The long awaited post about my trip to London is finally here!
Arriving in London:
When the plane landed in Stansted, I was completely reverse culture shocked by being able to speak English again. In France I really have gotten in the habit of thinking in French or at least translating much of what I think into French in case I have to talk to someone (and it's good for practice!). I was surprisingly a little homesick for Lyon and missing hearing French all around me on the streets! Getting into the city after an interminable bus ride, I was pleasantly surprised by a classy hostel. It was right next to the park and had plenty of character! I also made a new friend from Sweden there, he was really interesting/fun to talk to for awhile. that's what I like about hostels, they are safe and you always meet people from around the world.
After being settled in, I went out to explore Kensington. The Victoria and Albert Museum was right down the road and free, so I checked out their collections. Most of the endless rooms of ceramics, textiles, whatever, were not terribly interesting, but the fashion exhibit was. They had this one designer's work on display who made everything out of anything BUT fabric. Think a coat made out of teddy bears! even a coat made out of sticks. Something tells me he is not heading for the ready to wear market. Definitely interesting, I'll have to check out more fashion museums in the future.
Then, venturing down to the Soho/Trafalgar Square area later that night, I stumbled upon the National Portrait Gallery which has later hours AND live classical music on Friday. Nice! Art and a string ensemble, so much culture. I didn't think the gallery would be all that interesting, but it actually was surprisingly refreshing. There are so many different styles of representing the human persona that are displayed there, it really makes you think about how people reflect themselves to the world.
Saturday morning, I woke up to a beautiful day and promptly headed for Kensington park next door! Probably only half as pretty in the winter (what with no leaves on the trees), but I was content to stroll along and live vicariously through the people walking their adorable puppies through the park. I'm going to come back from Europe and all I'll want is a dog. Seriously. Cuteness overload. This park too had a free art exhibit (cementing popular opinion that London rocks), it was called the "welfare show" and questioned ways of how we operate and interact in societal systems. Very Tate modern - esque.
Sushi update (this is for my fellow sushi lovers at home): I went to a japanese restaurant and ordered a hand roll, not realizing this is different from the regular kind of sushi roll. It arrived it its little ice cream cone of seaweed. Hearing the unwrapping of paper from my chopsticks, the waitress rushed over and said quietly, "you dont need chopsticks, you just pick it up and eat it from the top." Ahh. Yes...Thank you.
On the subject of food, I really don't understand why people complain about bad food in England. I had plenty of good food! There was the many ready-made gourmet sandwiches, the sushi, the indian food, the chinese buffet for only 5 pounds....so well-fed. I also dig the coffee shops on every corner, although the fact that I had to stir my own double chocolate double espresso made me a little annoyed. 3 pounds, it should be stirred, gift wrapped, and served on a gold platter. Maybe a with a singing telegram on the side.
Whitfield arrived in the afternoon!!! Hurrah!! She's so much fun as a travel buddy (and as a roommate. As her knowledge of London is vastly greater than mine, she pointed the way to Notting Hill, where there is an open air market with cheap beautiful jewelry and other fun stuff. Then later at night we wandered around from metro station to metro station, Trafalgar square, piccadilly circues, wherever, being our crazy selves and catching up on the past couple of months.
Note to self: if you want tickets to a musical on the West End, maybe going down to Leicester Square 30 minutes before the show, not such a hot idea. lol. And yes, I should know that already. So after hitting about 3 different box offices, our night at the rock opera didn't pan out so well. In the meantime we saw these people advertising a comedy club, so we thought, what the hey, we'll go to that instead! I would definitely recommend doing this to anyone because it was much cheaper (only 5 pounds!) and had much more local flavor. There were probably about 100 people packed in a rather small place but it was alright, I was too busy laughing to care!
Pictures from wandering around London with Whit....
Yay Notting Hill and colorful buildings! Yay bad exchange rate! Yay crowds of people! It's cool because it's foreign.
Whitfield freaking out over seeing her dream car (carmengia or however you spell it) in Notting Hill.
China Town is so much more fun than seeing a musical.
It almost looks like the statue is about to spin around.
Third floor adorable-ness goes to London.
Climbing up towards the lion statue in Trafalgar square...that's about as high as I go.
Trusty Whit, leading the way.
But Big Ben is right here on this little map... why is it up there then?
Sadly she had to go, so I wandered around and went to a couple of museums. The Science museum was somewhat interesting, although very kid oriented with lots of hands-on exhibits and yes, hoards of families. I felt like the only person over 10 not with a family, haha. It is a very large museum with lots to learn about manmade materials, technology, etc. They had a pretty neat part about modern medicine, history of medicine, psychology, etc. That was probably the only thing worth seeing for me. You could totally pick out the psych majors from the people staring at the psych exhibit and actually reading the captions. It was awesome. I got to see some of the things that I've only heard about in my classes! Ah yes, validation.
Movie update: I saw a pretty interesting, rather phantasmagoric movie (and how many times do you get to use THAT word in conversation?) Sunday night, it was called the Piano Tuner of Earthquakes, shot with lots of overexposed light and with this really dream-like mysterious plotline about an opera singer and a piano tuner. Not sure what to think of it, it was good in that it was an odd, artsy movies, but also just strange and uncanny. Plot line, not so much.
Normandy/Paris update coming soon...
By the way, blogger takes FOR-ev-er to load pictures. So there aren't as many on here as I would have liked. I have lots of the gardens and animals and such, so ask me about them if you're interested.