Monday, January 30, 2012

A weekend so eventful it gets two posts!

As most of you know, I am trying – slowly but surely – to get familiar enough with the city to be able to walk people around in an informal tour-guide type style. I am nowhere near being good at it, but I’ve got a two-day route down. Most of it focuses on the center of the city; I’ll expand on it when people have the chance to stay longer than two days. The only problem is that I don't yet know nearly enough history or anecdotes about the city to be a tour guide. Right now, it's more like following someone around that just knows where they're going than really learning anything. I'm working on it (and some of this weekend helped - Kenz and I actually went on a guided tour - I've included that at the end of this post).

The first day starts in Trafalgar Square, visits the National Gallery (or National Portrait Gallery), ambles up through Soho, China town, takes a break at the British Museum, and finishes with a stroll through Piccadilly Circus.

Day two starts with a river walk along the south bank, visits the Tate Modern, traverses the Millennium Bridge, gawks at St. Paul’s Cathedral, then finishes with an extended walk down Fleet Street.

There are several major problems with the current visitation route/guide. Tough decisions have to be made, however, when your guests are only here for two or three days (keep that in mind when booking your flight). 

After I posted on the blog this past Friday, Will, Kira, and I went out into town on day two of their visit. We followed the current "day two" route, starting on the south bank of the Thames, near Waterloo Station:

We found out that there was a sweet food market happening this Friday afternoon (and good weather to boot!)

Whoopie pies! 

Mr. Chorizo got my money.

Bun, chorizo, rocket, bell peppers, and olive oil.

Right along the south side of the river are the National Theatre, the BFI, and some art galleries. We dipped into the National Theatre because it looked extra-populated. It turned out that there was a series of art exhibits there for the weekend. They all focused on mortality, but the atmosphere was not grim, thankfully.

Ghanian caskets 

There were a bunch of these, but I only took these two pictures. 
Downstairs was a neat participation-based exhibit about the beginning and ending of life. The text of the picture below:

By the time you've read this sentence three people have been born into the world. 
By the time you've read this sentence two people have passed away. 
By the time you've lived through this twelve-hour day there will be 100,000 more children on the planet. And in the same twelve hours 70,000 people will have died. 

Artist Sam Winston's represents and commemorates each of the 170,000 lives which are born and end in the space of 12 hours around the world. 
Join us and draw a circle with the artist to remember and celebrate your own loved ones and register their names in writing to record a memory of the event. 

Text above for those who can't read the fine print. 

People adding their circles. 


The names of those symbolized by the circles. 

I got in on the action.

There was another installation which I had seen making the rounds on the Internet. A young woman in New Orleans had covered the side of her house in chalkboard after Katrina, with lines for people to complete the sentence, "Before I die I want to _______." People have replicated her chalkboard all over the world.

Some were inspiring, others not so much...
We continued along the river and found this man getting attacked by pigeons.

Juxtaposition between old and new London.
 Sand sculptor!

Will and I stopping for a Kodak moment.
There were four guys set up around the Millenium Bridge doing the old-school-three-cups-one-ball-switcheroo-trick. This isn't legal, and Will noted the lookouts on either end of the walkway. This guy was not happy with me taking the picture. 

"No pictures, boss!"
Will, Kira, and I wound up walking all over hidden alleys around Fleet Street before making it back home in order to rest before the concert. Kenz joined us for dinner, then we were off to the show!

Excited concertgoers. 
If you're interested (and didn't watch any of the videos I embedded as links in the last post), someone filmed the entire show and put it on youtube (I love the Internet); you can watch the last three songs here. The show was fantastic.

After a full English breakfast with our visitors, Kenz and I split off to do our own thing. Will and Kira had tickets to see Wicked and Kenz and I assumed they would like a day in the city to explore on their own. 

She and I had big plans to go on a free guided tour of "London's hidden alleyways and courtyards." The walk started at 10:30am, and we were suffering from being up so late the night before. We wound up arriving at St. Paul's Cathedral ten minutes late. The group was nowhere to be found. It was just us and the leftover Occupy tent campers. 

I was pissed! I had been so excited to get to go on my first guided tour - I was ready to memorize the route, the talk, everything about it so that I could give the tour myself - and we show up ten minutes late. And they're gone. Devastated. 

Kenz tried to cheer me up to no avail. I wasn't having it. She got some coffee as I pouted. Then I called the tour guide people and they told me there'd be another tour at 1:30. Phew! Crisis averted. We wound up paying the exorbitant entree fee to St. Paul's Cathedral, spent two hours touring it, and only covered one third of it. 


Then some touring! Yay! 

Cold, but ready to learn!
As it turns out, it was a good thing we missed the first tour. Over seventy people showed up for the first tour which was almost too much for one tour guide. So, for the 1:30 tour, they had two guides. And still over seventy people showed up. I think people swarm to free stuff in this city the same way flies do to ... well, you know.
Our tour guide had a flag for us. And we all wore stickers. 

And he had a little amp hanging around his neck so he didn't have to yell. A real pro. 

These are chimneys for an underground power plant. 

I must not have paid too close attention, because I've already forgotten the name of this little thing. Apparently it's Christopher Wren's smallest building - right next to St. Paul's (he built that too).

Along our walk: Man feeding a squirrel nuts as a metaphor for life.

On the south side of St. Paul's: a working water fountain (that thing on the left). And our tour guide's unamused face.

An example of the first buildings after the great fire of London. No more timber allowed!

(this was a "hidden courtyard" which used to be the site of the King's wardrobe (until it burned down))

The oldest pub in London. Dickens wrote here, as well as countless others. (the sign reads: Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Rebuilt 1667)

Dr. Samuel Johnson's cat, directly across from his house which is open 6 days a week for tours. Those are clams to the left of the cat. Apparently clams used to be street food. 

Gives new meaning to the term "tree house"

Riding an old, 1960's era Routemaster after our tour. 
I didn't do well to include a lot of info on the tour (sorry about that). It's not as cool in the pictures as it was to walk. You'll have to come experience it the way we did!

As we were walking home over the river, there was cloud cover over the financial district but the sun was shining through on the area we had just toured. I snapped the following picture (on the phone - doesn't do it justice, but whatevs).

OK, back to packing! See you on Friday. Have a good week! And thanks for reading!