Archive | March, 2011

Stratford-Upon-Avon: Shakespearean nergasms

28 Mar

This past Saturday I took a bus tour with one of my roommates to Straford-Upon-Avon, the Cotswold’s, and Oxford. I’ve wanted to go to Stratford since I first learned about William Shakespeare. He was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon (the River Avon runs through the town, thus it gets the name) in 1564. The house he was born in and grew up in stands to this day thanks to his popularity before and after his death. The house has hosted a number of famous visitors including future U.S. presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, authors Mark Twain and Charles Dickens and poet John Keats. Needless to say, I was in good company in Stratford.

The first stop on our tour of Stratford was about a mile outside the town to see where Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway, was born and grew up. Shakespeare married 26-year-old Anne when he was just 18. Oh and she was pregnant with their child at the time of their wedding. Fun fact.

The Hathaway family and then its descendants lived in this cottage until the early 1900s when the Shakespeare's Birth Trust foundation acquired it. The Hathaway's would charge visitors to see the house and would tell lies about furniture, saying, "Shakespeare sat here!" just to make a few extra bucks.

The house itself is neat because it is a medieval/Tudor style home with a thatched roof. Throughout the years the Hathaway descendants kept the house in its original design with little to no updates to the inside. Though there weren’t any artifacts that Shakespeare himself would have seen/used, it was still interesting to see a little bit of what it would have been like to live in the cottage.

Next we headed to the heart of Stratford to see where the Bard was born. I could feel my heartbeat quicken as we walked toward the house, passing all sorts of sights and signs of Shakespeare.

A Statue of the Fool; "A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool"

O, had I but followed the arts! -- Twelfth Night

How well he's read, to reason against reading. -- Love's Labour's Lost

If you have tears, prepare to shed them now. -- Julius Caesar

Soon enough I was walking the ground that my literary hero once walked on. Breathing the air. Taking it all in and savoring each moment.

Shakespeare's actual birthplace, still standing after almost 450 years.

The front entrance to Shakespeare's house, complete with the Shakespeare family crest above the door.

I feel like I can share this with you all: whenever there is a “do not touch” sign, I am about 80% likely to touch whatever object it is I am not supposed to be touching, 99% likely if there are no “guards” there to yell at me. So of course when we walked through Shakespeare’s bedroom, past the four-poster bed he slept in, I had to feel the intricately carved wood. Not only was it beautiful, but the wood was soft yet sturdy. As it must be seeing as it is 400+ years old.

On the way out I signed the guest book. They’ve been keeping a guest book for over 200 years and the very first visitors were American! Just goes to show that Shakespeare has been loved around the world since he first became famous. I had to write my favorite quote in the comments box: “This above all, to thine own self be true” from Hamlet.

After some fun in the gift shop, we had a few minutes to walk around town before getting back on the bus. We went into the bookshop and then passed a few awesome shops.

If music be the food of love, play on. -- Twelfth Night

The Creaky Couldron, an homage to both the witches of Macbeth and Harry Potter

Butter Beer and Pumkin juice: the two beverages consumed most frequently in the Harry Potter books

And soon enough we had to get back on our tour bus and bid adieu to Stratford (for now).

Our tour took us on a drive through the Cotswold’s, stopping for lunch at a pub before continuing our journey to Oxford (more on that later).

The Cotswold’s is a quaint, countryside area of England. Absolutely beautiful with lots of these little guys:

Baa Ram Ewe

 

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Madam Tussaud’s

27 Mar

On Friday the 25th I went with Sam and our friend Bri to the wax museum, Madam Tussaud’s. I went to the one in New York City a few years ago and it was a lot of fun so I knew I had to come to the one in London.

The museum is on Baker Street, which is, of course, home to Sherlock Holmes.

There are many shops and restaurants that pay homage to the Great Detective

The whole point of Tussaud’s is to goof around and take pictures with wax models of celebrities, politicians, and other famous people. I tend to be silly and nerdy on a daily basis so me in the wax museum is like a kid in a candy store: ecstatic, hyperactive, and enjoying a natural high. I hope you are as amused at my photos as I was at the museum.

Miley Cyrus: Quite possibly the most terrifying thing I've ever seen. I was prepared to defend myself.

Kate Moss: Sometimes I like to pose like wax figures of models. I think I've got the face down.

Audrey Hepburn: We had Breakfast at Tiffany's together.

Henry VIII: He snuck in on my portrait sitting. But it's ok, his cod piece really adds to the impressiveness of the painting.

Prince Harry: He's single, he's a ginger, and he's at least 5 inches taller than me. Oh, and unlike his brother he has a full head of hair.

Oscar Wilde: This is me hoping to gain a fraction of Wilde's talent by standing next to a wax representation of the author.

The Beatles: I joined the band AND got to touch Paul McCartney's leg. (unfortunately, these figures aren't exactly accurate, especially George.)

Justin Bieber: I finally met the Biebz. And I am indeed a good five inches taller than he is (he's on a platform) but that hair is just so glorious...

Lady GaGa: She says, "you can call all you want but there's no one home and you're not gonna reach my telephone," but lucky for GaGa, I was there to answer the phone.

Beyonce: Yes, I do know the "Single Ladies" dance. I go to Emerson, it's kind of a requirement.

Dali Lama: I like to practice Tree Pose with his holiness.

Pope: See, the thing is...

Samuel L. Jackson: I put my sunglasses on out of respect.

Spiderman: I like to get piggy back rides from Spidey. We're technically upside down, hanging from the ceiling. That's skill right there.

Winston Churchill: We're just two peas in a pod.

After the wax museum Sam and I went to Jack’s for a delicious pasta dinner. On the way there we passed Warner Bros. Studios, where they filmed the Harry Potter movies.

The Hogwarts houses and the Hogwarts crest. In 2012 the studios will have a tour of several sets from the films. Which is just one more excuse for me to come back to London.

Sir John Soane’s Museum

27 Mar

Saturday the 19th Sam and I walked from our dorm in West London to Holborn, which is in Central London, to visit Sir John Soane’s Museum. It was quite a long walk but the weather was fantastic: sunshine and warmth with a bit of a breeze, perfect for a good walk. We went through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, then down Oxford Street (and the shoppers’ chaos) to Holborn.

Springtime in London is beautiful, all of the parks have flowers in bloom and people out and about enjoying the sun with their families and dogs.

Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park; people come here to rant and rave about all sorts of things every Sunday.

We passed a Hare Krishna march which was very colorful and lively.

Do you know the muffin man? The muffin man? The muffin man!

The Lincoln's Inn, in Lincoln's Inn Fields.

Sir John Soane's Museum, located in Sir John Soane's house.

Sir John Soane was an architect and an art collector. His museum is interesting in that everything is open — furniture and sculptures and paintings all occupy former parlour’s and living rooms and the basement. The downside to this is that you can’t really see everything as some objects are on the bottom shelf or top shelf and the lighting is original to the house so it is quite dim. It was still fun to wander around an upper class London home and admire the vast quantities of books Soane owned.

After the museum Sam and I met another friend, Tracy, for Indian food in Brick Lane. Another delicious end to a beautiful day in London. I will miss Brick Lane when I go back to Boston…

National Portrait Gallery

14 Mar

On Sunday it was drizzly so a few friends and I went for a walk to Trafalgar square to see the St. Patrick’s Day festival. We took a bus to Hyde Park and walked past Buckingham to the square. Our walk took us down the Mall (rhymes with pal) which gave wonderful views of St. James’s park.

Buckingham

Parliament is just visible through the tree's along the Mall

A sure sign that spring is here in London

There were a few kids running through the flocks of pigeons, it was adorable.

The Eye just visible beyond the park. London is beautiful in the spring.

The festival was a bit lame…

St. Patrick's Day festival stage

Irish donut stand; Abby was once told by another of our friends "You smell like a nice, fresh daisy."

A giant ship in a bottle

After we got bored with the festival, we went around the block to the National Portrait Gallery. Photography wasn’t allowed inside, but we got to see portraits of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria, the Bronte Sisters, John Donne, Paul McCartney, Prince William and Prince Harry, Princess Di and Shakespeare, just to name a few.

 

Day of Churches: St. Pauls and Westminster Abbey

14 Mar

On Saturday I decided to do a solo tour of St. Paul’s and then walk to Westminster Abbey by way of the Thames.

St. Paul’s is one of the most recognizable churches in the world, mostly thanks to it’s massive dome. The Cathedral was designed by Christopher Wren just after the Great Fire of London (1666) destroyed the previous church. The current cathedral has been standing for almost 400 years. It suffered some minor damage during the air raids of WWII but otherwise remains in tact. Prince Charles married Diana there, another reason it is well-known.

St. Paul's Cathedral

Winston Churchill had soldiers surround the rooftops around St. Paul’s during the war specifically to spot and attempt to prevent bombings in the area. They also served to put out smaller bombs that burst into flames on impact.

St. Paul's Cathedral, the dome.

St. Paul's Cathedral, entrance

Unfortunately, there’s no photography inside. There are beautiful mosaics on the ceilings and even though there are no stained glass windows it works. There is simplicity in the cathedral which makes it even more beautiful.

About a block from St. Paul’s was a cute candy store.

A sweets shop down the road from the cathedral

The weather was great on Saturday. It was the fourth day of sun in a row, a ray feat for London. My walk to Westminster took me down Fleet Street.

Now, Fleet Street was on my list of to-do’s because my favorite musical is Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. It is a tale of revenge and love, it is bloody so it’s not for the faint of heart and stomach. But the music is fantastic (Stephen Sondheim, a true musical genius) and I do recommend it.

Fleet Street itself was a nice walk, even though there was nothing to commemorate Sweeney (which was a surprise, since the show is quite successful).

A few buildings on Fleet Street. A closer look...

I must go here at least once before I leave.

A pub on Fleet Street

A statue at the entrance to Fleet Street

Royal Court of Justices

Royal Court of Justices

Royal Court of Justices

My walk continued along the Thames.

The view along the Thames

The newer area of London and St. Paul's Cathedral to the left.

Cleopatra's Needle

The London Eye

World War II Memorial with a quote from Winston Churchill

Parliament as the sun sets

Big Ben is technically the name of the bell which strikes the hour, not the actual clock.

There were a bunch of protestors across the street from Parliament, mostly anti-war.

Parliament with the Eye in the background

Unfortunately, Westminster was closed when I got there. But I still got to see the outside. Prince William will marry Kate there next month.

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

A few grotesques around the doors

The doorways reminded me of Notre Dame

Westminster is very similar to Notre Dame in terms of architectural style

Statues above the main entrance

I walked a bit further before taking the Tube back to campus. It was a long day but I saw a lot and the walk was just what I needed to clear my head.

British Museum part deux

14 Mar

My second visit to the British Museum was this past Friday and the weather was beautiful.

Proof of the gorgeous weather

My favorite part about the design of the museum, a quote from Tennyson.

First stop, of course, was the Greek and Roman section. Unless labelled otherwise, the following art displays are Greek.

A temple dedicated to the Nereids (sea nymphs)

Vase with maenads and satyrs

Funny face in a plate

A battle helm

birdeeee

Drinking glasses

Frieze from the Partenon

A horse from the Parthenon

Lady with a pot on her head

Roman medical tools. They were all very similar to tools used today, it was unbelievable.

Another statue that reminded me of my brother.

A Roman goblet with very erotic imagery

Roman vase

Guy on a crocodile?

Peacock mosaic

Some mummies…

Little sarcophagus dolls

A preserved corpse

Boo!

Another dead guy, this time just bones in a straw coffin

Ancient world artifacts…

Om Nom Nom... An Iranian mural

British collars

Hand-carved ivory bracelet

Golden unicorn

English brooches shaped like doves

Dionysus riding a barrel of wine...

Cock-a-doodle-doo

And here are a few of my favorite new boyfriends from the British Museum:

I like his floppy hat and his pout

A lovely ruff and facial hair

A distinguished mole and glorious bald head

Best ringlets

A serious demeanor is necessary

And a few awkward statues/art pieces in general…

Cupid; is he misbehaving?

"And I said to her, 'We can't fit anything else in the nest!'"

This guy is just scary. Look at that hat. And those teeth. Yikes.

Something seems a bit disproportionate...

 

 

Sillyness around London, featuring Jack and Etana

8 Mar

The weekend before my birthday (Feb. 24-27) one of my (most good-looking) closest friends from home, Etana, came to visit Jack and me. She is currently studying in Amsterdam and has been all year so I hadn’t seen her since August. We had quite a lot of fun exploring the city on Friday. We mostly stayed around the Bloomsbury/Holburn area but managed to venture to Oxford Street so that she could experience the joys and terror that is Primark. She did manage to get a bargain, so it was worth it. And of course Jack and I took her to Pizza Express for dinner, where she also got to experience my favorite dessert, Banoffee Pie.

On our exploration we came across this gem.

I clearly am a child. But that's okay, I know I am not alone.

On Saturday we went to Portobello Road in Notting Hill. It was dreadful weather all day; it rained, and rained, and rained some more. But we had fun looking at the trinkets and we had some delicious Paella from a street vendor. We also found this store, which made us think of a certain friend:

Little Lauren would have loved it. And Madonna has been there apparently.

That night we went to Brick Lane for Indian food, which is quickly becoming my favorite cuisine. Brick Lane is famous for Indian food but I found this street sign, which made me think of yet another friend:

Yes, Patrick, it is a street named after your favorite food.

As for our dinner, I had Vindiloo, which is an extremely spicy dish. I can normally handle spicy food but I was reaching for the mango lassi (a yogurt based smoothie) and the naan (flatbread) to help cool of my mouth, which was ablaze. After dinner we went to a club in Picadilly called Rumba, which was fun but crowded. And at the end of the night I had to say goodbye to Etana (for now, Amsterdam, here I come…April 22). Getting to see her and Jack really makes me appreciate not only old friends but having really great friends relatively nearby.

After my weekend with Etana, I was greeted with another Monday. But this time, it was my birthday. My 21st birthday. It didn’t really feel all that special (although my Blackberry was quite exhausted from all the Facebook notifications by the end of the day) until the next day, when I went to dinner with Jack. We had some fabulous ravioli and a glass of wine and dessert at a place in Covent Garden . After dinner we went back to his flat to watch Clue and polish off two bottles of wine. It was quite the night.

But the birthday celebrations didn’t stop there. On Wednesday we went to our favorite little club, Opal, to dance and have a good time. Before Opal we went to the Union bar at Imperial College for a pint of cider. And at opal we ordered this:

The Giant Daiquiri. Serves eight, or five in our case. And Jack was more than able to keep up with the girls.

We also managed to take a shot (Jack, Sam, Matt, and me) or two (Jack and me). It was a night of good friends and great dancing. What more can you ask for at 21?

Jack and I on the dance floor, making everyone jealous of our sweet grooves.