*Enjoy these pictures of Regent’s Park courtesy of J, since I didn’t take pictures this week. Camera cord coming soon!*
Our second weekend in London (July 22-24) was mostly unplanned. Friday meant work for J and errands/job hunting for me, except I got a bit stir crazy inside the flat and decided to go on a walk. I walked east from my building and soon came upon Baker’s Street (Sherlock Holmes’ “hangout”) and Marylebone. Basically I found myself surrounded by beautiful town homes that I could probably never afford. Amidst these buildings was one where Lionel Logue, the speech therapist to George VI as seen in The King’s Speech, practiced. It didn’t look any different from all the others on the street and it didn’t look to as “rugged” as it was in the movie. Of course, things were a lot different in London before WWII. How did I know it was his former office you ask? Well, for those of you that have never been to London, London does this pretty awesome thing where they put plaques outside of where famous people (not just Englishmen) spoke, lived or worked. I’ve walked by Eisenhower’s WWII London lodgings, houses where Charles Dickens wrote, and many more plaques about people I’ve never heard of.
My walk continued through Soho, Convent Gardens and Holborn neighborhoods. I was probably walking over an hour at this point. Lots of young people live in these areas and Soho is full of creative, bohemian types, theaters and clubs. It’s one of those places that is pretty cool to walk around in, great place to eat out, maybe too loud and crowded to live in and one in which I don’t quite fit in (just not “hip” enough). Eventually this led me to St. Paul’s Cathedral, but along the way I admired architectural styles, people watched, window shopped and began to develop some understanding of where things are in my new city and what restaurants were chains.
I made it to St. Paul’s by about 2.5 hours elapsed or so and I began to feel a bit tired by then, but I was too far from where I lived (basically across the city) to turn around and walk back, so I decided to walk down the Thames river towards what I call downtown (Piccadilly, Parliament, Buckingham, Oxford St. etc). After almost walking in the wrong direction and getting terribly lost (the river is north, west, east and south in London depending on where you are, growing up where the ocean is always east of you has made this difficult for me to accept), I corrected myself and found my way to the Embankment to walk along the water. I don’t want to bore you with more general details, so I’ll just say that I walked through the crowded maze of Piccadilly Circus having passed many theaters and interesting shops, to meet J outside of his work after about 4 hours of walking.
J and I then found a place in Soho (south of where I was earlier, but same neighborhood) to eat dinner–Wahaca, which has pretty delicious Mexican tapas. We decided to walk home and walked through Regent’s Park for the first time along the way. Regent’s Park is very large (though not quite as big as Hyde Park) with beautifully manicured lawns and gardens. The London Zoo is actually in the park as well as a theater and Regent College (high school). With this detour, by the time I got home I had walked about six hours pretty much constantly that Friday.
Of course, that didn’t stop me from walking to the British Museum (as was our Saturday plan). I complained a bit more than I would have if I hadn’t spontaneously walked near half of the hours I was awake the day before, but what can I say, I’m a trooper (well actually, a geek for walking around cities). We set out much the same way I started the day before, until we found the British Museum. The British Museum was actually somewhat difficult for us to find even though it is a sprawling, marble, historic museum-looking building. The catch is that it is in the middle of a city. Yes, it has a bit of a lawn and a gate around it, but it’s like stumbling upon a ruin in Rome. Sorta common, but you never (if you’re a tourist) quite expect it–modern buildings and history just seem so weird together, but that’s one of the things I love about London.
We went through a good portion of the museum, but were too tired to see it all in a day. We focused on the Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Greek and Roman exhibits. We also went through one area dedicated to the Age of Enlightenment (when much of the collecting/studying that created this museum began), which almost acted like an executive summary to the rest of the museum. There were ancient (13,000 year old) stone carvings, exotic cultural costumes from central asia, pottery from china, fossils from all over Europe, astronomy devices and even a copy of the Rosetta Stone. (The real one is also in the museum, but I would recommend looking at the copy as you can touch it and
actually attempt to read it). I was pretty amazed by how sophisticated some of the really ancient artwork (pre Egypt) was, which reminds me to be a bit humble and challenge my assumptions about what other cultures and times are/have been capable of.
We had our inaugural fish and chips after the museum. It was exactly what I expected–I’m not sure how anyone can eat it often (huge plates, rather greasy) and I probably won’t–but it is the experience you have to have, right? We walked back towards Piccadilly where I showed J where the Phantom of the Opera was playing and we went in just to see if they happened to have seats for that night. They did! And they were on the ground floor of the theater 8 rows from the stage! We wasted a few hours before returning to the theater (the show started too soon to go home). Her Majesty’s Theater is beautiful outside and inside, but the theater itself was much smaller than both J and I expected. The orchestra was actually in a pit that was half covered by the stage (it took us a while to figure this out). This is where Phantom was originally played and where it has played (in London) for the last 20 years. I loved the show (my first time seeing it) and J also seemed very happy with it (his second time). The female lead had an amazing voice and some of the songs gave me goosebumps. I was also very impressed with their sets and how they were able to change them so fluidly and quickly–as you can see I’m no theater buff.
We spent much of Sunday listening to J’s album of the original cast and comparing voices (some I like more, some I prefer the current cast). We had lunch on High Marylebone St, a very upscale, but small shopping street (a subdued Georgetown), at a pub called the Prince Regent. I think it is one of my favorites–a great selection of things for those who dislike beer to drink and a pretty varied menu (not just fish and chips and meat pies). We walked towards some of the major shopping districts in search of a trench coat for J, but soon gave up due to over-eating and foot fatigue.
It is beginning to sink in that I actually live here, but it is amazing how much you can do and see in a day. I suppose it is somewhat like DC in that way–lots of things to do–but the city is even larger and I am actually taking advantage of all it has to offer. I had lunch with a friend who has lived here for a while and hasn’t done as much as J and I have in the last two weeks. I am very glad that we are taking advantage of living in London and I hope we can keep it up!
If you have any questions about London you’d like me to answer (if I can), places you’d like me to go/review or curious about random things like what the grocery stores are like, just let me know! I am more than willing to try to post about whatever you’re interested in, I just don’t want to bore you with descriptions of my errands or job.