww, Stace, the place I want to go most in the world! It's amazing how much you were able to see. I'm very very impressed, but hopefully you'll be able to spend a day there in the future without wearing yourself out!

    And I totally remember that guy from "OZ"! I didn't think I would, but when I clicked on the pic... yup, that's him! Very cool.


  4. re. to Shad Willingham: HERE HERE!
    and eww i'm so sorry you had to sit thru barfy air.

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