September 16, 2011

London-Town.


I don’t really know where to begin translating my London adventures. Let me begin by saying this city is enormous. Definitely the biggest I’ve ever attempted to explore. Every district has its own distinct flavour (oh, look at me spelling like a limey!), and I’m quite enjoying experiencing each like a separate city. I’m currently staying on my own in a Youth Hostel, giving me a great deal of freedom to plot my own agenda. Early in the morning and right before I fall asleep I get a little lonely, but as soon as I’m out on the streets or writing in my journal downstairs, I’m quite content with my own thoughts.

Since I’ve been a little wary of taking my camera out -- there’s pickpocket warning signs everywhere here -- I haven’t been able to document much, so sorry if it lacks visual interest, but here’s what I’ve been up to the past few days:

-Watched pretty people
    The majority of London dresses so nicely! I think the men are actually more well-dressed than the women here, which from the looks of Seattle I didn’t know was possible. I’m all about our relaxed grunge, but nothing beats the smart look of men in tailored suits weaving around women sporting more relaxed versions of the current Vogue trends. Unfortunately this means when I take to the streets I feel like an orphan child. I’m going to have to bite the bullet and get myself some new boots and sweaters before school starts.

-Meandered through the parks


    How do people get anything done here with so many beautiful parks beckoning to them on their way to work? My walk through Kensington Gardens resulted in my planning a future life here (until I realized I’d fantastically housed myself in one of the embassy places), naming my imaginary children and pets after names I heard shouted along the paths. In Hyde Park I fell in love with ducks and trees, and in St. James I just watched the leaves blow, realizing my favorite season was already at hand. It does rain a lot, but the nice thing is it’s practically by the clock. I now understand WHY it is Brits have tea time -- that’s when the rain falls each afternoon!



 

-Saw Ralph Finnes perform in Trevor Nunn’s The Tempest
    I could go on about how Caliban’s words blew me away, how Finnes enlisted his Voldie tones to nail those last two Prospero monologues forever into the wooden planks of history, how Miranda should’ve moved around less but that I fell in love with her anyway, and how one or two British men chortled at the dusty jokes that have long since faded from common understanding, but then...I just did.

-Read Ahab’s Wife
    This has little to do with London, but wow... If you can imagine the characterization of Jo in little women with the triumph of Joan of Arc with the readability of Harry Potter, the horrors of Life of Pi and the colossal epicness of Moby Dick, you have the incredible patchwork quilt that is this novel. Man or woman be thou, READ IT NOW.

-Saw the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery


    I visited Shakespeare twice, marveled over ancient images wherein faded paint revealed the ghostly presence of previous ideas, celebrated the strange contrast of unfinished portraits, hoorahed all the women who managed to reserve a place for themselves in the midst of so many male monarchs, absorbed the overwhelming beauty of the Impressionalist, tilted my head this way and that at the Modernists, and gave smiles of thanks to the wall of my Romantic poet heroes.

Afterward, I enjoyed this:


-Visited Buckingham Palace
    This was the one day I took my camera. After all my individual exploring the tourist-packed areas proved still less interesting to me, but I managed to snap a few shots:






-Went Shopping on Oxford Street
    And by “shopping” I mean “looked and longed at everything but purchased nothing.” Can someone please tell me what I should buy? cause I’m tired of sorting through to find what looks good on me anymore.

-Wandered thru Portabello Road Market
    This was so fun! I got a necklace-watch and breezed through Notting Hill on my way out.

-Got lost and ended up at Harrods
    First I got lost trying to get to Harrods, then, in the process of getting myself out of that lostness, found Harrods. That’s life for you.
    Also, I wish I were a millionare so I could eat here everyday and not feel bad about it. I’d be a Harrods Hippopotamus by the time I got back to Washington.

-Met heaps of Australians
    This hostel is crawling with Kiwis!! And they’re all so nice and adorably interesting. One of the girls taught me how to tell the difference between a New Zealand and Aussie accent, and had a great laugh over my “Minnesooota Tapiooca Mawm, don’chya know!!”

-Walked through the National British Library
    Holy all-things-holy. This was the most incredible pilgrimage I’ve ever made. You can’t take things out from this library, which was a little disappointing, and you can only read the materials there if you have a pass, which requires proof of address I do not have. They do have an incredible exhibit open to the public, however, wherein I found the most marvelous treasures. Luckily they don’t allow photography, cause I would’ve been snapping pictures left and right.

Herein I found:
    -An original copy of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales
    -The journals of Jane Austen, and her writing desk
    -Charlotte Bronte’s notebook in which she wrote Jane Erye
    -A tuning fork passed through the hands of many a famous musician, but originally belonging to Beethoven
    -Several original scores from Schubert, Motzart, and Handel
    -Lewis Carroll’s concept drawings for Alice
    -A piece of tracing paper with an unpublished Wordsworth sonnet
    -Lyrics scrawled on restaurant napkins and old birthday cards by Lennon and McCartney
    -Several recordings of famous actors reading the works of famous authors
    -A variety of old historical documents and sacred texts from the 14th-17th century
    -A comic written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as a schoolboy, and a letter to his Mum

Needless to say I was preoccupied here for several hours. I’d forgotten to bring a coat, and was already chilly with the 9:30am air outside when I entered the air-conditioned gallery. I left with goosebumps that refused to go away, even in the sunlight, for the entire walk home.

I’ll stopper up there. Thank goodness I’m finally caught up on the blog-o-sphere for the time being -- it’s difficult without available wifi! I will try to stay more on top of things as school starts (not to mention the LONDON FILM FESTIVAL -- BWAAAAH!!!), if I have anything interesting to say then.

Happy beginning of school (soon) to all! I miss everybody and hope you’ll continue to report adventures of your own, if you enjoy mine -- it’s good to hear stories of home.


-RB

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