Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lots of London, A Little Cambridge

This week has been insanely full since getting home from Paris. I really don't have time to hit everything, but that doesn't mean I can't write a novel about some of the things I've been up to. Ready? Go.

MONDAY. We started classes a bit early today because the program took us to a violin performance. It was at a place called Wigmore Hall here in London. It was a two-person performance with Janine Jansen (a prodigy) on the violin and Itamar Golan on the piano. Itamar was awesome because he had a sweet name, and he pretty much head bangs the whole time he's playing. Janine was beautiful and incredibly talented. They played two pieces by Bartok and one by Beethoven. The first Bartok movement sucked. Absolutely sucked. Don't get me wrong (Michelle and Annie did), the performers did amazingly well. But the music was terrible. I'd have to say that Bartok is the War Horse of classical music. And you all know how I felt about War Horse. The Beethoven was gorgeous and the second Bartok was much improved. If I met them both right now I'd be like, "Bartok, Beethoven is DEAF and he writes better music than you. Try something pretty, genius." But that's me. The concert was about an hour long and it was alright. Not really worth having to wear my new sweater (although, and Chase already knew this, the ladies seem to love a sweater).
Totally random picture of the British Library

Later that night a group of us went to the Victoria and Albert (V&A) museum. I had been there once before on the night of the masquerade, but there's so much there that I hadn't seen yet. My favorite thing there is outside in the courtyard. They have these little rectangles lit up with bright white lights. As you get close to them some of them change and your image shows up as a blurry picture. As you walk along different cameras pick up your image and the other lights show the picture while the far away ones go all white again. I could do that for hours. There is also a corner with a bunch of mirrors with motion sensors on the floor. As you walk by they sense you and turn towards you. Obviously, I backed away and then jumped in front of them. They all snap to attention every time. So much fun. On a more serious note I also saw cartoons by Rafael and learned that cartoons are drawings or paintings done on paper as opposed to canvas. There is also one of my favorite statues ever: Samson killing a Philistine. He's using the jawbone of an ass, so I call the statue "Samson kicking with ass." The Bible is so cool.
Samson kicking with ass

TUESDAY. This was an insanely productive day for me. Our one-credit "cultural" class has WAY more work than should be allowed for one credit. They gave us a book with a bunch of London Walks through it, and they really are informative and enjoyable. But going on them because you have to write about it isn't exactly the most fun, especially when you're taking grad courses and being a TA at the same time. But a few of them have been great (like the one I did today and will write about later). Since we've been here for a long time I have seen a good amount of some of the walks. This made it so I could do half of the Theatre walk and half of the Seats of Power walk and then have enough from previous encounters to BS my way through the write-ups.

On the Seats of Power walk I got to see the Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Horseguards and their stomping yard, Admiral Arch, St. James's Park (the oldest park in London, equipped with flowers galore and giant alive heron bird things), Buckingham Palace (totally overrated and the guards are only everywhere during the changing of the guard. I didn't even have the desire to taunt them), and the Pall Mall (cool architecture place). On the Theatre walk I got to see the Somerset House (looks awesome from the front I'm told but I had no desire to walk around it), Cleopatra's Needle (dug up from the sands of Alexandria way back in the day; has a sister obelisk in NYC's Central Park), a statue of Robert Raikes (invented Sunday School, my favorite hour of church), a gorgeous statue of Robert Burns (awesome Scotish poet whose work should always be read out loud and with an accent), Charing Cross Tube station, Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery, St. Martin's-in-the-Field (a famous church), a statue called "a converation with Oscar Wilde" that didn't talk back to me, and other happy sites.
Bobby Burns

WEDNESDAY. Road trip. Cambridge. Cambridge is pretty freaking awesome. Before we got there we made two stops. The first one was St. Alban's cathedral. St. Alban's is pretty legit. Not a whole lot so say about it that can't be said about other cathedrals. It had a flat, wooden ceiling that no other cathedrals have had. I also remember hearing that it's a church to which pilgrimages are still made. There was a box full of pins that have been given to pilgrims for over 100 years. I noticed that they said you could give a donation but they didn't demand a donation, and I had travelled all the way from London on a bus, so I grabbed one as a souvenir. Besides, it matched my jacket. Our next stop was the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial. Essentially it's a smaller version of an Arlington-type cemetery for Americans that died during WWII here in Britain. These large military cemeteries instill reverence in me like almost nothing can. The memorial was beautiful, our guide was very good and very effective, and although we were rushed I was thankful for the chance to spend time there. It was a reminder of a lot of things that I take for granted. I took a few moments to think about the men and women serving our country in the armed forces, giving me the chance to be here pursuing my education. I've got friends and family members that have been and are in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and I think we all (including and especially me) need to take the time to think of and pray for them.
Cambridge American Cemetery

Cambridge is gorgeous. It blows Oxford out of the water. The buildings are awesome and although the town itself is small there are many things to see and do. We got there a bit late so we didn't have time to go to the awesome library that Dr. Macfarlane had talked about, but that's ok. We went through King's College cathedral (gorgeous building), visited the "Round Church," bought mint chocolate...chocolate (looked like the ice cream, but didn't melt in my hand as I scarfed it), watched people go punting (pushing gondola-like boats with a stick) under a bridge we were crossing, and bought some juice. It would have been a great day if the hot dog guy hadn't sold out right before I got there. So Cambridge is beautiful and I'm sure going to school there is a trip, but four hours was more than enough for me to enjoy and be gone.
One of the many Cambridge colleges. Show offs.

THURSDAY. Today has been productive and a half for me again. I got up and got ready to leave the Centre. After breakfast I went on the Hyde Park walk. I saw Marble Arch (self-explanatory), a giant sculpture of a horse's head, Speakers Corner (a corner of Hyde Park where preachers and speakers get on their literal and figurative soap boxes to let the world heckle them), a freaking SWEET statue of Achilles, Constitution Arch, a Wellington monument, a memorial to artillery men of WWI, a Holocaust Memorial Garden (absolutely beautiful), and the Serpentine (a lake that curves a little bit). While I was walking there was this kid and his mom flying a toy helicopter. It went a bit too far and flew over a fence into a restricted area (for saving birds or something). They started walking away, so I jumped the fence, braving any possible flesh-eating fowl or ROUS's ("I don't think they exist." Name that movie), saved the helicopter (life flight?), jumped the fence back out, and chased them down. That's my good deed for 2010, so don't anybody come calling.
That guy liked Achilles as much as I did.

I got home at 10am and had religion class, then ate lunch, then had culture class, then English. Dr. Howe took the class to the Tate Britain (a museum) afterwards but I ditched that and went on my City walk (the whole thing). I freaking loved the city walk. I have been to parts of downtown London, but this tour was fantastic. I love big cities (Sao Paulo was amazing for the short time I spent there). The buildings in London are phenomenal and it's amazing to see 800 year old churches amidst the skyscrapers. I saw the St. Mary le Bow church (rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren), the foundation for the Temple of Mithras (not well kept but sweet nonetheless), St. Stephen Walbrook church (pops out of nowhere), the Royal Exchange (sweet building), the Bank from Mary Poppins (i know, THE Mary Poppins), a golden grasshopper on top of a building (seriously), Leadenhall Market (classy), Lombard Street (famous for some reason), the Lloyd's Building (built somewhat inside out, like the Centre Pompidou in Paris), the Swiss Reinsurance Building (aka giant pickle), Minster Court (coolest building EVER! google it), Pudding Lane (where the Great Fire of 1666 started, St. Magnus the Martyr church (an Anglo-Catholic church in which I spent quite a bit of time, partly for an assignment and partly because it's sweet. Also where Miles Coverdale--author of the first complete English translation of the Bible--is buried), and the Monument (311 steps and a certificate afterwards to prove that I did it).
The Monument. Totally climbed it.
Minster Court. So sweet.

Lloyd's Building

Busted back to the Centre for dinner, and I've been writing mostly non-stop since (about five hours. WAY too long). Tomorrow we're going on a smaller field trip, Saturday I get to eat ostrich burgers and hopefully hit up Evensong at St. Paul's, Sunday is church, and Monday we embark on a five-day trip up North. Stay tuned.


Trevor said...

Dude, Olsen, you write a freakin' novel for every post!

I'm jealous, bro. It's been long enough since we got back from Brazil that I wouldn't mind traveling outside of the U.S. again (notice I said TRAVELING. I made my resolve to LIVE in the U.S. 5 years ago).

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