Last Week Adventures

Buckingham Palace and Green Park

Buckingham Palace is the administrative headquarters of the monarch. It has 775 rooms, and hosts many important events and ceremonies. The palace is open to the public to visit some of the rooms when the royal family goes on holiday. George III bought Buckingham House in 1761 for his wife Queen Charlotte to use as a comfortable family home close to St James’s Palace, where many court functions were held. It became known as the Queen’s House. George turned this house into a palace during his reign from 1820 to 1830 spending half a million pounds. During this time a grand marble arch was built. After the fire in 1834 that destroyed Parliament, King William IV offered the palace to Parliament; however, it was declined. Queen Victoria was the first to take residency at the palace.  She and Prince Albert needed to build nurseries and more guest rooms so the marble arch was moved to where it stands today on the east corner of Hyde Park. Over the years, many changes have been made to the palace (royal.gov.uk/TheRoyalResidences/BuckinghamPalace/History.aspx). Unfortunately, I will miss when the palace is open for touring. I enjoyed taking pictures out in front of the palace, nonetheless. It was still neat to see something you always have heard about. The news crews were waiting outside because the royal baby could have been born any time in July since there was no official date announced. I went back July 23rd because the baby announcement was posted. The baby was born July 22nd at 4:24 pm. It was very crowded, but there was lots of excitement.

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Green Park is a beautiful park close to Buckingham Palace. This park was the quietest park I have visited because it was more for people who wanted to sit and read or sunbathe, not have children running around or a group kicking around a soccer ball. Green Park first became a notable place in 1554 when there was a rebellion against Queen Mary I marrying Philip II of Spain. The land was used for hunting and dueling until 1667.  Charles II bought forty more acres that is now known as St. James Park. In more recent years, Green Park was featured in the 1996 non-cartoon version of 101 Dalmatians (royalparks.org.uk/parks/green-park/about-green-park). It was a nice park to walk around in and relax.

Portobello Road Market

One of the most famous markets I had heard about before coming to London is the Portobello Road Market. When I first got on the street, the houses and stores reminded me of what Rainbow Row looks like in Charleston, South Carolina. As I continued to walk down, I saw many clothing, antique, and jewelry places. One of my favorite vendors I got to see was one that had all these interesting knobs that could go on cabinets or doors. I also happened to walk down far enough to see the bookstore that was in the movie Notting Hill.

This market really started during the Victorian Era in the 1850s. Large new residential areas were going up in the area so it was a great way for the shops and stalls to have the well-to-do residence come spend their money. In the 1940s, people known as “rag and bone men” came and sold antiques and more household items. This is when the world famous antiques section started (portobelloroad.co.uk/history/).

The Groundling Experience

I went to the Globe Theatre to attempt to queue for tickets to Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Before, however, I got to look around the Globe and what was featured in the museum.  It really put one in the time period before the play. It talked about how when Shakespeare built the Globe it was in the entertainment district of that time. It was interesting to learn about how the theatre originally was not supposed to be only an open air theatre. The founder, Sam Wanamaker, wanted an indoor playhouse as well. The construction plans are available, and it is under construction in hopes to be done by January. I was shocked that there were, and still are, plans to have an indoor theater to the Globe (shakespearesglobe.com).

After a successful queuing attempt for a ticket to see Macbeth, I got to walk around in the groundling area before the show and get a feel for the theatre. I was expecting something a little bigger, especially in the groundling section. I liked that it was an open-air theatre even though the airplanes that flew over us were a little noisy.  When the play started, I liked how the characters were coming through the crowds. I was right beside the place that they walked up to the stage, so I got an up close view. Lady Macbeth actually came by and personally moved me and weaved through the audience. I was caught off guard, but it was really neat at the same time. At intermission, one of my friends asked me if I recognized anyone in the play. I said one of them looked familiar, but I just thought it was because I had seen so many plays already. She bought a program, and we found out that it was Pippin from the movie Lord of the Rings! I love Lord of the Rings so much that I probably could quote almost the entire movie. Pippin was one of my favorite Hobbits, so it was very exciting throughout the rest of the play. After the show, I asked one of the workers if there was a place that we could meet the actors. She told us that we may have luck at this gate that blocked us from the stage door. Sure enough, within five minutes the first actor was walking out and it was Billy Boyd (Pippin). I got his autograph and a picture with him! The play was wonderful and was made even better after meeting one of my favorite characters from one of my favorite movies.

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Bath Excursion

The entire study abroad group took a day trip to Bath. The first thing we did when we got there was tour the Roman Baths. One of my favorite parts was when you first get there, you walk on the terrace. It has statues of famous Romans and was carved for the opening of the Roman Baths, which was in 1897. The baths had been filled in and built upon. They were not discovered until the late nineteenth century.  After the terrace, one of my favorite parts of the tour was next. We got to see a bath that was called the Sacred Spring. The water temperature is 46°C and rises at the rate of 1,170,000 liters (240,000 gallons) every day. This natural phenomenon has been going on for thousands of years. This bubbly bath is supposed to have healing powers. It is really amazing that the water that flows into this bath is naturally hot and bubbles. Another part I enjoyed was seeing the coins that had been thrown into Sacred Springs. There are over 12,000 Roman coins, making this the largest votive deposit in Britain (romanbaths.co.uk/walkthrough.aspx).  I really enjoyed walking around the baths and learning more about them.

After touring the Roman Baths, we explored Bath. We found cute little shops and street vendors. We also were able to tour one of Jane Austen’s houses. She was not too fond of Bath, but her father loved it so she came there often. One of my favorite parts was dressing up into the clothes worn during the time period. It was lots of fun. Bath is where Jane Austen wrote her first and last books. She revised Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Northanger Abbey at this particular house. In the museum, there were many letters written back and forth between Jane and her sister, Cassandra. They were really close and wrote each other frequently (jane-austens-house-museum.org.uk/index.php).

When we finished the Jane Austen Museum, we went over to Dr. Betty Webb and John Rose’s flat. They had us over for tea and strawberries and cream. It was so kind of them to invite everyone over, and I enjoyed getting to see what a flat looked like. Professor Rodgers surprised me and the other person who also had a July birthday. We had a cake, and everyone sang happy birthday to us. It was really thoughtful and a great way to end the day.

Holland Park

When I went for a run one day, I decided to go through Holland Park for some of it. It is a beautiful park and fun to run through. One of my favorite things was getting to see a peacock! They are just walking around all over the park. Holland Park first opened in 1952. Its name comes from Sir Henry, earl of Holland, who lived as a resident in the Holland House. The park is the former grounds of the Holland House. The house was bombed during WWII, and all that ended up being left was the ground floor. Some of the house was restored and is used today, but the rest of the grounds are used for the public park. The house was one of the first great houses in Kensington (allinlondon.co.uk/holland-park.php). I really enjoyed my run through there, and I will probably go back again in hopes of seeing more peacocks.

Barcelona

For one of the long weekends, a group of us took a trip to Barcelona. It was one of the most beautiful places I have seen. You looked one way and you have these mountains, and when you looked the other there was the ocean. There were constantly street markets, food markets, and music. We relaxed on the beach and walked around the area. One night we were walking back from the beach, and we saw these huge body puppets. Each had his or her own band and did a dance. It was really neat to see this part of the Barcelona culture. I really enjoyed spending time there, but I wish I had had a few more days to go see everything I wanted to see!

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Our final play for Modern Drama that we all read and went to see performed was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. The play won seven 2013 Olivier Awards, and is based on Mark Haddon’s novel in 2003. The play is about a fifteen-year old boy named Christopher who loves mathematics and is on the search for who killed Wellington, the neighbor’s dog. Christopher has a form of autism, and you see the play through his mind and thoughts (theatrepeople.com/shows/the-curious-incident-of-the-dog-in-the-night-time?gclid=COWskcPTxbgCFeXMtAodgAUA2g). When I read and then saw this play, I was not a big fan of it. I did not like the storyline too much. However, I liked parts of it better after watching it because of the high tech set, movement of the actors, and how the props were made and used.

National Portrait Gallery

Claire and I went to the National Portrait Gallery. One of our main motivations was the portrait of James Scott who we were told at the Tower of London got his head chopped off and then had his head sewn back on so a portrait could be painted. When we asked someone working there where it was, they said that the Tower misinforms people about the portrait. There were many paintings done of James Scott, especially since he was the King’s son. She said that there is no painting with his head sewn on after he was beheaded. She took us over and showed us one picture of James Scott that they had. I was really disappointed, but glad to know the true story. I enjoyed seeing the Tudor and Elizabethan portraits. Many of the portraits seemed to be painted by Hans Holbein the Younger. My favorites to see by this artist were the portraits of King Henry VIII, Sir Thomas More, and Catherine Howard. Otherpaintings by other artists that I saw and enjoyed were Queen Mary I, King Edward VI, Richard III, and John Donne.  The National Portrait Gallery was established on December 2, 1856.  The gallery has been moved several times before having its permanent home near Piccadilly Circus. The gallery was originally supposed to be more about history, and less about art. The Duchess of Cambridge became Patron of the National Portrait Gallery in January 2012. In February 2012, the she made her first public visit to the Gallery to view the Lucian Freud Portraits exhibition (npg.org.uk/).

Birthday Week Fun

Walking Through Time

I wanted to learn more about London History and what London was like many years ago. Claire and I decided that in order to expand our knowledge of London’s history we would go to the Museum of London. This museum is a mixture of two earlier museums, the Guildhall Museum (founded in 1826) and the London Museum (founded in 1912).  They merged after WWII, and the new Museum of London was opened in 1976. The Guildhall Museum had mainly focused on archeology, and the Museum of London had focused on modern pieces, paintings, and costumes from various time periods (museumoflondon.org.uk/Corporate/About-us/History-of-the-Museum.htm). When Claire and I visited, we got to see things from prehistoric times all the way to last year’s Olympics, which was hosted by the city of London. I knew much about the medieval times and the Black Death, but I did not remember what I had learned in high school about Roman influence in London. In this museum, I was able to see ceramic pieces, coins that were made, maps of how the city was designed, and the plumbing and irrigation system that was lost during the medieval time period. It is amazing to see artifacts from a time period that was so long ago. Another part I enjoyed learning about was the dress for certain decades. As we were getting closer to the end of our self-guided tour, we entered an area that had clothing and little extra things that represented that certain decade. It was interesting to walk around and look at what was being worn and what was the hot item during that decade. At the end of that exhibit was the Olympic Games wear. They had a diving swimsuit from team Great Britain, one of the Olympic torches, and some of the costumes that were used in the opening ceremony.  I really enjoyed learning more about London’s past, which helps me to better understand why things are the way they are today. 

One Man Two Guvnors

My professors recommended that if we wanted something light and humorous to go and watch one night, then we should go and try and see One Man Two Guvnors. This show is a type of comedy called commedia dell’arte. This means comedy through the art of improvisation (nationaltheatre.org.uk/sites/all/libraries/files/documents/One%20Man%20Two%20Guvnors_background_pack.pdf). Before going, I read up on what I was about to see. This play opened at the National Theatre before moving to the Theatre Royal Haymarket. It is an award winning play, and toured around the UK this year. It contains slap-stick comedy and songs throughout the play. During the play, Francis Henshall is employed to Roscoe Crabbe and Stanley Stubbers. But Roscoe is really Rachel, posing as her own dead brother who was killed by Stanley, her boyfriend. Francis spots the chance of an extra meal ticket and takes a job with one Stanley. He has to prevent everyone from discovering that he has two guvnors, but it becomes harder than he thought (onemantwoguvnors.com/the-show-haymarket/). This play was hilarious! I laughed so hard that I was crying. It was great to be a part of such a wonderful and unique show.

The Amen Corner

For my Modern Drama class’s third play, we read and went to see The Amen Corner. This James Baldwin play was produced at the National Theatre. This play was written by James Baldwin in 1965. It is about a female pastor, Sister Margaret, attempting to keep her personal life and problems in control while trying to keep the church members from overthrowing her. She seems to be doing a good job until her husband, Luke, appears after she had not seen him in ten years and causes much talk within the church. Her son, David, also starts to act out and draw further and further away from the church and believing in God (nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/the-amen-corner). The Amen Corner did a wonderful job with the gospel choir, the set, and with the lighting. My favorite part of the play was the set, even though it never changed or moved. It was so intriguing how they had actors moving and doing things through the windows of the set. For me, it represented David’s reaching away from God and the safety of his home into the outside world, and reminds us that God and people are always watching you and waiting for you to make a slip, like Margaret did. 

“Never Give In!”

The Churchill War Rooms is one of the best museums I have visited in London.  It was very interactive, and you actually got go underground and view what it was like during WWII having to live and work underground. There was also a museum portion that told about Churchill’s entire life. Winston Churchill was born in 1874. He attended the Royal Military College. Churchill gained fame before WWII when he was able to escape a Boer prison camp. He was made a national hero and elected to the House of Commons where he served for sixty years. Churchill’s great speeches in Parliament led him to getting the position as Prime Minister during the war. He worked very closely with President Franklin Roosevelt during WWII. He died on January 24, 1965 after he battled for a while with many health problems (several heart attacks and strokes). Queen Elizabeth declared that his body should lie for three days in the Palace of Westminster and a funeral service was held a St. Paul’s Cathedral. His body was carried many places in the UK, and his funeral was the largest assemblage of statesmen until Pope John Paul II’s funeral in 2005 (winstonchurchill.org/). I did not know much about Churchill before going to this museum and reading more about his life online; I just knew about what he did during WWII and some of his quotes such as “Never give in.” One interesting fact I learned about Churchill during WWII that I did not know was that he went on top of the war rooms to sit and watch the bombing or blitz. The museum made it very clear that throughout his life he enjoyed war, confrontation, and taking risks.

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A Literary Legend

London has been home to many famous artists, musicians, actors, and writers.  I had the wonderful opportunity to see one of my favorite writer’s home, Charles Dickens. This particular house on 48 Doughty Street is the only London house that has survived over the years. Dickens lived here from 1837 to 1839, and wrote Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby living here. This museum has more than 100,000 items of his that include manuscripts, paintings, and rare editions of his work (dickensmuseum.com/). I enjoyed going through his home and seeing how his home looked when he lived there. It really gave me a feel for his personality and the time period he lived in. I also appreciated how the items of his and his family members were placed throughout the house.

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Westminster Abbey

Going to Westminster Abbey was one of the things at the top of my list to do while in London. I have always wanted to see the various kings and queens buried there, as well as the famous poet’s corner. However, I did not know much else about Westminster until researching its history and touring it. Westminster has been the coronation church since 1066 and seventeen monarchs are laid to rest there. The present church was started by Henry III in 1245. During the WWII bombing, many of the treasures were removed so they would not be destroyed such as the 13th century altarpiece, manuscripts, statues, and the gates of the Lady Chapel. One very important piece that was saved was the bronze grille from Henry VII’s tomb. Boards were put on the stain glass, but the bombing still destroyed much of it. The sandbags around the tombs were very good at protecting the tombs (westminster-abbey.org/). It is amazing to see how many people are laid to rest in the Abbey. The architecture is also absolutely beautiful.  The audio guide was very informative and easy to follow. I really enjoyed learning more about Westminster.

National Gallery

The National Gallery is a museum where some of the most renowned work is on display. There are over 2,300 paintings currently on display. Many events and activities are available at the gallery. At the National Gallery, you can take a painting class, go see the painting of the month, listen to live music throughout the week, and go to many special events that are going on during the week.  The gallery is free and is governed by the Museum and Galleries Act 1992, under which it has charitable status (nationalgallery.org.uk/). There were several paintings here that I had studied in high school that I was excited to see. One of my favorite ones that I was very excited to see was “The Arnolfini Portrait” by Jan van Eyck. I really like this painting because of my favorite hidden detail that many people do no catch until they read about it. In the background, there is a tiny mirror with the reflection of two additional people—that of the woman in green and the man beside her. I think that makes the painting so outstanding. Some other pieces that I was really excited to see were Rembrandt’s self-portrait at age 34, Botticelli’s “Venus and Mars,” the Leonardo da Vinci Panels from the Francesco Altarpiece, Raphael’s “Portrait of a Young Man,” and DegHilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas’s “Ballet Dancers.” There were so many beautiful pieces of art work there, and it was really neat to see the works of the artists I have studied and heard about before.

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Horse Guards Parade

When walking around London, I just so happened to walk up to what I later found out was called the Horse Guards Parade. It happens on the eastern side of St. James’s Park where Whitewall Palace stood, and is part of the changing of the guard ceremony.  The purpose of the guards is to defend the Queen. The two regiments are the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals. The Life Guards have red coats and the Blues and Royals have blue coats. The most famous event to take place on Horse Guards Parade is Trooping the Colour. This always falls on the Queen’s official birthday. It first took place in 1755 and has been a regular event since 1805 (londondrum.com/cityguide/horse-guards-parade.php). The Trooping of the Colour is when the flags are brought down by the ranks of soldiers (royal.gov.uk/royaleventsandceremonies/troopingthecolour/troopingthecolour.aspx). I really enjoyed seeing this ceremony. It was something different, and I did not realize that there was more than one part to the changing of the guard.  The precision of the ceremony is very interesting and reflects the rich tradition of London and the monarchy.  It was almost like a step back in time for me as I watched the proceedings and gained a deeper appreciation of the British traditions like this.

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Windsor

Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. It has been around for one thousand  years, and is the official residence of Queen Elizabeth. It covers about thirteen acres total. Here you can see the State Rooms, Queen Mary’s Doll House, and various royal family members buried there. The state rooms are furnished with items from the Royal Collection. The Changing of the Guard happens at Windsor Castle as well (windsor.gov.uk/things-to-do/windsor-castle-p43983). This castle was everything you would imagine a castle to be. I could not get enough pictures, and I felt they could not do the beauty of the castle justice.  I loved looking at Queen Mary’s Doll House that almost took up the entire room. The detailing of the doll house was above and beyond any I had ever seen. One of the neatest things that have happened was an incident with one of the Life Guards. I had grown up laughing at the I Love Lucy episode where Lucy tries to make the guard at Buckingham Palace change facial expressions or smile. Well, at Windsor, I was able to take a picture with one of the guards. He looked overwhelmed by the many rude tourists trying to take photos with him. When I went up, after I said thank you, unlike anyone else, he nodded slightly. I was so shocked! Then I told him it was my birthday (for my birthday I took a bus a tour to Windsor, Stonehenge, and Oxford).  When I told him that he made a quick smile that only lasted as long as a blink of the eye. I was so shocked and excited that happened! It absolutely made my day. I also appreciated being in a place that my Grandma had talked about so much when London was ever brought up. In 1992 a fire broke out and burned some of the castle. People that we know were a part of the restoration team and gave my Grandma a piece of the curtains that were burned. It was awesome to get to go and see the castle I had heard so much about. 

The village of Windsor was very quaint. It fit in very well with the castle. There were many shops and restaurants all around. Since the castle is there, it was very busy. However, it did a good job with the buildings and keeping the overall feel of the area to go with the beauty and elegance of the castle. To keep a traditional aspect to Windsor, an arts, crafts, and antiques fair runs the first Sunday of every month. There is also a Windsor Wheel that is a similar concept to the London Eye. It is located in Alexandra Garden (royal-windsor.com/events.htm). I really loved the overall atmosphere in Windsor, and I enjoyed walking around. I wish I had more time!

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Stonehenge

 I have always wanted to see Stonehenge. I feel like it is one of the wonders of the world. Stonehenge first started to be built about 5,000 years ago and completed 3,500 years ago. The stones were carried and brought from hundreds and hundreds of miles. The stones can be used as a calendar because of how the sun hits them and moves from stone to stone each month. There was also a ceremonial reason for the stones being place the way they were. In recent years, the mounds around the area were found to be graves. During a dig, they found a skeleton and gold item under the mounds. Not all of them contain bodies, but a large amount do (tour guide and stonehenge.co.uk). Even though it was a smaller area and could be done in fifteen minutes, I am proud to say that I have seen Stonehenge.

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Oxford

One of the many things I was looking forward to do in London was going to the college town of Oxford, especially getting a t-shirt. I did not know much about the town itself until reading up on it and walking around. There were so many bikes when walking around, but I realized that riding bikes is a strong tradition that they try and keep up. There are also many bike tours because of this. Oxford is not just one big school; it has many campuses and specialty schools. There are over twenty campuses that are a part of Oxford. One interesting monument that I saw while touring was Martyrs’ Memorial. It was built in 1843 and dedicated to the “To the Glory of God, and in grateful commemoration of His servants, Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, Prelates of the Church of England, who near this spot yielded their bodies to be burned, bearing witness to the sacred truths which they had affirmed and maintained against the errors of the Church of Rome, and rejoicing that to them it was given not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for His sake; this monument was erected by public subscription in the year of our Lord God, MDCCCXLI.” Another neat thing I saw was Blackwell’s Bookstore. It has the largest room devoted to book sales in all of Europe (oxfordcityguide.com/ee2/index.php?/OCG/). One cool thing I got to do before I left was get a picture at the college that former Prime Minister Tony Bair attended. I also saw two recent graduates and got a picture taken with them. Overall it was a great town to walk around and see.

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Week Two Adventures

Parliament

On our first Saturday in London, we all went to tour Parliament as a group. I knew a little about Parliament from talking about it in school, but I was eager to learn more. Our guide was very informative and able to answer all our questions. One interesting fact I learned from him was that during the blitz of WWII (where the Germans bombed London for a long period of time), Parliament was one of the most targeted places. They were able to put out most of the fires that were caused from the bombing, with the exception of one night. This one night several fire bombs were dropped on Parliament. They had to make a decision on what to focus on first when putting out the fire. It was decided that the Great Hall would be saved from destruction. The other parts that were destroyed were rebuilt later. The guide told us that most of the rebuilding was built like the original to the best of their ability. Another fact that I found interesting was that as you go through the rooms from where Queen Elizabeth gets ready to address Parliament to where the House of Lords meets to where the House of Commons meets,  the rooms get less extravagant and more simplistic. The room where the House of Lords meets and the rooms Queen Elizabeth goes in have many paintings, gold accents, and have red seats. In the room where the House of Commons meet, there is not much detailing on the walls and ceiling and they have green seats. We went through many rooms and learned much about tradition and the workings of Parliament.   

After visiting Parliament, I wanted to research more information that I may have missed or did not completely grasp. I learned that there were many other fires that took their toll on this palace. One of the biggest fires besides the one during WWII was one that happened in 1828. Many architects kept warning that precautions needed to be put in place because of the fact most of the palace was built from timber, and fires had happened before. No one took these precautions seriously, and two stoves ended up setting the paneling in the Lords Chamber on fire.  The Great Hall was the only part they were able to save, and the wind saved the Jewel Tower from being set ablaze (parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/building/palace/estatehistory/). Another thing I learned when researching more about Parliament is that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor are part of the House of Commons. I had thought they were part of the House of Lords. I learned that the Commons are solely responsible for making decisions on financial bills, and the Lords cannot block or amend their decisions (parliament.uk/about/how/role/system/). When going on the tour, it was not made clear what the Lords can or cannot block from the Commons. On the tour I did learn that these houses work as a two-chamber system, which does a good job of keeping checks and balances on one another. I was surprised to hear how well these two work together.

Kensington Palace

The first royal home I visited on the trip was Kensington Palace. As I knew before going to tour, it is the current home of Prince William and Princess Kate.  I did not know prior to the tour what royalty resided in the palace in the past. Queen Victoria lived in in Kensington Palace with her husband Prince Albert. The tour taught us about their life together through Victoria’s diary entries. She was born in Kensington Palace and became Queen Victoria at the young  age of eighteen. Queen Victoria is the only other Queen to have a Diamond Jubilee. In three more years, Queen Elizabeth will have been in power longer than Queen Victoria. Queen Victoria was very much in love with her husband, and when he died she wore black the rest of her life.  The tour was self-guided but very informative.

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St. Paul’s Cathedral

For our first Sunday in London, we went to a service at St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was first built in 604, and has had to be rebuilt several times due to fires. Many notable and important things have happened at this cathedral.  Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee at St. Paul’s in 1897. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached at St. Paul’s in 1964 on his way to accept the Nobel Peace Prize.  In 1965, Winston Churchill’s funeral service took place in St. Paul’s. The Queen celebrated her 80th birthday at St. Paul’s Cathedral as well (stpauls.co.uk/Cathedral-History/Cathedral-History). When I first walked into the cathedral, my breath was taken away. It was absolutely beautiful. All the detail and artwork was amazing. One of my favorite things about the service was how they welcomed and prayed for everyone. They were open to everyone who wanted to be a part of their service and worship God with them. I was shocked that they let everyone take communion. Many places will not let you unless you have been baptized at that church or are a certain religion. This was the first time I did not dip bread into the cup, and I drank from a cup someone else has taken a sip from. I really enjoyed the service’s message and listening to the choir.

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Speakers’ Corner and Hyde Park

After visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral, we went to Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park. Every Sunday people can go to this corner and express their opinions on whatever they wish. Speakers’ Corner came about during the Victorian Era in Britain, when people were struggling for their civil liberties to be protected and respected. The government tried to shut down the gatherings, but in 1872 Parliament granted the Park Authorities the right to permit public meetings and Speakers’ Corner (speakerscornertrust.org/library/about-free-speech/a-brief-history-of-londons-speakers-corner/).  When we were at Speakers’ Corner, we heard this one man talking about how certain groups are targeted, but they have become content in the world so they have not stood up against it. He continued on to talk about how Obama is a worse president than Bush was, and he is a puppet for the Democratic Party. He said that Obama does nothing for his race. He also mentioned how we idolize celebrities who do nothing to help people. He used Paris Hilton as an example. He said that if Paris Hilton sneezed, we would try and sell her tissue on the Internet. I found what he said to be very interesting and thought- provoking.  Next to this person was an older man who was talking about the Quran. He kept reading this one line that had addressed wife beating. He was arguing with a listener about how the Quran supports wife beating. The man kept telling him that it is not true, but the speaker continued to talk over him and interrupt what he was saying.  I really appreciated being able to see this tradition take place because I think it is important to have a nonviolent place and way to speak your opinions, even when they are diametrically opposed to the majority.  

We spent about an hour listening to men speak their minds and then decided to walk back home through Hyde Park. The park was acquired by Henry VIII from Westminster Abby. It was a private park (or open to only a select few not in the royal family) until Charles I made it open to the general public. In 1665, people camped in the park in hopes of escaping the plague. In 1977, Queen Elizabeth II had her Silver Jubilee exhibition in honor of her 25 years on the thrown (royalparks.org.uk/parks/hyde_park/history.cfm). Hyde Park has been an important park to many royals, the general public, and for holding national celebrations. Besides Speakers’ Corner, one of my favorite things about the park was the beautiful lake that people were paddle boating on, taking boat tours, or simply sticking their feet in the water. It was nice to walk through and see people lying in the grass, walking their dogs, riding horses, or having an outing with their kids.

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WICKED!

Some of my friends wanted to go see the musical Wicked. I have always wanted to see it, but I have never gotten the chance. I decided now would be a great time. It was showing at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. The Apollo Victoria Theatre opened in 1929 as the “state-of-the-art cinema” to provide accommodations for the increasing popularity of “talking pictures.”  However, in 1975 the theatre was closed and reopened as the New Victoria Theatre focusing more on musical based shows and performances (apollovictoriatheatre.org/).  The musical Wicked is about how the good witch and the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz get their start, and it goes through what was actually going on before, during, and after Dorothy was in Oz. I really enjoyed this musical. The costumes, choreography, and actors were great! I was entertained the entire time. The actors had great voices, and they did a great job of casting for each part. I enjoyed the musical so much I wish I could go back and see it again!

Strange Interlude

In my Modern Drama class, we read Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude. It was a long play to read, and it originally took eight hours to perform. We went to see it as a class at the National Theatre. There it only took about three hours and a half.  My favorite part of the play was the set. For the first few acts, the set would spin to a different setting and place. When those could no longer be used, they pulled it out and moved in other interesting pieces to set scenes. The set changes were carried out very smoothly.  I was very impressed. My favorite scene change was when they brought the yacht in. I was wondering the entire time how they were going to do that scene where they are all on the yacht.  The transition and the design of the yacht were perfect. The National Theatre is showing four plays right now. I have seen two of the four, Children of the Sun and Strange Interlude, and will soon see a third there. I thoroughly enjoyed both of the plays I have seen at the National Theatre, and I look forward to seeing another one very soon.

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

On the fourth of July, a few of us decided to go to the famous Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub. This pub has been around for a long time. On the outside, it lists the fifteen monarchs that it has survived. Many visitors’ books were kept to keep track of any famous guest that would come in for a drink. Some of them included Charles Dickens, James Boswell, and Voltaire. An interesting famous guest was a parrot that would come and entertain people. The parrot did this for forty years, and when it died it was announced on BBC news! It even appeared in some newspapers worldwide (pubs.com/main_site/pub_details.php?pub_id=154#). I thought it was fun to be in a place that had been around so long and had many famous guests. The food was pretty good, and I enjoyed the atmosphere.

Match Point and the Final Bow

Wimbledon Awaits!

After a rainy tea, the next day the weather was still overcast with some precipitation. A group of us decided that it might be good to queue for Wimbledon due to the weather.  I have always loved watching Wimbledon at home, so I was so excited to possibly get to experience it.  Wimbledon started in 1877. It is the oldest tennis tournament in the world. It is named after the area where it is held. The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club started the Wimbledon tournament, and the first title was won by Spencer Gore (tennis.sporting99.com/wimbledon/history). We got on the tube that took us straight to where we could get on the bus to go queue. When we were walking through the queue, there was no one lined up until we got to where we could see the gate. Shortly after we got in place though, the line started to get extremely long. The people giving us our queue number said we came at a great time.  After only waiting an hour we were able to get ground tickets (courts 4-19). We saw many women’s singles and doubles matches only several feet away! We got to see David Ferrer on the big screen playing on center court. The gift shop was a stop we had to make, and we got t-shirts and some other little gifts. One of my favorite parts of our time at Wimbledon was getting the autograph of the current number 19 in the world women’s singles tennis player, Dominika Cibulková. I thought it was really nice that they had an autograph area so people could meet the players who had matches that day.  I have always wanted to go to Wimbledon, so it was a dream come true.

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The National Theatre

In the Modern Drama class I am taking, we have four required plays to read and go see. On one of the first days we were here, we went to the National Theatre to see Maxim Gorky’s Children of the Sun. The play is set during the time of the Russian Revolution, around 1905. The play was dark and humorous. I really enjoyed reading the play and then going to see it. I love plays, but I have never gone with a class, or analyzed on the level I have to do for this class. It is a great learning experience, and I have started to appreciate more aspects than I have before.  After seeing such a wonderful play, I wanted to know more about the National Theatre itself. I discovered that it has been open for about fifty years. For its first thirteen years, the Company worked at the Old Vic Theatre while waiting for the permanent building to be finished. In 1976, the Queen opened the National Theatre where it stands today on the South Bank.

The Tower and Tea

Off with Their Head!

The Tower of London was such an interesting place. It was much better than what I expected. Before going to the Tower of London, I knew that it was a place where traitors were taken to get their heads chopped off. I knew that some royals who were overthrown were killed there, as well as Sir Walter Raleigh. I also knew the superstition of clipping the birds’ wings so they cannot leave because that would cause the Tower and kingdom to fall. Before visiting the Tower, I looked online to learn more about its history. One interesting fact that I learned is that Prince Edward at age twelve and his younger brother Richard were imprisoned by their uncle who later became Richard III. They were never seen again. In 1930, two bodies were found buried under a staircase. It was concluded that the bodies were most likely theirs (history.co/uk). Another interesting fact I learned was that during WWII, the moat was used to grow fruits and vegetables (history.co/uk).   I divided up this long paragraph into shorter divisions.

When visiting the Tower of London, I learned more about the torture the prisoners went through, how some paid to go to prison there, the labor they had to undergo, and how seeing heads chopped off was a popular “show” for many citizens. At the beginning of visiting the Tower, the guide told about the Duke James Scott and his execution. He had attempted to overthrow his uncle because he felt that he was supposed to be the rightful king. He ended up being captured and his head was chopped off. After the execution, however, they realized that there was no portrait of James Scott. This was a problem so the artist sewed his head back on his body and painted the portrait. I was surprised that they cared to paint a portrait of someone who was seen as a traitor and was executed.  It really was a surprising but neat story! The guide told many other interesting situations and facts that happened in the Tower of London, but that to me was the most interesting.

When we were finished with the guided tour, we decided to tour the White Tower. One of my favorite parts was learning about the last prisoner executed. The last person executed was a German spy who was caught after he landed in 1941.  His name was Josef Jakobs.  I did not realize that executions were still going on in the 1900s, let alone during WWII! Jakobs had to be sat in a chair (I think I read on the blurb due to his height) so he could be shot at point blank range. On display were the chair he sat in and the gun that killed him. The White Tower showed many displays on dress during that time, and in the tower, weapons used, armor, and much more that was used during the Tower’s heyday.

The Tower of London is the keeper of the Crown Jewels. Seeing the jewels on display was breathtaking.  Everything was so elaborate that it looked fake! Even though I could see all the jewels and gold, it was hard to believe what I was looking at was real. I thought about what if the Queen or a royal wanted to wear an ancestor’s past crown, or have their sword, or use some of their jewels, then could they could just take it off display to wear it? It was a really unique and special display to be able to see. I really enjoyed the Tower of London. I appreciate learning more about London’s history, and the Tower was a big part of it.

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When in London…Drink Tea

The day after the Tower of London, three of us decided we wanted to jump right into participating in British norms. So, we decided that afternoon tea would be something to experience in London. One place that was recommended to us was a place called the Orangery.  This place is specifically for tea and the treats that come along with it. The neatest part is that it was in Prince William and Princess Kate’s backyard! I did not know much about how the tea time in London works until Professor Rodgers enlightened us. High tea is a tea that is for the average person. It is more affordable, therefore it is for the normal working class person. Afternoon tea is for I guess you could say “richer” society. We wanted the whole tea experience for our first tea time in London, so we went for the afternoon tea. It was so wonderful! I have never really sat down and had hot tea before, and the treats and sandwiches were a wonderful touch! The serving plates and the tea cups were very elegant. We were in Kensington Garden just sitting outside watching the people and looking at the beautiful surroundings.  It was nice to take time out of our day to relax. I have noticed walking into the parks and gardens that people come to take a break and to just get outside and relax. I think it is so great, and I wish it was done more in the United States. While we were drinking our tea, it started to rain. We were alarmed, but no one moved! They continued to sit outside to drink their tea. So I learned no matter the weather, afternoon tea will not be affected. After my experience at the Orangery, I wanted to know the original purpose of this building.  I learned that in 1704, the Orangery was built for Queen Mary’s younger sister, Anne. She used it for parties and entertaining (royalparks.org.uk). I thought it was very interesting that they now use this place to serve afternoon tea.

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London Calling!

Seeing London for the first time is one of the most magical things I have ever taken in. I sat there on the tube just looking out at the houses every chance I got. Surprisingly, it was exactly how I had imagined it. I loved how everything had that old, classic look to it no matter new or old. Being out of the country for the first time was an exciting feeling.  That feeling of excitement continued to escalate throughout my first adventures of my study abroad experience. While taking in being in London, listening to British accents, and experiencing my first tube ride, I seemed to have a few problems with getting off the tube along with the group at our first change over. I was trying to help a kid with his suitcase and by the time I made it to the exit the doors closed right in front of my face.  One of the professors attempted to pry the doors open with no success. To my surprise instead of freaking out, I started laughing. I was not stressed, I actually was okay. That may have something to do with the fact that another professor was left with me on the tube. We got on another one and within a few minutes were back with the group. I could tell after that my trip was going to be more adventurous than I thought. After we settled in at the college, we took a double decker bus tour. One of the top things on my list was to sit at the top of a double decker bus and enjoy the sites. It was so much fun. I learned so much about London, and it helped me get an idea of where all the sites we would be going to were. My absolute favorite part of the tour was when we got to see Big Ben, or the structure with Big Ben in it, from across the Thames River. It was one of the most amazing views. After being on the tour and taking in the sights, I felt like navigating London was going to be natural for me to do.Image