Saturday, June 27, 2009

I'm in London, Baby!

(Posted from La Rochelle, France)

Our trip to London began, again, with us running through the airport, trying to catch our plane.  We actually planned it out quite well to be on time, but the little flight line we were using said that my bag was too heavy. So I had to go back and forth between two stations—standing in line at each one, by the way, and one of them had five people working at the desk chatting and only one doing the work, just to let you know—so we ended up being quite hurried to get on our plane.  Luckily, it was delayed, so we ended up being fine.

We arrived in London. How exciting! And I took The Underground for the first time.  One of the people in my group had used The Underground before, so he was an old pro.  But I had no idea what was going on. I remember thinking, I’m going to have to get a lesson in this. Soon enough, I did, and I also became a pro.

We checked in to our hotel, and decided to go around to see the city. We were quite hungry, and since Zach heard that the best place to get Indian food outside of India is London, we had some Indian food. I, surprisingly, did not get a chance to take a picture of it, but let me tell you, it was some of the best I’ve ever had. I loved it.

We went to Picadilly Circus, which is like London’s Times Square. On a whim, we decided (more accurately, I decided) to go see a play with a good student rush rate. The guys grudgingly came along.  The show was called “The 39 Steps,” which is a spoof of a Hitchcock movie. It was hilarious. There are four actors in the cast, and between the four of them, they play 139 characters in the play. It was money well spent. The guys liked it too.

After the show, we got to look around Picadilly Circus for awhile, and that was very cool with their bright advertisement screens and their crowded streets. When we were done with that, we walked down to where Big Ben and Westminster Abbey were. It was quite late by this time, and the river Thames was beautiful. The London Eye (it’s that big Ferris wheel, for those who don’t know about it) and all the other buildings in London were all lit up and magnificent. I never dreamed that I would see Big Ben except in pictures.  When I was younger I never thought of myself as a traveler, and I never expected to see London.  There it was, however, just being Big Ben, and I was right there next to it.  Amazing.

The next day us four went to different parts of the city, and my choice was to go to Westminster Abbey. It was something I always wanted to see, and it was well worth it. There were no pictures allowed inside, but I have some outside shots for you. The inside was incredible, though. I saw the tomb of Handel, the first Queen Elizabeth, a bunch of King Henries, Shakespeare’s memorial, the tomb of Jane Austin (for all you chick-flick-book-lovers), Isaac Newton, and Charles Darwin, among others. It was about a 3-hour experience. Amazing.

After that, we all got together and went to dinner, because we had tickets to AVENUE Q!! This was a musical that I desperately wanted to see in Minneapolis, but I didn’t get tickets. So I jumped at the chance to see it, especially with a discount, which we got. The show was hilarious and wonderful and raunchy and entertaining…exactly what I expected. The only thing that was a little distracting was that every once and a while the actors would slip out of their American accents.  Other than that, it was fine. 

The next day, my friends left for America. I was quite ready to be on my own. I knew the city, I knew The Underground, I was fine. So I decided to see some things I wanted to see.

Like Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

I don’t know if you know this about me, but I’ve been a huge Shakespeare fan since high school. I love it. So of course I needed to see some Shakespeare while I was in London! And what better place than the Globe?  I got cheap standing tickets for As You Like It, which was all I could afford. I was a little put down by that, because I didn’t want to stand for the whole show, probably in the balcony. 

But when I got there, I realized that the expensive tickets are in the seats away from the stage, and the cheap standing tickets are right in front of the stage! I grabbed a spot in front and spent the whole show resting my arms on the stage. I could smell the leather of the actors’ costumes as they walked by me. Many of them made eye contact with me. The woman next to me accidentally got spit on by one of them.  It was a wonderful experience.

As You Like It went until about 5p.m. I was really excited because—something I forgot to tell you—I got up early that morning to stand in line for tickets to Hamlet, with Jude Law playing the lead. That was in a bigger theatre, of course, and the standing tickets were way in the back.  I paid for a standing ticket, but at the last minute they found a seat in the front of the first balcony for the same price, so I took it.

Of course.

I went for some Chinese take-out before the show. London has its very own China Town, and the food was awesome and cheap, so ate there as much as I could.

Anyway, I went to Hamlet with Jude Law! Now I took a Shakespeare class in high school. One of the sections was based completely on Hamlet, and we ended up reading the original and a abridged version, and we watched the Mel Gibson and the Ethan Hawke Hamlet movies.  Needless to say, I know the play pretty well (and I was pretty sick of it).

Jude Law probably gave the best performance as Hamlet that I have ever seen. He was intense and pissed off and just fantastic.  See, I never really liked the Mel Gibson version because it was too boring and too non-relatable, given that the movie took place during the time Shakespeare planned it. And the Ethan Hawke version was too contemporary; they lost a lot of meaning and depth because they tried to make it too fashionable.  The Jude Law version, however, was (in my eyes) a very perfect medium of the two. The costumes were modern, but simple. The set looked like it had been carved out of stone. And the simplicity of the set and costumes ensured that the story and characters would take over. And Jude Law pulled everyone in during his amazing soliloquies. I was on the edge of my seat that whole time.  I took some pictures, even though it wasn’t allowed. J

My seat. 

Jude Law during the famous "to be or not to be" soliloquy. Absolutely brilliant. 

The next morning I got up, went to go see the Changing of the Guards in Buckingham Palace (totally cool) and hung around in London for a bit. 

Oh, and I flew my kite in Green Park!! That’s the park near Buckingham Palace, by the way.  I was excited.

I didn't think my trash was royal enough to go in here. 

There's also fine print on the bottom that says, "Oh, and the poop needs to be gold." 

Then I stopped at a cheap Indian restaurant, ate like hell, and ran to go catch my chunnel ride to Paris.  The chunnel is a train that goes under the English channel, and into Paris in two hours.  What it does is cooler than the experience, unfortunately.  It’s just a train. I suggest that they should make the tunnel under the English channel out of glass so people can look out at the water—like Underwater Adventures at the Mall of America! Should have looked for a suggestion box.

Anyway, I loved London.  The (unLondonlike) food, the accents, Big Ben, and the shows. It was a fantastic time.

On to France!


This was what I thought the London Bridge was, but no.  

THIS is the London Bridge. Not a lot to write home about...or a SONG about, for crying out loud. 

One day, when Christie and I turn into birds, this is what we'll look like. 

An English breakfast. I ate the whole thing. 

Of course, the red phone booths. Had to take a picture. 

Cute old people.

Street Acts!


  1. Hey Brian, nice pics of London. I have been there a few times so things looked familiar yet different. The London Eye was not there 25 years ago but Marina and Don experienced it a few years ago.
    I worked in a B & B for a few months there and I served tons of breakfasts that looked like yours. I remember I thought they looked soooo good and smelled amazing and then one morning I got to try it and I could hardly choke down the fried bread (fried in oil) or fatty bacon or fried tomatoes. You enjoyed it I am glad to hear but I could hardly choke it down haha.

    Isn't that funny about the London Bridge? Hardly worth a song-lol! The other picture is the Tower of London I think?

    Very colorful street performances this time!

    Glad to hear you were with an underground pro! I'm sure they knew then that the 'subway' is actually a walkway under the road! Don and I didn't know that the first time and we actually tried to cross that 7 lane roundabout near Hyde Park-not a smart thing to do!! Luckily we lived to tell the story. haha

    Take care and keep exploring.

  2. Wow, London is so cool!
    Even the underground looks fun-- but then again I do love trains (though not as much as Kent ;) of course).

    How was the Indian food? Would I like it? Should I go there in January? :)
    Now that you are experienced we will have to test it out when you return.

    You are such a sophisticated, play-going European now!! Hehe, I'm so glad you got to see all those shows... TWO shakespeare ones and Avenue Q, something you've always wanted to see!! Plus the other one is just an added bonus :D

    And Big Ben is cool, but I am SO glad you went to Westminster Abby! There is so much history there! Seriously, there are so many world-changers' bodies in that building... I find it absolutely fascinating.

    Hehehe I'm so glad you photographed those guards that every tourist ever has taken a picture of... seems to be a necessity when visiting London.

    That's a really good kite picture. Did someone take it, or did you use the timer?

    Hahahahah the London bridge makes me laugh. Maybe the song is about the pretty, older London bridge falling down... and that ugly one is just its replacement. Hehe.

    I LOVE THE PIGEON PICTURE! So cute. (My mom didn't think it was funny, fyi. What a jerk.)

    I don't really understand why so many separate street performers all decided to paint themselves all over. Why!?
    It is very cool to look at, however.

    Ooh, and thanks for taking a picture of one of the cool red phone booths for me! If I ever go I might just have to make a call :).

    love you!

  3. Cool, you're on your own too now? Oslo has a bunch of similar street performers too, and the buildings there look even cooler and more extravagant than here. I suppose we're really not THAT far away.

    hahaha, that picture of the birds and its caption were adorable.

    anyway, glad you're having fun! hopefully you too are scoping out places we live for when we all scatter across europe one day :D

  4. Wonderful post, Brian! Are you scared to be on your own now? You are so brave to do that.

    Must comment, since no one has yet, on the guy who painted himself like a puppy! That's so weird and really kind of creapy. I don't know about that... The other performers are really cool, though.

    That breakfast looks like it would make most people sick...especially the details that Brenda added. Glad you enjoyed it!

    Also, the trash bin and the doggy poop bin are pretty impressive. Royal, indeed.

    Have fun!

  5. I have to tell you that when you said you'd be spending that much time in London I said to myself...'really???'....I didn't think it would be such an amazing place. I pictured it just being a bunch of stuffy old cement buildings. But the experiences you had there are wonderful!

    Nice that you pointed out that it REALLY wasn't your fault at all that you almost missed the plane! :-)

    The London Eye is beautiful!! Did you ride in it? Is it really a working ferris wheel?

    Ummm...excuse me...I don't think Jane Austen qualifies as a "chick-flick"-book-lover type of gal! Have you ever read Jane Austen? Not an easy task! Sorry...but I have to stand up for ol' Jane! She can't be reduced to "chick flick"!!! Okay, I have that out of my system...moving on....

    I'm glad you have continued in your tradition of getting your picture in front of marquee's!!!

    Wow...I'm so excited about you going to the Globe Theater AND seeing Hamlet with Jude Law. That is simply amazing. You must talk to John Aspenson about this! (He is the high school teacher that spread his love and enthusiasm of Shakespeare to Brian...cheers to you too, John!)To be so close that you smelled the leather of their costumes! And even though it is slightly cool that the women next to you was spit upon! (I liken it to have Rod Stewart's sweat on my arm....another story...sorry...I digress.) Was the Globe Theater an open-air theater? Verrrrrrry cool about Jude Law being so brilliant in Hamlet!

    I love that you took a picture of your seat at Hamlet! You and Christie could have BOTH fit in that seat!!!

    I didn't know that the guards in the changing of the guards were a marching band!!! :-) I see you took a picture of the trombone guard! (I bet not many people know that you really stink at playing trombone! heehee)

    Flying your kite at the park at Buckingham Palace....really cool! (Was it illegal?)

    Do you think anyone else would have ever thought to take a picture of the royal garbage cans or poop-scooper cans?

    Awww....LOVE the picture of you and Christie when you turn into birds. That is EXACTLY what you'll look like!

    yum....a fried breakfast...looks yummy to me! And REAL English tea!!!

    Yeah Sarah, you're right. The street performer that painted himself like a dog...weird. (Did he bark, or just imitate a sleeping puppy the whole time?) The guy in the ape costume...weird.

    Thanks for changing my perception of London!

    Love you!


  6. OK, so London wins the prize for best street performers so far.

    Was the dog guy a nice dog or a mean dog? He kind of looks like he's going to lunge out and bite someone.

    With the Gold Queen, did anyone try to sit on the other thrown?

    The other gold guy with the long arms reminds me of the creepy tree lady at Animal kingdom.

    I love the Blue Keith Richards guy!

    It so amazing that you saw Shakesphere at the Globe and also got to see Jude Law in Hamlet...although I'd rather see it set in its original era...what did they do for the sword fighting scenes?