Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Forecast: Warm and Sunny, or Am I Really in London?

When I arrived in London on Saturday and walked from the tube station to the flat, one of my first impressions was how warm it was - sunny too.  Um, did I get on the wrong plane?  Isn't London supposed to be rainy and cloudy and yes, foggy?  Assuming I had just arrived in London on a really great day, I knew that I'd be lucky if I had any more days like that during my time here.

When I woke up on Sunday morning, the weather was much the same, warmer even.  Having done a bit of research the night before (the flat is full of guidebooks) on exactly what I want to see in London, I knew that one can't-miss activity for me was Speaker's Corner. Speaker's Corner is an area in the northeast corner of Hyde Park where on Sunday mornings people gather to speak or listen to (or heckle) speakers.  The topics of the speeches are widely varied, and the only rules are that the speakers can't use profanity and can't be obscene.  If anyone the movie Religulous,  you would have seen Bill Maher in Speaker's Corner facetiously speaking on the merits of Scientology.  Speaker's Corner goes back to the mid-1800s, and Marx, Lenin and George Orwell were participants. So I set off from the flat in search of Speaker's Corner.  Hyde Park is about a five minute walk, though it takes much longer to get to Speaker's Corner.  Along the way I saw the Calvary Memorial Parade that was marching to a ceremony being held in Hyde Park.

I finally found my way to Speaker's Corner.  It is a large area where several different speakers can be positioned so that all can be heard and crowds can gather in front of them.  As a new speakers would arrive to Speaker's Corner, he (or she, though it was mostly men) would start out being quite loud to attract a crowd, and I would watch the crowd in front of one speaker begin to dwindle to go listen to what another had to say.  I listened to one man speak on the merits of socialism and against capitalism.  The most entertaining speaker of the day, and the one who drew the biggest crowd, was a German guy (being heckled by a guy from Spain) who had argued that one of the biggest things wrong with our society was that women shouldn't be in positions of power, that they are too bossy, that families are forced to eat McDonald's and Burger King and that as a result, women should be back in the kitchen.  He was pretty funny about it, and all the women in the crowd, including myself, were laughing.

After about an hour or so, I set off to explore Hyde Park.  It's massive, and there was so much to see.  I stopped here and there to sit but for the most part I walked for three or four hours. The park was full of people enjoying the day - playing soccer, or rather, football, lounging in the grass, playing in the fountains, sitting at the outdoor cafes in the park.  I saw the Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Fountain and then I crossed over into Kensington Gardens and saw the Peter Pan statue and then walked around the outside of Kensington Palace where Prince Charles and Princess Di lived with William and Harry.  While you can tour parts of the Palace, you can't tour those quarters, so I opted against taking a tour.

On Tuesday I spent a good part of the afternoon at the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is close to the flat.  Nearly all the museums have free admission here, which I was psyched about.  The Victoria and Albert is described as the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design.  

The Victoria and Albert has 145 galleries from ceramics to textiles to medieval objects to paintings and drawings.  You could spend days there.  I concentrated my time in photography, fashion, theatre and performance, jewelry and sculpture.  My favorite was the fashion exhibit (surprise surprise) with the photography being a close second.  The fashion exhibit spanned the last four centuries and included both men's and women's fashions, including modern designers like Yves Saint Laurent, Vivienne Westwood, Christian Lacroix and even Chloe.  For those of you who saw my Martinis & Movies: "Studio 54" Gala dress this year, check out the dress on display as designed by Halston in 1976.  How authentic was I?!

Around dusk that night I took the tube to Tower Hill to walk across Tower Bridge and along the Thames River.

1 comment:

  1. Victoria & Albert was one of my favorites too. I would kill hours there when I had to catch a late train.

    Chris' London office was at the South end of the Tower Bridge. Made for wonderful working weekends. The Tower itself is a whole day.

    The combo washer/dryer sucks. Use the laundry rack after drying (I'm certain they have one somewhere) or your clothes may sour in the steam if left overnight. It's like the dryer doesn't ACTUALLY dry -- just steams! That was the most retarded invention the Brits came up with.