Tuesday, June 12, 2007

It's down to the wire

A lot has happened in the last week and a half. It's going to be a long entry today:
  • I had tea (herbal, of course) and scones at the Orangery at Kensington Palace.
  • I visited a mosque.
  • I sat in the Stranger's Gallery and watched question time in the House of Lords at the Houses of Parliament.
  • I went to Dover Castle and the White Cliffs of Dover.
  • I visited Canterbury, including Canterbury Cathedral, which is the home of the Archbishop (head) of the Church of England.
  • I ran a three-mile race (the 2007 Crisis Square Mile Run).
  • I visited Kew Gardens.
  • I went to Borough Market (again).
  • I saw The Merchant of Venice at the Globe Theatre.
The Orangery was beautiful, and I felt very sophisticated dressing up and going there for tea. I had peppermint, but I recommend blackcurrant, which one of the girls I went with got. I also got a fruit scone, which was superb.

We visited the London Central Mosque on Tuesday after I went to the Orangery. We were there for the afternoon prayers, which was interesting to watch. I also learned a lot listening to our host.

Right after the mosque a few of us hopped on the Tube and went to Parliament. We watched question time at the House of Lords. MPs can submit written questions for "Her Majesty's Government" (the ruling party) to answer orally. It was interesting to see the joviality and camaraderie that the Lords have among themselves.

Dover Castle was pretty cool, but I'm getting tired of castles.

It was fun to go to the White Cliffs, which you might know as the site of Gloucester's attempted suicide in Shakespeare's King Lear. We could see the Channel there, and I think I could barely make out France on the far side.

Canterbury Cathedral is beautiful, as you would expect. The stained glass there was amazing. It's amazing that it still exists at all, actually, because the Germans tried to bomb it during the war. Their flare markers got carried by the wind, though, so they ended up bombing another nearby site to smithereens and the cathedral made it through mostly unscathed.

The Square Mile Run was fun. I ran it with Amber and Kelli from my group. The race is fundraiser for Crisis, which is an organization that helps homeless people. There were a few more than 2000 runners. We met at Paternoster Square right by St. Paul's Cathedral. The race went south to the river, then east along the river, over London Bridge, further east to the end of Tower Bridge, then turned west along the river, past the Globe, and over the Millennium Bridge across from the Tate Modern.

The run was definitely correctly titled. Calling it a race would have been an overstatement. There were two or three places where I was stopped to a standstill while people filtered through bottlenecks in the course. I was passing people on the entire run. I'd get stuck behind a group, get an opening and sprint ahead a few meters, and then get stuck behind someone again. Consequently, my time of 29:35 wasn't so hot. It was a beautiful run along the Thames, though.

Kew Gardens was a bit of a disappointment. There were some amazing plants there (especially the huge water lilies!), but the grounds felt more like a city park when I expected a diverse, carefully-tended garden. They did have some clownfish and piranhas, though, so I can at least say that I saw Nemo and some killer fish.

On Saturday I went to Borough Market again, but this time I actually bought stuff. I got one of the most excellent brownies that they sell (£1.50), a bunch of strawberries (£1.50), some razcherries (cherries candied in sugar and raspberry juice) (£4), and some fresh cherries (£1).

After the market, our group saw The Merchant of Venice at the Globe. Shakespeare's company performed at the Globe when he was alive, but the original building burned down. The modern one was constructed relatively recently as closely as possible to the original design.

Seeing the play in the Globe was really fun. It's an open-air theater, and lucky for us, the weather was absolutely perfect. We had tickets to stand in the yard as groundlings, and we got there early enough to stand right next to the stage, so the actors were just a meter or two away from us sometimes.

There was one problem with the performance that we watched: the actress who plays the main part was missing. Since they don't have any understudies and they found out on short notice that the actress wouldn't be able to make it, the artistic director came out on the stage before the performance and explained what was going on. They had Nerissa play Portia, and Jessica played both Nerissa and Jessica, and both actresses had scripts in hand for the whole performance. The situation could have turned out horribly, but just the opposite happened. The actresses did an excellent job, and I didn't feel like it detracted from the play at all. The fact that they pulled it off really shows how talented the actors were.

After the play I went to dinner with Kelli and Amber and her roommates at Wagamama, a Japanese sort-of fast food restaurant. I really liked the food and only paid about £7 for it.

Sunday was the last day of church in the Spanish branch for Jeffrey and me since we'll be going to church at the Hyde Park Chapel next Sunday.

Today we visited an orthodox Jewish synagogue that's only a block away from here. It a beautiful building, and it was really interesting to have the caretaker show us around and explain about their religion.

School has been pretty crazy as the semester has been winding down. As of last Friday I had to write 20 pages of papers for my humanities class and two or three pages for English. I've been pretty unhappy with the workload that we have had in humanities, but the good news is that it's almost over.

Tomorrow morning (at 6:30a.m.!) we're leaving for Ireland. We're going to get on the coach and drive to Wales, where we will take a ferry to Ireland. I'm really looking forward to visiting there, but I'm really not looking forward to having to finish my papers while I'm there.

We'll return from Ireland on Saturday and have finals on Monday. Then, on Tuesday morning, I'm headed home. The time has flown by.


Kristy said...

Aren't the cliffs of dover in the Princess Bride?

Bruce said...

I believe those are the cliffs of Guilder.