Thursday, November 20, 2014

London - 8/16/14

Let's see... where did I last leave you... AH! I was checking out of my dorm room.  Now... the thing is... after you spend four weeks in a place your belongings tend to breed like rabbits.  My frugally packed 40 lbs. suitcase was now two suitcases and a rolling briefcase.  One of the joys of London is that they are still shifting over to the "handicapped accessible" stations.  Mind you, it's better than NYC, but I have no idea how mums with their buggies and people in wheelchairs get around that city.  I'm a cheap bastard about certain things, one of them being public transportation, and I wasn't about to spend $100 for a cab ride across town when I had an all-you-can-ride subway pass.  So, I rolled my stacks of luggage down the street... down the escalator into the tube... onto the train... and carefully plotted my path so that I would not have to endure a single set of stairs.

Unfortunately, the closest tube station to my hotel was semi-closed, so I continued on to the next.  No stairs!  Win!  Fifteen minute walk to my hotel pushing 562,000 lbs of luggage... oooo...

I was a hot, sweaty, sleep deprived mess by the time I arrived.  And this was a fancy hotel.  The concierge took one look at me, though, and was like, "Would you like a glass of water?"  He was such a doll.  He actually memorized my name from that first meeting and would greet me every time I came in with a friendly, "Hello, Ms. Danley!"  My room wasn't ready yet, so I gave him my bags and headed out explore the neighborhood.

Little nerd humor for you...

Richard III was the Duke of Gloucester.  He only had one good arm.  So this made me laugh.  I know it isn't what they meant, but after spending four weeks studying the play, I giggled thinking this was some sort of sideways dig.

The neighborhood of South Kensington was gorgeous.  Remember that if you are traveling.  North Kensington?  Lousy with the tourist traps and scary people trying to sell you cell phones.  South Kensington?  Awesome.

Just a short walk from my hotel was Kensington Palace.  When Princess Diana died, these were the gates which were buried by the flowers and memorials.

This palace is where William and Kate reside with little Prince George.  The castle is not as massive or as jaw droppingly awe inspiring as some of the other palaces, but there was a lovely little homey feel to it.

You know... if you grandmother was the queen...

They had an exhibition of clothing worn by Elizabeth and Diana.  I used to have Princess Diana paperdolls and I recognized many of these outfits from my hours meticulously cutting them from the page.

I spent a lot of time, though, in the Victoria and Albert exhibit.  Mainly because I was totally lost and couldn't find anything.  But it was well worth the visit!

I liked the saucy Victoria in this painting, which was done just for Prince Albert.  You got the sense that they really did like one another.

 In one of the other rooms, it featured the toys and clothes of their children.  I am a sucker for a dollhouse.

Victoria led the charge in the movement to cherish childhood.  Children began having their own fashions, instead of just being dressed like little adults.  Children's toys began being mass produced.  It was a golden age!  That is... until Prince Albert's death...

Despite being so long ago, I couldn't help a little twinge of sadness.  To watch how happy this family seemed, and then to see how this tragedy changed them all forever.

Well, it was too heavy for me.  I headed out into the garden!  Again... mainly because I couldn't find my way to the other exhibit hall I knew was lurking somewhere.

So lovely!

Finally, I turned the right corner and headed into the right wing and got into the Glorious George's Exhibition!  What I loved about this exhibit was that it came with a scratch-and-sniff map.  As you went through this hall, you were to smell the candlewax.

The galleries in this wing of the palace were just stunning!  

With art in ever corner you looked!  Including if you looked up!

A little nod to all the time I spent doing Shakespeare with a nod to ye olde god of theater, Bacchus.  Eat, drink, and be merry!  For tomorrow your role will be cut in editing!

In addition to the scratch-and-sniff tour, they had costumed docents engaging in everyday activities one might have observed in these halls during George's reign.  Including a friendly game of cards.  You were invited to take a seat at one of the tables and try a hand.

It had been a wonderful trip, but the hour arrived for me to check into my hotel room, so I trundled back through the park, back through the neighborhood, past all of the private gardens for all of the private houses in the neighborhood, and to my hotel.  In order to get to my room, it was dooooown a long hallway and uuuuuup a slow elevator that played this one song over and over again then dooooown another long hallway...

But when I arrived?  Oh glorious room!  With air conditioning!  And a tub which did not demand shower shoes!  And a massive bed with stacks of pillows!  And big fluffy towels on a heated bar!  I could have spent the rest of my trip there.  But not when there is so much wonderful stuff to see.

I got gussied up for the afternoon and stepped on out.  It was to be a day of theatre!  First stop, the South Bank for a quick matinee at The National for a play I knew nothing about called Great Britain (currently running with Lucy Punch in it, which is kind of killing me.  Watch season one of Vexed.  Just do it.  I'll wait.  Vexed will come up again later in this trip).  But this was the original run  (so new, the program was just a tri-folded xerox).  Whovians, eat your heart out, I got to see Billie Piper on stage.  And she was delightful.  I, personally, was also thrilled to bits to learn I could punch another number on my Green Wing Bingo card as Oliver Chris took the stage!  Absolutely fab!

I then hustled my bustle over to the Old Vic to catch The Crucible starring Richard Armitage.  In the interest of fair disclosure, my first non-school role was Abigail Williams in The Crucible.  We broke the all time ticket sales record if I do say so *buffs nails*.  But I hadn't picked up the script since then.  And, honestly, it had never been one of my favorite plays to watch.  It's pretty heavy.

But this production changed that.  My. God.  It ranks... gosh... as probably the best play I've ever seen?  It was done in the round and I was actually sitting on the stage with the actors.  It was gritty and dirty and sweaty and gut-wrenchingly performed (it is actually going to be screening on cinemas at various places and is well worth picking up a ticket -

Richard Armitage killed it (and I have no idea how he didn't blow out his vocal chords with the power he was putting behind every word).  The actress they cast as the possessed girl was a contortionist, so the stuff she did while under control of the devil was terrifying.  It was just... an achingly horrible beautiful tragedy.  Arthur Miller would have been proud.  It was everything you hope that a theater experience should be.

So thus began my week of freedom.  It was an auspicious start that proved to be a harbinger of all the awesomeness to come.

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