Last Day in London

I didn’t get into London until the early afternoon and then had to find my hostel to drop off all my stuff. Then I did the National Gallery again. I hadn’t had the greatest experience the first time I was there, but thought I would give it another shot because I had some last minute shopping to do in Piccadilly Circus. And I am so glad I did. I went into a different part of the Gallery – this is a huge building with multiple exhibits. I didn’t get to see all of them and this time I only had time to walk through some of the English history exhibits and then went to see the BP portrait competition. I wasn’t really impressed with a few of the winners, they seemed very typical to me, but I found some of the others very inspired and inspiring. In particular one titled “The Importance of Being Grey” and I cannot remember the title of the other, but I know it won 3rd prize. The first is of a man in a tan trench coat semi looking over his shoulder in a grey-black background. Just past the jaw-line length hair and a well-defined face by bone structure, but not so much painting style. The artist captured so much emotion in his brief expression and it triggered memories of the show “The Importance of Being Ernest” which I absolutely fell in love with. I’m still disappointed that I was unable to find the theater when it was showing in Stratford-Upon-Avon. The second (3rd prize winner) was a straight on show of a tattooed man. I think of him as a tattoo artist though I don’t know if that’s true. Just him against a white background. He had dark hair – full head of hair and beard in plain shirt and jeans with very well-done sleeve work, but what is really striking is his deep blue eyes. They aren’t the clear light color so many people talk about but a real deep full-bodied shade that do pierce you. It’s not a creepy kind of “picture-staring-at-me” but rather a kind of look that makes him seem interesting and makes you want to strike up a conversation. He is both inviting and intimidating at the same time, seems compassionate despite his artwork which can so often lead people to make quick – and incorrect – judgments. I’m sure some of the reason was intended – to push boundries and show the depth of the human soul beyond what is seen on the surface. Showing vulnerability is exactly why the naked older woman and naked older man won first and second place. Unfortunately I’ve seen this kind of work before so I was more interested in the more original subject matter despite clear talent of all winners.

These are pictures of the Thames, a post office deposit box, me behind Big Ben (again), flags down Oxford Street for the Olympics and a painted piano next to the Borough Market to celebrate the culture in London, a “cultural Olympiad” during the athletic Olympics.

And now I’m home and finally recovered from my jet-lag so I’ve had the time to finish this up. All of my pictures will at some point be uploaded to facebook – I have about 5 or so times as many pictures as have been posted here.

Edinburgh Day Two

Second day (only full day) I spent the first part of the day in museums (after a wonderful Vegetarian breakfast in a place called simply “Café”) first the gallery (meaning paintings and a few sculptures) and then the Natural Museum. These are all part of the National Museums of Scotland. The second was certainly better but I did get to see a Da Vinci, two Monet’s, 3 Raphaels and other impressionists (one in particular – “Woman and Child in Garden” by Berthe Monisot, I was surprised that she is not more well-known because I preferred her piece to the better Monet) in the Gallery and discovered a great Scottish artist by the name William McTaggart. I’ve posted some pictures of the paintings I saw that I got off the internet because photography is not allowed in the Gallery. Photography is allowed in the Natural Museum however and I took many photos, some of which are posted below and all of which will probably end up on facebook when I get the chance to log-on. These exhibits were themed around things like the progression of sculpture or music from around the world and then one room (open to the three stories but with balconies around the upper two so exhibits could be around those and still be able to see down below) was all about animals around the world. The best floor was the middle because the focus was on animals that have become extinct either naturally through evolution or unnaturally because of human interference (poaching, introduction of a foreign species). There are so many thousands of species in the world that it may not matter to some how many animals have gone extinct, but I found myself to be glad that animal conservationists have recognized the problem and are working on maintaining the natural diversity of the earth. That somehow just feels like a positive thing to me despite my lack of interest in getting involved personally.

The second part of my day was spent in shops searching for the perfect cashmere scarf. It is the only thing I wanted from Scotland and I finally settled on one majorly purple and green plaid, but with added white and black. There are just so many stores and colors that it did take up a significant amount of time for me. I do wish I had more time in Edinburgh so I could have explored more, not just shopping but just seeing the streets – they are simply beautiful and I’ve realized what a fan of architecture I am since being here. That’s why I did spend so much time walking around London rather than inside looking at paintings. I never did make it to Tate Modern which is supposed to be very good, but I just never had enough desire to see modern art. Anyways, that was my afternoon …

Finally I picked up a quick dinner – paninis are great in this country, and the tea! Wonderful – and then went off to a showing of Starlight Express by Andrew Loydd Webber at the Playhouse. I was quite disappointed with the show actually. On the inverse correlation of talent to special effects, this play rated quite poorly. That it was performed on skates was very cool and I’m not referring to that – though I wasn’t particularly impressed by it since I used to watch Extreme Rollerskating – but rather that there were constant lights flashing and videos that played (in 3D – glasses and all). Being blinded by various colors in various fashions annoyed me more than anything and while I understand the point of having it, it took away from the performance greatly for me. I did like that the music was played by a live orchestra and some of the songs were ok, but I was deeply disappointed by the main characters as an adult. But Webber wrote it originally for his children and watching it as a child would, I can understand why it is appealing. The Cinderella storyline is compelling, but the main female characters are extremely “blonde.” I’ve nothing against making a character sexy, but being ditzy to go along with it doesn’t suit me well. I want my female characters strong internally if not always outwardly – I believe that is why I am so drawn to Wicked and Phantom of the Opera. They both have strong female leads – Glinda, Elphaba, and Madame Morrible in Wicked and Christine and Madame Geary in Phantom. There may be some tension between the genders, but the females triumph in their goals. I guess I’ve never thought of that before… Mostly I think I like a strong character in general, I would rather see Rusty somehow end a much stronger “machine” (he was a steam powered engine/train). His triumph just didn’t suit me because of the lack of strength. However, once again as a child, I’m sure this show is much more appealing and would be very enjoyable. It’s very child friendly and I do recommend it for that reason, but for adults who enjoy strong dialogue and plot, I would advise choosing another show. And thus ended my one full day in Edinburgh. I left early the next morning and would be more regretful of it had I not been so internally pressed to get home.

Edinburgh

            Very different than London. More “old school” all mostly looks the same but there are some bits that are modern – kind of like stepping back into time – but with Café Nero. Had my 1st Yorkshire Pudding (found one that did vegetarian sausages and gravy) – it was ok nicely filling but not hugely expensive – found it in a tavern called “Cask of Arms” right near the hostel (and Castle!) Seriously if I stayed on the other side the view from my window would have been a castle! As it is when I got up in the morning I walked out and it was right across the road. Anyways while having my pudding (which means dessert here normally but not when it’s Yorkshire for dinner) I had one of those moments where you realize where you are and had a bit of a – positive – freak-out moment in my head. It is really exciting being here and those who tell you that you get used to it and it’s no big deal are lying or crazy. It is a big deal and while you do get used to it sometimes it hits you where you have been, where you are, how amazing it is to be there.

The pictures were taken all three days and then some will come with the next post from the second and third day.

Les Miserables

For this production I specifically chose a seat on the side that you need to lean forward in. I wanted to see how much the director/”stager” in this theater took that into consideration – especially because this had been such a long running show in this specific theater. Perhaps the effect would be accidental but I was still curious (Since the theater was decently placed I was able to get a nice Italian dinner [I miss pasta mom. Hint hint.] before crossing the street to the theater). I believe the 1st step to making theater accessible to everyone is to start by making it accessible to everyone in the theater. You want people walking away talking about the wonders of the show not grumbling about the view from their seats. For one don’t design theaters with poles? Or with Grand/dress circles so steep I keep missing my row because I think I might fall backward. (Wait. That might be a nerves thing not stage. I’m not even afraid of heights or dropping but those stairs can be nerve-wracking) . The theater now though is fine. Has retained it’s classic architectural aspects like the theater holding Noises Off and Mousetrap but then what could you really do to enhance Les Mis? And wouldn’t it be a shame to deface those beautiful angels?

Act 1

The show started off tough but I think that’s because I didn’t know the plot and I’m so used to knowing it ahead of time. I think that really affects the experience I have with a play. I also think that’s the reason people get more or different things out of seeing a play twice. With some plays I’m comparing them to other plays or with their movie counterparts and with some I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on. As much as that works with some (like Mousetrap and Noises Off – I don’t think I’ve written about those but I’m on a train for 5 ½ hours so I’ll get caught up) but I find it can also be distracting. Rather than enjoying the show as I would like to and possibly evaluating it I am focused throughout the whole show on plot discovery. Ok, I’ve thought about it and I think it is exactly because I’m trying to evaluate it for theatrical elements that I want to know the plot ahead of time. This play is seeming similar to A tale of two cities. I haven’t read it in awhile so I can’t say for sue why but there just seems to be some sort of similarities – characters, settings, just bits and pieces. I don’t expect it to end the same (though it is a wonderful novel ending – one of the most selfless lovers in all of literacture. It’s partially, if not all, because of him that has made it such a classic though I do warn that it could be disturbing to some, the French revolution not the lover.) Still the music is powerful, the voices excellent and the story is quite compelling – I want to know what is going on rather than last night where I just wanted the torture to stop (and actually I may have forgotten to mention that there was torture scenes – the first “scene” was a woman continually screaming, differently but continually for at least 10 minutes. It was only her on stage in her underwear with a burlap bag over her head and that’s about the point that I realized how awful it had the potential to be – then the bad subtitles began … and it was all downhill from there…) This however seems to be all uphill. And I’m really looking forward to the second act.

Act Two and 4/5 days later

Haven’t had the time to write this until now – too busy with more shows and Edinburgh. The second act was even better through the first. It was so moving I had to buy a programme and unfortunately it was sold out last night so I couldn’t see it again, but I’m sure I will someday. All I can say not is it was a wonderfully performed and expertly written musical. Perhaps tied as my favorite musical with Wicked.

The Queen’s theater was beautiful as you can see below:

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Natural History Museum

These are pictures from the Natural History Museum in London. I didn’t post any from the Animal Inside-Out Exhibit because I didn’t know if everyone’s stomach would handle that well. It was very interesting though.

Buckingham Palace Pictures

I did not visit the inside of the Palace, but I do have pictures of the outside!