I woke up this morning and it was (finally) foggy and rainy. I have to say, I was actually pleased. This morning really felt like I was living in a London moment. I expect to see the Queen at any moment.
Note to Self: Seeing London is awesome, but you must remember to sleep also, because when you don't sleep your brain doesn't function and when your brain doesn't function you can't go see things in London.
General Comment: Every single night, a cluster of European pre-teens thinks its cool to go get drunk and then come to the courtyard outside my window and make as much noise as they possibly can. Whoever is in charge of this, you have until tomorrow night to make this stop, or I'm gonna starting picking them off with a supersoaker.
That being said, I feel like my life is simultaneously moving at warp speed and yet it's as if I'm standing still. "Time" as a concept here is absolutely unreal. This might be partially coming from my obsession with Big Ben, but Time here is seriously different than Time in the US.
Over the course of the past two days I've been traipsing through London, writing my first paper, eating scones, visiting museums (fo free!) and basically doing as much as any human can possibly do. And it has only been two days. Time moves fast here, but also slow.
Here are the highlights:
On Monday I took a trip into Hyde Park area with some people in my group and toured the National History Museum and the Victoria and Albert. Both are amazing and gigantic. The NHM is one of the most gorgeous buildings I've ever seen. Here's a picture of the Great Hall
In this picture you can see the skeleton of a Diplodocus. There is an amazing exhibit about dinosaurs, but my favorite was a taxidermy collection of just about every animal to ever exist, including some skeletons of extinct ones (Do-Do's are totally real; I'm officially sorry I ever doubted them). This included a Blue Whale, at its actual size. Which is Large. Extremely Large. Like the size of a small yacht large. Pretty Awesome.
Victoria and Albert has an impressive art collection, as well as just about any other object you could conceive seeing in a museum, and probably some other's you couldn't. My favorite was this antique (understatement) harpsichord, as well as one of Leonardo Da Vinci's notebooks (completely written in code).
Today we took the tube to Westminster and saw the sights. First stop, Westminster Bridge. I took about 13 photos of Big Ben from about 6 different angles all within a 10 minute interval. Here's my favorite shot:
I'm becoming steadily more and more obsessed with this building. The most amazing thing to me is how different it looks in person to how it looks in pictures. Obviously it is the same building, but the details are so much more profound and the intricacies of the clock itself are everything. It is such an icon.
From there we walked around Westminster, saw the outside of the Houses of Parliament, the locations of London bomb shelters during WWII and most importantly, the outside of one of the alleged brothels Oscar Wilde frequented. London the only city in the world where you can find a former gay bar next to the homes of members of government.
Actually, I take that back, that's probably false. London is the only city that would celebrate it proudly (WOOHOOO).
Following our walking tour we strolled through St James' Park, which is absolutely beautiful. We saw the pelicans, and a far view of Buckingham Palace. This picture is a view of Whitehall from behind. Note the swan in the bottom left corner. It's Odette.
Our final stop of the day was to the National Gallery, which was almost so unreal I can't describe it. There are so many more paintings in there than I could even see in one visit that I have to go back. And we saw some amazing artwork, Renoir, Van Gogh, Velasquez, Da Vinci, Monet and so many more. My favorite painting is The Umbrellas by Renoir, but the Rockeby Venus by Velasquez was also pretty amazing. If you ever come to London, I insist you go. It will blow your mind.
After finishing our tour we headed back to Greenwich and enjoyed a lovely group Afternoon Tea in the home of our wonderful leader Sean. Thanks again to him and his entire family for being absolutely fantastic. They served an amazing selection of Cucumber finger sandwiches (so light, yet so crunchy! I must have had at least 5) and scones with clotted cream and a plethora of jam. I'm actually salivating as I type this just thinking about it.
Dear America: learn to make proper scones and maybe I'll come home. Clotted Cream wouldn't hurt your case either. I beseech you!!