Well, I haven’t skied any 12-mile-long glaciers this week—or even seen any snow—but life is still full of adventure, just having to do more with big city life rather than the outdoors like my time in France. I’ve been in London a week and a half now and have been keeping busy with all that the city has to offer, and then I was reminded this week that I will also have schoolwork to do! A laundry list of things I’ve seen so far: Hampstead Heath (a giant park, reminded me of Discovery Park a little), been to three shows already (more on that in a minute), hit up Portobello Road Market, Hyde Park, Harrod’s (WOW!), church at St. Paul’s, the Tate Modern Museum and, of course, some of the good ol’ British pubs, essential to the London experience.
I’ve pretty much gotten the tube routes and ride under control, but of course there are the unexpected delays that test my knowledge of the alternate connections to make (we barely made it to the theater on time tonight) and to see how little personal space it is possible to have. One thing I think I forgot to mention in Chamonix was how they just pack people in the trams to the top of the mountain. Basically, don’t come to Europe if you’re claustrophobic. So, of course I’ve had to come up with an analogy to relate the two experiences: Riding on the tube at rush hour is a lot like skiing. I know what you’re thinking… “Liz, you’re crazy.” Yes… but hear me out, it’ll make sense. It’s all about shifting your weight at the right times, and poles, though not essential, really make it a lot easier to maintain balance and have a successful run. See what I mean? The escalators up from the underground lines also require confident, fluid movement, much like a chairlift demands… ok that’s a little bit of a stretch, but I thought I’d go for it anyway 🙂
Anyway, the Tate Modern was interesting, some stuff weird, some really interesting, sometimes it was hard to know the difference. St. Paul’s = amazing. I’d been to church there once before and it was just as incredible as the first time. Stunning is an understatement of how beautiful it is, and when those little choir boys are singing and you’re looking up at the dome it’s powerful. If I ever live in London (besides right now) and if I ever have a little boy while I’m living in London, my son will be a choir boy at St. Paul’s and wear the ridiculously cute robe and collar. You may think I’m cruel, but I just think I’d have a good excuse to listen to every performance they ever had. Harrod’s was perhaps the most incredible/ridiculous store I’ve ever been in. The best part was looking at the prices and laughing, because if you don’t just laugh at how absurd they are then you have to actually think about how outrageous it is that someone would pay that much for a pair of shoes, or dress… or whatever the brand name item is. Especially with the horrible exchange rate the thought of buying something there was highly entertaining. The food halls were amazing—who knew a department store would have a fancy grocery store in it? Perhaps the most intriguing part of Harrod’s was when, after walking through the department of purses that cost somewhere around 500-2500 pounds, I found a small stand of tote bags in the corner pushed out the way, with a little sign explaining how the profits went to some AIDS fund in Africa. I hope I need not explain the sad irony of that situation…
I’ve managed to get free tickets to two shows that classes at school (which I’m not taking) were going to see and had extras of. The first was last week, Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado.” I knew virtually nothing about G & S but went anyway and was entertained. My school is offering a whole course on their different operas, but I was happy enough to see one and be entertained for a few hours without studying the music in depth. Last night I managed to get a ticket for “The Homecoming,” which is one of London’s hottest shows right now. I was totally engaged the whole time, but left perplexed. I understood it right up until the point when the main character’s brothers start making out with his wife in front of him and he just watches without interfering. Huh. If anyone knows anything about that play, I’d be happy to entertain comments/thoughts on it. My friend and I tried to debrief after it, but both of us were… confused, and she’s a theater major, too! Tonight I went to the greatest Shakespeare show I’ve ever seen: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in an abandoned office building that’s in the process of being remodeled. Truly amazing performance, the play began while we were all standing around and the actors just acted around us until they led us into the “forest” where we were seated. It was somewhat interactive, one of the fairies touched my butt when she walked past me… awkward. The show was incredibly sexual and I wondered what drugs all the actors had taken prior to the performance, but they pulled it off and it was really well done. Many more shows to come, “The Merchant of Venice” next week and who knows what else.
Otherwise I’ve just been getting in the flow of being in school again (wow I forgot how much reading an English major has to do!), but I really only sit in class on Mondays and Tuesdays and then have “excursions” for classes on Wednesdays and Thursdays, with every Friday off. Not too shabby! Host fam is still great, I’ve gotten Jan addicted to LOST. Well, she’s missed the first three seasons, but she makes a point to sit and watch it with me on Sundays, ha! This Friday some friends and I are headed to Windsor, with other “Londony” things this weekend. Next weekend a trip to Edinburgh with school, and I’m staying an extra day to see some friends there. Then my friends and I have managed to book a couple trips, one to Prague, another to Dublin in the next month or so, hoping to get Paris with Devan and spring break book soon as well. I’m getting the hang of London, but there will be more European travel adventures very soon! Obviously there will be pictures and updates along the way!
A couple of notable quotes from the semester so far:
Discussing with my friend Rachel and her roommate, Lauren, about their host “mom,” who is a single woman living in London, but seems to have lots of social engagements. Note: Probably only funny to those who like Bridget Jones.
Me: “Huh, she sounds like Bridget Jones.”
Rachel: “Eh… not really.”
Lauren: “Yeah, she does… if Bridget Jones had exchange students!”
Discussing how huge and busy London is Rachel says, “London is like New York on crack!”
My British Novel professor: “I worship at the shrine of Jane Austen.” ha, YES!!
Thanks to all who are reading and keeping in contact, very much appreciated! Hope all are well!