Monday, May 31, 2010

London Observances 2

---"Alright" is akin to "cheers" in that it means a butt load of stuff. Mainly it's used by salespeople at markets and stores to ask if they can help you..."Are you alright?"="Can I help you with anything?/Are you ready to order?"
---Attractive actors have big heads, not necessarily a London specific item, but it comes up. Toby Stephens, Natalie Portman, Brad Pitt.
---Toby Stephens is starring in a Buchner at the National after we leave. He's a beast.
---Have I said this already? There is a blue eye here that isn't in the States. It's light and piercing and more intense than anything we seem to get from our mutt genes.
---It's easier for one to get an English work visa if you have English ancestory on your dad's side. Cha-ching!
---There were SO many Americans out and about yesterday, ick. Everywhere!
---I've never heard an organ sound like the organ in St. Paul's did yesterday for Evensong. Amazing. The organist was ending an 18 month internship or whathaveyou so the 'exit music' was quite the swan song.
---Anglican clergy women (I'm never quite sure which religions allow women in the priesthood).
---Anglican clergy women cut their hair short so they look like little boys.
---Said it before, I'll say it again, I LOVE cassocks, be they of the Catholic or Anglican variety (can you tell I went to Evensong at St. Paul's yesterday yet?).
---Soho is fantastic (during the day)!
---Savile Row strikes me as a place that at one point was thriving and well known for its art, but now is walked down by those that have no idea what kind of legacy they're passing, schade.
---Theatre atmospheres are all the same. I love them. The National may be huge and amazing, but I could navigate that sucker in a week.

Above is a photo of St. Paul's during the Blitz. At one point a time-delayed bomb that would have destroyed the cathedral was removed and detonated elsewhere. At another time an incendiary bomb landed on the dome but fell to the Stone Gallery and was put out. I think that's pretty neat.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

London: Henry VIII

Lexy and I tried to get Macbeth tickets for this week to see it again but it was sold out the night we wanted and the next day we couldn't make the matinee so we got tickets for Henry VIII for last night instead. Lexy ended up selling her ticket to Katie so Katie and I had a swell time.

It was fabulous! For a history buff like me, w/ an especial penchant for Tudor history, Henry VIII was enthralling. It is a Shakespeare history that's known for having no battles or action. It entirely about politics. Even the love story with Anne Boleyn is hardly developed on stage. These are all historic points against Henry VIII (and the fact that Shakespeare had some help w/ some scenes) but it was fantastic! It was presented by a rather young director (Mark Rosenblatt) as "straight" Shakespeare. It was set in the court and time of Henry VIII and had all the pomp that you would expect of such a scene.

The costumes were magnificent, we're talking movie budget. Henry had no less than 5 different, full fledged ensembles from his green leather tennis breeches w/ matching shoes (and codpiece) to his blackworked nightshirt, a green brocade ensemble with strips of fabric woven to make the sleeve poofs, for the trial a scarlet cape with ermine (as everyone wore) and for the christening a gold and brown brocade suit which, when worn in the position of the Holbein painting made me catch my breath. The ladies were all in the exact same cut of gown but in variations of material and color. The lady's maids, whom I saw during rehearsal, wore bodices and skirts of goose grey velveteen with silver brocade petticoats and gable hoods. Anne Boleyn wore blue velvet with the same material for her petticoat but going the opposite direction (little touches). Her coronation gown was ivory gold sewn with beads and gold over her pregnant belly (which sat rather low). Queen Katherine wore plush purple velvet with wine brocade with gold trim at the skirt's parting. Each man had a monochromatic ensemble with matching codpiece, be it cupped or erected. The Duke of Buckingham wore rich chocolate brown velvet that was so dark and rich you could hardly see its dimension. The men's robes were collared in real furs of mostly bear I would think. The cardinal of course wore yards of scarlet moire. The lady's maids wore scarlet hooded capes for the coronation and hoodless ivory gold ones for the christening which was entirely in ivory and gold. The baby Elizabeth (a doll) was swathed in an ivory wrapping embroidered with mirrors and gold training to the floor and carried by the maids. Who have I forgotten? Bottom line, velvet, furs, blackwork, amazing.

The characters actually each had personality, which is the hardest part of Shakespeare. Henry, played by Dominic Rowan was brunette perfection, reminding the audience that Henry wasn't always fat and crazy. Anthony Howell (Roger from Wives and Daughters) played the Duke of Buckingham and the Lord Chancellor. As the former he was courageous and noble. Miranda Raison as Anne was cool and calculating. You couldn't hate her however. She was absolutely gorgeous with raven hair and bright blue eyes. Cardinal Wolsey, played by Ian McNeice was not entirely fantastic, but he worked. Kate DuchĂȘne as Queen Katherine was feisty and pitiful(if not a little bustier on the left side). Her Spanish accent and brown teeth were excellent, obvious but often overlooked touches. Amanda Lawrence as the fool and Virginia was pitch perfect with her comedy, as were the other comic characters.

Running three hours, but without a black membrane like Macbeth, this play wasn't hard for me to stand through, nor did it lose my attention at any point. I was riveted. It was sublime.

Some reviews:

Monday, May 24, 2010

London: Summertime, Jojo and War Horse

It seems like when the weather gets warm here women take off their tights and bras and men take off their shirts. I was in Hyde Park for a walk yesterday afternoon and this was the general trend. Ick. I prefer Hyde Park in the morning when just joggers and commuters are out and about.

It was rather warmer than it has been today. I didn't think it was all that hot, but apparently since I have 0% body fat I don't get to have a say. After class I went to find Jojo, Caitlin's friend from Australia (who is in fact English, living in London). I googlemapped the cafe she works at and it all seemed fine and dandy but it took us forever to find. We had to stop into a shop called Magma to ask for directions. As luck would have it, Magma is a fabulous little place with all sorts of interesting and novelty books. I got one called Listography that has lists for me to fill out. I like lists.

Eventually we found J & A Cafe, after much twisting and turning. Below is evidence of how ridiculous finding this place was. But find it we did and I met Jojo who's a dear and had a great (very late) lunch.

After turning onto what we think is Sutton Lane all we find is this big "Sutton Lane" sign...and a sandwich board for the cafe.
We look down the alley and can't see the cafe.
Finally a glimmer of hope...
And we found it!
And met Jojo.

Tonight we saw War Horse which is a big budget West End musical about WWI horses. I'm learning that I don't like reading the plays before we see them because then I know what happens at the end and how much I have to sit through and I notice deviations from the script and all. It takes away the wonder. All in all though War Horse was visually stunning. I didn't care for some of the actors, but the costumes were fantastic, the horse puppets were spectacular (google image it up) and the music was inspiring. The music was my favorite part by far. One actor, the Song Man, had the sole purpose of singing the songs. The main characters are English farmers so the songs had a haunting, lilty, quintessentially English sound to them. The Song Man a)was handsome b)played the harmonica and accordion and c)had a beautifully true tenor voice that pierced through all the rest of the show. At times the chorus or playback would join him, but my favorite parts were when he'd just sing by himself to the audience. So wonderful.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Lake District

For our travel weekend, Marth and I and two other girls spent Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in the Lake District in NW England, Cumbria to be more specific, Grasmere in Cumbria to be the most specific. We rolled in on Wednesday afternoon and had some time to bum around Grasmere. We ate a a delicious place called The Traveler's Rest for a late lunch. Their desserts were DELICIOUS! Bread pudding and banana creme brulee. We also went to Sarah Nelson's Grasmere Gingerbread Shop. This gingerbread is famous and amazing. I don't like gingerbread, but I love this stuff. There was a queue (mostly of Japanese tourists) out the door when we got there. After we checked into our quaint hostel just outside of Grasmere we went on a walk. NOTE: "Walk" in the Queen's English is "hike" in American English. So, we bought some "walk" guides and started to take one but found a path that looked like more fun so we took it.

We went up this hill for quite some time and got some spectacular views. It was cloudy and misty and we were ill-prepared for walking because we didn't know that walking was hiking. Grasmere was decked out with hiking shops and there were lots of retirees in their gear. After our first little self-guided walk we hit up the grocery store, bought some pizzas, chowed down in the hostel kitchen and passed out.

The hostel was great except for the fact that there was NO water pressure. On Thursday morning I showered under a drip that would sometimes be an actual flow, for about two seconds. After breakfast on Thursday three of us went on a real American walk around Grasmere Lake. It was beautiful. The lake was like glass and there was lots to look at. Grasmere is built out of grey stone, lots of slate, like the fences that are all over the countryside. There are also lots of sheep all over the countryside. I am not all that enamored with animal life, but if you want about 2600 pictures of sheep you should talk to Martha.

After our morning walk we returned to the hostel for our last member. We were planning on splitting up to hit Hill Top (Beatrix Potter's home) and Dove Cottage (William Wordsworth's home) but our hostel owner informed us that Hill Top was rather a ways away so we all agreed to stay in Grasmere and go to Dove Cottage. Indeed, we stayed in Grasmere the whole time. After a delicious lunch and tea at Baldry's (BEST BLT of my life), where the waiter can dish it out, but can't take it back, we went to the Wordsworth Museum and cottage. It was much more interesting and delightful than I expected. The views from and of the garden were beautiful and we recited deliciously horrible poetry in Wordsworth garden just to be funny.

Thursday night we walked to a tarn. It was very high, seeing as apparently a tarn is a lake in a mountain. The trails were well marked for the most part but were covered in either GIANT rocks or almost GIANT rocks. This was very tough on our feet, seeing as we were prepared for walking and not hiking. The walk was rather shear at points, but passed a beautiful water fall and the tarn was very nice. It was big and deep and glassy and remote. Also, Martha and I accidentally matched, promise.

After that tarn we went to The Traveller's Rest for dinner. I got plum stuffed chicken wrapped in bacon on top of basil potatoes with golden plums on the side. For dessert I had a hot lemon poppyseed sponge with plum compote. AH! SO GOOD!

Friday was our last day so we decided to fit in one more walk. This time we walked to a different tarn and it was HARD! The trail was the worst yet and we were so tired! The weather was finally sunny and HOT. The tarn was disappointing compared to the first, but the views from it, of Grasmere and Grasmere Lake and Windemere Lake, were gorgeous. It was nice just to sit up there. The descent was very treacherous and needless to say we all had sunburns and swollen feet by the time were were done with all of our walks.

We had time for one last lunch in Grasmere so we went back to Baldry's and its sassy waiter that was so happy to see us. I got a smoked salmon sandwich with cream cheese. A) best cream cheese ever. B)I didn't realize the salmon would be raw!! C)The salmon was DELICIOUS!!! I've seriously never had food like the food I've had in Grasmere. For dessert I ordered an orange drizzle cake, which wasn't very orangey, but it was good. Katie got a sticky gingerbread cake that was TO DIE FOR!! Martha asked for the recipe, but Lee, the sassy waiter wouldn't give it to her, those Northerners and their gingerbread secrets...

After lunch we went back to our hostel, got a cab, got on the train and went home. My neck did get rather red, but it's turned brown since. This weekend was absolutely relaxing (except for the intense amounts of exercise) and delicious for my tummy. When I come back I'll have to go to Baldry's and give Lee a hard time again.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

London Meeting Toby Stephens

Last night as a class we went to The Real Thing starring Toby Stephens. We've been studying the play as well. It's about selfishness and adultery, and more analytically and scholarly-wise commitment and love. I found the staging brilliant and Toby sublime. I could take or leave the rest, mostly leave Annie, the one with whom Toby affairs with.

This is me with the poster before the show and...

This is me and a group of girls WITH Toby Stephens after the show. Mandy (on his right) was our rock and insisted that we keep waiting at the stage door for quite some time. He was amazingly gracious and asked us about our University when we told him we were studying the play. He'd say "bless" instead of "cheers" or "thank you" which was refreshing. He's about my height, so that was nice (his not being shorter than me). He was just charming and nice, and so handsome and all of our hearts were racing the whole time. Oh, and his hair went like this *swooshy motion*. It was pretty great.

Me after, I was pretty star struck.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

London People Watching

I'd move to London just for the people watching possibilites. It's full of all nationalities, languages and other sorts of people, not to mention the men, which I believe I have before. The tube is especially good for people watching. It's one of my favorite passtimes.

As for the men, Martha and I used to just grin at eachother when we saw a good one, then we started, with Lexy, calling the men, as in "Mine" and "He's on my team". After that we started to have to call them by what they looked like because a)there were often many attractive men in one spot and b)we'd both "mine" the same guy but after each other not thinking said guy was already "mined", i.e. "Red tie mine". This all sounds rather ridiculous doesn't it? Well, it is.

In the recent past we made up code words instead of "mine" because it got to the point where we were entirely too obvious and seagull-like. Indeed at one point I looked a man square in the eye and said "mine". So, now we have codewords, which are just as, and even more ridiculous. Mine is omelet. Yesterday I omletted a man that rivaled orginal jogger man. Not only did he have an amazing face and hair, but the most amazing suit I've ever seen. We happened to pass him as he was putting something in his pocket. His lining was red. Bestill my murmuring heart.

So, there you go. I am shallow. We are shallow. Many girls in the group now yell their random food to call men on the tube. We're getting over it, but not too quickly.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

London: observances 1

-Men are much more attractive here.
-People run places for transport. They don't do this for exercise. It seems like their train of thought is, "I'm going to walk to work, but if I run it'll be faster!". This works here because the weather is cold and those who run don't sweat.
-Sexy dads push the strollers. Very sexy dads push the strollers.
-People says "Cheers" in any and all circumstances, for example instead of hello, thank you, sorry, excuse me and so forth. I think it's kind of like bitte in German.
-I said this before, but am mentioning it again, cashiers at grocery stores, gift shops and box office people all seem rather sad and disinterested. I feel like when I smile and say hi to them they don't appreciate it as much as they should. I miss my favorite cashier named Charles from Smith's. I've seen that man have a whole grumpy conversation with a coworker between customers and be beaming w/ glee when I come up. That's how it should be London, happy customer service people!
-I now know why the likes of Mr. Woodhouse would constantly worry about drafts. Buildings are not sound here. They are cold and the sounds of the street come in as if you had no front wall.
-When you take the tube all the time you don't realize how close things are.
-It's a long walk from High Street Kensington to the London Eye.

2 Grievances only:
I can never get my barrings.
The second hand smoke is having a noticeable effect on my respiratory system.
Oh...and the grumpy cashiers thing.

London: 2 weeks in.

We went to Kew Gardens last Friday and were awkward.
I frolicked in the English countryside.
Marth and I took a day trip to Bath.
In Bath we went to the Fashion Museum. I got the children's corset on. Well, we assumed it was the children's corset.
Yesterday we went to the Temple.

Monday, May 3, 2010

London: Food List

-Gooseberry yogurt is delicious.
-I don't love black currant, I don't hate it.
-I'm running out of Nutella.
-The milk isn't pasteurized. I drink it anyway.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

London Pictures 1

On the London Bridge with my new Primark shoes. It was a nice day and rained later so you couldn't my cute Primark outfit.
The aforementioned black membrane at Macbeth.

Favorite Cafeteria in the West End.

The ridiculously high and steep St. Martin's theatre.


Saturday, May 1, 2010

London List 1

I find paragraphs tedious to write, and I'm sure you find them tedious to read, so as you might have noticed I prefer lists.

-Went on a "Shakespeare" walk around London ending at the Globe. Best part: Borough's market and the delicious cheese samples.
-Went to Macbeth at the Globe
-----We stood in the yard and stuck our heads through a black membrane (pictures to follow).
-----Lots of blood.
-----Macbeth was played by ELLIOT COWAN (!) aka DARCY from Lost in Austen.
-----I want to go back to get a closer look.
-----Macbeth was captivating.
-----Lady Macbeth was crazy.
-----Macbeth and Lady Macbeth had a completely different dynamic than I've ever seen, fantastic.
-----It started hailing and raining during the last 3rd. The. biggest. coldest. raindrops. ever. It was cold and very wet. At the end when Macduff says "Hail, hail!" he said "HAIL! HAIL!" and we all laughed and clapped heartily.
-----Did I mention Macbeth took his shirt off lots and often? he did.
-After Macbeth Marth, Lexy and I went to Mousetrap in the Westend.
-We got taken in by a charming French/brown man at a cafetria. We paid 9lb for tasteless chicken sandwiches, but he called us mademoiselle.
-Mousetrap, the longest running play ever (57 years) was underwhelming and the rake in the theatre was SCARY!
-There was the most perfect looking boy on the tube, straight nose, swooshy hair, button up, sweater, good jeans (let's not talk about his shoes). He was reading the Times and had a signet ring.
-Also on the tube was a girl watching, and rewinding and rewatching poledancing on her iPhone.
And now I'm home.