Tuesday, July 6, 2010

UK Travelogue Part 14: Our Final Act

Friday, June 11

The first time I woke up, the feeble (and grey) light of morning had been attempting (and mostly failing) to penetrate the thick curtains which we had most decidedly pulled the night before. The second time I awoke, it was to hear the bells chiming the eight o’clock hour.

Ah, the bells of St. Paul’s . Even my soul could feel them chiming.

Millenium Bridge Jump!

Neither of us felt ready for an early start, nor did we feel the need, what with the object of our morning -- the Cathedral -- within a stone’s throw of our hostel. At nine o’clock, we rousted ourselves from the room and trotted across the street. The cathedral actually opens to visitors at 8:30, but we had definitely beaten the rush.

And oh, my soul! The mosaics, the marble, the statues, the dome. All beauty, beauty, beauty. Of course, there are to be no pictures taken by guests within the cathedral, and since I am at heart a rule follower (shocking but true) you'll have to content yourself with this virtual tour. Be sure to put a bib on first, though, in case you drool.

After spending a respectable amount of time gawking, we first descended down to the crypt (to gawk some more at the massive monuments to Wellington and Nelson). Then we ascended… and I do mean ASCENDED. I climbed only as far up as the Whispering Gallery. Not too shabby at 259 steps. It's said that the Whispering Gallery is so named because due to its construction, a whisper against the wall on one end can be heard on the other end by anybody willing and able to place an ear against it and wait. We failed to test this theory in part because when we arrived I was out of breath, Bethany was zealous to reach the top, and most of all we didn't know this pertinent detail at the time. So we'll save whispering insults at one another from the inside of a massive, circular dome nearly 100 feet in the air for next time.

As previously hinted Bethany persevered all the way to the Golden Gallery, where she treated herself to dizzying panoramic views of London. (You can check that out on the virtual tour as well by clicking "View from the Top.") Although visibility was decidedly sketchy due to the rain, Bethany came down glowing with joy, babbling of the "bracing wind" and epic sound of the bells letting it rip what seemed like two inches from her head. I'd forgotten to lend her the camera, of course; hence no photographic proof.

Meanwhile, while Bethany had been clambering around the outer Golden Gallery 280 feet in the air, I'd been creeping around the edges of the Whispering Gallery, occasionally peering over the hand rails in horror. Oddly enough, I found that looking up at the dome from that level produced almost more of a whooshing feeling in my stomach than looking down. I sat back against the wall of the dome, marveling once again at the quirkiness of life (my life, anyway) and attempting to eavesdrop on the conversation of five enthusiastic Chinese college students who were rushing around the Whispering Gallery excitably. Judging by the volume of their conversations, they must not have known about the whisper trick either. (Then again, Chinese is a difficult language to speak quietly. At least for some.)

Once I'd tired of this, I tiptoed back down the oodles of steps to wait for Bethany at the bottom. She returned in due course, full of vigor and babbling a lot of nonsense about bracing winds and sweeping views.

We made below stairs for the café and shop that adjoin the crypt.

DON'T BLINK

ME MONSTER

Some may find sitting within spitting distance of a grave a bit of an appetite killer, but those people have probably never experienced the sort of famishing and lightning-strike hunger that often accompanies Jet Lag. Although it was still technically morning, we split a chicken salad sandwich whilst guzzling our caffeinated beverages of choice: cappuccino and Coke.

Shakespeare’s Globe became our second outing of the day, conveniently placed within walking distance just over the Thames via Millennium Bridge. We acquired tickets for the night’s show -- Henry IV, Part 1 -- then toured the Exhibition and, of course, visited the shop.

Globe Exhibition

Bethany's contribution

My Homeboy

With several hours to kill before the show, we hopped the Underground and made for the Victoria and Albert Museum.

At the Victoria and Albert

For one thing, we’d been wanting to see it. For another, it had been a while since Bethany had been able to get in a good ride on the subway. This would be one of her last chances. I thought it might be fitting to commemorate the occasion by singing a few bars of a little something while waving our travel cards over our heads.... but of course I was alone in this idea.

But whatever.

Dinner turned out to be a bit of a fail. Acknowledging that we'd pretty much eaten Italian food the entire trip, we stopped in at a local Fish & Chips place.

Fish & Chips

We realized belatedly (after ordering) that all of the food had been precooked and was sitting inside glass cases, just waiting to be scooped out and ladled onto plates. Sort of like a buffet without the doubtful pleasure of dishing up your own food. My chicken and potatoes had good enough flavor, but alas, had been under the lights for an indeterminate amount of time. Bethany fared somewhat better with her bangers & mash.

(And before you ask why I I didn't get the fish and chips, I'll head you off at the pass: I don't like fish, okay? No, I really don't. Some people don't like fish. Some don't like peanutbutter. It's a weird world.)

But so what if my chicken was a little less than fresh. Who was I to complain? I was on a two-week vacation, in London, with an awesome sister; I had food to eat, money in my pocket, and a ticket to see what promised to be some excellent evening entertainment. Taken in perspective, a little rubber chicken wasn’t enough to dim the glow.


We made it back to the hostel with just enough time for a shower before tripping merrily back across the Thames to line up with the other groundlings outside the Globe.

Going to Henry IV

And may I just take a moment here to say how pleased I am that whoever runs things over at the Globe (and I really should know who, since I spent all that time lolling about over at the Exhibition earlier in the day) has held to Shakespeare's ideal: that cheap, standing tickets should be kept part of the program. Now, the tickets cost more than the penny that they did in Shakespeare’s day; however £5 is cheap enough that a good show - excellently acted, I might add - stays available to the masses.

And my word, did we have a good time!

She thought I was crazy

Shakespeare's Globe

The acting? All top-notch. The music? Well-done. Harry/Hal? So expressive, and funny, which I didn't expect. Falstaff? An absolute riot. Hotspur? Amazingly dramatic & hilarious, probably my single favorite contribution to the experience. The Douglas? Well, Bethany nearly passed out.

And at the end, instead of taking traditional curtain calls, the entire cast danced around on stage.

We loved it.

After the show, when our feet were tired of standing and the muscles in the smalls of our backs seemed to have been replaced by a lot of knotty walnuts, we spent the quick walk back to the hostel congratulating ourselves on our good fortune in being able to see such a play in such a place in such company.

At the Globe

* * * *

Nothing remained but for us to pack up, spend our last night in the UK, and make for the airport the next morning.

I shall spare you the trials we had with AirEuropa (and yes, there was even more drama on our way home) because I'd like to end this travelogue on a high note.

How could I end it any other way?

The entire travel experience surpassed our expectations, and but for the AirEuropa debacle (and perhaps the general lack of sunshine and other minor Fails), this trip might well have been considered just about perfect.

Which is why almost as soon as we'd arrived home, Bethany immediately began plotting a return trip.

* * *

Thus, Alert Readers, endeth the Travelogue 2010.

*moment of depressed silence*

Now I'll need to find something else to blog about for the next eleven months.

Poop.

* * *

Tune in next summer for The Great American Road Trip: From San Diego to DC: Ruth, Alissa, and Friends Take on the Middle States. (Live somewhere in the Middle? Want to host us in your home or arrange for a drive-by meet up? Shoot me a comment! Want to come along? Forward me your SSN, approximate IQ, recent bank statements, a professional head shot, and current credit score to begin the vetting process!)

Remember: it's a great, big, beautiful world. Give God the glory and get out there and see it!

9 comments:

  1. No idea what else you might be interested in seeing in NE Oklahoma, but if you are out this way I can offer you a friendly face, things to jump off of, some home-cooked meals, and floorspace/couches/sleeping bags. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Now I'll need to find something else to blog about for the next eleven months.

    Poop.


    Poop? You are going to blog about poop? Bwahahahahaha!

    ReplyDelete
  3. BAHAHA, That's not what I meant at ALL! But I could...

    Marie, I will totally let you know! My friend Alissa's gone for the summer, but when she gets back into town we're going to get our heads together and firm up our plans. She's not as hands-on when it comes to planning (which is why we'll make excellent travel partners, I hope) but we need to flesh out what our MUST SEE things are before we start booking meet-ups. But THANKS, and I look forward to taking you up on one or both of those offers!

    ReplyDelete
  4. If you're going through Indiana, you must of course stop in Lafayette or Indy. . . or both. Or Kat and Kate will Kill. You. and I'll help. :D

    Excellent travelogue! You need to turn it into a book!

    ReplyDelete
  5. @Bethany - HOW did I not work that line in?!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great fun to read of your travels. I can't wait to travel someday.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Let me know if you are going through Kansas. We have salt mines (big hole in the ground), the world's largest hand dug well (big hole in the ground), Prairie Dog Village (lots of little holes in the ground). A hole-y experience. Let me know what route, and I'll let you know the fab experiences along the way.

    If we are home (I don't know what we're doing a year ahead of time!), we'd be happy to provide a meal. If the guest room is available, we could offer you a place to stay, too.

    ReplyDelete