Stonehenge, Thunder Storms, and the Best Last Day Ever (London days 16, 17 & 18)

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So…. I’m home, now. *cue sad music* I had a post written before I left, but again, there were problems loading pictures. But now that I’m back with a somewhat better internet connection, I’ll be able to catch you all up to speed with the last few days of my trip, which were pretty amazing.

Wednesday we took another trip outside the City, starting with Stonehenge.

One side.

One side.

It was crazy windy and cold, but the scenery on the drive out there was beautiful. Stonehenge was pretty amazing, too.

The other side.

The other side.

Some say it’s underwhelming. I can see where they’re coming from. It is just a bunch of rocks if you think about it. But listening to the audio tour and thinking about how impressive it is that it’s even here and the meaning of it all, you see more than just a pile of rocks. You see history and human innovation and a feature the world’s deemed important enough to want to visit.

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And take selfies in front of.

We then went out to Bath, the famous vacation place in Jane Austen novels. We first toured the Roman baths there.

I imagine they had better pool boys back in the day...

I imagine they had better pool boys back in the day…

I always enjoy looking at Roman things. Much like Stonehenge and the mummies, it’s just mind-blowing to think about how old they are. And yet, enough of it is still intact to give you a good idea of how it looked.

The water is warm and slimy, FYI.

The water as warm and slimy as you’d imagine.

Faith and I then walked a little ways to the famous crescent houses. There was the “Circus,” which consisted of four curved buildings arranged to form a circle.

Here's one quarter of it.

Here’s one quarter of it.

Then there was the Royal Crescent, the one you see in films like Persuasion.

Bloody construction ruining another photo.

I would not have ran the full length of this just to confess my love. Captain Wentworth would have to wait for a letter or something.

For lunch we had pasties, which are the better version of bierocks. I was feeling adventurous and got lamb and mint. We also wanted ice cream, since there were like fifty ice cream shops, but they were cash-only and we’d already run out of notes.

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Didn’t realize they gave out awards for these sort of things.

It was raining when we arrived back in London later that evening. A bunch of the class went out for Mexican food, but Faith and I decided that didn’t sound good, plus we were cold and tired, so we spent the night in.

It was still raining the next day. We spent the morning in our last class period, writing about the British Museum and fondly reflecting on our trip with each other. We then went off to our last museum visit at the Tate Modern. We walked across the Millennium Bridge to get there, and it poured on us the whole way. Some people complained, but I thought it was beautiful (and weather I sorely miss now that I’m back in the oven that is Fresno).

The Tate Modern is inside an old powerhouse. It houses “modern” art which, much like modern theater, is weird.

Example.

Example.

I got separated from the group and wandered numbly around the galleries for maybe forty minutes before leaving. I tried to keep an open mind, but barely anything stood out to me as being really cool or beautiful. There was maybe one painting that I liked…

Though by these standards I'm pretty sure I could make it as an "artist."

Which isn’t saying much.

…And a series of photographs of a boy throughout his service in the French army that was interesting (I think I’ve seen them online before, too). But otherwise, I just felt confused the whole time. It definitely made me think about what the point of art is or should be.

By this standard, even I could be an "artist."

By this standard, even I could be an “artist.”

I walked back across the Millennium Bridge to get back. The rain had turned into a storm by then, with thunder roaring in the distance. It was so lovely to spend time by myself admiring the view and the rain.

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Those umbrella-less people are either locals who aren’t phased by a little shower, or tourists who are too dumb to prepare for one…

Faith and I met back at our flat, where we got into our cozy sweats and made dinner. That night’s meal was steak that turned out to be disgusting ground meat, and potatoes in duck fat that turned out to be surprisingly good. Felicity came over later for a little chat, and then we all went to bed early to prepare for our final attempt at Hamlet tickets the next day.

That day was Friday, our very last day. I can hardly write about it without feeling all giddy again (foreshadow alert!) We woke up at 4:30 and made it out to the Barbican theater by 6. It was not a black day, so there was one thing going for us, but we felt a little disheartened that we were about at the same place in line as we’d been the week before. With only 30 tickets available, and a 2 ticket limit per person, we were starting to give up and talk about back-up plans for our last evening.

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Especially since people were holding spots for their friends. Not cool.

About an hour in line was spent outside in the freezing cold, and then the rest was spent inside. The lady behind us in line was from California, and the people behind her were from Virginia, so we at least made some new friends while waiting. Felicity and I had some great conversations in line too, and once again, I felt so blessed to have this opportunity to make such great friends.

By 10 o’clock they started selling the tickets. Our hearts raced as we moved further and further up the line. I was nearly convinced we weren’t going to get them. But, lo and behold… WE DID!

Happy faces!

Happy faces!

Anything could’ve happened that day and we wouldn’t have cared. We were gonna see HAMLET in LONDON starring BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH!

We did have a free afternoon to fill, so Faith went off to get her last-mintue souvenirs while Felicity and I had lunch at Pret. I still really wanted to see the Imperial War Museum even though by then we didn’t have much time. Felicity and I spent maybe an hour in there, but it was so worth it.

Those little yellow things are people.

Those little yellow things are people.

Outside, along with that giant gun thing (I so know my military terms), was also a section of the Berlin Wall.

London's already done that for me.

London’s already done that for me.

Inside there were planes and missiles hanging from the ceiling.

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And stairs. Always more stairs.

We decided to choose one exhibit to really spend time in and just skim by everything else. We went into the Holocaust section where we weren’t supposed to take any pictures, but I momentarily forgot and snapped this pic:

Powerful quote, though.

Powerful quote, though.

It was so… just… mind blowing. This would’ve been a much better museum to visit as a class than the Tate Modern. It was interesting to get the British perspective on the world wars, since it was so much closer to home for them. Even though I was still riding on cloud nine, I also felt extremely humbled as I pondered the Nazi movement and the atrocities it invoked on the world.

Some of the other things we came across while we hurried out was a replica of Little Boy…

No, it's the actual bomb. *eye roll*

No, it’s the actual bomb. *eye roll*

And a piece of scrap from the Twin Towers…

That "how is this British?" question coming up again...

That “why is this in England” question coming up again…

We spent some time back at our flat to cook pasta for dinner and get ready for the play. I finally got to wear the dress I’d bought the week before when we first tried to snag the tickets, and didn’t mind at all that it rained as we set off for the Barbican.

I'm just happy to be honored by Cumberbatch's presence.

I’m just happy to be honored by Cumberbatch’s presence.

Pictures and recording were strictly forbidden, so I can’t share with you how amazingly epic that stage was. HOLY CRAP. I was just blown away by the grandness of it all. The music they played to transition between scenes had slight undertones of eeriness that really set the right mood. And the acting, of course, was phenomenal by everyone in the cast. So many amazing details about that show I wish I could tell you. But I hear they’re filming it and will show it in select theaters later this year. I highly recommend going!

Afterward, we stuck around outside to see the actors leave. Benedict came out and signed autographs. The only pictures I managed to get were pretty crappy, but it’s proof that I stood only a few feet away from maybe the best actor of our generation!

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I would make a horrible paparazzi.

Faith got him to sign her ticket, but Felicity and I felt claustrophobic in the crowd so we pushed our way out of it and waited for her.

Overall, it was just the best way to end the best trip I’ve ever been on. I’d never really had a moment of “OMG I’m in London” up until that last day. I just couldn’t believe it was already over. I still can’t. I might write one more post about what it was like coming back home and all the life lessons I’ve brought back with me. But for now… It’s nice just to sit back and let all those pleasant feeling wash over me while thanking God for this wonderful life.

And these wonderful friends!

And these wonderful friends!

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The Globe, Wax Celebrities, and Modern Theater (London day 15)

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Yay for great days! Today (Tuesday) was loads of fun. It started and ended with theater, with some nerdy, fangirly stuff smushed in the middle. The weather was really cold and drizzy, too, which would’ve been nice if I hadn’t decided that today of all days I was not going to bring my hoodie.

We started off with a tour of the Globe Theater (Theatre?) This is the third Globe; if I remember correctly, the first one burned down after a mishap with a cannon prop. The second one was torn down by the Puritans because they hated fun and happiness. This 3rd one wasn’t built until the 80s.

The 1980s, that is.

The 1980s, that is.

You can tell it’s not old, like the Tower or the Abbey. It had nice floors and laquered walls and modern bathrooms. But it is all built in wood, made to the right specifications, and was put together completely by hand, just like the original.

Even those

Even those “marble” pillars are wood.

Unfortunately, our professor wasn’t able to get us tickets to a play there. I might maybe try to pick some up on my own if I have time (with only three days left, though, it’s getting difficult to squeeze things in). I hear they’re playing Much Ado About Nothing and As You Like It.

After our tour, Faith and I went off to Madam Tussaud’s wax museum. We got there a little earlier than our ticket time, so since we were on Baker Street we thought it’d be cool to check out good ol’ 221B.

But Sherlock was currently away practicing for his Hamlet performance.

But Sherlock was currently away practicing for his Hamlet performance.

It was fifteen freaking pounds to get a museum tour, and probably an hour-long queue to get your picture taken in the doorway with that police guy (who is he even supposed to be? Lestrade?) We did go through the gift shop, which had cute memorabilia and souvenirs from both the current BBC show and past depitictions of Holmes.

Next came Madam Tussaud’s. Though extremely busy and touristy, I enjoyed it. It’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to taking selfies with celebrities. There were different themed rooms, including a scare show with live actors that you’re not allowed to touch even though they get literally within inches of your face, a Marvel 4D experience where you basically just sat in a big auditorium watching an Avengers cartoon, and a special, limited-time Star Wars exhibit where I only got one photo before my phone died.

At least two of my top five characters were in it.

At least two of my top five favorite characters were in it.

The actual famous wax figures themselves were cool. Some were pretty popular, like Johnny Depp and George Clooney, and I didn’t feel like waiting in the big crowd around them to get their photos. But I did get pics with or of the cool celebs (some had other people in them because again, waiting and queueing and pushing to the front is not always worth it). Go here for a gallery of my favorites.

We had just enough time after the wax museum to freshen up and eat dinner back at our flat before heading over to the National Theatre for a production of Everyman. I’d never heard of it and knew nothing about the plot or set up or anything. And since they apparently to a very “modern” approach with it, imagine how thrown off I was by everything.

Imagine weird things happening on this stage, and you'll know what I mean.

Imagine weird things happening on this stage, and you’ll know what I mean.

I guess it was about this guy named Everyman who fell off the roof at his birthday party, and his subsequent journey to show God the worth of his life. The production was actually really creative, utilizing a screen to show images and video, music playing loudly through surround sound in some parts, and real rain falling on the stage at the end. The acting was well done, and the visualization of some of the scenes was really creative and powerful. But the story. I couldn’t follow it in some parts, and couldn’t understand what kind of message was supposed to be gained from it. God was played by a woman, of which I admired the boldness of such a casting call, but it seemed more gimmicky than relevant. Apparently this is what “modern” theater is… a far cry from the Importance of Being Earnest, that’s for sure!

I would've rather seen a play from my home boy, Shakespeare.

I would’ve rather seen a play from my home boy, Shakespeare.

Madam Tussaud’s Favorites Gallery