Hang on all, this is a long one.
I spent last Monday through Sunday morning with my entire time with my uncle and his family, and I have to believe that no one has experienced London quite the way I have through travelling with them. If I’m to describe my time with the group, I have to introduce them as characters of a cast. So here goes.
Uncle Michael: My mom’s older brother who is a specialized ears, nose and throat doctor. He is possibly one of the most extensively educated and travelled people I have ever met in my life, as he possesses an endless amount of interests. Michael spent some time studying in London when he was younger, and has extremely detailed knowledge of the city. He was the glue that held everything together this week.
Aunt Iliana: My uncle’s wife, an artist who grew up in Russia. Between the iconic architecture, multitude of art museums, beautiful cobblestone streets, etc., etc., her artistically inclined brain was on complete sensory overload in London. The art student in her caused a bit slower movement at times, because virtually everything was fair game for a picture opportunity.
Sophia: Somewhat of a reincarnation of my current self in 14-year-old form (I was loads more awkward at her age. But we had the opportunity to connect in a different way than we ever have before. I kept forgetting how young she really is, and had to restrain myself more than once from asking her if she wanted to grab a drink.) We had freakishly similar outfit choices almost daily. And a mutual love of perfectly ripened apricots.
Misha: Lego-obsessed. Charismatic beyond belief. Well-travelled. Your not-so-average 10-year-old.
Together, they make up quite the tourist bunch. Also, they have a tendency to be the last ones out of gift shops. Closing times do not bode well with this group.
Through the 12-13 hour average days, I lost track of the complete chronological order. So I’m going to divide my time up by categories. Also, many of the places (namely museums and tea shops) would not let me take pictures, which was slightly irritating.
I’ve already talked about one comedy show, but before the end of the week, I had had no less than three completely different theatre experiences. On Thursday, we made our way to see Warhorse live. The horses and animals were extensively designed puppets, controlled by people who had obviously studied the every movement of the animal. Incredible. By the end of the show, I was in tears.
The last show we went to was Henry V at a recreation of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, only 200m from the original that burnt down. We got lucky and were upgraded last-minute from the 5 pound a ticket standing area, to actual seats. I remember reading Shakespeare in high school and really hating it. It was difficult to comprehend, and my patience wore thin. Seeing it performed, as it was written to be, was much more fun.
Saturday was spent as a full art-immersion day. We visited the British Museum in the morning where we saw a small exhibition of the Beatles that included some of the first drafts of some of their popular songs. The drafts were generally written on commonplace items, like the back of an envelope or a child’s birthday card. Pretty cool!
Some of Leonardo da Vinci’s musings were on display, written in ‘mirror writing.’ In other words, written from right to left, in a way that could only then be read by holding a mirror in front of it.
I would love to know how it feels to have a brain that works like that for just one day. Wouldn’t it be wild?
Our visit to the National Art Gallery was fairly extensive, as Michael and Iliana both walked me through the various time periods, changes in style, influences, and such. We also re-visited Tate Modern for the Damien Hirst exhibit, which was a bit controversial. Formaldehyde preserved animals=creepy. Complete butterfly room=amazing. So it pretty much balanced out for me.
The most popular pick-me-up of the trip seemed to be tea, and I was treated to a full high tea several times. This means perfectly cut crustless sandwiches, miniature pastries, and scones with jam and crème accompanying the tea. In essence, it’s a snack of sugar, with just enough caffeine to make you a little crazy.
Sophia and I realized a pattern between minor hysteria (fits of unexplained giggles) almost directly following high tea times. Just can’t hang with those Brits, I guess.
To top the week off, as we parted ways Sunday morning, I was thrown what I can only describe a series of navigational curveballs. Several of the main lines on the tube were down, so I ended up on a bus, switching once before making it to the train station, where I was informed that the train I needed did not leave for another 2 hours or so. I then took another train that required another jump before finally making it back to Cobham.
Navigational guru now. (Not really, I just constantly asked for directions.)
After a brief recuperation, I made my way back into London that evening to meet up with Rachel and her boyfriend and watch the Euro cup final between Spain and Italy. We went to a fun outdoor wine bar before making our way to a Spanish fan-dominated pub to see the slaughter of Italy along to excited chants of Es-pa-na! It was great to be in London to just soak up the excitement. People with faces painted everywhere, some wrapping themselves in capes of the country’s flag.
The last couple days have been spent planning for the trip that I’m about to take. I’m currently packing my very small carry-on bag in preparation for my two weeks time in Venice and Madrid…starting tomorrow! Unfortunately, the size limitations don’t allow for my laptop to come along (plus, I’m not too sure about leaving it in the youth hostels during the day). That said, I’m still bringing my camera, and planning on utilizing internet cafes. Hoping to keep this blog up as best I can.
One more thing: I’ve been so focused on being excited about the trip, that I’ve forgotten to be nervous…until now. Navigating all by myself? Without the GPS on my iPhone? In foreign languages?