Hi friends! Hope the weather hasn’t been too hazardous for you guys. Between Irene and Bucknell’s flooding problem, it makes me appreciate London’s consistent, yet mild rain and fog. But the weather has not deterred me; I have vowed to leave no sight unseen and no experience unexplored.
We’ve been pretty busy with the start of classes but I’ve had plenty of time to try some new things. For example, fish and chips!! I didn’t think I would like it, but it was delicious and the place is right up the street so I will have to fight the temptation to go all the time.
This week brought me to the British Museum for the first time. It’s only a block away from our classrooms, so sometimes our homework is to visit certain exhibits. It’s kind of tucked away and you are surprised when this ginormous building just pops up on the busy London street. It’s inspired by classical Greek architecture, complete with ionic columns (45 ft high!) and a beautifully decorated pediment. The inside is just as grand; we’ve only been to one exhibit but it’s clear that the architecture of the building is as much a marvel as the treasures it contains. And, if you ever get to visit, make sure you pay close attention to the concrete part of the gates as you leave. On the left, you can see the marks left by shrapnel from the blitz bombings of WWII.
My absolute favorite activity this week was seeing a performance at the Globe.
This time we actually went inside and saw a production of the Mysteries, which is a set of Medieval plays based on bible stories. These plays would have been performed at the feast of Corpus Christie and each story would have a “booth” set up in the town. That “booth” would perform the story over and over and the town members would promenade from station to station. So, these plays originally lasted a whole day. Luckily for us, they shortened them to about three hours, but we were groundlings and my feet were sore at the end. But I didn’t care; it was amazing to go to the place I had to build a model of in high school. The theater is beautifully decorated and being there brings you right back to Shakespearean England. And the actors were so…English. They were over the top and slapstick and very hard to understand. But the audience gets so into it. At one point, Jesus divided us in half, creating a group of “the saved” and a group of “the dammed.” With my bad luck I was standing right under the neon yellow sign that read “the dammed” and he personally delivered part of his chastising speech directly to me. I just hope that I looked repentant!
We also took our first class trip to Chiswick House (pronounced Chis-ick house- although derived from the history of cheese-making in the town). It was built by Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington to house his many acquisitions on his Grand Tour of the Continent. He was great admirer of Andrea Palladio, who designed many of the country villas in Vincenza, Italy. The building is actually pretty small, but the grounds are vast and were a tourist attraction in Boyle’s time. He lived during the Enlightenment and was called the “Apollo of the Arts” by his friend Alexander Pope, the great poet. Many of the paintings are just representational of what would have been there and some of the artifacts have been restored since the building was used for many different purposes (including a metal asylum) since it was built. But the beauty of the place is overwhelming and it’s hard not to picture 18th Century poets and artists standing in the great gallery, discussing Enlightenment ideas as their voices reverberate around the octagonal walls and the domed ceiling.