Hey, there, folks. All aboard now — hop onto the double-decker lorry; it’s time for another whirlwind account of a tourist’s odyssey in London. And don’t be alarmed if we’re driving on the left — this is England, don’t you know. Quite.
So, let’s travel back (wavy flashback lines… wavy flashback lines…) to last Wednesday. The wife and I got up, hopped a subway, and headed for St. Paul’s Cathedral. Not to ‘confess’ or anything, you understand — a couple of saints, we are, of course — but just to look around. A couple of heathen Americans come to smear their grubby paws all over the house of the holy. Just what the Brits needed, eh?
Before hitting the church, we stopped off for a spot of breakfast. Got to have those hands nice and greasy when we’re rubbing them on the pews, right? Would be proper heathens without greasy hands. Naturally.
So, after our kippers (just kidding) and bangers (not kidding) and fried eggs (all the eggs in England seem to be fried), we set off for the holy land. St. Paul’s Cathedral, designed way the hell back when by Christopher Wren. And currently in the process of being restored, with scaffolds and sheets and tools all over, inside and out.
Still, most of the space in the big-assed dome inside was clear. You know, the big round thing with the pointy thing on top that every capitol building in the country seems to have copied from. That dome.
(Is that wrong, calling it a ‘big-assed dome’? Is it possible I’m going even straighter to hell now?)
I won’t go through the entire ‘Saint Pizizzle’ experience with you, but I was struck by a couple of things in particular. First, the walls and floors and just about every other surface of the place are filled with statues and plaques and monuments of all kinds… but most of them seemed to commemorate wartime herors — admirals, brigadier generals, and the like. Maybe this juxtaposition of church and war is pretty common around the ‘big’ churches of the world — or even the little ones, for that matter — but it struck me as a bit odd. Maybe I just don’t understand either well enough to get the connection. I’m not all that bright sometimes.
Secondly, we discovered — well, okay, we didn’t ‘discover‘, technically; we were told — that Sir Christopher Wren, the architect of St. Paul’s, is buried, right there in the basement crypt. Just one more reason to be happy that I have no discernible architecture skills — I honestly don’t think I’d want to have my remains interred in anything that I’d built. His rotting bones are still safe and snug, hundreds of years later. Any house I built would’ve crashed down onto my casket before my body was cold. Clever boy, that Christopher.
Finally, I feel I should mention the ‘Whispering Gallery’. This is an area — a catwalk sort of thing, really — running around the edge of the upper dome at St. Paul’s. It’s so named because — reportedly, now — it’s possible to sit on one side of hte rotunda up there, and hear a person whispering, waaaaay on the other side, many dozens of yards away. Something about the acoustics. Or it’s a miracle, or something. I wasn’t really paying attention.
In any event, I can’t really confirm or deny this legend, despite having climbed the five hundred-plus stairs to get to said gallery. What I can say, though, without a shadow of a doubt, is that if you sit in the Whispering Gallery a quarter of the way around from a pack of snotty London schoolchildren, then you’ll hear little else of any sort the entire time you’re up there. That’s a fact.
So, our time at St. Paul’s complete, we made our way on to the recombobulated Globe Theatre, just on the other side of the Thames. We’d picked up tickets the day before for an afternoon showing of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, so that was our next stop. Now, before you get all hot and swampy over the ghost of ‘da Bard’ hanging around or anything like that, you should know that this wasn’t the original Globe, from back in the day of dirty tights, sweaty unwashed crowds, and bubonic plagues.
(Well, okay, there were apparently a few sweaty unwashed patrons. It was actually a bit of relief when the rain started to fall in Act II. And particularly relieving when it fell on the guy a row back and just to my left. Dude had just leapt out of a rubbish heap, as near as I could tell.)
So, the play itself. Now, I don’t know much about Shakespeare. I don’t think I even know enough to know what I like. I’m told what I like, and that’s the way I like it. At least, that’s what I’m told.
Maybe I should start over. Hang on.
So, the play itself. It was actually really good. I’ve seen a couple of Shakespearean send-ups in my time, and this was one of the most… um, well… one of the more… well. Hmmm. This was one of them, that’s for sure. Of all the Shakespearean plays I’ve seen, this was most certainly one of them. Probably.
In all honesty, though, it was quite well done. There were a few blokes with period instruments playing before and after, and the actors were very natural and conversational, and it was really very entertaining. I even laughed during some of the funny bits — and not just because everyone else was, either! No, I really got the jokes, generally. Quite an achievement by the cast. Bra-vo.
All right. What’s next, then? Ah, then we set off for a mid-afternoon snack.
(I don’t know about you, but centuries-old dramatic performances always leave me a bit peckish.
No, dammit. I said peckish. It means hungry. They say it in England sometimes. Look it up, ya big pervert. Geez.)
We ended up in the theater district — scratch that, the ‘theatre districte‘ — and ran into a big little place called ‘Quod‘. That’s Latin for… well, I don’t know, ‘food’ or something, I expect. Or ‘pricey’. ‘Hoity-toity’, maybe? Something.
Anyway, we had a quick bite, took our bearings, and decided to set off for the National Gallery, not far away. Why? Because it was open till nine, and it wasn’t dinner time yet. All the other museums closed up shop early on Wednesdays, and we still had time to kill and trinkets to buy for folks back home, so what the hell, right? You can never see enough Renaissance-era ‘Madonna with Child‘ paintings. (Again, so I’m told.)
If you happen to pop ’round the NatGal (I just made that up… catchy, no?) yourself, you can browse amongst the Rembrandts, the Monets, the van Goghs, and the Titians. For my money, though, I’d recommend the small pontillist section, and the ‘Leonardo Cartoon’ — or as I like to call it, the ‘Da Vinci Doodle’.
(Yeah, they didn’t take too kindly to that at the museum. Touchy little fuckers, those curator types.)
After a couple of hours of mostly badgering the museum staff, we headed back to the ‘theatre districte’ (got it right that time!) for some grubbe. And since we were all imaginationed out after a full day’s art appreciation, we ended up back at ‘Quod‘, after a brief stop at ‘Tom Cribb’s Pub‘ for a warm-up pint.
This is probably a good time to mention an odd phenomenon that I noticed while we were in Britain. You know how everybody signs the back of their credit cards, back where it ways you’re supposed to? And you know how nobody ever actually checks your signature, when you sign your credit card receipt? Well, in England, they do check. Always. They don’t even give your card back first, and then watch you sign — they hold on to your card, while you write out your John Hancock, and then eyeball the two side-by-side before handing back your credit card. It’s exactly the way you’d think the process would work, except that (in my experience, at least) it never, ever, ever does. I’m not sure what to make of the whole thing — I just found it odd.
And there you have it — that just about did it for the day. We finished up our meal, stopped on the way to the subway for a nip of port at a local wine bar (hey, it’s a few degrees fancier than we’d normally try to be, but when in Rome, right?), and headed home for the night.
So that’s it. Another day, another big bunch of touristy goodness. Only a couple more to go, and this travelogue from hell will be over and done with. I can last that long, I think. Can you?Permalink | 3 Comments