30 October 2010

The Month of October

I admit it:  I have let my schoolwork come in the way of writing everyday.  I came to London fully intending to blog once a day.  However, I unfortunately forgot that while I was here I would actually have to go to class, too.  Surprisingly, the classes that I’m taking are not completely blow-off classes and I have to do legitimate work.  Sorry guys. But, since I have blogged, life has been crazy and hectic and absolutely amazing.  We have seen multiple shows and performances, including The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Wicked, and Les Miserables. 
Les Miserables is probably the best musical I’ve ever seen.  I had actually seen it before coming here in Houston once.  However, there’s something about seeing it in the Queen’s Theater on its 25th anniversary tour that just makes the show even better.  The entire performance I was freaking out.  I ended up grabbing the arm of the person I was sitting next to multiple times because of the beauty of the sound of the actors’ voices soaring throughout the auditorium.  In fact, I had to reign in my enthusiasm for seeing the musical because I didn’t want to build up the show to be more than it was for everyone else that saw it with me.  As a lover of theater and music, it’s really easy for me to become incredibly ecstatic about seeing such a production.  I sometimes forget that other people don’t become as captivated by the music, the plot and the set as I do.  Thankfully, I had nothing to fear with Les Miserables.  Our entire group ended up loving the show.  The actor’s did such a fantastic job with their roles.  I mean, I know that that is what they’re paid to do, but I just completely lost myself in the story.  As a sympathetic crier, I found myself close to tears multiple times throughout the performance.  I realized as the show went on that when I wasn’t close to tears I was beaming like a lunatic.  But anyways, the show was great.  Wicked was also amazing.  I had seen that one, too, but I still loved every minute of it…not to mention the fact that all of the characters had English accents.  One of the characters, Boq, even had an Irish accent. Thankfully, I was able to understand all of it.  At both of these shows, we got amazing seats at really good prices.  In fact, for Les Miserables we were on the ground level and we had front row seats to Wicked.  Oh it was amazing. 
Ok. I can’t remember if I have already talked about this, but I have decided that I have a problem.  This problem stems from me being a history major.  I have become notorious in my group as the girl who likes to touch stuff she isn’t supposed to at museums and other exhibits.  I really can’t help myself.  I of course don’t touch things that would be damaged by the oil on my hands.  But, if there just happens to be the oldest door in Britain right in front of me and it’s only cut off from the general public by a rope, I’m of course going to touch it!  The same goes for the marble sculptures from the Parthenon in Greece and anything else I have access to.  There is just something about touching things that other people have touched over a thousand years ago.  Whether you’re touching something that Elizabeth I or just a normal person touched, you have an irreversible tie to that person through history.  It fascinates me.
Two days ago, we went to Westminster Abbey.  I was glad of course to see the beautiful church, but in all honesty I was not incredibly excited.  We have been to so many churches and cathedrals on this trip.  They’re all beautiful, and they all have remarkable historical ties, but I was just not particularly interested in Westminster Abbey.  However, this changed the minute I walked through the door.
            The first thing that I see when I have walked into any church on this trip is the ceiling.  That may sound bizarre, but I think that the high, soaring ceilings just naturally draw the eye upwards.  After I’ve looked at the ceiling, I then take in the beauty of the cathedral.  This time, it was different.  For some reason, this church really affected me emotionally.  I had been having a pretty rough day, and I think that just being in that church was uplifting for me.  It felt like every part of European history that really interested me, that I have studied on my own time because of my love for it, was in Westminster.
            For example, I have always loved the tragic and triumphant story of Elizabeth I and her royal family.  I do not know why, but the beauty, strength, and cunning obviously seen in the lives of the Tudor family fascinate me.  I think I know more about Elizabeth I than I do about some aspects of our own country’s history.  Anyways, when I went into the tomb room and realized that both Elizabeth and Mary were buried in that room, this intense, near-indescribable feeling came over me.  I was smiling, wanting to cry, and had goose bumps and chills all at the same time.  The fact that I was standing in the presence of two women who had completely altered the course of England’s history, even though it was four hundred years ago, humbled me.  I stayed in that room for nearly fifteen minutes, despite it’s many signs telling tourists to keep moving.  The next room was just as amazing to me.
            The tomb that Henry VIII commissioned for his father was right in front of me.  I could see the intricate gold leaf designs that I hadn’t been able to see in the many pictures I had seen of this tomb.  Edward VI was buried right where I walked.  James I, the Scottish king of England, was next to me, and his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, beheaded on the orders of Elizabeth I, was just a few steps away.  I was in complete awe.  These people were strong, sometimes crazy, but definitely powerful.  They led entire nations, and while some were definitely more successful than others, they still had a huge impact on the English nation.  I can admire something in all of these leaders.
            Of course, I couldn’t get out of the church without touching something that I wasn’t supposed to.  Just outside of the main part of the cathedral was the chapter house.  Right outside the chapter house was the oldest door in England.  It had probably come from the time of William the Conqueror, and it was separated from the general public by a dividing rope.  With two lookouts watching both exits, I was able to briefly touch the door that hundreds and thousands of people throughout history had walked through in their daily lives.  For all I know, every king and queen of England could have touched the same door that I illegally touched.  Even if this is not the case, I still have an undeniable connection to the lives of people, common or not, who lived nearly a thousand years ago. I know I already mentioned the “undeniable tie” thing in this post, but it’s so amazing to me that I can’t help going on and on about it.
            Let’s see. Since I’ve blogged last, we have also been to the London Eye, seen the Tree of Life in Hyde Park, been to the Natural History Museum, discovered Primark, been to Abbey Road, visited Buckingham Palace, tried to see the changing of the guard, shopped on Portobella Road, seen the Tower of London, been to Blenheim Palace, visited Oxford, learned the powers of woading tattoos, visited Warwick Castle, visited the birthplace of William Shakespeare at Stratford upon Avon, had high tea while discussing Jane Austen, seen the white cliffs of Dover, visited Canterbury Cathedral, dyed Mindy’s hair red, and learned how to properly wear a toga at Hampton Court. 
            Good grief.  Just looking at that list makes my head spin.  It’s been an incredibly busy month.  I’m going to try to briefly go over some of these (VERY BREIFLY), so feel free to skip the next few paragraphs if you’re getting bored.
            The London Eye was really cool.  It was so interesting to see the city from so high up.  We had a few people who were really scared of heights, so that fun to watch.  Just kidding…but seriously.  We had one person who was detained by security because he was carrying around a massive knife with a huge blade…so massive that it’s actually illegal to carry. So that was a party.  The ride lasted about 20 or 30 minutes, and it was really a lot of fun.  There were so many great opportunities to take pictures and just see the city from such a calm place.  It really contradicted the image of London that is usually in my head, full of crowds and hundreds of people who show little friendliness.  Even in Houston, people smile at each other.  Here? Nope. I actually got really weird looks from people on the Tube the other day when I said “Bless you” to someone who had sneezed.  My bad. Anyways…     
            Hyde Park is really cool.  Brad, Lauren and I discovered a massive tree that we fondly call The Tree of Life.  The branches come down and cover the entire trunk of the tree in a dome-like structure.  You can have to kinda squeeze through the branches to get into the dome where the trunk is, and from there you can climb the tree.  Ok. I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t have much tree-climbing experience.  Back home, the branches are pretty tall, and it’s hard for short people like me to climb up when you can’t reach the bottom branches.  I was hesitant to climb this tree…especially when I realized that I was too short to reach the branches here, too.  However, Brad graciously gave me a boost so that I could get into the tree.  It was so awesome! Once I got the boost up, I had no problem climbing.  In fact, we go back there every now and then to read or study at the top of the tree.
            Primark is the store of clothing heaven.  It contains inexpensive, very cute, Londony clothes.  Therefore, we go like every week-and-a-half.  It’s really a dangerous store.  The low prices suck you in, and it’s extremely hard not to buy something if you go.  I have started making myself not go simply because I could probably buy out the whole store. 
            Oh Abbey Road.  The Beatles.  Fantastic.  We didn’t get a very good “walking across the street like the Beatle’s Abbey Road album cover” picture, but we intend on going back soon and trying again.  There were cars coming when we took our picture. But, we did get to write our names on the wall in front of the Abbey Road Studio.  I was freaking out the whole time, and I can’t wait to go back.
            Have you seen Notting Hill, with Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant?  That is Portobella Road.  The outdoor market where Hugh Grant walks through in despair is where I was.  They have really cool booths set up all up and down the streets.  I like to think of it as a mix between a farmer’s market, an estate sale, and a garage sale.  It’s lots of fun to go to, and you can get really good prices of lots of things.
            The Tower of London was amazing…but that’s probably because I was really excited to see the place where Anne Boleyn was kept and beheaded and the torture chamber.  Hmm. I just typed that sentence and realized that if you don’t know me well I sound really sadistic and creepy.  But that’s ok.  Anyways, it was really cool.  I wish we had had more time there because I could have spent hours in each separate building.  It was amazing just getting to see certain things and realizing that real people, with real emotions were kept in the Tower.  Many of them were innocent.  It was sobering to think about, but at the same time I was excited to be in the presence of so much history. 
            For those who don’t know what woading tattoos are, prepare to be enlightened.  In ancient times, the Celts would tattoo themselves with blue ink.  These tattoos were swirls and intricate knots that were fabled to protect against evil spirits. When we learned about these in class, I immediately started doodling in the margin of my notes.  This doodling turned into me and Lauren giving Brad a woad tattoo on each of his arms.  That then turned into me giving Mindy a sharpie tattoo on her foot.  For a while we were all obsessed with these, but in the past month our obsession has died down.
            Besides all of this, we have actually been going to classes.  Unfortunately, midterms did fall in the past week.  Between the philosophy midterm, the humanities midterm, and the raging hormones that attacked our flat all in the same week, it’s been pretty rough.  At the beginning of this trip, I mentioned that I was worried about making friends.  Everyone seemed to already know everyone else, except for me.  However, this didn’t end up being a problem at all.  In fact, a bunch of people on the trip come to me to vent or for advice.  It’s working out really well.  It’s funny to look back on my preconceived notions of this trip and compare it to how reality actually is.  I was wrong on so many different levels, but that hasn’t been a bad thing yet.

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