I pretty much saw everything in London today.
I got up and had a nice continental breakfast at the hotel while I read the London paper. Lots of lunchmeat and cheese and pastries and fruit for breakfast, and good bran flakes with yogurt. It has been strange to read the news and watch TV coverage of what’s going on in New Orleans, while being here. It feels surreal to hear other people commenting on what’s going on in your own country when you aren’t there. All the editorials here are lambasting us for being such racists, since the majority of people who got out of New Orleans were white, and the majority who are stuck there are Black and Latino. An accurate and critique worth thinking about, I’d say.
We had a big guided bus tour that started at 8:45, and our cheeky, middle-aged British lady tour guide took us around to all the sites — Prince Albert Hall, St James Palace (where we got to stand next to a stone-faced guard in a red jacket with a bearskin hat), Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Picadilly Circus, Soho, Trafalgar Square. . .you name it, we drove past it in a bus, and if we were lucky, we got out and took pictures. We ended the tour at the Tower of London, where our admittance was prepaid. So we ventured in a for a bit, saw some torture chambers, the Crown Jewels, etc.
Then a group of us decided to venture across the Tower Bridge and we walked along the Thames to see Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (the third one, because of that damn fire-attracting thatched roof) and ended up at the Tate Modern. What an incredible museum. I guess I’m used to the Carnegie International being the most art I get, so this blew me away. They have an amazing Mark Rothkoe room, and the galleries are arranged by subject, rather than time period or artistic movement — I particularly enjoyed the “Landscape/Matter/Environment” and the “Nude/Action/Body” sections. We picked up a few more people in our little sightseeing group, and after I defended the value of modern art against Victorian pictures of little boys and boats and puppies, we walked back across the Thames on a cool pedestrian bridge and found the nearest Tube station.
We bought all-day Tube passes for £4.70, hopped on the Circle Line, and ended up at Covent Garden. It is a cool, hip place to eat and drink and shop and walk on little cobblestone streets, so we wandered there for a while before finding a pub to crawl into. I had an amazing amber ale — London’s Pride — that was the best beer I’ve had thus far in Europe, and we hung out for a good while. It was the first time I felt like I was at a pub drinking with friends, rather than random people I met for study abroad, so that was a great feeling. It was me; Zac from Pittsburgh; Tina; a girl named Megan who goes to Gannon in Erie; Becka, from Minnesota; John, from Lubbock, TX; and Mike, from Austin, who has great music and film taste (he brought up Matthew Barney and Cremaster at the pub!!) A nice little clique with a good dynamic.
After the pub, we got back on the Tube and decided to ride to a random stop and explore there, so we ended up a few stops up at Goodge Street, a kind of technological center, it seemed. I convinced the group to hop on the Jubilee line and go to St Johns Wood with me for my Beatles pilgrimage of London — Abbey Road. They obliged and we walked across the zebra-striped street, posed next to the scrawled-on street sign, and I marveled at the EMI Studios, “where it all happened.”
We went back to the station to head down to Chinatown for dinner, but there was a power outage and the Jubilee line wasn’t working. So we got on a big red double-decker bus instead, and rode to another station to connect with another (functional) Tube line. We ended up in Chinatown and ate at a dingy restaurant and had big plates of beef and vegetables and rice for about £7. Not bad. We stopped at a convenience store on the way back to the Tube and I got a £1.49 can of Stella Artois for the ride; went to the internet cafe across from the hotel and wrote some emails, and now it is time for bed.
It was a good, busy day. I like London, and would enjoy spending some more time here, getting to know the place, driving around on the country routes, if you will. Perhaps someday. . .