Optimistically Cautious

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Europe Day 3: London

Before separating from my friends to meet up with my relatives for dim sum and sightseeing, we were treated to a Jesmond "full English breakfast," included in our nightly fee. When compared with a meal of Muslix and toast at our final London hotel, or even the Contiki breakfasts, the hot, made-to-order plate of beans, eggs, sausage and bacon, supplemented with fresh fruit, toast, coffee and juice spoiled us dearly early on in our trip.

Imagine waking up to this every day (calories notwithstanding)

As I had some time to kill before needing to head to Chinatown, I returned to the nearby British Museum for another spin. Turns out I had (oops) missed the Rosetta Stone my first time, among other things. Due to the car bomb incident in Glasgow the day before, there were police randomly checking bags at the entrance, a measure of heightened security not present during my last visit.

I'm not sure what it was besides nasty coincidence, but it was uncanny that the days that I spent with my relatives were never entirely free of rain. So much so that my cousin May started jokingly blaming the wet weather on me. This day was no different.

On one of the few Chinatown streets in London

After lunch, we headed in the direction of the London Eye, snapping pictures, briefly admiring the buskers on the South Bank, and stopping in the Namco Station arcade in County Hall to (surprise, surprise) get out of the rain.

With the London Eye

We walked past Big Ben, and stopped for a coffee break in a pub en route to Westminster Abbey. I am not immune to blame, as I should have been able to recognize the famous landmark, but we couldn't locate it. When we stopped for directions, the gentleman pointed, almost laughingly, to the "big white building" we couldn't miss. Shame. (It still boggles my mind how many Kodak landmarks are within walking distance of each other.)

Big Ben

Coffee (never liked beer, probably never will) in a pub with Cousin Kelly

Westminster Abbey

Here, I met up with the girls, and we Tubed to the Globe Theatre, arriving with quite a bit of time to spare before our 6:30pm curtain. As seems custom by now, we spent the free time before our play in a museum.

Tate Modern is an amazing space, a gallery of (post)modern art built out of a former power station. The exhibit we visited was called Global Cities and focused on the sustainability of large population centres. Even more than the prints, photography, sculpture and multimedia displayed, I was floored by the exposed scaffolding used to make up the two levels of the exhibition - a visual representation of density and differing perspectives, and an effective use of a stark metal jungle to signify the underbelly of growth.

Global Cities exhibit

May, Annie and Janice at Tate Modern

The Millenium Bridge and me

After a frugal dinner consisting of Tesco sandwiches and juice by the Millenium Bridge, we walked to the Globe Theatre and readied ourselves for a few hours of groundling toil. We had purchased the five quid cheap tickets, meaning we would be standing for the duration of the play at the foot of the stage. In the end, though I should have worn a different pair of shoes (my ankles were crying after three hours), it was pretty cool to watch Love's Labour's Lost from where we did. As most people know, I just don't have an inbred love of Shakespeare most English teachers are born with. But to see it on stage, illuminated in speech (thus noticing the poetry of iambic pentameter), direction (the scene involving column hide and seek was hilarious), and use of vulgar visual gags (the age-old horn prop) made me fully appreciate Shakespeare for the master that he was. And darn it if casting Trystan Gravelle as Berowne didn't help his case.

The Globe Theatre at nightfall

The stage

The girls with Henry and his beary friends

I did pick up a program (I don't know if I will ever get used to having to pay for playbills), and successfully avoided buying the too clever "Out, damned spot! Out, I say!" handkerchiefs and 50p felt strawberries "from" Othello.

We took our time getting back to the hotel, but had we known the long day that was to come, perhaps we would better prepared ourselves with a good night's rest.

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