Shoreditch, London – The first two business days of Week Three have been quite adventurous. It all began with a bucket, a workman, and a lightbulb. I had been dreaming about driving down K-7 just north of Leavenworth when there was a great clamour outside my room. Realising it was rather too light outside considering that my alarm was set for 8.20, I grabbed my watch from the nightstand where it sleeps to discover with my immense horror that it was in fact 11.45! Jumping out of bed (with kangaroo agility), I headed for my desk, finding my phone/alarm clock in its daytime home of a trouser pocket. Then, I ran out of my room, and after a quick wash up and dressing, rushed out the door to the tube station.
Despite my hurry, the journey was one of bemusement and horror. After transferring to the Piccadilly Line at King’s Cross (class was meeting at the Victoria & Albert), I was joined by a couple from Philadelphia who had just gotten off the train from Paris. The husband kept making a basic American tourist mistake, asking “How do I get to Lie-chester Square?” After 5 Londoners corrected his butchering of “Leicester” I gave it a shot, saying the name of the centre of the West End in my best Chicagoan accent. His response was not, “O, thanks!” but “You’re American!” “Yeah, I’m from Chicago.” I replied. “Ya know, as in the 2010 Stanley Cup Champions? Game 6, Overtime Patrick Kane goal in Philly?” -Luckily he and his wife got off at Leicester Square and didn’t have the time to respond, but the Londoners were rather bemused.
Then there were the Italians. A whole family of them. As the doors began to shut at Leicester Square, a late 20s Italian lady ran onto the train, getting stuck in the door. It opened, and she boarded, only to whirl about and let out a horrid scream, as her two sons were still standing on the platform. Her sister, who had boarded at the centre of the carriage (I prefer to stand at the ends by the open window) jumped off and hurriedly threw, yes threw, the two boys onto the train. They had to be about 8 and 6. They stayed on after I got off at South Kensington.
The run from the Tube station to the Natural History Museum, where my professor had said they would be was quite breathtaking, and bothering to my then still sore ankle. As I walked into the museum, I got a text from the good professor saying they were in the Science Museum. So, around the corner and into their third museum of the day, my first. Luckily I made it to class at 12.40, so I got to hear 20 minutes of his lecture. I at least got to see the world’s first steam engines and computer.
Asking what I could do to make up my tardiness, I was advised to go to the V&A and stroll about the galleries. So, that I did. I love the exquisite arts of South Asia and the Islamic World! On top of that, there were also some amazing Medieval European galleries, which I’d recommend to any historian interested in that period. However, I had to leave the V&A, as I had a much anticipated meeting and tour planned for the afternoon.
After another 30 minutes on the tube, I was at my meeting place, Caffè Nero at Westminster Tube Station. They have amazing blueberry muffins! That was my breakfast, at 14.00 BST. I met with my friend Abby to go and tour Westminster Abbey officially, as we had attended the organ recital there the evening prior. The Abbey was originally founded by St Edward the Confessor, the penultimate crowned Anglo-Saxon King of England (d. 1066). The Abbey has been the place of coronation since Harold Godwinson in 1066, and most recently hosted a coronation in 1953.
After the Abbey there was an hour and a half break before heading to Leicester Square for dinner before a group of friends headed to see Daniel Radcliffe in The Cripple of Inishman. After a brief problem of finding people, the group made it to the theatre, and I headed off down Charing Cross Road to my evening’s entertainment: Canada Day!
I was quite happy to find that there were very few Canucks sweaters in the crowd, mostly Maple Leafs, and a few Senators, Flames, and Oilers, though not many Canadiens oddly
enough. The day marks the Canadian Confederation, in which the three colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada united into a single country. The party was held in Trafalgar Square, which sits in front of Canada House, home to the Canadian High Commission. Sadly though, the main reason why I went, the street hockey, had already concluded, and was replaced by a big rock concert, which was not to my taste. Though I did donate 20p to the Calgary flood relief efforts, which got me the little Canadian flag you see in the photo with Lord Nelson.
So, I headed back up Charing Cross Road, going to a pair of places that I had seen on the
way down. First was a local branch of Pâtisserie Valérie, for a sumptous double Belgian chocloate gateau, as a little treat for making it to at least 20 minutes of class that day, and then onto a local bookshop to browse their Classics collection. They didn’t have much of what I was looking for, mostly Lucreitus and Ovid, so I ended up getting the Oxford History of England volume on Roman
Britain (1982 edition) for £6. Then I headed back home to do some reading and work on amending my paper. With that done, and a bit of listening to Radio 4, I retired once again to that springy azure mattress that I’m calling a bed.
Morning came with a start. Having A More Human Mikado never did in Japan exist! stuck in my head, I made my way to class at the National Portrait Gallery on Charing Cross Road with some annoyance at myself for not being able to do the same the day prior. However, I must say this day’s touring was enjoyable nonetheless. In the middle of class, we were given an hour break to look through the remainder of the gallery (having gone through the Tudors to
the Georgians) and get some lunch at one of the local cafés. Rather than take a whole 2 hours and dine at the National Café, a friend and I settled on the National Gallery Café next
door, where I had a good selection of banana nut cake, chocolate, and other pastries and desserts. There wasn’t much in terms of food, per se.
We then returned to the touring, meeting back up with our class in the National Gallery, which prior to today I had thought was in fact that National Portrait Gallery. Anyhoo, we finished by observing a few Hogarths, and then splitting ways, I heading back to the University of Westminster at New Cavendish Street. There I met up with a friend, Ke’aria, who was planning on going to the Freud Museum in the Finchley Road area in North London. We made our way up there, by way of a couple stops, only to find the museum is closed Monday and Tuesday. But no matter, we had a quick stop by the Abbey Road Studios to pay homage to the place where Howard Shore recorded the music for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. O, and the Beatles did some stuff there too.
The evening was spent in two main places: Regent Street, and at the London Eye. We dined first at a rather unique restaurant just off Regent Street called Tidbits. I wasn’t a very big fan of the menu, which was vegetarian. My vegetarianism doesn’t really extend beyond a love of beef, lamb, fish, pork, chicken, squid, shrimp, and all forms of water fowl humour. I ended up eating a fine dinner of onion rings and chips with a couple plastic cups of tap water and a little thing of vanilla ice cream.
This was surpassed in greatness by what was to come. We made our way to the South Bank, where the visionaries of London gather to look through a big wheel at Westminster and attempt to figure out what the government is doing. The London Eye is a large circular viewing platform. Our group of 10 took flight for a good half hour over the Thames, taking many fantastic photos of the sights below and about us. Unfortunately, my camera died soon after taking off, so I don’t have any of my own photos, only one that I borrowed from a friend.
The evening was certainly sky-high. If you are ever in London, do take the chance to go up into the Eye. It’s well worth the £16.50 fee.