Hello from London! I got here about a week and a half ago—my plane landed at Gatwick at an unreasonably early hour on January 14th. (It was so early that, as we were landing, we were flying into the sunrise; it was beautiful.)
The first exciting thing was that, in the poor light of the early morning, we flew over things that looked like blimps. As I am pretty literate with pop culture, I immediately became worried that I was flying into an alternate version of London where I might be turned into a Cyberman. Luckily, that hasn’t happened yet, but I’m keeping my guard up.
I spent most of the day Saturday accomplishing a few basic tasks—getting my UK cell phone hooked up with a pay-as-you-go SIM card, buying a couple groceries, checking in with the director of my program, and so forth. By the evening, I was so tired that I could barely move (I didn’t sleep at all on the plane). I actually managed to force myself to stay away until 8:30 by chain-watching Battlestar Galactica* but it was pretty rough. So of course, because I hadn’t slept for two days, I woke up at 4 in the morning and was unable to get back to sleep. Which, in turn, meant that I got tired really early on Sunday.
By the beginning of the week, I’d gotten my sleep schedule pretty much sorted, which
was a relief, because the week itself was insanelybusy. We had a bus tour of London on Sunday, orientation on Monday, classes and more orientation Tuesday, and then classes Wednesday and Thursday. I shopped all the classes and have ended up taking the following: The London Art World, Contemporary British Politics, British History 1850-1950, Imagining London (which is a lit class), and Global Access to Work.
The classes weren’t the really exciting part of last week, though. On Monday night, we went to see One Man, Two Guvnors at the Adelphi Theatre. It stars James Corden, better known for being in The History Boys and Doctor Who. I had a blast; the play was hilarious; it was altogether a great experience.
Then, on Wednesday evening, everyone in my program got an after-hours tour of part of the British museum. A Carolina alum who apparently was archaeologist of the year in 2011 gave us a great tour of some of the exhibits from Assyria. I’ve never known much about that era or part of the world, but the stuff he told us was fascinating. I think we’re going to get a few more tours with him later in the semester and I really look forward to them.
On Thursday morning, with the art class, we went back to the British Museum. (If you’re curious, it’s close enough to our flats to throw a rock and hit it.) There, we looked at the Elgin marbles from the Parthenon and I have to confess, it made me angry. I’d never seen them in London before (despite having been to London), but I saw both the Acropolis and the New Acropolis Museum in the summer of 2012, and I was struck by how brilliant the display was there was. At the British Museum, they weren’t as well displayed, there was no mention whatsoever of the approximately half of the frieze that’s still in Athens, and I was generally really underwhelmed by the display. Give the Greeks back their stuff, yo.
Friday, I was totally free, so I slept in and then spent about three hours at the Victoria and Albert Museum. They had some really neat exhibits, including some of the costumes from the Lion King musical.
On both Saturday and Sunday, I relaxed a lot, and went for long walks. Saturday, I went south to the river, wandered around the South Bank a bit, walked across the Millennium Bridge and up into Trafalgar Square. On Sunday, I headed north, accidentally passed the British Library’s new building (so of course I went in to gawk at things like handwritten Beatles lyrics on the back of a card sent to John Lennon’s son) and then headed on to King’s Cross. I didn’t go in, but I did find it.
The past two days have been pretty uneventful. Yesterday morning, we went to the National Gallery for my art class, and looked at some Van Goghs (including the famous sunflowers still life) and a bunch of lovely impressionist paintings.
*An important footnote to this post is that I spent much (though not all) of my spare time between Saturday evening and Sunday a week later mainlining Battlestar Galactica. I’m not going to talk about that here because it’s not really relevant, but it did happen. It was brilliant and you should all watch it, though!