Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Happenings in London

I have so little time left here in London, yet I have so many updates! As usual, I have spent these past few weeks staying busy, seeing as much of the city as possible. Despite my love for The City, I decided to venture outwards into another part of England, perhaps just as well-known as London itself. Courtney and I wanted one last trip before we ended our time here, and after a few failed attempts at attempting to leave the country, we agreed Oxford was the best bet. Oxford is home to so much history and beauty, both of which I had not expected to be so rich within such a small area. On our way, we had to take the train out of the station made famous by a personified stuffed bear, Paddington Railway. Of course, the station isn't much to ponder, but there was a great gift shop featuring that precious bear, and we absolutely had to give one of them a big hug! (That was really cheesy, sorry.)
The best bear
Once we got to Oxford after the short train ride, we walked into Oxford's city centre, walking through narrow alleys and streets along the way. It really is such a majestic, picturesque town with trees and fountains and gorgeous buildings throughout. We had planned a few places we knew we definitely wanted to see, but ended up just stumbling upon new things as we traveled in the tiny city. The Ashmolean Museum was the first venue we found and we didn't really feel the need to go inside, as it was absolutely enormous and would've taken us years to get through.

Ashmolean Musuem

Next we saw the Admissions Office of the University of Oxford, which was ironically incredibly small and empty; not much to look at. After passing a ton of monuments and statues honoring great English figures, we saw the famous Blackwell Music and of course had to make a stop in the ancient Oxford Varsity Shop. We saw several of the colleges that comprise Oxford University, most notably Trinity College and Queen's College. They were gorgeous in every way, and knowing that some of the world's greatest minds studied there made it so special.

The most sophisticated college bookstore

Trinity College

We continued on to see the Old Bodleian Library and Divinity School, where scenes of Harry Potter were filmed. Christ Church was another Harry Potter locale, but its grandeur and stunning beauty overwhelmed its role in the movie industry.
Old Bodleian Library

Divinity School (i.e. Harry Potter's Infirmary)

Christ Church-wow!

Passing through the Covered Market, where various foods and sundries were sold, we ended up at Alice's Shop, located in an area actually mentioned by Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland, and the shop was so adorable.
Covered Market, literally covered

Alice's Shop!

Only a few shops down was Cafe Loco, which might sound like some cheesy tourist trap, but it was actually an Alice-themed cafe with Mad Hatter murals and afternoon tea, of which Courtney and I took full advantage.

Carfax Tower

Walking past the majestic Carfax Tower and Oxford Castle made a fantastic end to our day, as we said goodbye to the beautiful, historic Oxford and traveled back to South Kensington for a first-night-of-Hannukkah dinner with challah, lox and cream cheese (Note: neither of us actually celebrate Hanukkah...). A wonderful day in a wonderful place, so glad we made it there.

Oxford Castle

Doesn't this look like The Giving Tree?

You're going the wrong way!

FIE offered a bunch of different deals on tours, shows and other events within London at the beginning of the semester, and while I signed up for several, I forgot I had signed up for a Beatles Walking Tour! Hosted by the enthusiastic Simon Rodway, with whom I toured the Olympic Arenas, the tour included a photo op at Abbey Road, which I learned absolutely must feature road-crossers with solemn looks away from the camera. It was hilarious watching everyone try to dodge angry drivers as they attempted to drive down the road, but it was so worth inspiring the road rage! We continued on to Abbey Studios, where I signed the wall with the "Strawberry Fields Forever" excerpt, "Let me take you down." Even though they paint over the writings on a regular basis, I like to think I made some sort of mark on the infamous street. We passed other monumental areas, such as Paul McCartney's London residence as well as where he met Linda, the building where John Lennon claimed the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, and the venue where the Beatles played their last show before being shut down by the Savile Row police. It was interesting seeing all of these cool locations, but it was even more interesting hearing about them from such an informative guide-I wish I had toured more of London with this man!

My signature!

Yes, I went under Paul's gate with my camera to take this picture

"More popular than Jesus"

The final Beatles rooftop show


With such little daylight to take advantage of upon the start of my internship, I promised myself I would take as much time as possible exploring London while I still could. I took last week to discover so many new places that I wish I had seen before so I could revisit them, though I'm sure I covered most of them. Little Venice was mentioned by Courtney, and I was so shocked I hadn't really heard of it. I expected a New York Little Italy with pizzerias strewn throughout the streets, but it truly was a Little Venice. Boats lined the Canal running through the small town, and gardens were plentiful. It was such a unique sight, seeing a bit of Italy within London, and I enjoyed every minute of my time spent there.


Venice in London

Not real.

I was also able to visit Old Spitalfields Market, which I had been through before, but not to the extent I did on this day. I got to see all of the little trinkets and decorative pieces and clothing and everything that is unique and fun! This was one of MANY markets within London that allows visitors to find things they wouldn't in generic stores, and they provide a great opportunity to see London for what it truly is.

The market!

I had some time left in my day, so I went to the Brunei Gallery at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies, which was showcasing a collection of photographs in a gallery called "Sacred Ink" which basically was a photostory of a variety of tattoos symbolizing not just spirituality, but power and strength as well. I only wish that it were a bit bigger so there was more to see, but it was interesting nonetheless.
University of London SOAS rooftop gardens

The gallery-this is probably illegal.

OH the last thing I absolutely must share is the fact that I finally made it to the Hollywood Costumes exhibit at the V&A. I was at this particular museum early in the semester, and figured I'd venture over to the exhibit at some point in time. Not long ago, I re-realized that it existed and I tried to get tickets, but everything appeared to be booked online. I took matters into my own hands and went to the museum in person to just see if they could please please please let me in, and they did! Actually, whatever I was looking at online was some sort of hoax because there were plenty of tickets remaining. I was overjoyed, as I am a total cinema-junkie and was devastated at the thought that I might not be able to see such famous pieces. I followed the inspirational movie music into the first room, where I was met with dozens of costumes worn by characters in various genres of the most well-known films in history. I was completely dumbfounded. I couldn't believe I was in the presence of articles of clothing worn by my favorite characters in my favorite movies. It was humbling in a way, which was a bit shocking since most wouldn't really be so emotionally impacted by a bunch of costumes that movie stars wore at some point. I didn't say any other words besides "Wow" and "Oh my God" and other intelligible phrases that described my pure shock at what I was viewing. With all of the historical, political, social and cultural venues and monuments that have shaped London, and England in general, I am a bit ashamed to say this was one of the best things I've seen not just in London, but in my LIFE. I guess that just comes with being a product of my generation, totally obsessed with anything revolving around entertainment, and I'm really not too sad to admit it! I laughed, I cried (seriously, I cried pretty much the whole time) and I gaffawed. Some of the highlights of the exhibit were:
  • The Dude's brown robe from The Big Lebowski
  • Tyler Durden's red leather outfits from Fight Club
  • The wardrobe of The Addam's Family
  • Indiana Jones' entire outfit and famous whip
  • Costumes from the various portrayals of Queen Elizabeth
  • Bill "The Butcher" from Gangs of New York
  • Scarlett's red velvet dress from Gone with the Wind
  • Maximus' garments from Gladiator
  • THE DARTH VADER COSTUME-I stared at this for about 15 minutes
  • Several Cleopatra dresses
  • Travis' attire from Taxi Driver
  • The trademark black dress and white pearls ensemble worn by Holly in Breakfast at Tiffany's
  • *THE WHITE DRESS ROSE WORE IN THE TITANIC* I've never produced so many tears
  • Roxie's blue sparkly dress from Chicago
  • The yellow jumpsuit from Kill Bill
  • Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Austin Powers
  • The Blues Brothers
  • Saturday Night Fever
  • Black Swan
  • Dorothy's famous blue dress from The Wizard of Oz
  • Marilyn Monroe's white dress from Seven Year Itch
Note: These were just my favorites and there were dozens more-I could go on and on!

Seeing all of these new things so close to the end of my time here gave me a sense of urgency, that I hadn't seen everything I wanted to, but I know that no matter how much I saw, I would still say how much more I've missed in a never-ending cycle of discontent! Obviously that's an overstatement, but it is somewhat true: how can I leave a place I have yet to see even a fraction of? That's just something I will have to live with in my last days in London!

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