Saturday, October 31, 2009

London Bye Ta Ta

Wow! I am back from this crazy two week break, having successfully rocked the world of public transportation and after visiting three different countries. I owe huge thanks to Adele and Vincent, Ursula and Phillip, and Steve and Kristel, who gave me the contacts of these lovely people who hosted me and made the trip very special! Thanks again!

The adventure began on the 20th, when that morning I scurried as fast as I could to the Salzburg Airport, checked in and made it in time for my flight to London. As the plane took off you could see the Alps really well, and it was like a wall of mountains to the south. Quite a sight! From the London Luton Airport I took a bus into London (almost an hour away), and had fun listening to British music on my iPod while I freaked out because I was in ENGLAND! Then there was no trouble finding the hostel, which was just a short walk away from the Baker Street bus stop, checked in, dropped off my stuff, and then decided to go down town.

It is quite essential to know the Tube/Underground when you’re in London, and to know the cheapest way to get around. This, by the way, is the Oystercard, which you can put a set amount of pounds on and it’ll get you far! Otherwise it’s quite expensive to get around. Luckily my friend Melissa recommended that I get one ahead of time, so I saved a lot of money on transportation, and ten pounds got me through my whole stay! However, I was totally confused by the Tube for like an hour, and spent a fair amount of time blundering around in tunnels before I figured it out. But, once I got used to it, it was awesome, and took me straight to Trafalgar Square.

When I emerged from the station, it was so cool to really set foot in London! The National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery are all in Trafalgar Square, so that’s where I spent most of my visit. I spent some of the afternoon looking to see if I could find a copy of the new Mick Ronson biography at any of the bookstores on Charing Cross Road, but to no avail, which was annoying, and dashed my reading material plans for the trip. But, I then headed to the National Portrait Gallery, which had a cool exhibit on the Sixties and Swinging London (it was called “the Beatles to Bowie” so I obviously had to go). That was a fun way to start my visit, seeing very good photographs of all my favorite British musicians, and they were playing some sixties music throughout the exhibit, and I recognized all the songs, which was fun.

As I left the Gallery, I saw a glimpse of Big Ben in the distance, and thought I would go explore around there. So I walked all the way down White Hall Street, and took a look at the beautiful Westminster Abbey and the massive clock tower. It was all very pretty in the twilight. Just around the corner was the Thames, and across the bank was the London Eye (the giant ferris wheel). Then I was quite tired, and my legs were pretty exhausted, so I headed back to the hostel (but first made a stop at Picadilly Circus, just to check it out), got a great dinner from a restaurant down the street, then relaxed a little before heading to bed.

Something that struck me rather funny about London was the way that they label everything. Their signs don’t simply say “exit”, instead it’s “the way out”, and rather than a “yield” sign, it’s “give way”. Quite cute, and very British.

The next morning I was chatting with the girl in the bunk under me at the hostel, and she was really neat. Her name was Sarah, and she was also an artist (she does printmaking at a gallery studio nearby), who was staying there while she looked for an apartment near her work. She was nice to talk to, and gave me tips on how to get cheaper tickets for the theater during the day. I took this advice to heart, and snagged stage seats to see “Othello” at Trafalgar Studios that night.

My first stop that day was the Globe Theater, so I could take a tour of the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s play house! The original Globe burned down due to a fire, started when a spark from a cannon set off during a production of Henry VIII landed on the thatch roof. Not very clever special effects. That was pretty interesting, and I learned about how the Theater worked back in the day, and about the costumes of Elizabethan times and so on. So that fulfilled one of my hopes and dreams...

After grabbing a quick lunch at a classic little London cafe, I went to the National Gallery for about five hours straight. It was a big museum, full of wonderful works of art. It was really amazing to get to see pieces like Van Gough’s “Sunflowers” and some of Monet’s Giverny pieces, not to mention work by Ingres, Van Dyck, Titian, Raphael, Velasquez and Rembrandt! An excellent way to spend the afternoon. Then I ran back to the hostel for a quick sandwhich for dinner, put on some nice clothes, and then went back into town for a night at the theater.

To see a Shakespeare production in the heart of London was a great experience. This version of Othello was really fantastic (and nearly uncut so it was LONG) and all the actors were very good. Having a stage seat was fun too, since I was right in the middle of all the action going on. The people I was sitting next to also spotted someone famous in the audience named Jonathan Ross (who I had no idea who that was at the time), who I later discovered is a famous announcer for the BBC who has said some rather controversial things. The were all jazzed and went to get photos with him at intermission. But what a great evening!

The next morning I was off again, taking another bus to east-Jesus-nowhere London and another airport, this time heading to Paris!


  1. Jonathan Ross has a talk show that's on BBC America. Anyway, London sounds cool, and you should help me plan a trip there when you get back home so I can go in the Spring!!