I’ve been here for a little over a week now and, simply put, I’ve fallen in love. London is an absolutely fabulous city. I’ve done my fair share of traveling in my lifetime and I think it may be my favorite city. It’ll be interesting to see if that changes while on my voyage with Semester at Sea.
As far as history goes, London is fraught with it. I feel like I can’t turn a corner or walk down a street without seeing some historical building. This richness has led the British to have some truly amazing museums, nearly all of which are FREE! Last week, I went to both the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. They are ENORMOUS. We spent a lot of time in each, but I still feel like I missed a significant portion of them both. I’ve still got plans to go to the Charles Dickens Museum, the British Museum, Madame Tussauds, and more.
Since I’m here for a class about theatre, we’ve been taking in a lot of performances. At this point, I’ve seen: Hamlet, Clybourne Park, Wastwater, Brontë, Pina, London Road, Rocket to the Moon, Electra, and We Will Rock You. EVERYTHING IS SO GOOD. And, surprisingly, British theatre does differ from American theatre in quite a few ways. For one, all the sets here seem gigantic compared to the shows I’ve seen in America. Wastwater had three completely different sets for its three different scenes. Everything seems more experimental here, too. Brontë and London Road were both new shows written for the particular company performing them, something you don’t often experience in America, at least with the theatre that I see. Plus, shows are so much cheaper! That may have something to do with the fact that program(me)s here are extra—they are included in the ticket price in America. You see a pretty large variety of folks at shows as well. All the shows here are making me appreciate theatre again. The classroom component is, surprisingly, perfect. We write responses/reviews to all the shows we see, discuss them as a group the day after we watch them, and generally, do a hefty amount of reflection. It’s more work than I expected, but at least it’s fun and easy. I love it.
The great thing about living in a big and vibrant city—especially having grown up in the stupid suburbs, moved to a small town in the mountains, and gone to school in a small excuse of a city—is that there is so much to do and see all the time. Late last night, I ventured out with some friends in a failed attempt to go to a club. I say failed because by the time we got there, it was VIP only. Instead of dancing the night away, we just explored the area and found a number of street performers and cool sites. While one person in our group was from New York City and has lived this life before, I hadn’t experienced anything quite like it. This trip is making me want to live (at least for some amount of time) in a city like this. I love the buzz of life and activity. It’s extremely exciting. I don’t even mind the noise, the drunks, the bums, or the crazys.
More specifically, the great thing about London is its variety. All the neighborhoods are so different and beautiful. At this point, I’ve explored Pimlico, Victoria, Oxford Circus, Vauxhall, Kilburn, Soho, Leicester Square, the West End, Kensington, Brent, Chelsea, Knightsbridge, Piccadilly Circus, Notting Hill, Camden, and probably others. They all have they’re own unique character and are just lovely. I especially liked Camden. I ventured over there yesterday with my friend Matt. After nearly being trampled upon debarking the tube, I FELL IN LOVE. It’s London’s neighborhood for “alternative” counter-culture. Basically, punks and hipsters. The market there is absolutely fantastic. Everything is cheap, but fairly well-made. I bought a cardigan/vest/sweater thingy for 12 pounds after haggling it down from 20. I point to my father as thanks for that skill. As crowded and punk-ish as it was, people there are intensely friendly. It may be my favorite neighborhood I have been to so far. I also ventured into Soho yesterday for the first time, which is considered one of London’s gay villages. Similar to Vauxhall, it was very gay friendly, but there were also plenty of straight people, which I appreciated. As for sheer beauty, though, Notting Hill was incredible. The houses and the trees and the history are all something to be experienced. Truth be told, though, Camden was my favorite. I want to live there. Also, though not a neighborhood, two friends of mine and I went into Harrods, London’s most famous high-end department store. As three poor college students, we were a bit out of our league—I saw a pair of very simple shoes that cost 280 pounds! Anywhere else, they would have been much cheaper, but slap the Harrods name on anything and it instantly becomes luxury.
As you all probably know, Friday was the royal wedding of HRH Prince William of Wales and Miss Catherine Middleton. As you’d expect, the city was crazy. All week, when I have mentioned to someone I’m from America, they’ve asked me if I was in town for the wedding. I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t interest me. It’s a huge deal here. Unfortunately, because of class, I couldn’t make it down to Westminster Abbey to see the actual event, but being in the city it was happening in was more than enough. People were extraordinarily patriotic and happy all day. You couldn’t walk into a pub without seeing some kind of special on the menu that had to deal with the wedding. The crowds were outrageous as well. Certain tubes were shut down because of the incredible volume of people. Even though I didn’t actually make it to the wedding, it’s still pretty cool to say that I was in London when it was happening. Definitely going to brag about that one for the rest of my life 😛
I’m laying kinda low today—all this exploration has worn me out. Plus, I have an interview later (via Skype!) with the Pikes Peak Peace and Justice Commission, so I want to be fairly well rested for that. We shall see what this week has in store! For now, though, it’s time for a nap!