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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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/).