Once again, I had to go there and quote a song to express what London feels like right now. Instead of the famous Motown song “(Love is like a) Heatwave,” London is actually experiencing a heat wave right now. When I tell you the temperature is in the 80s here, you probably wouldn’t think twice because it is somewhere near a blistering 95 degrees in Philadelphia; however, London rarely sees temperatures above the 70s and so they are calling this a heat wave right now. It hasn’t even rained in a week! Apparently, London hasn’t seen sunny skies and temperatures such as these in seven years! Lucky me…
Despite the heat and lack of air conditioning in this country, I have continued to go out and explore. Last week was our first trip to Shakespeare’s Globe theater with my Shakespeare and Elizabethan English class. We went to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Staying true to typical Shakespearean times, we stood for the entire play. I am happy that we did because we were right near the stage to see and hear everything that was going on. Before going to see the show, the only knowledge I had about it was the part America Ferrera played in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2. I came to find out a great deal more after watching the play and seeing how the characters interacted. They even made the audience get involved! The atmosphere was much different than any play I’ve ever been to before, mostly because there was no roof (actors had to adjust to the outside sounds such as planes and birds flying overhead) and the building was shaped like a circle. Yesterday, we went back to the Globe with our other class, but instead of seeing a play we went on a tour. We were informed about the history of the globe and learned how Shakespeare would have conducted his plays. During his time, the cast would be made up solely of males and rather than having copies of the play to hand out, each actor only got the lines of their character written on a scroll and rolled up, this is why their part is called a “role.”
Last Wednesday, after discussing the play we saw the previous day, two of us decided to go to Brick Lane. From the very first day that we met British people here, they were telling us to go to Brick lane for Indian Cuisine. It may be hard to believe, it was for me at least, but Chicken Tikka Masala is actually the favorite dish of the Brits, not fish and chips! We took the tube to the Aldgate stop and had a minor set back when we could not figure out where Brick lane was in relation to us, but luckily we have been trained to always have our maps with us! On our journey from the tube to Brick lane, we stumbled upon “Petticoat Lane Market” which was actually a magnificent find! We spent some time walking around the market and taking in the different shops and kiosks that were set up there. After a little while, we decided to continue our journey and we found even cuter little shops! By the time we reached Brick lane, we were famished and so ready to have some Indian food. One of the unique things about Brick lane is that men line the street trying to get people to eat at their restaurants. The way that we chose were to eat was based on the amount of people in the restaurant, so we ate at the most crowded place and let me tell you it was delicious! It was my first time trying Indian food and I was not disappointed. After dinner, we shopped a little bit more and we discovered the mecca of vintage stores; it is called Blitz. They had everything from refurbished Converse to old records and even older books. Unlike many other vintage stores I’ve been in before in Philly and New York, there was not that distinct smell of used clothing. Instead it smelled fresh and clean as if the clothing didn’t have years of history and memories attached to them.
Thursday was the fourth of July and I was a bit hesitant about celebrating our independence from the country that I am currently in. Nevertheless, I decided to wear my Free People American flag scarf. Before class, we went to take pictures at the infamous Platform “9 ¾” from Harry Potter. I have only ever seen the first movie, but I went along with my flat mates because as a tourist I felt like I just had to! Then we had class and after class, we went to Selfridges. We went on a day where Free People was having a pop up shop in the department store, so that was comforting to see a familiar brand in a store that I have never been in. My fear about being “too American” was squashed when two girls who worked at Selfridges started talking to me about how cool New York is and then proceeded to wish me a happy 4th
of July. That night, we went to a bar called Bar Rumba which to my surprised was packed with Americans, some wearing American flags as capes…that to me was a little bit much, but it was kind of nice to almost feel like I was at home on the 4th
, minus a firework display.
On Friday, we went to Parliament for a tour. It was a beautiful day to see Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. During our tour we learned all about the Royal family and how decisions are made in Parliament. While we were in the House of Lords, our tour guide explained that the four seats in the front of the room would possibly one day be filled by Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Harry and then the Royal baby whether it is a boy or a girl! Our tour guide also filled us in on all of the traditions that parliament members still engage in today such as bowing before they enter the room to vote because back in the day, members of Parliament would send their servants to vote on their behalf but by bowing, one could tell if the member is wearing a wig or not by checking the back of their neck. Members of Parliament would always be wearing a white wig and so if the person was not wearing a wig, they were not a MP (member of Parliament.) This practice is still done today obviously not because the MPs wear wigs, but just out of tradition. After Parliament, three of us went to a sushi dinner and then to see the Bling Ring movie that came out that day here. The movie theater was pitch black and it was difficult to see where we were going, the other strange thing was that there was nothing playing on the screen until 21:00 when the movie was set to start and that is when previews began playing. People also didn’t start coming into the theater until about then so for about fifteen minutes, we were the only three in whole theater.
On Saturday I decided to venture out on my own again. My friend who studied in London for five months told me that if I ever feel homesick to go to Westfield Mall and I would feel right at home. She was most definitely right! Westfield had stores like Zara, Urban Outfitters and Mango. It also had its fair share of stores customary to the UK that I enjoyed exploring. I spent about 4 hours there and only navigated the second floor! I got an iced coffee but it was more like a frapaccino because the ice was blended. That is one of the things that I am getting used to here—iced coffee is not a delicacy of theirs. I am happy to say that I navigated the tube on my own and had a lovely day shopping at the mall. I got a few books that were on sale. One was an Opening Ceremony book that features a catalog of Chloe Sevigny and her collection for OC. On Saturday night, almost all of us ventured into Camden to check out the nightlife. The bar we went to, The Monarch, does themed nights and luckily Saturday was “Soundtrack night.” That was right up my alley! I got to dance and sing along to songs from some of my favorite movies such as Grease and Dirty Dancing.