Friday, May 17, 2013

London - Day 9

Today was basically my last day here. I leave for the airport right after breakfast in the morning, so I doubt that there will be anything interesting to write about tomorrow.
Anyway, today was good day for the most part. This morning I took it easy and stayed in to get my stuff together for leaving, and I also took another walk around the park. The birds in their nests were bigger and playing in the water.
After lunch I went back to the V&A Museum because I only saw a small bit while I was there last week. I spent a good 3 hours there this time and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I looked at sculpture, architecture, wrought iron, glass, the plaster cast preservation.... That museum is the most amazing place.
Will I miss climbing this beast several times a day? Probably not.

The flowers in Queen Mary's garden are starting to bloom.

An ivy-covered corner of Regent's College.

An Amazing carved ivory fan at the V&A.

A nice sculpture, don't you think?

Proof I was there.
After the museum, I went back to platform 9 3/4 for a sec, but it was really crowded this time, so I didn't stay long. I went to the college for dinner (after a fiasco with my Oyster card), and visited with friends who went to the Harry Potter tour today. I'm glad they went and liked it.
Finally, after dinner, and to cap off all of my London adventures, I went to Her Majesty's Theater to see The Phantom of the Opera! I've wanted to see that show for almost 20 years now, and my wish was finally fulfilled! The show was really fun, and technically amazing. It was great to finally see - on stage - how the show is presented. There's also a fair bit of stuff I've never heard before(like that player piano scene!) and the choreography....It was all so fun!
After getting back home, I packed up, showered, and once again fell asleep while writing this, but here it is! My final day of fun in London was wonderful. My whole trip was wonderful. I love it here, and I hope to someday come back again!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

London - Day 8 (The One with Harry Potter)

What a great day! I went to the Harry Potter Studios Tour at the Warner Brothers Studios in Leavesden with my friend Dani, and we took a million pictures! The whole thing really lived up to my expectations, which were pretty high.
We decided to meet at the train station at 9:15 this morning so that we would FOR SURE be on time for our trains and connections. I was in a rush, but got there with a few minutes to spare, Dani, however, was nowhere in sight. After a while, I tried texting, calling, yelling very loudly, sobbing uncontrollably, but she did not answer. Tension was building, but finally she called me back - she'd been stuck on a subway with no phone service. We rushed to figure out our train, but we missed it by a just a few minutes. We didn't worry though because there was another one 10 minutes later.
We rode the new train to Watford Junction where we stepped out to see a large bus with "Harry Potter Studio Tour" covering its sides, so we hopped on that and were on our way!
If this doesn't excite you, leave this blog at once!
We got there about 30 minutes earlier than our admission time, so we perused the gift shop, where everything was amazing and also very expensive. SO, word to those who plan a trip there: prepare for the shock and sadness of wanting everything, but not having enough money for any of it. (Okay, there were a few things that are decent in price, like key-chains...I bought a Time-Turner one.)
After browsing the shop, we took our place in line to let the real fun begin! The following pictures are but a few of the hundreds we took, but these are the pictures that I liked best. In no particular order, here you go!
The group gathers at the huge doors of the Great Hall...

The Great Hall! It was beautiful!

Racks of costumes. I didn't even need the tags to tell me who they were for.

Amazing gates to Hogwarts.

Those are the wands of all the main characters! The REAL wands!

Hey, that's me in the Mirror of Erised! It was much bigger than I thought.

This is the entrance to Dumbledore's office.

The Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone was like ruby obsidian.

This "miniature" was awe-inspiring. It was the "jewel in the crown," said one sign - it really was though!

These Olivander's boxes had the names of the 4000 people
 who helped make the Harry Potter films a reality 

Number 4 Privet Drive!

My hair does the same thing if I sleep on it funny.

Dani's driving a flying car! I'm holding on for dear life!

The Knight Bus was very tall and purple.

The set for Diagon Alley was really fun. Here's Gringotts

This cabinet held the Horcruxes. The Diadem was so pretty!

This is the door to the Chamber or Secrets. The mechanics of it actually worked!
I took so many pictures that my battery died, so a bunch of these were taken by my friend Dani. The whole thing was just a top-notch experience. Who knows of I'll ever see this stuff again? I hope to someday, but I'll always remember this super fun trip to the studio!

After Harry Potter, I was back in time for dinner, but I didn't want to let the night waste away, so I went down to Piccadilly Circus and stopped in at the Criterion Theatre to see if I could get a cheap seat for "The 39 Steps." Luck was in my favor and I got a cheap one, but with a 'restricted' view that wasn't all that restricted at all. In fact, it was just like sitting in those fancy booth seats. I also had the row to myself, so I wasn't cramped or anything. The show also got out before the other plays in the area, so the tube wasn't yet packed full for the trip home.
Anyway, the play was fun; it only had four actors to play about 15 different parts. The scenery was fun and inventive too. The endless references to Hitchcock's films was funny too. This whole day was fun.

Tomorrow is my last full day in London, and I have some good things planned. Come back tomorrow to find out!

London - Day 7

My legs and feet no longer ache from all the walking. I think the pain receptors wore out, or maybe I'm just building muscles (ha, like that would ever happen) in my legs.
Regardless, I walked a lot and climbed many stairs today, and it was all worth it.
I first went to St Paul's Cathedral. I had originally planned on going with the London Walks tour group because they are usually pretty awesome, but after checking out St Paul's website, and seeing that a tour was included at no extra cost, I decided to forego the Walks group and head there on my own. There are no pictures allowed in the cathedral, so I sadly can post any here. The tour guide was named Celia and she was very knowledgeable and very nice to listen too. She took us in some otherwise non-accessible place for the public, like the floor level of the Geometric Stair. That spiral stone staircase up the large tower was impressive, both visually and architecturally - but then, so is all of St Paul's! I learned quite a bit, and since I was on my own, I could go at my own pace after the tour ended. I walked'climbed up to the "whisper gallery," which is the indoor circle at the base of the dome, and from there climbed higher and higher to get to the very top of St Paul's dome. The architecture is amazing, and the history of it is too!
This is the view from the lower outside circle. T!hat's the Globe Theater on the left.

The very top!
Under this tower is the Geometric Stair (If I remember right...).

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After St Paul's, I went back to the college for lunch (which is way more crowded than breakfast and dinner), and then left for the only matinee of my trip, "The Mousetrap." I'd never seen it before, nor really knew anything about it. It was a murder mystery, and it was fun to compare what I was watching to "Ronald Knots' rules of detective fiction," which I read at the British Library the other day. The show was fun and old-fashioned, which was perfect for a rainy day like the whole day was. I won't reveal who the killer was though, because that would break the tradition that the play has held! The cast asked the audience to please keep the answer to the mystery locked in our hearts, so that's what I'll do.
I went back to the college for dinner with no plan for the evening, but in a moment of get-out-and-do-something-or-stay-home-and-do-nothing, I chose to accompany a friend and do the Jack The Ripper walk. It was rainy, so I was a total tourist and bought a cheap umbrella with a Union Jack design, but at least I stayed dry throughout the night of rain!
This time, the Ripper Tour was a bit better than the first time I went a few years ago. The group was still big, but not as huge as I remember, and the lady/guide had pictures to show us of how the streets used to look, as well as horribly gruesome morgue pictures too. I don't ever want to be murdered.
After all that, I got back to my room and started writing this but fell asleep before I finished, so I finished the next day. Better late than never!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

London - Day 6

Today was a pretty good day. I had to make the tough choice this morning of going on a Westminster Abbey tour (which I've done before) and going to the British Library (which I've also done before), but I ultimately chose the free option and went to library. They have an amazing gallery of rare and very important documents, and I got distracted in it all and was a full 10 minutes late meeting back up with my group. I saw the Magna Carta, a Gutenberg Bible, The oldest known copy of Beowulf, Handel's Messiah, and tons of other stuff. It was all very interesting. There was also a mini-exhibit called "A-Z: Murder at the Library" and it had literary examples of a different author/genre/tropes of detective and crime fiction for every letter in the alphabet. And if you were wondering, the letter X was for Xenophobia.
This is a fun bench at the British Library. Sometimes, this is what a good book feels like.

Outside at the library. Not sure if blinking, or just weird eyes in every selfie.
After the library, we walked on over to the Wellcome Collection, but found out after we were inside that the  gallery was closed. Oops. At least I got to see a map of the continents made out dead mosquitoes.
At least the walk over there provided a view of the amazing roof and towers of St Pancras, which is an inspiration for the future castle I'm going to live in.
Yes, I want this type of roof.

Three other people on the trip. This should be used as an advertisement.
After the Wellcome disappointment, We walked to the British Museum, which is the greatest museum in the world. It has everything you can imagine (except King Tut - I did not see him there). The Egypt sculpture hall is astounding. I want to know the history of the actual museum and how they got such MASSIVE things inside, like huge granite pharaohs and obelisks and stuff. I could spend a week there and maybe see everything if I didn't stop to read all the descriptions.
Outside the British Museum.

Egyptian sculpture of some pharaoh, but I can't remember which - there were so many!

The History of Clocks section was pretty cool. I still don't understand how they work.
After the Museum, we went into a store called Primark, which is clothes and stuff for mega cheap. It's like Old Navy/Uniqlo type styles but for a fraction of the price. The most expensive thing I saw were the shoes, which were 6 - 15 pounds. I bought a shirt for 3 pounds! If that store chain came to America, it would be the One Ring to rule them all!
After shopping, a few of us Potterheads went in search of the new Platform 9 3/4 since the one I found a couple years ago has apparently moved as to be more accessible. We found it thanks to the help of a security guard who pointed the way in King's Cross Station, and when we got there, the platform was open so we got to run through it!
This picture is PROOF that magic is real! PROOF!
After visiting the platform we went to the Harry Potter themed shop next door where I continued to geek out over everything there, I thought my wands were fun, but the wands for sale here are the best movie reproductions I've seen! Also the most expensive!
The wand chooses the wizard! The wizard can't afford the wand!
After King's Cross, I went back to the college for dinner and to get ready for the show-of-the-night, "One Man, Two Guvnors," which many of the other students in my group also had tickets for.
The show was SO funny! I was in stitches! It's no wonder this show has no opened in New York! And I got my ticket for super cheap! It cost less than my dinner the other day!
This was about 20 seconds before the rain arrived...
After the show, as we waited for the group to gather, the heavens opened and we were all soaked by the time we reach the Underground station, only a 2-3 minute walk. Everyone else on the tube was wet as well, so we fit right in.
It was a really fun and full day, and it ended with a very funny play that I'd love to see again sometime. I definitely recommend it!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

London - Day 5

My stay in London is already halfway finished, and that makes me a little sad. I've been able to see and do some fun things though, and still have a couple more days of adventure ahead, so I can't be too sad just yet.
Today was a very nice day. It's Sunday, so the rush of travelers was less intense that usual, and this morning the weather was beautiful.
I made plans to travel to St Albans, and I set out at 8 this morning to make sure I'd be able to get my train ticket and be there on time, and everything worked out perfectly.
My train arrived at St Albans about 9:40, and I walked right on over to the church where I was going to meet my friends, the Hawkshaws. I was there before they were, but basically everyone that was there was very friendly and welcoming, which made the short time before church very nice and enjoyable.
The Hawkshaws arrived and we had a quick catch-up before heading into services. I made lots of new friends at church that I'll probably not see again, but I was left with nothing but good memories of all of them.
After church I went to Hawkshaw Hall with my friends to have lunch and visit. Their house was very beautiful and was 100 years old last year. It's in Radlett and every house and everywhere you look is a frame-able picture I'd love to have on my wall.
I did NOT take this photo (well, I took it off the internet).
The beautiful view of the backyard. There was so much more color in real life.
Alan Hawkshaw is a musician, and during our visit after lunch he played some very nice songs on the piano for us. He's very good at jazz improvisation and chromatic harmonization with really strong melodies. I could listen to it all day. Even beside the music, The visiting was very nice, as was the food that Chris made. My plate was all but licked clean!
All too soon, it was time for me to catch my train back to London, but not before snapping some pictures with my favorite English people in the whole world! I'm so grateful for their kindness, from the time I met them in Florida several years back and onward. I hope to be as fun and kind as they are throughout my life, because they set a great example and I love them for it.
Chris, Me, and Alan - they're the best!
The train back was a little slower due to other delays ahead on the tracks (from what I gathered), so by the time I was back in London I was a little too late to go to the Globe to see The Tempest, but I wish I could have been there because my group that went MET GANDALF! I'm a little jealous, but had I also met Ian McKellen I would have just stuttered and looked a fool of a Took.
I got back to Regents, had a bite to eat for dinner while trying to figure out my night, but I felt really tired (all this adventure really wears me out!), so I skyped home, then started to write in my blog.
I must have been more tired than I thought, because I feel asleep with the light on. When I woke up at midnight a few hours later, I was confused because I felt like I had slept through the night. I rolled over and saw that it was dark outside, so had to get my bearings on what time it was and what the heck was going on. I recovered and then finished this post.
It was a great Sunday and I'm so glad that I got to meet up with some of my favorite people and see their home and neighborhood. I'll miss them, but I'm sure that someday we'll see each other again - It is a small world after all!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

London - Day 4

Today was so good, and so busy! Once I left after breakfast, my day was basically full of stuff to do.
We started out by walking from Westminster Station to the Tate Art Museum, which is a bit of a walk, especially in the windy cold, but I was happy to see Parliament up closer today.
I think I actually was blinking in the picture, thanks camera for getting it right for once. (Big Ben is just out of the left side of the picture)

One of the towers on Parliament.
 Once at the Tate, I was a little sad to see that a huge portion was under re-development, so after an hour and a half, I had seen everything, but it worked out perfectly with the schedule. There is some very neat pieces there. There are lots of traditional paintings, and also lots of sculptures. The art gets more and more outrageous as the time period gets more recent.
In the background there's an elephant made of car doors and maps, with a circle of car doors on the ground.
In the foreground, a literal cube of garbage.

This piece, "An Athlete Wrestles a Python," was very striking. The detail on the snake was really lifelike.

I loved all the pieces by John Martin - they were so dramatic (and big!) and they command your attention.
After the Tate, we took a riverboat to the Tate Modern. The boat took us right to the Globe Theater, which we skipped for now to get the Tate Modern.
Boy-oh-boy, that place had some WEIRD stuff! I recognized some Picasso and the water lilies piece by Monet, but the rest of the art was really strange. I wasn't really "drawn" to much of it. There was one piece that people had to wait in line for - the installation was three long wooden boxes with that dryer-ventilation-bendy-metal-pipe in each, with a light at one end and a lens to look into on the other. I was curious to see what I would see looking through the lens, so I waited my turn and took a look. I saw down a dryer-ventilation-bendy-metal-pipe with a light at the end. I don't know what I was expecting with that one.
Another piece was a mirror on a canvas. That was literally it. I have the same art in my house that is in the Tate Modern. Mine must be very valuable.
Many of the sculptures at the Tate Modern made me think of the scary sculptures that attack the family in the movie Beetlejuice. Not my favorite things...
It was also REALLY crowded compared to the other museums. I'm glad I went, but I look forward to seeing more "traditional" art in the coming days.
The London Eye

Look Mom, I'm at the Globe!
After the Museums we went across the Millennium Bridge (the one that the Death Eaters destroyed) and to St. Paul's to go on a tour. We got there and discovered they closed early to prepare for services, so I decided to take a dinner break and come back to the service an hour later, but not before getting a picture!
St. Paul's doesn't even look very big in this picture...
 I went looking for someplace to eat and ended up choosing basically the first place I found that was open. It was a regular restaurant, but it was not busy at the time and the guy in charge was really friendly and helpful, and I ordered the food I did based on his advice. I got half a chicken and salad and "chips" (which are fries to Americans). The atmosphere in the place was very calm and it was good to have a hot cooked meal and rest up for a bit.
This was my happy little table with a real flower.
After dinner I went back to St. Paul's for what I thought was a choral music recital, but it was a service. It was full of inspirational music, and the words of the Canon in Residence were inspiring too. It was a new experience, and I'm glad I got to see it, as well as look at the insides of the magnificent building.
While at breakfast this morning I was trying to decide on a show to see tonight, and made a spontaneous choice and bought a ticket for "Viva Forever," which is to the Spice Girls what "Mamma Mia" is to Abba. I got a decent deal, even though my seat was in the top balcony (but at least it was in the center!). So tonight I got to the theater and went to the desk to get my ticket, but the girl there told me that they had to change my seat. I was almost bummed, thinking that I wanted to be in the center, but then she said the magic words, "You've been upgraded." She was NOT kidding! I went from the nose-bleeds to THE SIXTH ROW! And directly in the center! It was truly the most perfect seat. And I paid very little for it!
The show was fun and I knew the songs, which made it even better. It was silly and entertaining, and I would not be one bit surprised if it's made into a movie someday. It has a MUCH better plot than the actual Spice Girls movie did (but clipping your nails has a better plot than that movie, so...)
Viva Forever! at the Piccadilly Theater.
Tomorrow I'm off to St. Albans to visit some of my favorite people that I met on my LDS Mission in Florida, the Hawkshaws! I hope I can figure out the train system and don't get too lost or anything. Either way, I'll write about it! See you tomorrow!