The day was January 2nd, 2017. I had just returned home from a holiday excursion the day before, when I remember later that day I am due to fly out of the country again, this time to London. I make sure my bags are packed, and before I knew it I was en route to the airport. Checking in during the car ride down, I expedited the process for when I arrive at the airport. I soon get through security and meet my fellow travel mates for this once in a lifetime journey. Along the flight I try to get some rest, but just as previous times I travelled before, I am unable to so I at least get into a good resting position for my body, and I let my mind enter into a meditative state. Soon enough, we were entering English airspace and I get my first glimpses of the vast city through a side window, as we banked right towards Heathrow airport.
We land, gather our items and depart the plane. A relatively quick flight, but I am surely glad to be back on solid ground. After we pass through Customs and Immigration we gathered our bags in waiting for our ride. It seemed to have been at least 20 to 30 minutes before our bus arrived to bring us into the city. It was quite the journey into London, and the vast country landscapes we passed reminded me of the beautiful Irish countryside I saw earlier in 2016. Soon enough, the presence of city life was all around us. We arrived at our destination, Bedford Place. Just by the name, it sounds very high class. Welcome to London!
A beautiful row of white four story buildings line both sides of the street was the sight we saw after exiting the bus. To escape the cold, we all tried to huddle together inside the building which housed the office that served the flats we were staying in. Once everything was figured out, I found out I’d be staying in a flat with two good classmates and colleagues of mine in the lucky number 17 flat. We were on the basement level, which I actually appreciated: no stairs to climb up late at night. The flat was quite charming. Two full baths, plus a half bath, a large common room with kitchen and dining facilities, plus a spacious bedroom that could fit three people comfortably. All three of us were eager to get out into the city, so we dropped our bags and left in search of whatever we could find.
Walking down streets close to the flats, we found several neat locations: a drug store, souvenir shop, coin collectables, a Scottish/Iris will shop and a very quaint café. Of course walking in London, just like any big city involves crossing streets. We learned very fast to look to the left, as traffic moves opposite to what we are use to here in the states. I mentioned a quaint café was one of the locations we stumbled upon, the name: Syrup and Soot. After the flight and the bus ride, what we mostly wanted to do was just sit down in a local café, have a coffee and a sandwich and simply enjoy the fact that we made it here. And we did! As quite the coffee connoisseurs myself, I ordered a cappuccino, and a ham and cheese sandwich melt. I almost forgot 1) how good the coffee is in Europe and 2) All the ingredients and food, unless otherwise noted, are real wholesome ingredients and food.
We ordered, and went into the rear of the café, daylight beaming in from a frosted over skylight as we sat at a table waiting for our food and caffeine. I was quite surprised by how friendly and welcoming the barista was us-clearly tourists who weren’t form England or Europe. This will be a recurring theme I notice in other encounters on the trip. Not rushing anything, we want to enjoy all of our time here and what London has to offer. Shortly after we begin eating, some locals sat at another table next adjacent to us. They seemed to have been about our age, maybe a bit younger with either their father, or an older mentor of sorts. I love how it’s just a part of life in places like the UK sand Europe to just go to a local café that isn’t Starbucks for an hour or two (or longer in you’re in Paris) and nobody will question it.
Shortly after we finished at the café, we walked back to the flats to unpack a little and decide what we are going to do next. It was like all of London was waiting for us. The verdict: a day of Tubing and exploration. One of the reasons for this decision was so that we could get our Oyster cards right away, and get used to how the subway there works. We look at the map for the closest Underground station; away we go! Holborne was the closest station to the flats, and it is soon to become our home station, where we’ll return to every night. Using the ticket machine for the first time was a bit confusing, even though it was in English, just until I knew how it worked. Surprisingly the machines here in New York are a bit easier because at least the different areas on them for different payments, where you put in your card are color coded. However, once I knew that you tap your oyster card against the large yellow circle, to check its balance for example, it all made sense to me.
Being in the Tube itself was quite the adventure. One of the things we also learned very quickly was that it is imperative that you stand on the right whenever riding escalators. This allows for passengers to be able to walk by you on the left. Also, in order to get to the platform level you need to ride down at least two escalators, walk up and down several small blocks of stairs and wind through passageways to get to your train. The trains also surprised me. Instead of just having long benches to sit on, there are actually individual seats with armrests, as well as foldable seats in standing areas near doorways, and your classic vertical and horizontal poles to grab onto if you are standing. The tracks as well as the interior of the trains are also impeccably clean for a train. Free of litter, it is clear that the people of London like to take good care of the infrastructure that is there to benefit everybody.
Out of the tube, we arrived at Westminster station. We were walking up the stairs to street level, and we see one of the best sights that I caught me completely by surprise. I couldn’t believe it at first, Big Ben standing tall to greet travelers as they exit the station. In New York City, there is a similar view that resembles this exactly, when you are on 34th Street exiting the Subway and the Empire State Building is there to greet you. We spend some time around the park, taking in the grand views of Westminster, and we go into a St. Margaret’s church beside St. Paul’s Cathedral. It is really fascinating to see all of the history on the walls, and to read about famous English people of the past and what parts of their stories were. After we exit we, we head over to the River Thames in a park to overlook the water. The Victoria Tower Gardens gives a relaxing and calm atmosphere in the middle of a fast paced bustling city. There are small art piece installations, as well as place for kids to play too. Since we were right next to a bridge, of course the one of the only proper things to do is go across it.
We walked through the park adjacent to the river in the direction of Lambeth Bridge. We crossed it when we got there. But, we stopped for a few moments in the center of it.
We then continued our walk, and where it might take us. By this time the temperature was dropping towards the freezing mark, and because we were next to the river, it was definitely blustery. The sun was beginning to set and we were ready to start concluding our walk. From doing research, and having a good sense of direction I knew Waterloo station was just up the road a bit. We walk past St. Thomas’ hospital, The Eye, and walk up to a dead end. We weren’t lost because the long roof over the train tracks was right next to us, so I knew we were close. We followed the direction the roof was going in from the streets around the station, and we got to where we were going.
I remember seeing what Waterloo looks like from movies. But, nothing compares to what it actually looks like, even though it is just a long and beautiful train hub. One of my favorite stations in London, it has shops, eateries, coffee stands and a small food market where I picked up some dinner items to have on hand for a late night snack. The plan was to return to the flats, then head back out later for our first dinner in London. Practically Tube experts by now (almost), we hopped onboard to get home, destination: Holborne via the Northern and Central lines.
The time went fast, and our bodies soon warmed up again. The time was approximately 7:30 in the evening and my flatmates had read about a particular British pub that according to reviews and research is one the best in the city. This time, we bundled up extra warm because we decided it would be an adventure to take an evening walk to the pub. There is something special about taking a walk in a foreign city at night. You get to see what it is like with the city all lit up, there is less people on the streets, and you are able to take in everything around you, which otherwise may get left out in the daytime. It was about a 45 minute walk, but it was worth it. Chris was our navigator, taking us through the wide and narrow streets until we got to The Black Friar.
One of the oldest pubs in London, in a building that’s over a hundred years old lies one of the most beautiful places to eat that I had ever been to. The artistry on the walls and ceiling make you feel like you’re drinking and dining in medieval times. The unique thing about this pub is that they produce hard ciders in the same way they were produced hundreds of years ago! I ordered one of the ciders with a cheeseburger and a side of chips and salad. I am not exaggerating when I say that this was one of the best cheeseburgers I had ever eaten in my life. The cheddar sauce oozing down the sides of a juicy fresh burger says it all. The quality of the ingredients in the UK would be one of the reasons why the food is just so tasty there! After a great meal, it was time to walk back to the flat for the night.
It wasn’t raining, but the air was quite humid. You also never know what you might find at night, especially off of weird side streets. Day 1 complete.
It was the morning of January 4th, the first time I awoken in London. It still felt surreal that I was actually here. The first item on the agenda for today was class. After a quick breakfast, I started out on the street in the direction of our classroom meeting. The building actually housed several different universities. In class, we are given one of our first assignments: a West End Scavenger hunt. My fellow flatmates and I decide to get a head start, so we can finish most of it in the afternoon, before our backstage tour at the National Theatre. The location we needed to go to first was Picadilly Circus. I did not realize this was the famous location with the curved LED billboards. It was quite the surprise when I actually realized where I was! We begin looking for items to answer the questions and riddles on the scavenger hunt. Charing Cross road quickly became very familiar to us, as we kept on referring to it to figure out where we needed to go from there.
After making progress on the hunt, we wandered down towards Leciester Square to look for more answers. The day was slowly waning, as our empty stomachs were beginning to get more noticeable. We’re wondering where we should go to eat, and come across this small food place, that looked like it needed a makeover. The others were content on trying something from there, and I didn’t have any other options that weren’t more expensive so we walked in and sit at a table. Even though it was London, this food wasn’t the best at all. At least, there are better places to go to next time. Our tour at the National was going to be starting soon, so we walked to Leceister Square and took the Tube to Waterloo. From there we walked towards a large concrete structure, that could be said to resemble crates of bee hives. At least that is the impression I received when I first saw the building.
The National Theatre building actually houses three theaters, and it is one of the most advanced buildings in the world when it comes to theatre technology. The interior is quite beautiful, and it has a warm and welcoming atmosphere to it. There are cafés, a bookstore, and lounge/sitting areas which add to the ambiance. On the tour, we were able to see 2 out of the 3 theatre spaces, the scene shop, paint shop, as well as some props that were made their for shows. It felt cool being able to go behind the scenes and see where the sets for example are made and painted. After the tour, it was time to see our show! Peter Pan, in the Olivier theatre was brilliant, to say the least. For me as a lighting designer, I loved re-entering the space to see it filled with haze ready for a show.
The next day was our first acting workshop, and what way to begin the day would be better than having a full English breakfast. At least that was what Caleb and I were hungry for. We left the flat with enough time to find a decent place to eat at, and we settled on a nearby chain café which serves breakfast in the morning. Aside from the scrambled eggs being too salty, it was scrumptious! I ordered a cappuccino, and it was a great experience to be among other locals there. Next to us sat a businessman and women, who were out having a coffee meeting. It was interesting being next to foreigners where you can actually understand what they’re saying as well. Caleb and I finish our breakfast, and we leave with just enough time to make it to RADA (The Royal Academy for Dramatic Arts).
On the way to get there, we needed to travel on new streets and pass new sights. My mental map of London was growing, and as we get nearer to our destination, we met up with other fellow travelers in our group who were on their way as well. Our duo, with Caleb and I became an ensemble and we found our way to the acting workshop. It was lead by a prominent English actor who was currently performing at The Globe. Participating in the workshop was fun, and it was cool that I was familiar with some of the activities because I had already taken an acting class a year ago. One of the themes of the workshop, which I think is important to note that is also in relation to theatre, is that when actors forget to do a certain thing, or make a mistake, it will always at least make the show more interesting for the audience to watch.
“After going through this workshop, I realized how much I have grown in terms of my comfortability to try new things” – Jeremy Johnson
Once the workshop was over the sun was shining, and it was time to finish the scavenger hunt from yesterday. We walk in the direction of a main road, where we see the underground station Warren Street. I wondered why there were so many people waiting for lifts to descend to the platforms. I soon realized why. I, as well as the others who I was with opted to take the stairs. There must have been a few hundreds steps we needed to walk down to reach the platforms! Eventually, after a few tube stops and a transfer we were back at Leciester square, trying to figure out where we needed to go next. It was a beautiful day, and I was able to take advantage of it to help with my photography and filming stops too. We venture further past the square, and find ourselves in yet a new part of London we haven’t been to yet: Trafalger Square.
People were watching, children were running around, and small crowds gathered around street performers. The National Gallery and Portrait Gallery sits onto of this square, and it is another major intersection. If you go down one road, you can end up at Westminster, another road will take you to Buckingham Palace, or you can go towards Piccadilly and the theatre district. Here, I was taken in by the beauty in the architecture surrounding me. And the fountains reminded me of those in the Gardens of Versailles. In the center of the square lies a tall monolith with a statue sitting atop. On the top of the stairs next you the National Gallery, looking into the square you can also see Big Ben between the other buildings. As I was taking photos, I lost track of the others. But I knew they were here somewhere. I did some walking around, and sure enough I found them again. The square left quite an impression on me, even more so than Piccadilly Circus. I felt very grounded being here, and it is a great place to come and think, even if there is so much that is going on around you here.
The last item on the agenda for today was seeing another performance at the National. This time, it was the production of Love in the Dorfman theatre. It was the smallest of the three spaces at the National. A neat aspect of the theatre is that it can be configured in any way, to fit the needs of the production. One of the things that struct me about the design for this show is how well it blended in with the audience. In other words, you could’t tell where the “set” began. There was not a clear definition.
The next day, class was held again and afterwards our first museum: The Victoria & Albert. Located in the South Kensington area of London, this museum has a little bit of everything. Beforehand though we took the Tube to the South Kensington station, in search of a place for lunch. Right near the station was a place almost like the British version of Subway. After getting the food, we sat in this plaza near the station. It was neat just relaxing and watching people walk by. Locals, as well as tourists from France were around us. Being in this space, helped me make a better connection to life here, even though we were in an upper scale neighborhood of the city. The atmosphere was very posh, but everybody we saw around us was very polite to one another. Once we all finished, it was time to find the museum.
Usually, I am not much of a museum guy. However, this trip opened me up to how interesting and exciting museums can be. In the Victoria and Albert museum for example, there was a vast variety of rooms and exhibits to explore. One of our first objectives was to go through the theatre exhibit. Theatre has made extensive growth throughout the centuries, and a large majority for that was the impact the English had on theatre. I always found Elizabethan theatre fascinating, and seeing the models for the Rose and the Globe, helped me understand this type of theatre in a better way. I felt very connected to the different items on display as I slowly walked through the exhibit. For this assignment, we also had to visit a room of our choice, as well as another exhibit. The Modern Room was on my list of rooms to check out, and I could not believe the amount of history that could be fit in a room dedicated to the last 100 years! It was amazing to see how far we have come as a society in terms of technology by what was on display! For my exhibit, I walked through: A Brief History of Undress. Unfortunately, no photographs were allowed, but it was very educational walking through history in terms of what people wore under their outer layers of clothes. As the video on modern design for this type of fashion played, I learned about the influences designers have today, and what kind of product they are hoping to produce. There are many factors that influence the design, but I think the most important and what seems to be a continuing theme in design is empowerment towards women. Our time in the museum was ending, and my flatmates had already left a bit earlier. I decided it was time to go.
(In The Modern Room)
The next day began our first weekend in London. Caleb and Chris went out on their excursion earlier in the day. If it wasn’t for today being the last day to do the London Eye before it entered its maintenance period, I would have joined them. Nevertheless, it was the beginning to a great day out in London by myself. Before I head to the Eye, my choice activity, I wander the streets by Waterloo station. I haven’t spent much time south of the Thames, so I figure this is the perfect opportunity. I’m on the hunt for good photographs. I walk by the Old Vic theatre in the northern westerly direction. But after about 30 min of being by myself, in an area that wasn’t as pretty as the other parts of London, a sense of vulnerability began to grow inside me. I still felt pretty safe, but it was time to head back in the direction of Waterloo and the Eye. On my way, I find this nifty photography exhibit on the second floor of Waterloo station, as I was passing through. I had no idea it was up there, but that’s probably because this is the first time I was ever on the second level! I arrive at the Eye, and what a sight to behold!
I decide to buy a fast track ticket, to still get on with as much daylight as possible. Any trip to London would not be complete without going on the Eye. I felt so small walking up to it. Its size is enormous! Even though I felt small when I was next to it on the ground, when I was in the air I felt quite large. This was certainly a great way to see the city. It is like experiencing the beauty in the city, but in a much larger amount all at once. Soon, we were on the descending side of the wheel. I guess it’s true what they say: everything that goes up, must come down. I was definitely able to get some amazing photos while I was up there. As well as one of my self, in clear relation to my friend Big Ben, and the space between us.
As the ride ended, we were in sunset. Day was turing into night, but London was just turning on its lights. I felt the presence of the city all around me, as I walked along the south bank of the river Thames. Tourists all around me, but even though I was one of them, I felt more like a person who has been here before. The night sky rising over the horizon lead to some great photography moments.
With nothing else planned for the day, I found it to be the perfect time to go for some souvenir shopping. My route took me back up towards Trafalger Square, and walking back up in the direction, I felt my connection with the city grow. There was a light mist, and the temperatures were not very cold. Brisk, yes, but not chilly. I was able to find some neat souvenirs to bring back to friends and family in the states, and I took a walk down a road I had not yet ventured upon. Only later did I realize the road I began to walk down would have lead me to Buckingham Palace. Without knowing this at the time, I made a left into St. James park. The London fog was rolling in and I reach the other corner of the park. Without warning, I was approached by someone I didn’t know asking for directions. Unfortunately, I didn’t know where the location they were trying to get to was. I didn’t realize, but I must have looked like a local Londoner, perhaps it was the scarf.
Later that night, my flatmates and I were interested in walking across London Bridge. We were also interested in grabbing something to drink from another local pub. The answer was simple. After exiting the Tube, we walked trough a tunnel and found a local place right by the bridge because of course, most of the time there are pretty cool things when you have to walk through a tunnel in order to get to them. I ordered food, while my friends had a pint and we came into contact with two friendly locals from the area. We introduced ourselves and talked about how we were from New York. The two of them were very interested to hear about what life was like there. Us as well wanted to hear about life in London. For the greater part of an hour and a half we talked about politics and the similarities and differences between the two countries. I was quite surprised how well we all got along with each other, and how much we learned from each other as well. As the conversation was coming to an end and the pub was closing, we weren’t sure but we thought the two guys were asking us if we wanted to go to a gentleman’s club. We weren’t sure if that’s what they were asking, but we told them we were going to walk across the bridge and had other plans. Talking with them, and exploring for a good part of the day made me feel like anything was possible. My confidence in a foreign land was growing!
The following day was another full of more adventures. On the agenda was to visit the Tower Bridge. When I arrived at this location, I felt like this was one of the highlights of the trip, (not that any time wasn’t special). One of the greatest views is of downtown London and the financial district from the center of the bridge. I did not realize how far the journey to this location would take. But, it was worth it. Whenever someone thinks of London, this is the bridge that comes to mind. In my mind, it was a beautiful bridge but it didn’t capture my sense of wonder as other attractions around the city. Nonetheless, I was still very grateful to be there in that moment next to the famed Tower of London. Aside from visiting the bridge, it was a fairly slow day, and I used the time after to work on some of my other assignments so far on this journey.
The next morning was the morning of January 9th. We are about to embark on a trip back in time, to the late 1600s in fact on our way to Stratford Upon Avon. Today was also the day of the transit strike in London. This meant there was very limited Underground trains running, and a massive amount of extra vehicles on the road. Unfortunately, this also delayed our trip by about an hour. But we were patient, and soon we were off to visit Shakespeare.
When we arrived in Stratford, it very much felt like I went back in time. Sure, there was modern technology there, but the architecture of the buildings including older ones gave off the kind of energy that makes you feel like you’re in a special place. After walking through some small Tudor styled roads and ally ways, we met to go into Shakespeare’s birthplace. There were many cute aspects about the town, including the town being known for Shakespeare and being proud of it.
Walking through the house that Shakespeare was born and grew up in felt extra special to someone such as myself, who studies theatre. The wood floors, small doorways, stone fireplaces and ovens, this location was well restored for tourists to come and learn about one of the most famous playwrights. Sure you can visit historic sights and places like this in America, but this place is one of a kind. I could even picture a time, hundreds of years ago with what the town might have looked like when Shakespeare was walking around it.
After spending some time with Shakespeare, we moved on, back into the 21st century to have a backstage tour at the Royal Shakespeare Company. The RSC was one of the most influential places for me on my journey in England. The tour, in my opinion, was actually better than the tour of the National. We saw many of the different departments, including one of the control spaces which the lighting, sound and automation operators are including the stage manager. This was also the first time I was ever in an Elizabethan style theatre. Aside from the interior of the theatre being beautiful, I finally realized how and why Elizabethan style theaters were so important as well as why they were so popular.
The impression the theatre left on me was enormous, and I was so excited to return and see the production of The Rover later that evening. To see the stage, and how close the actors would be to us even from the balcony was new to me. Although, I must say this type of theatre works very well. I was also amazed and fascinated with all of the lighting fixtures around the entire space, which would eventually light it up so intricately.
The next morning, class was held again, and after there was more free time before our show later that night. I spent more time walking around the city, building my photo and video collection of London. I went down more new streets I hadn’t before when I start reflecting on everything that has happened so far. I visited so many places, learned how the supermarkets worked (most of them have only self-checkouts), and I started to think about my place in the city, and my life back home. I was definitely proud of everything I accomplished here.
Later that night, before meeting up with my flatmates prior to the show, I see this unique art installation, which for some reason reminded me of myself a little bit and what I was thinking earlier in the day. It’s colors were changing slowly, and it was continuous-a cycle. It made me think how we’re always changing trying to adapt to our new environment, but at the end of the day we all just come back to how we are our best, by being our self.
Before the show, my flatmates and I decided to eat at this chain Mexican restaurant. The food was so delicious, you wouldn’t have had any idea that this was fast food! My large chicken burrito was enough to keep me full the rest of the night. One of the most interesting things I saw so far on my journey happened after we left for the theatre. We were in the Kings Cross district of London and there were many modern, new buildings around us. The man made landscaping, grass, water features and small shrubbery in the middle of this modern metropolis felt a bit out of place, but I was still intrigued by seeing it. Afterwards, it was time for the show.
Today was a new day, it was already January 11th and we were scheduled to meet our tour director, and event coordinator Patsy for a Shakespeare walk and visit the Globe theatre. I am always up for a great walk, especially when it is educational. As we’re walking through the City of London, I learned a few interesting facts about Shakespeare. One of them being where Shakespeare used to perform in what now is an office building courtyard.
It is also fun to see that the Brits have a similar sense of humor as we do here in the States:
One of the most interesting parts for me of the walk came when we got to Millennium Bridge. The bridge is a pedestrian bridge with a one of a kind design. We used it to arrive on the South Bank close to the Globe. We have made it to our destination! I knew what to expect when I saw the exterior walls of the theatre, however nothing is quite the same until you see it in person. I was blown away when I walked into the space that was constructed as the Globe. The attention to detail, really helps envision that you are an eighteenth century actor performing one of the classic works. Although the stage stands mighty above the ground, the audience is seated very close around it. After being in theatre history class, being here in person helps me understand English theatre and why it is important. I saw how there are three doors to the stage, with the heavens above us, and other parts that make this kind of theatre functional. I have to admit, there was a very special feeling about being on that stage.
It was time for lunch, and we decided to go with London pizza. It is still not the same as New York pizza, but at least all of the ingredients were very fresh. As we ate, the skies opened up to sunlight, which threw a warm glow over St. Paul’s church and the rest of downtown London just across the Thames. Following lunch was our second theatre workshop. The workshop was held by the Globe, and it featured us reading lines and learning how a Shakespearian actor begins his process on working on a show. I have a much better understanding now that I know what it’s like to perform Shakespeare. I also think it’s great how some people decide they want to go into this profession. I don’t believe there’s as much credit as there should be given to actors, especially since they want to convey messages and themes through performance. I felt I did not learn as much as in the first workshop we did, but the experience was quite valuable.
Later that evening, after a pub dinner, it was off to the Haymarket Theatre to see Much Ado About Nothing. Although I say this in my reflection but, if you ever go to London you need to visit the Haymarket. In my opinion, it is one of the most beautiful and aww-inspiring theaters ever built. By seeing such a structure, it makes me think about how important theater is to the culture in London. If theatre was not very important to the people here, than I bet there would not be such grand spaces for it.
Click here for a reflection on Much Ado About Nothing
Our last week in London was almost coming to a close. Today was Thursday, and I was about to learn about and feel a close connection with the British empire. Today was the Tower of London. On previous days, I did not realize how vast the grounds of the Tower were until I actually walked inside. It was easy to feel like a peasant while waling around roads through the almost miniature city. It’s one thing to visit a castle, it’s another to visit a small fortress. It’s hard to think that at one point this was at the heart of the British empire. One of the stories that struck a chord within me was the tale of the two brothers. In the Blood Tower, where many prisoners had been kept over the years, there were two brothers sons of the king at the time who were also placed there on one dreadful day a long time ago. It was well over hundreds of years later when a box was found with two skeletons inside. The dreary atmosphere around the tower lies very present to this very day.
The London rain was falling again when we visited the Museum of London. I’m always the fan of history, and the history of London is quite rich. I walked through various rooms looking for an item that may spark some kind of creative or wondrous response. Sure enough, I found it.
I very much enjoyed walking around the museum, especially when we reached more modern times. There were so many similarities to how life was like here in the U.S. almost from the 20th century forward. It also seemed like the perfect opportunity for a photo. As the weather did not improve for the rest of the day, we decided to call it a night.
It is sad to say that there are only a few days left on our journey in London. One of the biggest events for today, Friday January 13th was visiting the Tate Museum. It’s content held quite the personality but some objects were plain scary. One object that I grew quite fond of was an installation of curved ropes. What drew my curiosity to this is that all of the ropes started out the same, but it reminded me of people. We all start out similar as babies, but then we grow into something unique to us, crafting our own “curves in the rope”.
However, there was a piece of artwork that was on displace that I was not fond of at all. I entered one of the rooms, when all of a sudden I am greeted by a huge spider. I felt very uneasy the first five minutes I sat with it. I kept on thinking that it was actually going to come alive and eat me. Lucky enough, it remained an inanimate object and I’m still here. I came back to it again, after walking through two adjacent rooms. This time, my reactions were less intense, because I was drawn more to the smaller details about the piece.
Lastly in the Tate, there was a huge audio and visual installation that was installed in the lobby area, which expanded past the lobbies. I didn’t realize how big the installation was until I saw it from above. There were also dozens of people, who were trying to observe whether the sound or projections or both. I found it fascinating how so many people were engulfed with their goal to be completely swept up with the art. People were serious about it, as well as people who weren’t. I know when I attempted to experience this, since I don’t have a long attention spent things can get interesting. Most of the people I think, were enjoying the soundscape and light show along with the projections. It was like watching these people, were in an exhibit of itself. Some stayed in one place for a while, but then others got up and started in different entrances to the museum.
After finishing at the Tate, it was time to find a small place to eat, before another show later that night. We settled on Byron’s, another excellent place for a cheeseburger! It was on to the show from there.
It was the last day of the last week for us in London. The main event for today was paying a visit to the Saatchi gallery. This gallery found near the South Kensington area was smaller than the rest, of the museums and galleries, but it had large personality in terms of an art gallery. When I think of the term art gallery, a place like the Saatchi is what comes to mind. I’m not sure if it was the sterile design, or the artwork itself, but most likely it is a combination of both, why it looked and felt like a typical art gallery. One of the lasting impressions, comes from an exhibit on the basement floor. There was a room, completely covered in oil. It was hard to tell where one thing began because it was a near perfect reelection of the ceiling in the “floor” It was definitely mesmerizing to say the least.
To finish the day, we were seeing our last show London. Sad yes, but I was just beginning to think about how this experienced has changed me.
Today was Sunday, January 15. Aside from today being a semi-slow day there was two last additional items on the agenda for today. The first involved a walk through Green Park to visit someone special. My flatmates and I needed to pay a visit to the Queen. No visit without this would be complete of course. As we’re walking through the park, we soon see the iron gates and fence tipped in gold. One of the most majestic sights of all, Buckingham Palace. Home to Queen Elizabeth II we did not see her, but we knew she was there and that was good enough for us. Lastly, to complete the day it was time to visit my friend on Baker Street: Sherlock Holmes. Maybe it is because of the new BBC series, but there are most certainly a lot of fans of Mr. Holmes (I happen to be one of them.) My journey now felt complete, I was able to feel that I was in the presence with such royal characters.
Monday, January 16. The end was drawing near, one last museum we went to was the National Portrait gallery. I must say, I underestimated this gallery. It turns out to be one of the most impressive collections of art depicting portraits to me. One portrait that spoke to me was one of actress Anna Neagle. I learned from the history card that she was the first actress to ever appear on the cover of Life Magazine. The portrait spoke to me in a variety of ways, the first being the colors. The yellow dress against a blue background, really draws the viewer in. Secondly, Anna looks very confident like she is just ready for whatever challenge can be thrown at her. A self-portrait of someone that spoke to me was that of James Barry. James was a painter who was born in Cork in 1741. The multiple levels and layers within this self-portrait are definitely one of the first things which draw my eye to it. His facial expression also looks quite mysterious, I wish I could know more about the context in which he painted him self.
A session of afternoon tea concludes everything we are to do as an ensemble on this journey. I could never have been so proud of myself for everything that I accomplished and learned on this journey. It most certainly was an experience of a lifetime. It is hard to put into words exactly how well studying abroad helps you understand your place in the world. But it does, it also makes you appreciate everything that you have back home. After 2 weeks away, I was ready to get back. I know I will be out and traveling again soon, but this trip will always have a special place in my heart. From being part of the culture in London, to feeling like someone who has adapted to live there is a great accomplishment. I never fully realized how much theatre has affected culture in London, but I now know it’s one of the central focus points around how ideas and topics are talked about and addressed in everyday life. I would definitely go on this trip again. Until next time…