Aug 04, 2009
I've never been much of a city person. However, London maintains this intriguing balance between the historic and the modern which has me captivated.
I see it in the traditional brick exterior of our hotel building, contrasted with the sleek, posh purple carpet and white marble of the interior. It's in the contrast between an elaborate, organized public transportation network, and the uneven, cobblestone streets closed to vehicular traffic. It's the 10-pound note featuring an image of the Queen on one side, and Charles Darwin on the other.
I've always imagined (and probably romanticized as well, but who doesn't do that?) the settings of the classic English works I love — books by Austen, Dickens, and clearly, Shakespeare's dramas as well — and many feature London integrally in their stories. For me, this city combines the history of those books with my imagination of them, and brings in the modern, progressive aspects of today's society as well. The mix is unbelievable.
Aug 07, 2009
I, like many others on the program, have found myself adopting a
"British accent." I am aware that it is complete rubbish (look how
British I am, using a word like "rubbish"!), yet it is so fun to
pretend I can sound as sophisticated and cool as the British do. I also
really want to start saying "Cheers!" instead of "thank you" but I feel
like they might hate me if I start to adopt their fun phrases like an
American tourist, so I've been restraining myself. But that's beside
Tuesday night, I went to see a production of Jersey Boys,
a musical about the '60s band the Four Seasons. The four actors of the
quartet of the Four Seasons affected pretty impressive Jersey accents,
and I was wondering through the first bit of the performance whether
they were American actors.
Read on: Are they or aren't they? (Brits, that is.)
Aug 07, 2009
Never in my life did I think that I would stand in the
pouring London rain, stationary in two inches of water, for an hour and a
half ... and love it.
Let me back up. Last night, we went to the Globe Theatre (I
love British spelling!), which is set up in the same outdoor-amphitheater style
as it was originally built in Shakespeare's time. People who could afford to
would sit in the covered bench seats in three levels around the outside edge of
the amphitheater. Poorer people, or "groundlings," would stand in the
open, uncovered center of the theater, right in front of the stage. These
standing tickets were, and still are, considerably cheaper than the sitting
seats — £5 (about $8) versus £33 (about $55) today.
Translation: after I walked to the Globe, getting wet along
the way because I didn't bring my umbrella (it wasn't raining when I left, OK?),
I stood in the groundling position and got even wetter. I bought a poncho before
the performance started, but I was already wet by the time I put it on, and
standing in the puddle that was the groundling area made water wick up my pants
to my mid-thigh.
Read on: And it was totally worth it.
Aug 12, 2009
London is a wonderful city, and England is a great country, but there are some things they get wrong.
instance, to turn a light off, you hit the light switch up, instead of
down. That's just counterintuitive. They also call crackers "biscuits
for cheese" to differentiate them from the biscuit cookie things they
have with tea. Wouldn't it just be easier to call them "crackers"? They
also have a hard time placing trash cans in convenient areas ... as in,
I can never find one when I want one. Surprisingly, the streets are
spotless, but I suspect that everyone is carrying around lots of
garbage in their purses all the time since there's nowhere to throw
things away. I know I am.
However, London does many things
right, such as public transportation, preserving history, and ...
shoes. Now before you judge me for being shallow and writing a blog
post about heels, let me defend myself. I have been filtering all of my
purchases here by asking the question, "Is this something unique to
London — something I can only get here?" And for the amazing black
heels I bought, the answer is a resounding YES.
Read on: The magical things these shoes can do.
Aug 12, 2009
Shakespeare often looks at the difference between the "civilized"
city people and the less formal countryside society. In the interest of
keeping with the academic nature of this program, here are the
differences I've noted between London and Stratford:
geriatric crowd — you can see them emerging from Bibby's tour buses and
walking through the shops picking up gifts for the grandchildren. They
literally don't exist in London.
2) Tourist sites — usually
consist of things named after Shakespeare and/or his characters. I know
they are tourist traps, but I love them anyway. I've already suckered
myself into renting a rowboat named Beatrice and buying a grossly
overpriced vanilla-with-chocolate-sauce ice-cream sundae just because
it was named a "Hamlet." Some London sites are even more grossly
overpriced, but most don't have the fun and nerdy Shakespeare qualities
to redeem them.
3) Food — is for the most part, already paid
for! We get breakfast and dinner at the hotel instead of just
breakfast. In London, we'd stuff ourselves at breakfast and try to hold
off eating again until dinner to save money. My metabolism hated me,
especially when I would try to only feed it a Pepperoni Pizza Toastie
from the snack menu at Subway. At only 99 pence (about $1.65), it was a
great deal, but my stomach would yell at me later, "That was NOT
dinner!" Needless to say, I'm glad we get two whole meals now.
Read on: Have we mentioned the rain yet?
Aug 20, 2009
1) Swans — are really
awkward on land. They would sit on the lawn in front of the hotel and
we would go on "swan stalking" missions to get pictures close to them.
They would run away from us on their black feet in a most ungraceful
and unbecoming fashion.
2) Peacocks —
are actually as vain as the saying suggests. At Warwick Castle, we saw
one attacking its own reflection by repeatedly hurling itself at a
3) Goats — stick their tongues out when they say "baaahhh!" It's absolutely hilarious. Also, loud.
4) Rabbits —
apparently are a pest in parts of the countryside and are shot to keep
their numbers down. The reason I know this? During the RSC's performance of As You Like It, the shepherd character skins one of said rabbits onstage. One of the actresses came to visit our class after the
performance and stopped our "real-or-not?" debate, confirming that it
was real. Ew.
Aug 20, 2009
There is a "Pet Kingdom" in the fantastical retail world of Harrods. Yes, that's exactly what you think it is — an entire section of the store devoted entirely to pets. They actually sell cats, bunnies, gerbils, etc., as well as a wide selection of leashes, collars, and toys, most of which are ghastly, overpriced couture items. You can even take your pet into the "dressing grooms" to make sure that these items fit your furry friend before purchasing. You can go so far as to invest in a £400 cat bed (about $670) complete with a finished wood headboard/frame and fuzzy leopard-print comforter. Now, I love my cat, and I treat my dog like she's practically human, but a cat bed that's almost as expensive as my plane ticket for this trip? That's crazy over-the-top.
However, "Christmas World," located on the second floor? The place where Christmas joy, sparkles and cheer lives all year round? Where you can pay £100 (about $170) for a giant, glittering fake lollipop decoration? That's just awesome.
Aug 20, 2009
I am a hoarder of all things written. I even have a shoebox under my bed of notes from friends from 5th grade until the present. Naturally, one of my life goals is to have a personal library in my house full of beautiful, old books that fill floor-to-ceiling shelves. Therefore, I basically had a heart attack when I went to the British Library in London to see their Treasures of the British Library exhibit yesterday evening.
There were original handwritten copies of Jane Austen's Persuasion, Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, and Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland (complete with his own illustrations!). There were notebooks and journals from Milton, da Vinci, Woolf, and Plath.
There was a piece of papyrus from the 3rd century with Psalm 12-15 written on it, as well as a 4th-century Bible handwritten on enormous pages in Greek. I saw Beatles lyrics that were scrawled on the back of an envelope...Read on...
Aug 27, 2009
"Too hot, too
applauding at the end of Hamlet, I really feel like I'm applauding
From the play The Winter's Tale, spoken by the king,
Leontes, when he (wrongly) suspects that his wife is having an affair. Used
multiple times a day in reference to a variety of things, including the
temperature on the Tube, as well as a euphemism for possibly awkward
conversations during class about Shakespeare's romantic plot lines. Our everyday
conversations became increasingly peppered with what we called "nerdy but
great" Shakespeare references. Other popular ones: "kissing with
inside lip" (also from The Winter's Tale), "Go to! Go to!" (from Romeo and Juliet and others, used in the sense of "let's
go!") and, "Look, it's the pastoral space!" (a classroom term, used in reference
to sheep and the pastoral countryside that Shakespeare wrote about).
Quoting Professor Post
, in reference to the lengthy nature
of this play. However, our production thankfully was cut to three and half
hours, and Jude Law's acting made it quite entertaining for such a depressing
play (also, he's attractive, but from our seats in the nosebleed section we
could not have known this, so my assessment of his acting is less biased than one
Read on: Rick Steves and "Will power!"