I hope everyone has enjoyed their weekend! We have been busy, busy running around London! Here’s a rundown of what all we did…
Friday morning, Laura Douglass, Paul, and I traveled to Soho and learned about cholera (see previous post for more details). That afternoon, we met up with Jessica and Jade to have afternoon tea at the Cellarium, which is located right at Westminster Abbey. Apparently this is a hangout of the actor Jude Law, but sadly we did not spot him! I have to say, it was a bit strange having tea on the 4th of July – there is something that is both slightly awkward and yet delightfully ironic about being in London on such an American holiday… But the delectable finger sandwiches, scones, desserts, and hot pot of Earl Grey tea quickly reminded me of how much fun London is!
The tea did wonders for my increasingly sore throat and hoarse voice, so I felt refreshed enough to walk over to the National Gallery with the others. The Gallery is the UK’s national collection of paintings, and is incredibly impressive – there’s something in there for everyone, even if you’re not an artist (like myself!). While watercolors do not run through my veins, I have always been drawn to the Impressionists, and the Gallery is full of them… Monet, Manet, Seurat, Renoir, Pissaro, Cezanne, and the list goes on. There are also of course famous works by Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Raphael, and da Vinci. Unfortunately, no pictures can be taken within the Gallery (for obvious reasons), so I have no proof of my visit! But trust me, if you ever visit London, add the National Gallery to your “To Do” list.
I began to feel poorly while walking around the gallery, so I returned to the dorms afterwards and had a restful evening. Part of me felt a bit guilty – I have so many things I want to do while I’m in London, but already feel as though I’m rapidly running out of time. So how could I possibly rest?! And on a Friday night, no less? What a travesty. But I realize that I’m sick (and seem to be getting sicker), so I know that I need to rest while I can. On the plus side, we have all discovered the beauty that is Netflix UK. Netflix back in the States is obviously adequate and I can’t complain, but Netflix UK is on the next level! One of my favorite shows, Archer, just completed its 5th season not long ago – and guess what? The 5th season is on Netflix UK! (But not in the US). I’m going to take advantage of this fact, and look at it as the silver lining of being sick.
I woke up on Saturday still unfortunately feeling poorly, but trekked to the National Portrait Gallery with the girls. A fun side story: We walked to Waterloo Station, per usual, but were serenaded inside by a (seemingly already drunk) 20-something guy! Yes, he walked right by us with his mates and began belting out James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful.” While in fact it’s a terrible song, I think we all were a little flattered. He even kept belting out the song while walking away from us and riding the escalator down to the tube. What a way to start off our Saturday!
We also were excited to see that the Book Benches are up and running! As the site says, these benches were “designed by local artists and famous names to celebrate London’s literary heritage and reading for enjoyment.” They’re placed all over the city, and are absolutely gorgeous. Some well-known ones include Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, 1984, Dr. Seuss, Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, Pride & Prejudice, The Jungle Book, etc. As it turns out, one bench is located in our very own Waterloo Station! We can’t wait to find more benches throughout the city…
Now, back to the gallery… It was founded in 1856, and is a collection of portraits of British men and women. Probably one of the more well-known portraits in the collection is the 2012 Paul Emsley oil painting of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (often referred to as Kate Middleton, or Prince William’s wife). Some of my other favorites are portraits of Dame Judi Dench and former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Similarly to the National Gallery, no pictures are allowed, but again, I would highly recommend visiting this gallery if you have the chance. I’m a very visual person, so viewing the portraits is a great way for me to connect with British history and culture.
That afternoon everyone went off to do fun things, but I headed back to the dorms again to rest. I think my body is trying to tell me how tired and worn out it is, and I know I won’t start feeling better until I allow myself to take a break. Besides, I had to prepare myself for our big evening event….
the London Eye!
The Eye of course is the giant “ferris wheel” that can be easily spotted from miles away. It’s located minutes away from our dorm and is right across the River Thames from Big Ben and Parliament, which makes for some spectacular views. We bought our tickets for 9 pm, and arrived 30 minutes early as instructed, fully expecting there to be a queue. But I guess it was our lucky night because we just strolled right through the line and into our pod to begin the ride! We all took tons of pictures and had a great time.
The sun rises in London just before 5 am and sets at around 9:15 pm right now, so we had the chance to see the beginnings of a beautiful sunset. Back on the ground, the sky was breathtakingly beautiful…
Sunday, which perhaps should have been treated as a day of rest, was certainly busy, busy, busy! The girls and I went to St. Paul’s Cathedral for their 11 am Sung Eucharist service. St. Paul’s is hands down, one of, if not my absolute favorite buildings in London. The current cathedral was designed by famous English architect Sir Christopher Wren in the late 1600’s; many funerals (Churchill, Margaret Thatcher) and weddings (Prince Charles and Diana) have taken place there. I am not the most eloquent person by any means, but I truly do not have words to describe the regal beauty of the dome or the interior artwork. Photography is not allowed, which actually suits me – I am fully aware that no photograph can do the cathedral justice. Instead, I enjoyed relishing the opportunity to attend a worship service in such a magnificent space, and indeed, the service was well done. We’re returning to St. Paul’s as a class on Tuesday to get a behind the scenes tour of the library, so I am sure I’ll have much to report!
That afternoon, Laura Douglass and I headed to Finsbury Park to the Wireless Music Festival, which we have been planning for months! Both of us are huge music fans and have similar music tastes, so we were thrilled to see some of our favorites perform, such as Ellie Goulding, Outkast, Robin Thicke, and Bruno Mars. It rained on and off all afternoon, but that didn’t dampen our spirits, and we had a blast jamming out and people watching with tens of thousands of our closest British friends!
Towards the end of the night, after being rained on and chilled most of the day, I was feeling terrible, so we headed home to King’s College. But not before we each had our picture taken in front of the graffiti wall!
This week we’re visiting a TON of amazing places – the London Archaeological Archive Resource Centre, the Barbican Centre, St. Paul’s Library, the National Maritime Museum Library & Archive, the British Museum Archives, the Wiener Library, and Kew Gardens. Check back for more updates!
I hope everyone has had a fantastic weekend,