Thursday, March 19, 2009


What a week! I’m forcing myself to sit for a while because I’ve basically taken London by storm and now my body is making me pay for it. While I’m resting, I figured I’d put up a post of my journey through the town so far. Believe me, it’s quite extensive.

I arrived with my friends in London, we had some dinner and a pint at a local pub, and then I toured the city at night. I saw Pickadilly and Oxford Circus, Trafalgar Square, lots and lots of monuments, Big Beg, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, and finished off by eating dinner in China Town. It was an amazing experience! I almost had a heart attack when I was in Trafalgar and looked up to see Big Ben all decadently lit up. Definitely a sensory overload.

I woke up and grabbed some breakfast in the cafeteria with my friends and then took off with David to see Abby Road. We saw the road and took a few pictures of ourselves and the Beatles studio, found a lovely church to go into (St. Mark’s. Ha!), saw Violet Hill for all you Coldplay fans out there, and headed back to the school. That night we went to a really cool little hole in the wall pub named Crowns and Cushions for a pint. It was the epitome of every stereotypical London pub I’ve ever imagined. While we were there we watched a cricket “test” (they’re not called games) and sang Rolling Stones music with a bunch of drunken British guys. Amazing! I couldn’t imagine a more British thing to be doing at night.

I woke up early and headed out on a solo mission to North London. My first stop was St. Paul’s cathedral, which was really interesting. It’s SOOOO beautiful and absolutely massive, but it’s got a sadness about it. Religion in London is all but dead, so St. Paul’s is more of a giant tombstone of a once thriving religion or a monument to human ego than it is a center of worship. It’s very interesting.
From there I walked across the Thames River via the Millennium Bridge, a very cool modern walking bridge, and made my way into the Tate Modern, a modern art museum. I spent about three hours there, and it was time well spent. I saw some very well known artists like Dali and Picasso, but they weren’t my favorites at all. One artist, a man by the name of Francis Bacon, does amazing work describing the human condition. His not very flattering paintings articulate the pain, helplessness, and struggles that we face as part of being human. It was very evocative and emotional to look at. I saw lots of different artists with lots of different messages, and it was a day well spent.
I walked out of the Tate and saw the London Tower Bridge off to my right a ways and figured it’d be a great idea to walk across it, so I did. Along the way I bumped into the Globe Theater (!), saw the Gherkin Building, London City Hall, and the London Tower. How fantastic! I couldn’t have had a better time!
That afternoon was lovely, so my friends and I decided we’d go for a walk. We went through Hyde Park, which was flooded with Londoners enjoying the weather. We saw a statue of Peter Pan, watched people playing with their dogs, and ended up making our way to Buckingham Palace. We saw the palace, the statues around it, the guards, the tourists, and headed home. It was very beautiful, but not as impactful as I’d have expected it to be. At least I can cross that off my list, though!
That night David and I headed to South London to see a few spectacles. We saw the British National Library from the outside and tried to see Platform 9 and ¾, but they’re doing construction on King’s Cross Station, so we couldn’t go! Sad day. Oh well. I was tired anyway (long day), so we walked back home and went to sleep.

David and I got up and went straight for the British National Library. While he was picking up a library card, I toured their exhibits. Wow! I saw a small exhibit on Darwin and some of his originally hand-written works and then toured their main exhibit. I couldn’t take pictures, but I wrote down the highlights of the exhibit:
An original copy of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Mozart’s marriage license, original Handel manuscripts, a letter from John Maynard Keynes to Falk, Lenin’s application for a British reading card under a false name, John Milton’s commonplace book (!), two handwritten books by Jane Austen, a handwritten poem by Wordsworth, Bronte’s handwritten copy of Jane Eyre, Lewis Carroll’s diary, Byron’s handwritten copy of Lord Jim, an original Oscar Wilde poem, Virginia Wolfe’s notebook, a handwritten copy of The Insomniac by Sylvia Plath, Beethoven’s tuning fork (ironic, right?), original Beethoven manuscripts, original handwritten Beatles lyrics including “The Fool on the Hill,” “Help,” “Yesterday,” “Ticket to Ride,” “A Hard Days Night,” “Michelle,” and an untitled verse by Lennon, Captain James Cook’s journal, a 1633 copy of John Donne’s sonnets, a 1640 copy of Shakespeare’s sonnets, Galileo’s first publication, DaVinci’s notebooks, Newton’s first publication, a Gutenberg Bible, a first edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy, one of the oldest known copies of the Qur’an, the Golden Hagadah, the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Alexandrinus, the Articles of the Barons, and the Magna Carta (yes, the Magna Carta).
From there, Dave and I made our way back to the dorms for some lunch, hung out for a while, played Ultimate Frisbee with his roommates, had some dinner, and made our way to a great bar in Camden Town to celebrate St. Patty’s day. Turns out most London people don’t celebrate it, by the way. The American’s, however, LOVED it! It was really awkward. Still fun though!

I woke up early again and went to the British National Art Museum by myself for a few hours. I still plan on making another visit, but in the short time I was there I got to see some amazing 13th-16th century stuff including Raphael and DaVinci. Raphael, by the way, isn’t as impressive as I’d have thought. I was slightly disappointed. I had a great time looking at the religious themes throughout the centuries, though. Amazing stuff!
From there, Dave and I met up, had another meal in China Town, wandered around the markets for a while, and made it to an Evensong service at St. Paul’s. Another amazing experience! The church is more beautiful than I could have expected, and just hearing the choir sing and echo throughout the cathedral was incredible. So simple, but so beautiful.
Last night was the best part of all. London, you see, has an intense ukulele culture and my buddy David brought his ukulele for me to play! He had tickets to a different concert with his friends, so he gave me the directions to the bar and sent me on my way. I proceeded to spend the next three hours drinking Guiness and singing along with a bunch of drunken Londoners playing ukuleles. Incredible! We sang stuff like Brown Eyed Girl, Build Me Up Buttercup, I Wanna Be Like You (from Jungle Book), and Ring of Fire. The best moment of my entire life, however, was when I was singing Hey Jude at the top of my lungs with a bunch of British people and our ukuleles. Talk about a cultural experience! I couldn’t have asked for more.

Dave and I visited the British National Archaeological Museum. Intense! We saw lots and lots of stuff including Napoleon, Cleopatra’s body, the REST of the Acropolis (the British stole most of it), lots of Asian sculptures (always a favorite of mine), Native American artifacts, Middle Eastern stuff, and much much more. That place is MASSIVE! I can hardly believe it! I’ve got more pictures than I can count from there. It’s incredible, but Dave and I tackled that place. We totally conquered it in about five hours. Intense.
We found an amazing vegetarian restaurant with a 5 pound (the currency) buffet, so we sat down and had a meal. I’ve never experienced so many forms of tofu in disguise! Again, a whole new experience, and again it was absolutely wonderful.

And now here I sit. Even just after writing this, I can already think of a thousand amazing things I'm leaving out! An embarrassment of riches! Anyway,I’m resting up a bit from the intense few days I’ve experienced and trying to catch my breath before I head out again tomorrow. I’ve still got to do some homework before next week and read a bit, but I wanted to drop you all a line and update the blog a bit. Hope all is well wherever you are! I look forward to hearing from you all soon!

And happy birthday Mom!!!!!

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