Wednesday, September 30, 2009

DAY TWO: Fountains Abbey, York, and the Lake District

“The very essence of romance is uncertainty.” –Algy (from The Importance of Being Earnest)

Things seem to be slowing down here, and yet going more quickly too. Time is slowing down in the sense that I’m not doing something brand new everyday—although I do have a few firsts—but racing by in the sense that I’ve been here a month on Friday. A month.

Dad—I went to Haagen Dazs with Jackie today. Sometimes there are things I see here—or do here, or eat here—and I just get so homesick wishing you were here (rather than wishing I was there—implying that my family is my home, which I hope is flattering!). This is a silly thing to get homesick over, but this Haagen Dazs was just blissful. 1 scoop of Cookies and Cream, and 1 of Vanilla Caramel Brownie, but everything look amazing and I just thought—they don’t have this at home. Although, maybe next time we go to Disneyland we should check out that Haagen Dazs by Downtown Disney, who knows, maybe it’s worth a try. It was extremely expensive—but SO worth it.

I bought my first piece of clothing in London today, as well. I was with Caitlin Markham and we were on our way to the Hotel Chocolat—for the express purpose of buying chocolate. We were walking towards Hotel Chocolat and we passed a GAP. We both looked in the windows at the ‘up to 50% off’ signs, and then passed it and we both said something like, ‘I love Gap.’ Caitlin turned to me and said, ‘Do you want to go in?’ We had both turned around and the word, ‘Yes’ escaped my lips before I realized what was happening. I left with a 6.99 Oatmeal-Brown Long-sleeve thermal shirt. I know it’s from Gap and not some obscure London shop, but I don’t care. (Prepare for a tangent.) I’m sick of people not wanting to buy or do American things, (or see American movies) simply because they can buy, do, (or see movies) in America. Seeing movies is something I do—I see movies, and I love it. London can’t change that, and never will. Not to mention, I don’t want it to. Seeing movies is a part of who I am and you cannot be a true movie connoisseur if you refuse to see movies while you travel simply because “that can be done in America.” What snobs. (Prepare to be diverted back to original topic.)

The other ‘first’—I spent 7.50 on chocolates from Hotel Chocolat with the intention of it being my first and last time doing so, and with the intention of sending most of it home. I refuse to experience good European chocolate (assuming its good, that is—I haven’t tried each of them yet) alone. I could experience good chocolate with my roommates, but I’d prefer to know what my favorite people think of it. So—once the postal strike is over (yes, postal strike) prepare for some expensive chocolate. Expensive chocolate. (Just wanted to make sure you got that. P.S. Are Rachel and Caitlin reading this, because they sure as heck don’t speak to me over skype or anything, so I’d like to know that they’ve got a clue of what I’m doing out here on this island in the middle of nowhere.)

(Prepare for another tangent.) I need Television. I’m extremely ashamed, I never thought I’d EVER say that. But I was searching for Glee for 4 hours yesterday on the internet and finally gave up because its an American television show that doesn’t stream in the UK. Then today I decided that maybe I could find Robin Hood on the internet since I’m IN the UK, and, alas, the UK doesn’t provide me any free entertainment. IN ADDITION, I can’t get to my ‘Big Wolf on Campus’ store meaning that when I need a ½ hour to 45 minute break, I am reduced to wasting my time TRYING to get facebook to work, which it never does, or TRYING to read my emails, which I never do, or TRYING to post a blog entry, which takes about 3 hours to complete. (Enough of this, tangent—now to my REAL post.)

22 September 2009

[Taken from my green and brown plaid ‘writing’ journal while on the premises of Fountains Abbey.] “I’m not sure where I am in the abbey—an included room Henry VIII’s men forgot to demolish. I thank God for that. Although I do not know how men could be greedy enough to destroy this place, it is more beautiful because of it. The flapping of pigeon’s wings and their cooing gives it the necessary haunt, the wind gives it its loneliness, the green, growing everywhere gives it its submit back to nature, a mystery that intact Cathedrals simply have not had.

“It’s exactly like you can picture in your mind—better than you can imagine, actually. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything more beautiful. I missed the group photo to be alone in this place—how worth it it was. The missing windows, the high archways, the forgotten tiles, the worn-away steps, and men, running through, tearing away at it all.

“Most of the windows are completely destroyed, but there is one, missing its panes of glass, yes, but almost intact. I moved to sit on the top of a fallen wall so I could look out at the destroyed Abbey longer. The darkness at once is inviting and I can’t help thinking that I could worship God here—in a way I can’t in a still standing Cathedral. You can see where the windows once sectioned, now broken in. I don’t know what to do here—you wish you could keep it in your pocket.

“ ‘You can’t absorb it, can you?’ Sister Paxman asks—the answer in ‘No.’ I’d have to come here five more times to take it in. My mind just blocks it, almost as if to protect itself, and I frantically try to tear downt he wall—because I want to absorb it so badly—let it in to every moment and fiber. The difference is, I believe it now, whereas when I was at St. Paul’s, I didn’t yet. I believe it’s real, which makes it worse that I can’t have it forever. There are places, I suppose you will always look back to—its everyone’s favorite place so far, and for good reason. Dad, you just have to come here if you haven’t been already. Everyday I spend in the countryside is everyday I’m SURE we have to make it here as a family. Even if I have to wait until I’m 82. (You’ll be 114 when I’m 82, so I suggest we do it before then.) If I could, I’d like to addict you to ruined castles and churches the way you wish to visit the California missions.”

Being at the Abbey made me want to write. Write everything—important and unimportant, vast and detailed. It made me want to see a piece of history, and I feel I’m losing a pice of myself here where everyone seems to love everything more than I do, where everyone is so talented, even at the things they don’t consider their “talent,” where everyone has experienced a world of things and I am hardly beginning. Everyone knows more than I do about all the things I’ve ever loved.

But enough. Enjoy these pictures of York and Fountains Abbey. Imagine walking across the stones, up the stairs, crawling over the broken walls, and over the over-grown bridges. Well, go on. Imagine away.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

DAY ONE: Bronte Parsonage & York Minster

"If I must make a fool of myself--it shall be on an economical plan." - Charlotte Bronte [in reference to planning her wedding.]

I have so much to tell you. Unfortunately, homework must be done and requirements must be met. So I’ll try to tell you as much as I can within the time frame I’ve got. Rest assured I’ll do my best to make up for what’s been left unsaid. This post is dedicated to my mother.

21 September 2009.

This week was merely teasing me, letting me look, but never giving me the time to see. I hate going places just to look at them. I want to see them, to feel them, to become acquainted with them in the short time I have. I know that must sound like an awful lot to expect. But I never felt the anger associated with that limitation so strongly as in Haworth at the Bronte home, parsonage and cemetery. Mom, we have to go back—just to walk through the cemetery and down the pathways, and into the church-yard—to really look, not just skim. I know I could pull Rachel and Caitlin down that path. If I addict you to Jane Eyre then maybe—but, I’m getting ahead of myself.

I was so conflicted about our Bronte excursion because at most I’ve read a few Bronte poems, and I’m not even sure which sister wrote them. I felt like I was a waste because I couldn’t really appreciate what I was seeing and what it all meant to be in the home of the Bronte sisters. But then, for the better part of three days, we lobbied to watch the BBC version of Jane Eyre on the screen at the front of the coach. (Dr. Paxman started it and didn’t feel it important to finish it. Needless to say, the 44 females aboard the coach did not agree.) Since the viewing of Jane Eyre, my conflicted feelings regarding visiting the Bronte sisters’ home have, for the most part, been settled. Although I watched the black and white, Joan Fontaine version with Dad earlier this summer—and liked it—I was so impressed with the intricacy and perfection of the storyline, which was undoubtedly better developed and explored in the 4-Episode BBC mini-series.

I think with my Tower of London post, and this post, my morbidity—undoubtedly inherited from my mother (who, when I asked what she wanted me to find or look for while I was in England, said she wanted me to take a picture of the coolest graveyard headstone I could find)—is definitely showing. I hope she appreciates that credit, rather than finding it offensive. I found myself overcome with the desire to walk through that cemetery, and while I did find the time to go through some of it without fearing being left, I wanted more time. P.S. Something I discovered while I was in the St. Paul’s crypt: I have a really hard time standing on top of grave plots where I know someone was buried. It’s gross and very disturbing. (However, this cemetery was far too intriguing to let that irrational fear get the better of me. I was grossed out, and got back onto the pathway as soon as I could, but I stepped into the graveyard for a few great pictures.

The other thing I loved about the Bronte excursion was the church—which I’ll include a picture of. It was beautiful and I wish we’d had time to go inside, because it would have been worth it. However, to be honest, I’m not sure if going inside was an option—it could have been closed. I suppose, since we were only on the premises of the house, cemetery and church for a little under 2 hours, I am content to merely have seen it.

Later that day we visited York Minster, and while I don’t think I have time to write much about that at the moment, I just want you to do a little comparison between the beautiful and quaint parsonage, and this large, ornate and gorgeous Minster.

So, I changed my mind—I was looking at these pictures and I just had to write something about York Minster. York Minster was begun in the 1200s and was built on Roman foundations with the remnants of an older Anglo-Saxon church. Its creation was headed by the Archbishop of York whose sole purpose in building was because he wanted York Minster to be larger than the Canterbury Cathedral. (The Archbishop of Canterbury was his rival—and was a more powerful rival, at that. Obviously a political desire—rather than a spiritual one—only size and money mattered in the building of the Cathedral which ironically enough would later serve its salvation from Henry VIII and the Puritans. Neither closely tied to true Catholicism, nor containing many effigies of Saints, Christ or Mary, it was overlooked by Henry VIII during the country’s desolution from the Catholic church, and the Puritan’s raid and destruction of ‘idols’ in English Cathedrals. This ‘overlooking’ has given York Minster two claims to fame: First, it is the largest Cathedral north of the Alps (meaning only Cathedrals in Italy rival it), and second, it still contains the oldest stained glass windows in the country (some of it from the Norman Cathedrals of 1100, making the glass NINE HUNDRED years old).

Probably what I found most interesting about the York Minster, however, was this: it’s not so hard to look at York Minster and think, “Yes, it’s beautiful—but if you’ve seen one Cathedral, you’ve seen them all.” There is a reason why Cathedrals—and this one in particular—should not be seen merely as ‘stone buildings’ that can be created on a whim. Here it is: in 1220, at the beginning of this stone Cathedral, the homes in York were mud huts.

Let that sink in.

The black and white Tudor-style houses that seem so old and quaint were a hundred and fifty years into the future from the time the Minster was started. People couldn’t even build houses out of wood, or brick, or stone. Think of mud. Think of straw. Think of walking out of a mud hut and looking up to this:

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Tower of London

“To serve God, to endure penance, to obey fate, is to reign.” – Arthur Poole 1564, inscribed into the stone at Beauchamp tower

I’ve wanted to go to the tower of London for as long as I can remember. Specifically, to see the axe and block that chopped off the head of Scottish-born Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, who, according to family tradition, I’m related to. While Fraser is a family name, Scottish is a family ancestry, and there are family ties to the place where Simon Fraser was born, the specific link has yet to be made. I’m also aware, that being related to Simon Fraser isn’t necessarily something to be particularly proud of, since most times he was ruled by his particular want of power and while it may have made him clever, it never made him “good.”

I know it’s morbid, to want to see where a possible relative not only died, but was executed, but for some reason I feel it gives me a tie to this place.

Well, I saw the axe and the block, and I learned where the saying “laughing your head off” came from: When Lord Lovat put his head down on the block, he was staring straight out at his spectators—suddenly, one of the viewing scaffolding fell, crushing about a twenty people. Lovat declared, “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori,” from Horace (meaning “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.” He apparently found it hilarious and extremely ironic that these people died, coming to his beheading. He must have been laughing pretty hard for that term to come to use in popular culture—he must have been laughing too hard for them to wait to cut off his head!

Also at the tower of London, in the White tower, was a show casing of Henry VIII’s favorite life-long pastimes and including his knight’s armor from his young adult years, ot the last suit of armor ever made for him. It includes a display of jousting armor and poles—one of his favorite sports, and one that he was exceptionally good at—a tennis ball he used to own (by the way, it was “real” tennis, which is a little different than modern day tennis; it includes the use of the walls.), and many of his hunting instruments. It might interest some to know that he was over six feet tall, extremely fit, and described as very handsome when he was younger. Granted he was the king, so who would have the nerve to call him anything other than handsome—however, his suits of armor attest to the fact that he was both very tall, and very fit. Suits of armor (and everything that goes on underneath them) are over a hundred pounds to wear, and Henry the VIII was very strong and very active. I suspect that his lifestyle required him to eat quite a lot—now of course, when he got his leg wound, which prevented him from being as active as he once was, despite his desire to be so, he never stopped eating the amount he always had—causing him to become the fat man that everyone sees him in pictures as. Unfortunately, the only picture of him as a young man is grossly inaccurate and awful-looking.

Moving on.

I saw the area where Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard were beheaded, the green where Guy Fawkes was questioned, the tower where sixteen-year-old Lady Jane Grey was kept until her beheading, and rooms formerly used for torturing prisoners at the tower—they pulled people apart on the rack, scrunched them up in the Scavenger’s daughter, and suspended them by their wrists from manacles. I saw the bloody tower where Sir Walter Raleigh—navigator and pirate—was kept for thirteen years before being executed, and the Beauchamp Tower, known for the carvings on the wall made by its prisoners—some of them looking like full-on relief sculptures. Can you imagine the loneliness and the insistent desire to do something productive? I also saw the Bell tower where Sir Thomas More was kept by Henry VIII for refusing to acknowledge Henry VIII as head of the church. They’d once been good friends, but church versus state got in the way. This seems to be a common thread between King Henry's and friend Thomas's, if you’ll remember Henry II and Thomas Beckett.

No contest that seeing that axe and block was my favorite part of the visit, but there was something else, something I’m sure I’ll say a thousand more times: It was all the history there—the years of it, stories and facts, stacked up imperfectly with nothing to hold them together, like the mortar-less walls in the countryside. His it nothing is knocked out of place or out of order? Tread lightly, I suppose, the past of too many depend on mere remembrance.

“As virtue maketh life, so sin causeth death.” – Thomas Bawdewin 1585, inscribed into the stone at Beauchamp tower

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

As You Like It

"I can live no longer by thinking." -- As You Like It (Act V, Scene 2, Line 53)

So named by Shakespeare who knew it contained the perfect combination of comedy and drama to wholly entertain. And it did; and it does still.

The played production of As You Like It at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre undoubtedly changed my mind about a lot of things concerning the play as I’d read it, and reminded me that as beautiful as Shakespeare’s words are on the page, they are far more moving as interpreted on the stage. I imagine that the 7:30pm, 14 September 2009 showing of As You Like It at the Globe Theatre was a normal showing for the season, but the company of actors in no way seem to have lost their spunk and dedication to the act.

Scene 1 of Act III is a scene I gave As You Like It little attention. In the copy of As You Like It I own, it takes up exactly one side of a page, and merely consists of Duke Frederick reprimanding Oliver for letting Orlando get away. After reading this short scene, the stage possibilities seemed to dead end. I imagined Oliver and the Duke standing at opposite ends of the stage, the Duke perhaps frustrated and yelling at Oliver, but Oliver retaining his composure as he tries to convince the Duke that finding Orlando is unnecessary, and that his connection to him is in no way strong enough to merit being banished on his account. The Duke seizes Oliver’s land, but more as a warning and a motivation to find Orlando, than a serious attempt to put Oliver out. If it wasn’t a dramatic scene, it didn’t really matter, because after all, it was only half a page.

In Thea Sharrock’s production of As You Like It, Oliver is thrown onto the stage, bloody, his clothes torn, and crying in pain as the Duke lashes at him angrily for being the cause of Orlando’s disappearance. The scene evokes pity for Oliver, despite his cruelty toward his brother Orlando in previous scenes. It is apparent in Sharrock’s interpretation of the scene that the Duke is not only threatening Oliver’s standing in the community by revoking his land and possessions, but is also threatening Oliver’s life, that if Oliver should return without Orlando, the Duke will not hesitate to see him killed. As a member of the audience, it’s impossible to know who made the call to interpret the scene between Oliver and the Duke the way it was presented.

Merely seeing Oliver on stage made him a more important character than he appeared to be on the page, but in my mind, the angry and cruel Oliver on stage was still simply a character who lacked development and intrigue—he merely seemed mean and contentious and stood as a driving force to get Orlando out into the forest so the plot between Rosalind and Orlando could ensue. But the moment Oliver is thrown out onto the stage—bleeding and crying—that perception of him reworks itself and Oliver suddenly becomes a character whose place in As You Like It matters. Judging from Jamie Parker’s repentant depiction of Oliver when Oliver comes to Ganymede to tell ‘him’ of Orlando’s delay, it occurred to me that Oliver’s real change of heart did not occur when Orlando saved him from the lion and the serpent, but instead when his pride was shattered by the Duke Frederick and he escaped into the forest of Arden. The reason we don’t witness Orlando’s saving of Oliver is because it isn’t important—the only purpose of relating it is to give Orlando a chance to witness Oliver’s change of heart; Shakespeare does however show us the point in time where Oliver is being shoved into a state of mind where repentance is possible—that pivotal half-page scene.

In relating Scene 1 of Act III this way, it makes the rest of the play as it relates to Oliver far more believable: that Oliver would even be softened enough to notice Celia with Ganymede, that he would really make amends with his brother, and that he would have a full enough heart to truly love Celia. Perhaps Sharrock had always imagined Oliver beat and bleeding on the stage every time she flipped through the pages of As You Like It. Maybe actor Jamie Parker was searching for some way to expound his character and give Oliver a little more depth. Either way, the alternate viewing of the scene deepened my belief in the story and Oliver’s place in it.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Dover and Canterbury

“But we’re all agreed; there’s no justice in this world.” –Canterbury Cathedral Tour Guide

The clouds are beautiful here—the sun plays between its layers, skimming over and shining through. It only just woke up from its day-long nap around 17:45, which takes me a few moments to figure out is 5:45. I still haven’t figured out how closely people abide by that clock.

By far, Wednesday 9 September 2009 was the best of all the days I’ve been here so far.

I touched a 1st Century Roman Lighthouse within the walls of Dover, and when I think about it, a part of me still races. The old lighthouse is wearing away, its archways and windows nearly gone it seems, but a few steps around the side and in through its nearly non-existent archway and what it once was is suddenly there again. The sun shines through what’s left of its windows and it never seems so dark—as if what they knew and had was and still is more truth than I’ll ever know. The stone is rough, while I nearly expected it to rub off onto my skin, and I realize—could I matter, my outstretched hand against what so many have undoubtedly touched before me, when what I touch is over 19 centuries old? Just stone—and still it speaks louder than I do.

Dover Castle itself is only slightly less amazing. It was begun by William the Conqueror and was added on to by several Kings after him—bettered and refined for hundreds of years. It was used as a military base until the 1950s—through the Second World War—because of the importance of its strategic placement; meaning that William the Conqueror had it right in the 11th Century. However, the Castle at Dover is therefore not on the whole quite as old or out of disrepair as its accompanying Roman lighthouse, having only been out of use for about 60 years. This said with a bit of cynicism, I suppose, because no one has ever cared about anything so long in America to refine it for the better part of ten centuries, still realizing its importance to the cause of a nation. Of course, we haven’t yet had that chance, and—to be fair—our legacy is not the same and never will be the same as the British.

I sat on the beach at Dover on sand-colored rocks, the white cliffs of Dover to my left, the English Channel at my feet, and France within view. The water both threatening and tempting; somehow, no matter where you are, the beach is a little bit like home. The dock was windy and reminded me of San Francisco. It doesn’t make me miss home, but it makes me miss my family; you would all love it here. It’s odd having vacation without you.

Canterbury is another place that was built upon and bettered and rebuilt for longer than America has been in existence: six hundred years, from 1070 to 1670, the Cathedral at Canterbury was improved upon. Henry II left somewhat of a legacy at Dover as he added on to much of the Castle—he was the great grandson of William the Conqueror, so it was fitting—because it was his work at Dover that left the Castle as something recognizable. Henry the II is known for other things as well, however, such as the “scandal” at Canterbury. And since I didn’t know this story before a few months ago, I will enlighten those of you who know little about English history.

(NOTE: Some parts of the story may be dramatized for the mere effect of storytelling.) In A Knights Tale Heath Ledger and his crew come upon Geoffrey Chaucer—NAKED—on the side of the road. Chaucer claims that he could be an amazing author, if only he had the chance and inspiration. Geoffrey Chaucer finds his inspiration, of course, in the story of Thomas Beckett—the murdered archbishop of Canterbury—and the tales of those who make their pilgrimage to the site of his murder.

Henry II, the King of England, was good friends with Thomas Beckett; in fact their friendship was widely known as they were both learned and enjoyed each other’s company. Knowing that Beckett was interested in the church, Henry II offered him the calling of Archbishop of Canterbury, also knowing that having a friend in the “lofty” position would provide Henry II more power within the church.

Becket accepted the appointment gladly, but a funny thing happened during his time in Canterbury—he was converted more fully to the church and little by little, Henry II and Thomas developed differing opinions about how church and state should be run. Becket wanted church courts to have ultimate power over crimes committed in the church, while the King wanted royal courts to hold that power (thereby gaining financially from those crimes). This difference in opinion ended the friendship they both had treasured.

Here is where the legend and story begins to differ—but I prefer the version of the story the tour guide at Canterbury told: While Henry was on holiday in France, surrounded by his knights, he is reported to have said something to the effect of “Will no one rid me of this problem?” referring to Beckett and his heavy opposition to the royal courts having precedence over church crimes. The knights decided to do just that—“rid the King of the problem.” The Knights confronted Beckett, asking him to back down on his opposition, but Beckett refused and sought refuge in the Cathedral at Canterbury. The priests of the cathedral began to bar the doors as the knights prepared to storm the Cathedral, but Beckett refused the barring of the Church, telling the priests that they weren’t to deny anyone entry. Beckett’s refusal to submit to the Kings will moved the Knights to murder; the followed Becket into the cathedral and—for lack of a better word—butchered Thomas Beckett.

According to our tour guide at Canterbury, the King never intended for Beckett to be murdered, and by no means was asking for that when he asked to be “rid of the problem” Thomas Beckett created. My feelings toward Henry II were more at peace then. I prefer believing this over the alternative, because as I stood at Dover, and read the other version of the story—the version that stated Henry II meant for Beckett to be killed so he could get his way regarding church policy—it occurred to me that a man would have to go a long way down the wrong road to have his best friend so brutally murdered. I’d prefer not to believe that about any man.

Needless to say—no matter which version of the story you believe—Beckett was made a Saint for holding firm to his beliefs. People believed that simply by being in Canterbury near Thomas Beckett, they could be saved and forgiven of their sins. The hilt of the sword that killed him was made into a shrine that was kept at Canterbury until Henry VIII desolved the Catholic churches in England. Now there is a stone with Thomas carved into the floor in blood-red—a stone that you can’t really believe Thomas was killed on. A blood stain would be more convincing. But—with a story like that, we can’t have everything, can we?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

London; Wed thru Sat--"Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress"

“It is my understanding that the Constitution of the United States allows everybody the free choice between cheesecake and strudel.” – Sky Masterson in “Guys and Dolls”

I arrived in London about 2:15pm on Wednesday, September 2nd. Heathrow was a mess. I don’t want to discuss that any further, because if I can make myself forget how much I utterly hate airports, maybe I’ll be brave enough to keep traveling. Needless to say, taking the Dot2Dot service was loads better than the alternative: the tube.

Don’t get me wrong—in just about a week I feel like the tube is about the easiest thing there is. All the same, luggage + London + foreigner + tube = disaster. Just like that.

Our first excursion out, after getting all our stuff packed away and attending an orientation was on Thursday. We went to the British Museum and the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square. Here are some more postcard pictures. The experience was like so:

“Um . . . so we want you to go to the British Museum and the National Gallery. We want you to look at the Rosetta Stone, and a few paintings. Get off at the Tottenham Court tube stop, and go down the street until you see it. It shouldn’t be too hard. Then when you get out of the British Museum, walk down the street a little ways, you’ll see the National Gallery.”


Here on Trafalgar Square was where I had my first “I’m in London” experience. Until the moment when I was on Trafalgar Square and looked up and saw Big Ben, it felt more like I was in another part of the States, than in another country. I still don’t feel like I’m as far away from home as I am. So far, I think that’s a great thing—very little culture shock as of right now. But for some reason, because Big Ben is so obviously not something that would exist in America, and because it’s such a epitomizing symbol of London and the UK, it was when it first felt like I was somewhere completely different.

On Friday, we had all of our classes for ½ hour Introductions—and then we got to doing some homework: Walks around London. Julene, Lisa, Brooke and I went on ½ of the “Seats of Power” Walk. When we got off the tube at Westminster, we looked up.

Up close and personal. Actually—an interesting point I didn’t know before—Big Ben is a reference to the bell inside the tower—not the tower itself. However, since the bell can’t be seen, the entire tower is commonly referred to as “Big Ben.”

Here are several more pictures of some awesome buildings on the “Seats of Power” walk, which included Whitehall, Victoria Embankment, Parliament Square, Great George Street, Abington, and Pall Mall. These pictures were taken on Friday and on Tuesday (when we did the second half of the walk). I know it’s a lot, so just look at them and humor me. Because this stuff is killing me.

I’ll tell you why.

I love architecture. There’s no point in explaining any further. I know I’m not smart enough to create it, or to understand it. I know I’m not opinionated enough about it to critique it, or even praise it. I just love looking up.

Back track just a bit; on Saturday Julene and I went to St. Paul’s, mostly because I’d gotten an email from my Dad the second or third day in London that said something to the effect of: “If you’re still feeling down, go to St. Paul’s—it’ll remind you why you’re in London.” So I made plans to go—and Saturday it happened. Julene and I loved it; every time we turned around we had to take another picture, so these three pictures here are not at all representative of all the pictures I took that afternoon. A new perspective required a new picture. It was awful, and wonderful at the same time.

We couldn’t take pictures inside, but we did go inside and it was gorgeous and gigantic.


After St. Paul’s Julene and I went down Ludgate Hill to a little pub called “Ye Olde London” and had Fish & Chips. I was necessary. I thought I’d add this picture because I’ve gotten so many facebook comments about it. I guess it’s a common custom to include minted, mashed, mushy peas with Fish and Chips in London, and they did. Well, I already have a hard time with peas, so these Mx3 peas were . . . for lack of a better term, worse. I got some on the end of a “chip” and decided to try it. Never again. Never again. But the Fish & Chips were good!

After lunch, Julene and I walked across the Thames on the Millennium Bridge—also known as the bridge destroyed in Harry Potter #6. I think the picture I took here of the Millennium Bridge, which I left un-edited is the best picture I’ve taken in a LONG time. Why not just LOOK at those clouds?

We saw Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and walked around one of the galleries at the Tate Modern Museum.

I’ll be more thought provoking in the future. But I just wanted to get Wednesday-Saturday down on paper . . . or, blog. Here it is. Forgive my dislike of people in my pictures. Forgive my dislike of myself in pictures. I’ll endeavor to be better about such things. No promises it’ll get better straight away.