Danny's Summer '06 Study Abroad
My London experience began Thurs. night when Lindsey and I went to London to see a Shakespeare play at the Globe theater. We saw "Comedy of Errors" which was about 2 sets of twins and they comical parts were in confusing the twins for each other and all the mess that they caused. I'm not one for plays, but this was actually funny, and seeing a Shakespearean play in the Globe was quite a treat. It was only 5 pounds to get a groundling ticket (standing). They sell 700 groundlings and we got there more than an hour before the show and they only had 30 more tickets. They sell out nearly every night of the week. We headed back to Oxford afterwards to head back out the next morning. Early in the morning Brandon, Lindsey, and I headed for Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, where the Queen sometimes resides. Windsor is b/w Oxford and London so the timing worked out great. We got there right when it opened, saw the state apartments and the changing of guards and got to London by 1. The State apartments were indescribable, I wish I had pictures. It had this huge doll house that had functional electricity and water. The displays of weaponry was the coolest thing ever, w/ guns arranged on the walls in circles and the swords and rifles in cross patterns. There was also tons of armor on the walls and displays of crown jewels and armor and weaponry from India. The grand hall was probably the coolest, it's where banquets are still held for diplomats around the world. Lining the walls and ceiling are the coat of arms of all the knights. We had a cool audioguide which explained everything pretty well too. The changing of guards was cool too, watching them march and shuffle into formations. When we got to London we met Colin at our hostel and had some problems w/ our booking (they didn't receive it from the online booking agency) but luckily they found us the only 4 remaining beds. We went to Westminister Abbey first, passing by the Eye, Big Ben, and the Houses of Parliament. I didn't know that Parliament looked so much like a cathedral w/ all the decorative stone carvings. The Abbey was like a giant indoors cemetery with all the tombs of Kings, Queens, knights, and others. Then we went to the Churchill War rooms, which is where Churchill and his officers resided during WWII. Inside was a really cool museum on Churchill with tons of technological interactive things. Afterwards we headed to Covent Garden to see "The Producers". I think this was my first Broadway musical, but it was really funny, more than the Shakespeare one. It stereotyped gays and was really blatant about Hitler. For 25 pounds this was steep but worth seeing. After this we were pretty tired and the next day was going to be full so we headed back. Today was the London Pass day. For 27 pounds we got a pass that gave us entrance to a lot of things. I made a schedule so that we could try to see as much as possible, but we had to cut a Palace b/c we got behind. Still it was worth it b/c we saw a lot of things that we wouldn't have w/o the pass. We started off by going to St. Paul's Cathedral. I couldn't take pictures again, which sucks b/c the inside was very ornate w/ beautiful ceiling mosaics and looking up at the dome was really cool. We climbed the 500 some stairs to the top of the dome and got an amazing view of the city. Then we tried to hurry over to the Globe to catch a tour, going out the wrong entrance and jumping off a wall from the Cathedral. We didn't make the tour time we wanted so we had to take the next one. The tour was pretty interesting: the Globe is nearly the same as the old one but sits half the people b/c of licenses. I can't imagine twice the amount of people cramming in. After this we went towards the Tower, going inside the HMS Belfast, a warship used during WWII. It wasn't as interesting as the old ships we saw in Portsmouth, but still was kind of cool. Then we crossed the bridge and went into the Tower, starting off w/ the Beefeater tour. These old guys are really funny and give great tours. The Tower isn't really a Tower but a castle w/ a lot of towers. Inside one of them are the crown jewels from several kings. Inside another tower was another exhibit displaying armor and weapons and inside another tower was a little torture exhibit. After the tower we tried to make it to Kensington Palace but we didn't make it there in time. So we headed back to the Tower area and started our wine experience at Vinopolis. I wish I did this at the beginning of my European experience b/c we had a wine tasting lesson. We learned to swirl, look, smell, and sip (actually tilting your head forward and sort of slurping to take in the aroma). Along w/ the lesson we had several free tastings of various wine. Me and Colin upgraded what our pass gave us by paying 5 pounds and getting 2 premium wine tastes, 2 beer tastes, 2 absenth shots, and 2 wiskey shots. No I wasn't stumbling on the way out, but I was a little jolly. That wrapped our London Pass exhibits. We hurried to get food and make it to Victoria Station to catch a night sightseeing bus tour but the bus never showed up. I was really pissed b/c I was looking forward to seeing all parts of London lit up at night. Instead we headed to Picadilly Sq. to see the large jumbotrons lit up and we walked around to Leicester Sq. After this we all were dead tired and headed back to Victoria station to take the bus back to Oxford. After showing up at Oxford at 1:30 in the morning I crashed and woke up early the next morning for another day in London. Today was just Lindsey and I b/c the others had to get work done. (Lame) We started out by watching the changing of guards at Buckingham. This was really cool, a lot better than at Windsor b/c of the mass of people that gather. I can't even imagine how many people there were, all piled on the monument and around the gates and circle. Thanks to Rick Steve's London Guide we knew what to see. We started at the barracks where the band and guards gather for inspection. Their marching and shuffling was so funny. The band played the Indian and Jones song and marched towards the Palace. Once here it got boring after a while b/c we couldn't see much. But we left with the guards as they exited the Palace gates. Then we headed to the National Gallery and saw some things that we had studied. Arnolfini's Betrothal was a huge disappointment, only like a 2x1 painting. Then we headed to the British Museum, which was really cool. The Great Court was beautiful with it's huge glass ceiling. It had an awesome Egypt exhibit, w/ tombs and parts of humongous statues of the ancient Kings. The Greece section was also interesting along w/ the African and Native American exhibits. We were going to go to the British Library but decided to just head back. I ran from the train stop in Oxford to Worcestor just in time for dinner. What an amazing London Experience.