Tag Archive | St. Paul’s Cathedral

A New Face; The Other Place

Wow it’s been quite a while since my last blog! Did you miss me? I hope not too much. I’d hate to think that I was letting anyone down with my sudden decrease in blog post prolificness. Is prolificness a word? Can we make it one? Awesome ­čśë

If I can remember correctly to the long, long time ago of my last real blog update about going to the Cotswolds, a lot has happened since then. I wouldn’t consider any of it all too exciting (hence the lack of immediate blog updates), but it has been quite the busy two weeks. After the Cotswolds, I took a trip into London to see the newly opened Kensington Palace, and to be honest and a little scathing, I wish it had remained closed. I really cannot stand when exhibits are hokey and geared for the uneducated tourist, preferring instead the historical artifacts and rooms redecorated as how they would have been in history smattered with important historical events and uses of the rooms. For a good example: Stirling Castle in Scotland, Windsor Castle in London, and Hampton Court Palace down the Thames. Excellently designed and informative, they stand out as my favorite royal homes. Kensington does not.

The King's Staircase, Kensington Palace

The exhibit on Queen Victoria’s rooms was the exception here, following more of the motif I quickly just ranted about, but the rest of the palace was filled with “whispers” in the windows and irrelevant decorations. Couple that with a cafe lacking enough indoor seating to protect from the cold and a million older ladies swarming about swooning over anything to do with the late Princess Diana, and I was getting cranky quickly. So the logical thing to do next was go back home, and I gladly obliged my logical brain.

A different trip I made into London was wholly different, though the weather remained not ideal, replacing the cold with the rain (believe it or not I prefer rain to cold!). This time I wandered through Regents Park and the Queen’s Garden, which was an absolutely stunning oasis, even in the wet, with a collection of the most vibrant tulips I have ever seen. I really didn’t know that tulips came in colors such as these! ┬áDespite the rain, I couldn’t bring myself to seek the shelter of the trees like my fellow garden walkers, choosing instead to stand in the rain admiring flowerbeds. Simple things, right? And this is why they invented umbrellas. I kept walking through the park until I reached the London Zoo and saw a giraffe literally right on the edge of the sidewalk, but then detoured towards Primrose Hill Park and caught a taxi to the British Library.

Giraffe!

I was intending on admiring the letters sent between Mary, Queen of Scots, and Elizabeth I, but they were gone! Only greatly devastated, I kept forcing myself not to cry and remember that the British Library houses umpteen written works and that they can’t all be on display all the time (okay so maybe I wasn’t actually crying, but I have a flair for writing the dramatic). After my book indulgence and tearing myself away from the library’s book store, I walked to St. Paul’s Cathedral and actually did the audio tour. Which oddly enough, in a testament to the evolution of technology, was given on an iPod Touch. Totally cool! Considering the number of times I’ve been to London and walked passed St. Paul’s, I’m surprised that I have never been inside for more than a quick run-through. And my goodness, what a tragedy, as I have been missing out on one of the most incredible architectural experiences one could imagine. So ornate and intricate, built by Sir Christopher Wren, and with an audio guide that extensively discusses the mosaics and other artwork, St. Paul’s became one of those places that I regretted only having two hours to spend inside before it closed for evening worship. Oh and its cafe in the crypt had a pretty decent cream tea though completely clueless and easily confused employees.

I’m pretty sure that apart from one further day trip, which I’ll get to later, that has been the extent of my travels over the last two weeks. The weather hasn’t really been cooperating enough to justify traipsing around the country. Trying to see new places is not as enjoyable in the gray and rain, especially when it switches every few minutes. There was a particularly bizarre day here where it was cold in the morning, had intermittent showers through to the afternoon, then a wonderful and warm hour of sunshine causing me to instantly shed my winter coat and sit outside at a cafe for tea, then cloud cover struck again and it began hailing for ten minutes, then some more sun, and another bout of intense hail before settling down back into the monochrome gray. I’m sorry, but is it really so difficult as to be consistent?! If it’s going to rain, fine, rain, but don’t tease me with these beautiful moments of sunshine and heat. I believe we call that cruelty.

Needless to say the weather has prevented me from going out too much, relegating me instead to lots of dance rehearsals and other inside activities. Dan, that wonderful dance partner of mine, and I now have FOUR new routines in preparation for the Varsity team tryouts this Saturday: a new quickstep where we run around half of the floor, skip the other half, and charleston/woodpecker/pendulum/penguin our way in the center; a waltz that utilizes my ballet training in some beautiful poses and a move that has me running around in circles for about 10 seconds (no joke), a jive so fast and goofy that I earned the nicknames of both a dying duck and a chicken trying to lay an ostrich egg, and a glorious cha cha with a Phantom of the Opera spin and backstory. All hard work to say the least, but also super exciting to be doing Intermediate routines having only a few months ago been Beginners. Bring it on Cambridge! But even if we don’t get the opportunity to dance for Oxford, it’s been two weeks full of quality time with Dan, so completely worth it.

Partners who bake together, stay together

And who is this new face I know you are all dying to hear about? Well in an odd twist of fate, it would be me. Because I actually got a waitressing job! Meaning that in the restaurant hereafter known as R (why the secrecy? 1. because I don’t want anyone visiting me haha 2. This isn’t going to turn into a WaiterRantEsque blog, so you won’t be hearing about customers or coworkers in detail) I am officially the New Girl from LA. I’m not positive if I actually have the job yet, right now I’m just considered a trainee and have only had two shifts, but I had so much fun during my first shifts so I really hope they hire me part time. And soon too, though not tomorrow morning since I have a fun surprise planned.

Which brings me to Sunday, my day trip that has been leaving you in suspense for 1180 words. Where did she go? I know you are all asking. I can’t handle the not knowing! Don’t worry, I’m putting you out of your misery: I went to Cambridge, not-so-fondly known as The Other Place to us Oxfordians. Of course to Cambridgers we are known as The Other Place, so it’s all fair game. It took me a solid four hours of traveling to get there and then another 3 hours back, so I really only had about 5 1/2 hours to spend in the town itself. Which was honestly plenty. Cambridge is no where near the size of Oxford, feeling more like one giant university campus as opposed to a bustling city centre hiding an ancient university down its back alleys. I had a mental running commentary not only about its differences from Oxford, but also its similarities to USC (what can I say? Once a Bruin, always a Bruin), and like USC to UCLA, Cambridge fell short to Oxford. Maybe I was immediately prejudiced by the fact that it was raining the whole first half of the day there, so I couldn’t really see anything on the bus tour I took and when I was walking around my line of vision was obscured by my now broken umbrella, but I just couldn’t see myself living in Cambridge full time like I do in Oxford. There seems to be more to do here outside of simply study, whereas I couldn’t really see that in Cambridge. We are also more of a centralized location to the rest of the country, making it an ideal starting point to traveling; to travel from Cambridge you need to first go into London, a natural barrier to a travel-addict such as myself.

Trinity College, Cambridge

Now once the sun came out at around 3:30 pm, the town took on a whole new facade, full of richly decorated brick buildings and cobblestone streets. The advantage to bus tour tickets is that they are good for 24 hours, so I hopped back on the nearest stop and retook half of the tour so that I could actually see what the recording was talking about. The town does have some beautiful buildings and interesting history. And I have no problem in admitting that their Trinity College is without a doubt the most beautiful college I have seen in my entire life, including those I visited in the States. No, I am not prejudiced because it was founded by Henry VIII and is one of the most prestigious Cambridge colleges, it is truly a magnificent campus, with a wide quadrangle and chapel housing many Tudor references. Famous alums? Isaac Newton, Tennyson, Edward VII, A.A. Milne (author of Winnie-the-Pooh) and Francis Bacon. If I were to go to Cambridge–which I won’t–I would be applying there for sure.

Beyond that, my time has mostly been spent working on my papers and research (yes Trinity term has officially begun and thus so has a workload) and exchanging baked goods with my partner. He made me carrot cake and double chocolate cookies, and I returned the favor with Earl Grey Banana Bread and Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies. Hopefully I can get through a few more new baking recipes before I have to go home in seven weeks.

But what also happens in seven weeks? I get to see my baby!!!

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On New Year’s Day…Stay Home

Websites are unreliable. They don’t inform you that, on January 1st, the Oxford Tube buses run on an amended timetable, the Tower of London is closed, and the British Library is closed. Essentially the entire itinerary I slaved over last night went to heck through a rain gutter (at about 1:30 it started raining and didn’t stop until 6) and we had to improvise. Really, considering how much there is to do and see in London, having no plan can be no big deal because you just pick a small region, hop on the tube over there, walk around, take some pictures, listen to my irritatingly Tudor-centric history lecture, and then pick another location. But I like plans. I like structure. I like all my pre chosen attractions to be open on a Sunday when their websites say they are!

So here is what we did instead:

Once we finally┬ámade it into London because the Oxford Tube wasn’t on a normal timetable and we had to wait around for the X90 instead, we took the tube immediately to my favorite place in the whole city, the Tower of London. Obviously I’m obsessed with it because of all the mind-blowing history that has taken place inside over the centuries, particularly in the Tudor Era, but it is also just incredible architecture and the juxtaposition of the 14th century fortress with the modern glass buildings surrounding it feels so London.

Tower of London

London really is this melding together of the old and the new, the historic and the innovative. For me, that is what makes London the most fascinating city I’ve ever seen. Actually going into the Tower will now be put off to tomorrow due to the date, so we headed across the Thames towards the Globe Theatre instead.

We had to walk along the Thames for quite some time, but meandering was acceptable today both because I know my way around basic London as in general directions and I invested in a mini A-Z of London, which let me tell you is the absolute best ┬ú5.50 I could have spent in London. So thanks to Jordan for showing me hers last time we went to London so I knew its awesome powers already. Kevin was excited to see the rebuilt Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre where most of the plays that Shakespeare wrote during his time in London were first performed.

Shakespeare's Globe

Unfortunately, like so many of the places in England from before the 1700s, a fire burnt the entire place down four hundred years ago, and this current nearly exact replica of the theatre opened in 1997. Not really authentic, but the builders and architects did attempt to build it using similar methods, materials, and the same design as the theatre would have been built with originally; at least they are trying to preserve as much as the history as possible.

And that brings me back to one of the great things about London: how the city has managed to maintain its history and culture and aura from those earlier times while simultaneously moving forward in the age of progress and technology. I personally think that they have done a job worthy of the great city. Ok enough London gushing (yeah right).

We next walked across the Millennium Bridge where we learned how annoying the sound of high heels on a metal bridge can be, and then we circled around St. Paul’s Cathedral. Since services were in–Sunday after all–the church was not open for tourism, but Kevin and I politely stood at the back for a few minutes to gaze up at the ceiling and for me to light a candle next to the WWII memorial plaque before exiting as quietly as we came in. Basically we were able to see the church for free during a service, something that normally would have cost us ┬ú12 each. I felt a little less guilty because I paid 30p for the candle, but we didn’t do any harm…I swear.

St. Paul's Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge

A tube ride later we were in Covent Garden. Besides it just being a generally cool and stereotypical place to visit on a trip into London, we needed to get a new iPad charger and went into the Apple Store there. I think that seeing the Apple Store and talking to their employees was Kevin’s favorite part of the day. No, I mean it. I was bored, but I owed him one as he did go where I wanted to eat for lunch and then he went down a random side street with me so that I could get another picture for my London book. By this point the rain had started so we figured, Hey, why not go to the British Library? It’s dry and interesting in there. Ha! A wasted underground fare because the British Library was CLOSED and was therefore added on our list of things we have to do tomorrow because today was New Year’s Day. Website improvement people! We regrouped in a Starbucks and then rode to the opposite side of the city to see the SIS building. I still have no idea what exactly is inside Vauxhall; you’ll have to ask Kevin or read his blog if he posted about it, which I’m not sure about. Continuing our private walking tour, we came across the Tate Britain and decided to go inside and escape the rain for a bit.

I’m not sure how Kevin felt about the museum. I do know that he and I have completed opposite tastes in art. He is interested in anything modern and unique; I focus on the historical and impressionistic pieces. So I got the impression that the art bugs in both of us were a little unfulfilled and underwhelmed by this gallery. I may be wrong, so check below to see if Kevin has posted a scathing comment correcting my impression of his impressions of the art. I am glad we found shelter for a bit, but all the museum really did for me was intensify my headache (sorry Mom, I forgot to take Advil after we hung up this morning).

For the final stretch of our Day 1 London walks, we continued along the Thames to the Parliament Houses and Westminster Abbey all spotlighted for the night. The lights made the architecture look more extreme and I thought thrown into more severe detail. We are going to the London Eye tomorrow morning so Kevin will be able to see it in the day time as well. I wish we had more time in London because going into Westminster is truly a highlight experience and is one of those places that I feel like I will never get enough time to explore properly, but we only had today and tomorrow so things had to be prioritizes and the inside of the Abbey didn’t make the list. All the more incentive for Kevin to come back to London ­čÖé We ended by walking down to the Victoria Coach Station, which I was all excited about because that area is where my mom and I stayed my first time in London after high school graduation so I became all nostalgic.

Westminster Abbey

Back in Oxford we grabbed dinner at the Cape of Good Hope bar/pub/restaurant place by my room, and my friend Janosz joined us, Good food, good company, and good planning for tomorrow. Janosz has to go into the city to meet one of his friends and then is going to meet up with us for the Tower and Library. I’m really excited that everything will be open again!