Saturday, January 15, 2011

London: Day 3

From my email to Dave on Day 3:

Today we slept in-- I had a hard time getting to sleep last night. This morning I grabbed a yogurt for breakfast (an amazing creamy Greek yogurt parfait with berries and granola, in case you were wondering) and then we went to the British Museum. It was AWESOME. Seriously, like a walk-through version of world history. Greek Sculpture, the Rosetta stone, artifacts from Egypt, mummies, carvings from Assyria, the entire library of King George, rooms full of Asian ceramics, a two-thousand year old dead guy that was preserved in a bog (Ranell's favorite thing), a 2000 year old gold cape, the earliest known artistic likeness of Christ, and more and more and more and more. We could have spent days there.
The Rosetta Stone.

The oldest-known artistic rendering of Christ.
Me in front of the British Museum.
Ranell in front of Lindow Man: the 2000-year-old dead guy.

Ranell in the Tottenham Court Road Tube Station.
Riding the tube.
Navigating through the tube station.

Microscopic me in front of St. Paul's Cathedral.
But instead we ran to the tube station, grabbed a wrap and a yogurt with lemon curd (I LOVE British yogurt! And with Lemon Curd!), went to St. Paul's Cathedral and spent the afternoon wandering around Sir Christopher Wren's masterpiece. Then we looked through the crypt (graves of John Donne, Lord Nelson, etc.) and stayed for a choral evensong performance. Then we walked down Old London and went to dinner at "Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese"-- a pub that was "rebuilt" in 1667 after it burned down in the great London fire. It was frequented by Samuel Johnson (writer of the first English dictionary) and Charles Dickens. It is even mentioned in "A Tale of Two Cities". We sat in the restaurant part of the pub in a corner where two wall benches met. I sat underneath a plaque that marked "This was the favorite seat of Charles Dickens" and Ranell sat in a seat that was frequented by Samuel Johnson, beneath a big portrait and plaque. I got Yorkshire Pudding with Roast Beef, Ranell got fish and chips and we got traditional Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert. Then we kept walking along the strand and went in the Twinings Tea Shop (open since 1796). Inspired by our Ritz outing, I bought two boxes of herbal tea. By then we realized we would not be able to get to our show on time via bus so I waved wildly for a cab and we got to the theater and got seated with about 1 minute to spare. But in my haste, I left my tea in the taxi.... :(
The dome of St. Paul's.

The fantastic interior of St. Paul's cathedral.

In front of "Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese"-- circa 1667 "olde".

Yours Truly in "The seat most frequently occupied by Charles Dickens"!!!
Ranell in "The Favourite Seat of Samuel Johnson," writer of the first English dictionary.
The much-loved and much-worn interior of "Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese."
Ranell wandering around "The City": the old part of London.
The original Twinings tea shop.
We completed our evening with  "The Mousetrap," an Agatha Christie, thriller. It was great. It's been running for about 58 years-- Ranell's mom saw it in London when she was a teenager. Then we walked around Leicester Square (where there was a carnival) and took a picture at Piccadilly Circus- the London equivalent of Times Square. It's called circus because that's the Latin word for circle and there is a giant traffic circle. (Who knew?) We walked past a sign advertising "the greatest love story ever continues...". It was advertising "Love Never Dies", the sequel to "Phantom of the Opera." Now if ever there was a show that didn't need a sequel, that was it. And the greatest love story? Seriously? The greatest stalker story maybe.... What's so romantic about having a psycho stalker that wants to kill your fiance? Anyway, then we took the tube back home and I stopped here at the internet cafe to write to you. :)

Ranell outside of "The Mousetrap."

Me, attempting to look "mouse-trappy" and looking just plain scary. :)

Another microscopic me (look for the brown jacket) under The Mousetrap sign.
It's sad, but London -like any big city- does have a grittier side. I don't know if I've ever inhaled so much cigarette smoke as I did walking between Leicester Square and Piccadilly. And alcohol EVERYWHERE, especially after dark. Did I mention that I truly felt sorry for the mobs of short-skirted girls waiting in the freezing cold to get into nightclubs? Sheesh, you could at least wear a coat with your halter top in 42 degrees. Right in the middle of Piccadilly they have obviously plastic-surg-itized girls in warm-ups embroidered with the logo of whatever "gentlemen's" club they represent handing out fliers. And here in this internet cafe the guy behind me was checking out all of the "London Escort" sites. In a public cafe! Do people have no shame? You'd think people would at least attempt to hide their desperation.... (Or maybe it's just the sheltered Mormon girl in me that would assume that....)
Crowds watching the street performers at Picadilly Circus at night.

From "Lindow Man" to "Limbo Man" all in one day!

Me with an iconic red telly booth.
Mugging in front of the giant signs at Picadilly Circus.

It struck me again as we went through the British museum and saw all the elaborate tombs and again at St. Peter's with it's elaborate memorials and crypt how many people and cultures have been obsessed with immortality: trying to find a way to at least be remembered after you die. But even people who were "world-famous," celebrities or rulers of the world still end up in a tomb, just like everyone else. And maybe a few people who are well-versed in history know who they are and what they did to get an elaborate tomb or a burial at St. Paul's, but more often than not people don't know or care. I guess it just kind of drives home to me again the futility of living for "glory," appearances or what other people think of you. All the money in the world or fame can build you a ginormous tomb or notoriety, but you're still dead and eventually forgotten. And if you weren't happy or didn't do what you set out to do with your life, does it really matter if everyone knew who you were?

The other thing that's been interesting is how bloody and awful so much of England's history is (i.e. the entire Tower of London history). And even the church too, for that matter (i.e. burning Tyndale's bible... right there on the "history of the Anglican church" wall at St. Paul's). And the whole class system thing. For all of America's quirks and Britain's impressive culture, history, and accomplishments, it came with an ugly cost. America has some pretty great features, for all of our lack of beautiful cathedrals everywhere. Although I suppose our history has its fair share of a darker side too.

Well, I had better go and at least try to call you in person. I wish you could be here! It would be awesome to be "bashing around London" with you.

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