Overall, I wouldn't say that I loved London. I didn't hate it. I just didn't love it. This being my first trip abroad, I think I was expecting to have a unique cultural experience, but I couldn't help but feel like London felt an awful lot like New York - and that's a much shorter plane ride. ;) London is of course unique, with character all of its own, but it truly is a city of the world, a cultural center for people from all walks of life. Don't get me wrong - this is not at all a bad thing. It's just that if you grew up on Jane Austen and Colin Firth/Mr. Darcy, you might find that the idealized "British culture" you were expecting is greatly at odds with what you'll find. To quote Will: "there are a small number of those upper people, but the rest of them are really just pirates." Illusions were shattered, but again, that's not a bad thing. I had hopes for authentic experiences, and that's just what I had: a marvelous time with people from America, Bangladesh, England, France, the list goes on and on ... While I might simply see London as another NYC, it was the people I met, the friends I reconnected with (besos, Renita!), that made it a memorable trip.
Alright, on to the wrap-up. On our last day, I continued to torture poor Will with more must-see tourist attractions, namely the Tower of London and the rebuilt Globe Theatre.
Weapons abound in The Tower. I kept thinking how much my little brother, Travis, would like that!
Prisoners of the Tower, including Elizabeth I herself, were taken by boat via dark underground channels to avoid the tumult of the street and arrived through this gate. That Mary Tudor was sure a mean one.
Our lively tour guide, who spoke very loudly, but even more so when he shouted out "in 1565 so and so was MURDERED by so and so!"
Tower of London is not just the tower where prisoners were held; it encompasses the grounds on which various castles were built to house the Royals throughout the centuries.
Perhaps this could also be used as a battering ram? Hah. hah. hah.
According to legend, should the ravens who live at the Tower (and did so before it was ever even built) ever perish, so shall the monarchy and the Tower of London will crumble to ground in a heap of dust. That being the case, they take really good care of these birds. Their average life span at the tower is 18-24 years, over 10 years more than a raven in the wild. Our guide wanted us to know that as some people take it upon themselves to write nasty letters to The Queen regarding the birds' wings being clipped so they remain at the tower. They seemed like pretty happy, long-living ravens, so I say carry on.
Lots of suits of armor and objects of historical interest within. We saw the crown jewels (um, holy cow, the diamonds), but unfortunately were not allowed to take pictures. The flash could potentially harm the coronation robes sewn with gold thread, so that seems like a reasonable request.
Henry the VIII, you're not fooling anyone.
Quick stop for a caffeine recharge at famous Monmouth Coffee, which we sampled on our market adventure. Blue Bottle, look out.
These don't get old!
The next stop was the Globe Theatre. I went into the gift shop immediately of course, and was like a kid in a candy shop. Or just like me in a gift shop.
The original Globe burned down, and this precise replica was built only in the past twenty years. Although it was not feasible to put it in the same location as the original, the new Globe was built to exacting specifications, down to the use of some mad number like 30,000 wooden pegs (instead of nails) to hold it all together. If you're a Shakespeare lover like I am, it's time to dork out.
This is a working theatre and is under constant care. I was amused that these two young ladies are so artistic as they touch-up the hand-painted marbling, that they still wear their scarves under their paint smocks. Incidentally, the entire globe was built out of wood because this was of course the cheapest way to go. Anything you see that looks like stone, marbling, molding, etc. is actually wood painted to that effect.
Having a little fun, Othello and Desdemona style.
We ended the evening and our trip with a great dinner with Tahiya, Will's mate from LSE, who showed us around the beautiful neighborhood of Angel. It greatly improved my impressions of London. Adorable little neighborhood.
After dinner, we went to an amazing pub situated right on the Canal.
More pictures here: https://picasaweb.google.com/nicoleachapman/LondonApril42011?authkey=Gv1sRgCPfAqJG_jo32EA#
Ready for Paris?