Wowza this has been a crazy few days! I’m still super behind on my posts, but here’s a quickie just to hold you over…
On Monday morning I got back from my weekend trip to Scotland. I’ll have a full post dedicated to that later, but suffice it to say I spent nearly all weekend on a bus (Lord was I sore!) and Glencoe is absolutely one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I was definitely feeling what our tour guide called the “DSL” (deep Scottish love). Ach! ‘Twas lovely.
After a 9+-hour bus ride back from Edinburgh I arrived home in London at about 7:30 in the morning – just enough time to run home, have a quick nap, shower, pack a lunch and run back out the door to make it to my internship at 10. After working all day on a fascinating Excel spreadsheet, I left work at 4 and decided to kill some time at the Tate Modern before meeting my friends for sushi at 5:45.
Even though the Tate Modern is only about 10 minute’s walking distance from my office, I’ve never really explored the exhibits until now. (Usually by the time I eat my lunch inside (or outside) of the museum, I’ve run out of time to actually look at the art!) The museum is located on the South Bank of the Thames, directly across from St. Paul’s Cathedral and connected to the North Bank via Millennium Bridge. The building itself is housed inside an old coal power plant that used to supply electrical power to the whole of London – it’s a massive brick building, with a huge tower rising from the center and a small square of grass outside the front entrance surrounded by birch trees. Upon entering you’re greeted by whitewashed walls rising into a huge chamber 5+stories tall. Where power plant equipment used to be now voices of school groups and tourists echo and escalators carry people up into the various exhibits, stores, and restaurants.
While the museum itself is free, visitors have to pay to enter the specialty exhibits. This is one of the best things about London – nearly all of the major museums are absolutely free, meaning that visitors from all over the world have access to priceless artifacts and art, from the Rosetta Stone and Elgin Marbles to Picasso’s and Rembrandt’s. On this latest trip to the Tate I reserved my visit to the 3rd through 5th floors, though eventually I plan on going back and paying for an exhibit called “Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera,” described as a “shocking, witty and revealing exhibition of photography, offering an illuminating insight into the subjects of celebrity, surveillance and the ‘unseen photographer’.” It’s gotten some amazing reviews, so hopefully I will be able to see it before I leave!
During my one and a half hour visit I only got through about half of the museum, but it was a really singular experience. My feelings about modern art are often mixed and conflicted, for reasons I will not go into here, but I consistently find myself drawn to paintings, photography, and highly emotional pieces of art with strong color choices…
After my quick taste of the Tate I walked across Millennium Bridge to meet Archana and Ashley at Yo!Sushi, a sushi restaurant in St.Paul’s square that has £2.20/plate deals on Mondays (!). When you enter the restaurant you immediately notice the conveyor belt that snakes its way throughout the entire restaurant – customers sit at stools in front of it and simply pick up the dishes they want as they pass by! Of course, you can order specialty dishes as well, though you have to wait for them (boo). After you’re done eating you’re charged based on the color of the plates you chose, but Archana, Ashley and I always go on Mondays since every plate on the belt is blue (aka one very low, uniform price!). I don’t know what I’ll do when I have to give up my nearly-constant diet of cheap and delicious Thai food, Indian food, and sushi upon returning to the States.
After our feast of a meal all three of us headed back across Millennium Bridge to attend a performance of Henry VIII at Shakespeare’s Globe. We had arranged our tickets through an Arcadia-sponsored extracurricular activity, meaning that we got seated tickets on the first level at drastically subsidized prices (hooray!). The theater is absolutely beautiful and the cast was enthralling. The play was packed and the theatre did an excellent job at maintaining the history of the building, packing the floor with standing-room only ticket sales and leaving the ceiling open to the night air. The fact that the theatre was open to the air only added to the effect of the play – planes going overhead and distant rumblings of traffic only seemed to happen at the most appropriate times, when the live musicians were crescendoing and the play was reaching its most dramatic moments. The actress who played Catherine of Aragon was particularly impressive, able to embody a woman who was variously a broken spirit and religious fanatic, a political pawn and an emotional and political powerhouse. I have never witnessed a play so captivating, and I know Henry VIII is not the most exciting of scripts. I left the theatre with a profound new respect for Catherine and a surprisingly emotional response to Henry, Anne Boleyn, and the rest of the characters caught up in their affair. Walking back to the tube station to the backdrop of St. Paul’s Cathedral lit up across the Thames has never seemed so lovely! It was truly a London Monday.