Monday, June 9, 2014

Weekend in London

This entry is coming a bit late, and a couple more will follow, but it's been a busy couple of weeks so cut me some slack, kay?

Way back, on the 26th of May, I finally got around to packing up my room at the Printworks. I had been putting it off for as long as possible, meaning that I finally did pack on the day before I would be leaving for London. So basically I put it off for as long as I could possibly get away with. As anyone who knows me knows, I can't stand packing (or unpacking really).

It was weird going through all of the odds and ends I had collected over the course of the last five months, and deciding whether any of it was worth taking home, things like: museum tickets, magazines, and the incredible number of brochures and visitor guides I had brought back from my travels. I settled for keeping as few of these things as possible, but took pictures of the rest.

That evening, I had a goodbye roast with Jen, Lucy, Welmoed, Laura, Lina and Liv (Simon dropped by during the prep work, but didn't stay for the actual meal...although he did tolerate a hug goodbye). The roast itself was delicious and it was really great that we were able to get together again before I had to leave. I was a bit worried that I might not get the chance to see anyone when I come back through Exeter to actually check out of the Printworks (especially since I won't be sleeping there). It's been a really wonderful term with everyone, and it was sad to say goodbye, but I'm sure we'll keep in touch.

The next morning I left Exter at around 8:30, I slept very little the night before and didn't do much better on the actual trip to London. Worse, when I arrived it was absolutely pouring. By the time I picked up an Oyster card, took the tube to London Bridge, and walked to my hostel from there, I looked a bit like a wet cat. The hostel itself, Destinations at the Rose & Crown (based above the Rose & Crown pub), was lovely. I spent some time drying off in the comfort of my room, before heading out for the evening.

I walked down towards the Thames and dropped by the Globe Theatre to pick up my tickets for the show, before heading to the Tate Modern. Some of the paintings and sculptures were beautiful, particular the Monet (who remains my uncontested favorite artist), but some of them were just weird. There was one in particular that was literally just a mirror (although the philsophical reasoning behind this decision, as noted in the sign's blurb, made it sound like less of a cop-out than it actually was).

I decided to eat at the Swan at the Globe for dinner so that I wouldn't have to worry about running late, it turned out to be a good choice because it was already getting crowded when I eventually made my way into the theatre.

The play was absolutely amazing.

By the time it actually started it was pouring again, to the dismay of those who had purchased standing tickets, but the actors seemed hardly to notice (there were a couple of close calls and slips on the wet edges of the stage, but the actors were pretty well able to disguise these and keep the show on
track). The atmosphere of the Globe certainly seemed more casual, but also more energetic, than the typical thatre. In part, I think, to the fact that it is outdoors/open to the air. During the play people entered and exited as need be, had discussions about the play (and about their own lives), and every now and then the actors interacted with the audience (the actress playing Cleopatra actually kissed one of the audience members on the cheek). The costumes were well-rendered and interesting (particularly, and unsurprising so, Cleopatra's) and were able to clearing distinguish the sensual, passionate world of Egypt, with the more rigid world of Rome.

Cleopatra was certainly the most interesting character, mercurial by nature (plying an unfortunate messenger with promises of gold only to threaten his life moments later, and on their next meeting proclaiming him to be an excellent judge of character) and yet still a beloved and charismatic ruler. Antony and Caesar were also both interesting, and each lacking in different ways. Antony, while a strong leader, seemed unwise and more easily led by Cleopatra than he ought to be and Caesar, while he ultimately triumphs, is ruthless and unbending.

The atmosphere added to my enjoyment of the play. The scent of incense as the play opened lent a sense of the exotic and of authenticity almost, the glitter thrown at the close of the first act seemed to hang suspended in the air, and the music was absolutely perfect. As Antony lay dying the musicians played with so light a touch that I almost didn't notice the sound until it suddenly died, with Antony, and the building tensions dropped away with no warning.

When the play ended, at around 11:30, I made my way back to the hostel. The play was an amazing experience. I've always loved Shakespeare, we used to attend the Shakespeare Festival in Williamsburg in the summers when I was younger, and it was incredible to see a Shakespeare play as it would have been performed when he was alive (in the replica of the theatre in which Antony & Cleopatra is supposed to have opened no less).

The next morning I was up and out of the hostel by nine. I headed directly to the Victoria & Albert Museum. It was absolutely wonderful, and absolutely enormous. It didn't help that you couldn't get a map of the museum without paying for one, so I got turned around several times.

My favorite exhibit was probably the one on fashion, you know how I am about my clothes, followed closely by the scupltures. However, despite these exhibits being my favorites, most breathtaking was the room full of plaster casts of architectural and sculptural wonders. When I walked into the room and saw the plaster cast of the Column of Trajan, I was absolutely awestruck.

Along with these, there were also beautiful paintings, ceramics, jewelry, a couple of ornate harpsichords, and exhibit on architecture (which was particularly interesting when viewed in comparison to the Islamic architectural drawings I had seen in an earlier room). I think I managed to see most of the museum, although i went more quickly than I might have otherwise, and certainly skipped some rooms entirely. Despite my fast pace, I still spent about three hours in the museum.

After I finally left, I found a tapas restaurant in which to have lunch, before walking around the area for a bit. I found a bookstore around the corner and, not so shockingly, spent longer inside than I had intended. About forty minutes later, I finally headed to my next destination, the British Museum.

I was way less systematic than I had been in the Victoria & Albert Museum, and consequently probably saw much less, I think by this point I might have spent a little too much time in museums (they can be really exhausting after a point). However, I still managed to spend about two hours there.

The best part was definitely the pieces of the Parthenon, since I still haven't managed a trip to Greece, despite their suspect ownership (one of the relief plaques noted that the heads of those particularly figures were still intact, but were also still in Greece, so they could be complete if the sections were reunited!). There were also some amazing sculptures, I adore Greco-Roman sculpture in general and it was particularly interesting to see some of the busts that I had studied in class. Another flashback to my art history classes of freshman and sophomore year was the exhibit on Chinese watercolors (a topic on which I remember writing an essay).

Interestingly, I saw very little of the actual British stuff in the British Museums, but the Greek, Roman, Chinese, and Egyptian (hello Rosetta Stone) artifacts were so interesting!

After this I stopped into a Starbucks to take advantage both of their free Wifi and the outlets, for my much exhausted camera, before taking the tube over to the Roundhouse for the Paloma Faith concert.

The concert was also absolutely amazing, so clearly I did really well with my choices for my two day London adventure. King Holiday, who opened the show, was pretty good. The lead singer was an energetic Michael Jackson-esque sort of dancer, and the band in general was a lot of fun. Obviously, however, Paloma Faith was the best part of the show. Not only is she one of the those singers who is equally good, if not better, live than she is on her tracks, but she's pretty funny too.

She opened the show with a few quips at the Evening Standard's expense. Apparently they had quoted her joking comment she had made at the previous evening's show that "all her best songs weren't written by her," but they had taken it seriously. So for this show she instead said,"I am probably the songwriter of my generation," before following the laughter with, "I'm just kind of hoping they'll print it, I'm also the Annie Lennox of our time...that was for the Evening Standard, for everyone else, I'm deeply insecure."

In between songs she talked a bit about her inspirations for the new album, her life, and even about how awesome the rest of her band is and that the only reason she's famous is that she's pushier than they are (so the takeaway is, be pushy?).

She sang some of my favorite songs, both from her old album and the new one, as well as a pretty large number of covers. She prefaced one of these covers with, "I'm good at finding old music that noone's every heard of...I didn't write this one either."

She closed the show with Can't Rely On You, and the energy in the Roundhouse was amazing. It was certainly the best concert I have ever attended, even if I did have to remain standing for the entire four hours I was there, but I am so glad I decided to go.

I finally made my way back to the hostel for my last night in London, the next morning I could look forward the start of my two-week, last hurrah, road trip around the British Isles with my mom and Michael, so there's certainly more excitement to come.

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