The continuing adventures of myself and friends as young adults backpacking through Europe. This episode begins on Good Friday in London. All black and white photos are my own, all colour are courtesy of my sister Mel Stone.
Sutton, Surrey, England
Saturday 7/4/2007 13:28
The play that we wanted to see was far off the West End. We hoofed it all the way from the tube station, and once we finally found the Alameida Theater we discovered there was no show because it was Good Friday. I guess Good Friday is a bigger deal in England than America. I’m Jewish, so I wouldn’t know!
I suggested we go over to Covent Garden because I’d heard it has a happening nightlife and was a fun place to walk around. It really was cool. Lots of people and shops, along with trendy bars and friendly pubs. There were also a lot of street performers. I hate street performers. They are annoying and block the street so you can’t walk. One was a guitar player who did a really butchered Bob Marley medley.
We happily wandered around until we stumbled across the Noel Coward Theater where Avenue Q was playing. The show hadn’t started yet, so we went up to the box office just to see what the cheapest tickets were. The man at the box office said that the cheapest he had were 22 pounds for the back of the balcony, but since we were students we could get the best seats left in the house for 25 pounds. The best seats in the house turned out to be in the third row!!! This was way too good a deal to pass up. The show was hilarious and well worth every penny. It’s a naughty musical spoof of Seasame Street. A puppet musical. It was freaking awesome!
Afterwards, we went into a Tesco (a grocery store) and got some more Cadbury creme eggs and strawberry vodka shots packaged in disposable plastic cups. Brilliant! We haven’t seen anything like that in America so we had to try it. They tasted like Jello, but made for a tipsy ride home in which we tried not to hold on to the railings and kept rocking about and singing songs. I’m sure the other passengers were thrilled with us. We were lucky to catch a bus home after the tube, where we were joined by some rowdy pubhoppers. We made it home late, went to bed, and got up this morning for toast and tea. Perfection.
Luton Airport, outside London, England
Monday 8/4/2007 2:43
Yesterday ended quietly and uneventfully, but with some highlights. We went on a walk to the park with my cousin Tilly, whose lovely family we are staying with. I refused to roll down the hill because I really didn’t want to get grass on me and sometimes grass makes me itchy. Of course everyone gave me crap about it. Sorry, I’m not sure if anything in this journal entry is going to make sense, because I am so tired right now. We don’t fly to Dublin until 6:25 in the morning so are just camping out in the airport.
Anyways, I also didn’t want to go on the monkey bars. I hated them as a kid because they hurt my arms and gave me blisters. Which got me thinking: has this childhood crap turned me into a timid person? Is my fear of getting hurt preventing me from going out on a limb a little? Hopefully this journey will allow me to break free of all that.
We took the Huttons out for dinner to the Mill House to thank them for housing us for the past week. We actually had a really nice time. I had yummy fish and chips, and the “black forest” pudding for dessert. Jill and Mel had lager but I had a glass of white wine, an Australian semillion-chardonnay blend. But Nigel, being the bad influence he is, bought us all another round of half pints. Later we discovered with Tilly that playing spoons is just as fun tipsy.
Today was an early day, as Jill had her appointment to practice swordplay at the Globe Theater. Sara, Mel and I dropped her off and went next door to play at the Tate Modern. I don’t know why my previous experience with the museum was lackluster, because today the Tate was inspiring and revelatory. We finally went down the slides! (For readers just tuning in, the Tate Modern museum had an exhibit that were giant slides that you could go down) We did the level 3 and 5 slides twice, and the level 2 slide just once. The whole thing about the slides is that it is an artpiece not just to look at, but to participate in. It’s not only about the feeling you get from looking upon an art piece and imagining it in your head, but the feeling of moving through it, the “mixture of delight and anxiety” of quickly hurtling down the slide. At first I mocked it, but this truly is art, to draw the viewer in so much that they become part of the art. Because art is not just about the artist and what they feel when they create something and then the physical product that is the art, but also the feelings and thoughts that the art provokes the viewer to have.
The feeling of being in the slides was exhilarating. A rush. A pleasant drug. The artist, Carsten Holter, wonders what effects on society daily instituted sliding would produce. I am very much in favor!
I also discovered the British duo known as Gilbert and George. Their art mixes photography and painting, and uses repetition and splashes of vibrant, intense color to create provocative images reminiscent of pop art and the kind of art in traditional Indian paintings. Very cool. I love their ten commandments:
The X Commandments of Gilbert and George
I Thou Shalt Fight Conformism
II Thou Shalt Be the Messenger of Freedoms
III Thou Shalt Make Use of Sex
IV Thou Shalt Reinvent Life
V Thou Shalt Grab the Soul
VI Thou Shalt Give Thy Love
VII Thou Shalt Create Artificial Art
VIII Thou Shalt Have a Sense of Purpose
IX Thou Shalt Not Know Exactly What Thou Doest, But Thou Shalt Do It
X Thou Shalt Give Something Back
I think those are amazing words to live by.
We met up with Jill when she was done with her super-awesome sword fighting. She had a great time at the Globe and even got to be part of the swordplay demonstration!
From there we had a series of travel mishaps. We tried to go to the British Library, but it was closed because it was Easter Sunday. So we tried to go to the British Museum, but they were having an emergency evacuation. We never found out the details. So we flopped on the grass in nearby Russell Square, where an extremely drunk guy came up to us and invited him to join him and his friends in some “extracurricular activities”. He also told us that we were hot, that their gathering would be enhanced by our sexiness, and that his name was Squirrel. We did not join.
From my guidebook, Rick Steeves, we found that the cheapest to see Westminster Abbey is to go during services, so we took in a free organ recital and attended the evening music service. The recital was pretty incredible. One song even brought tears to my eyes. I had no idea that the organ could be so delicate. The Easter service was. . . interesting. And kind of funny. There was a vocal soloist, and that was nice, but we had to sing fucking hymns. I’d never sang a Christian hymn in my life, and I’m sure our little row sounded pathetic. There was this dour-looking nun who did all these readings about Jesus rising from the grave. She spoke with a stern, monotonous voice. Maybe this is because I’m Jewish, but the readings gave me the impression that the disciples are pretty dim. Jesus keeps appearing to them, and even sits down to dinner with them, but they don’t recognize him. And they have nighttime fishing parties. That was strange. But we got sprinkled with Holy water from this golden water sprinkly thing! Another first. As we were walking out my sister Mel turned to me and said “I got sprinkled with Holy water! That was crazy!” To which I replied: “Burns, doesn’t it?”
For dinner we met up in Covent Garden with Melissa Harding, a friend from Santa Monica College who happened to be in London as well. We ate at this little pub called the Essex Serpent in the cellar. It was intimate and cozy. I had my final British baked potato with tuna and cider. Pretty much the only good food in England. Then we went back home, bid farewell to the Huttons, and took the train here to the airport. We don’t fly for another three hours! I’m going crazy!
And that concludes my time in England. See you all on the other side in Ireland!
Good Luck and Happy Travels,