Thursday, October 24, 2013

London (part 2)-- in the words of Ed Sheeran: "London calls me a stranger, a traveler...."

Obligatory photo of the red London phone booths--my picture

I've been in a very Ed Sheeran kind of mood, probably because he's from England and he's one of my favorite music artists/singer-songwriters. Anyway, "London calls me a stranger, a traveler..." is a lyric from his song "The City," which I made sure to listen to on the plane ride to London. Actually, I pretty much listened to his entire album during the one hour plane ride from Cork to London. So, day 2 in London involved markets, portraits, and war rooms. Let's dive into this:

My second day in London was also pretty packed. I took the bus (from the bus stop right outside of my hostel) and, yes, it WAS a red double-decker bus. I decided to head to Covent Gardens Market, with the intent of working my way down back to Parliament Square over the course of the day. I actually got to Covent Garden Market a bit early, before it even opened, so I just walked through it for awhile. It's basically a big marketplace, some of it open air, so of it shop fronts. There was a group of female violinists playing in the center, so I stopped and listened to them for awhile and they were very good. I wandered around the Market for a bit, but it was really too expensive for me though and truthfully, they didn't have much I would have wanted to buy. Though, I could have gone for a cupcake but refrained because I wanted to eat lunch first. So then, I made it to Trafalgar Square, which is basically the center of London and it is one of the main tourist attractions. It's the one with the lion statues, fountains and a big blue rooster (or maybe it's a chicken, but I think it's a rooster). The National Gallery is in Trafalgar Square, so I actually visited there. It's free to enter and I just walked around for probably 2-3 hours, looking at the paintings. I am not a big art person, largely because I just don't understand it (despite having taken an Art History class last semester to fulfill my arts requirement a W&J). It's funny because I think understand art is probably a lot like understanding books (artist intent versus writer's intent, symbolism etc.) and I actually happen to be somewhat decent at understanding books. However, I am horrible at understanding art. Despite this, I do like looking at art. The National Gallery was fascinating because I got to see paintings by Van Gogh, C├ęzanne, Monet, Manet, da Vinci, Michelangelo etc., which I would have never have been able to see had I not entered the National Gallery. I can see why the art is so important and popular, but I don't really understand artistic interpretation. Perhaps I just don't have the patience for it. I mean, there were people who chose to sit down on a bench in front of a painting and just stared at it for a really long time, or sketched it painstakingly. I could never do that, but that doesn't stop me from appreciating the magnificence of the pieces though.

After visiting the National Gallery, I met up with one of my friends from W&J who is studying in London this semester, and we walked to the Churchill War Rooms. Now, I'm going to reveal another thing about me: I LOVE history, especially modern history (probably because I haven't really had much "ancient" history). Looking back, I wouldn't be surprised if this love of history sprang from my love of reading biographies as a child. When I was a kid, I had--I still have them actually--a set of books called the Great Illustrated Classics, which are versions of classic stories such as Black Beauty, Heidi, Pollyanna, A Little Princess, White Fang etc. But within the Great Illustrated Classics series, there is a section called the "Heroes of America," and these books in the set are the biographies of historical figures like Benjamin Franklin, Clara Barton, Eleanor Roosevelt, George Washington and Daniel Boone. And those were some of my absolute favorite books as a kid. But middle school (and to a greater extent, high school) really gave me my first organized exposure to history and I found that I actually really loved it. W&J (well, college) furthered my interest in history, especially European history, which I had never properly been taught except for the creation of ancient Rome and Greece back in 7th grade) before coming to W&J. So the point is that seeing the Churchill War Rooms was a priority for me. The Churchill War Rooms are THE ACTUAL, REAL underground rooms that Churchill and his advisors conducted the Second World War from. As a history nut (and a history and political science double major) this was awesome to see. I HIGHLY recommend going to see them if you're ever touring London. It's not a reproduction, you literally see the REAL rooms as they were left at the end of World War II. It's incredible because there is so much history there. I wasn't really able to take pictures inside (even though you could) because it's pointless to try and take photographs of things that are behind glass because of glare), but it was amazing to see.

We also went to the British Museum, which was impressive as well. It's supposed to have one of the best collections in the world. My favorite part was probably King's Library, which was the collection that consisted of object gathered by King George III, and it was in a library style exhibit (I think it may have been the former location of the King's library itself, or something like that). I really liked the organization of the exhibit, which was based on the Enlightenment and had objects directly from the King's collection. Plus, there were books lining the entire room (like a library). So the British Museum was definitely really cool to explore. I was getting pretty tired at this point though, so I went back to the hostel and ate dinner, then went to sleep.

Covent Garden Market--my picture

Violinists in Covent Garden Market--my picture

Violinists in Covent Garden Market--my picture

 

In/near Trafalgar Square--my picture

National Gallery--my picture

A massive blue rooster in Trafalgar Square--my picture


Lion in Trafalgar Square, no I didn't get on it--my picture

Trafalgar Square (on the steps of the National Gallery)--my picture

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