Wednesday, 30 July 2014

à Paris.......à Londre! (Harrods, the Globe, the Tour de France, Museums, and More!)

After taking the Eurostar train through the Chunnel, I arrived in Foggy London Town! And what a treat that was. I feel like I started my re-acculturation to American life in London because it was so much more familiar than anything I had experienced in the last 3.5 months. Life in London was so easy. I didn't have to actively listen. I just understood what people said. I didn't have to think before I spoke or be self conscious about my grammar. I just talked. It seemed so effortless compared to everywhere else I had been! While there, I stayed with my best friend from Pittsburgh, Laura. She was kind enough to put me up in her London townhouse for nearly two weeks (bless you, Laura!) I was also able to catch up with my Yale friends (Daniel, Pat, and Riana) and one of my Oxford housemates (Ciara).

Of course, one of the first things I did while back in London was head to Harrods! I don't know why I love this place so much, but their Food Halls fascinate me. I love the immensity of their gourmet food selections -- a foodie's paradise, to be sure.

Another highlight of my time in London was heading to the Globe Theater with Laura to see Titus Andronicus. This show was absolutely PHENOMENAL! So gory, so dramatic, so life changing! It was, by far, the best acted Shakespeare play I had ever seen. The show itself is very bloody and the acting was so genuine that I felt kind of queasy the entire time (and I wasn't the only one). Laura and I were lucky enough to have seats, but many people pay 5 pounds and stand in "the commons." During the bloodier scenes, people started dropping like flies -- as in, they started fainting one right after the other. I think 8 people fainted in total. The Globe staff anticipated this and had a great medical staff on hand to get the people settled and back up on their feet for the second half. And everyone in the pit had to be on their feet because the actors used the crowd in the performance. They often pushed through the standing audience and enticed them to cheer and chant during scenes were the emperor addressed all of Rome. It was really cool to see, actually!

Randomly, the Tour de France passed through London this year. I had some spare time on my hands, so I decided to take the Tube out to Canary Wharf to see them race by. I knew I was in the right place when I saw dozens of office workers migrating towards the main bridge just inland from the wharf. People lined up along the roadside and stood up on the median to get a better view. We all huddled close together because it started raining about 15 minutes into our wait. I had an umbrella, so I was occupying (or rather, creating) prime territory. Everyone was in good humor, though. We all sort of just laughed it off and hoped that the cyclists would be coming through soon.

At first, the supply cars and medical staff started coming down the road (some arrived 30 minutes ahead of the racers). Eventually, the two leaders zoomed past us. I knew they were coming because I could hear the crowd cheering a quarter mile up the road. Then the rest of the pack came by and in under 60 seconds they were all gone. zoooooom! It was a bit anti-climactic, but I was anticipating that!

One day, I went to see the British Museum. Their ancient civilization collections are incredible. I enjoyed seeing the Rosetta Stone and spotting food references in the ancient Egyptian and Assyrian works. Even the ancients were obsessed with food!

One day, I decided to follow the suggested itinerary of my college roommate, Elah. She loves London and has lived there during law related internships. So, many (although, not all) of her suggested activities revolve around the places where lawyers work. I started my day off at the Inns of Court (essentially where all of the best lawyers have offices). These buildings have beautiful inner courtyards (secret gardens, if you will) right in the heart of London. They are open to the public. You just need to know where to look. While I was walking through one of them, I came across a tethered falcon...strange!

At one point during my wanderings, I realized that I was in a part of London that I had visited way back in 2006 with Laura. We went on a Davinci Code tour of London (based on the then "popular" book/movie). So, I sort of just followed my nose, so to speak, until I found the Knights Templar Church. I remember it being really beautiful, so I was happy to visit it again.

After looking around the church, I made my way back out into the city streets of London. I ended up at Sir John Soane's Museum -- this really eccentric house stuffed with rare artifacts and other trinkets. It's a giant room of curiosities! It even has a crypt! One of the best things about the museum is the staff. They actually have people stationed in every room so you can ask questions and learn more about the collections. Brilliant!

On one of my final days in London, I made my way to Hamstead Heath. Elah described this as one of the most beautiful places she had ever been...a kind of place where you can imagine your favorite British literary characters (such as Elizabeth Bennet or Jarvis Lorry) walking around. And she was right! It truly is a beautiful city park and provides a lovely panoramic view of London's skyline!

After looking down on London from Hamstead Heath, I made my way back down into the city to a really cool neighborhood called Camden Lock. They had all sorts of markets set up here: bazaars, craft markets, food markets etc. The entire neighborhood had this really funky/alternative vibe that I absolutely loved. It's these kinds of neighborhoods that make me want to move to a city like London. Too bad it is the most expensive city in the world!

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