Do you see why I love blue skies?

June 28, 2011 at 5:49 pm Leave a comment

I’m about a week behind in blogging, and I’d apologize, but BFF Jules just pointed out to me that I’m rather OTB with blog posts, as compared to last year’s summer trip. We agreed that the difference is that I don’t have to spend up to 12 hours driving almost every day. Not that last year’s trip wasn’t fantastic, because it was! It was just a bit busier, too.

So I’m up to last Tuesday now. The plan for the day was a “field trip” with class that started with a bus trip from Notting Hill to Waterloo. The bus trip followed a trip that the main character in The Lonely Londoners took, which was our assigned reading for the week. I was anxious to explore Notting Hill and see if I could find Hugh Grant living behind a blue door or selling travel books in a quaint shop, so I decided to leave ahead of the rest of the group.

St. James's Church
It was such a gorgeous day outside, as you can see from this photo of St. James’s Church at the end of the street where we’re staying, that I decided to walk. Notting Hill Gate is about a half-hour walk from the Paddington Station area, and quite nice on a pleasant day. I walked past Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens and could have crossed the street and walked through the park for a while if I’d wanted to take a bit more time.

The bus ride was a little silly, since we all just chatted about random things instead of paying close, writerly attention to the journey, but I did enjoy seeing London while we traveled instead of the dark tunnel of the Tube. Just this once, though. In general, I really love subways.

We got off the bus on the south side of Westminster Bridge and walked over to the Southbank Centre, which houses, among other things, Royal Festival Hall, the BFI, and the Poetry Library. The Poetry Library was our destination. It contains copies of all of the poetry produced in England, but since poetry is usually bound in very small books, the library is also fairly small. Like, smaller than the library at my elementary school. But very impressive, despite the smallness. I always feel like I should read more poetry, but it’s a difficult genre for me to get into. I wasn’t sure what to read, until I spied a volume of poems by Anna Akhmatova in the A section. Yes! Russian poets! I hightailed it over to the Ts and found a book of Marina Tsvetaeva’s poetry that was in original Russian on the left side and translated to English on the right. I love the way that Russian poetry rolls off the tongue. My Russian is really rusty, but since it’s phonetic, I can still sound it out, though I definitely needed the translations to understand!

I read for about half an hour, I guess, but reading Russian was making my head hurt, so I started walking and ended up down the river a bit, at the Tate Modern Collection, London’s major modern art museum. I’m not a huge modern art fan, but I like art in general and this was a museum I’d missed on my last trip, so I went in. Overall…I’m still not a modern art fan, surprise! But I loved the building. Tate Modern is in an old power station that’s been converted into a great space.

View interior:
Inside Tate Modern

View exterior:
Outside Tate Modern

The other best part about my walk was that I had a fantastic view of St. Paul’s across the river, on a day with a perfect sky.

St. Paul's and the Millenium Bridge
The Millenium Bridge is in the foreground, known primarily for being closed down shortly after it opened because the natural frequency of the bridge matched the average pace of the people walking across it. This meant that it wobbled. I have a fear of bridges anyway, and my professor told us this story before my trip in 2007. Then he made us walk across this bridge 4 times in one day. So this time, I was happy to just stand on the end of the bridge, get my shots, and then stay on the south side of the river.

I really liked the way that the South Bank has been built up. Yes, quite a bit of it is “tourist-priced,” but this is true of so much of central London anyway, and there are still options for the more frugal folks who want to enjoy the promenade along the river. I had a delicious banana gelato at an Italian café on my way back to the Southbank Centre. The gentleman who took my money spoke to the younger employee in Italian and called me “darling.” It was everything I wanted my European gelato experience to be.

So once I got back to Royal Festival Hall, I had about half an hour before we were supposed to meet the rest of the group, but much of the rest of the group had already met and enjoyed pints on the patio. Somehow we decided to cancel the rest of class and just go out and “discuss literature” at a pub. Marisa needed to go sign a contract at her new job, which was just off Piccadilly Circus, an area not known for being affordable. But Chris knows a lot of pubs and led us to one with happy hour specials, which is fairly rare in London. I hadn’t eaten anything besides gelato, so even though they were a bit overpriced, I splurged and got my first fish&chips of the trip.

Fish & Chips
Chris is from Sheffield, in northern England, and was quite critical of these fish&chips. The newspaper was an attempt at being authentic, but upon close inspection, it was fake newspaper. Also, fish&chips are not generally served on ceramic plates. Also, the “mushy peas” were the wrong consistency and everything was a much smaller portion than it should have been. Authentic or not, though, I can assure that these fish & chips sure did taste fantastic! No regrets.

Once happy hour was over, the pub & all surrounding pubs were out of our desired price range, so we headed up to Camden, a popular place for the youths of London to spend time. There’s a market there, where I shopped in ’07 and where Kate Winslet shopped in an American Express commercial, but it wasn’t open on Tuesday.

In fact, it was kind of creepy:
Camden Market

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Entry filed under: England, Europe, London, Photos, United Kingdom.

The Brits Have Many Things Day Out in Greenwich

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A serial road tripper chronicles her adventures.

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