Monday, May 31
For the afternoon, Emily, Phil, Matt, and I went to “the pancake house” for a wonderful lunch and then wandered through Harrod’s and the surrounding stores. They are VERY expensive! I’m not going to return to the USA with an authentic Burberry scarf...but I did get 6 Prestat (Harrod’s) chocolates. They are the chocolate makers for the queen. And these were just as expensive as the Fortnum & Mason chocolates, but I think these were actually larger…
The evening was a trip to the Tesco Express down by Gloucester Road (to avoid the anti-Israeli protest happening on High Street near “Embassy Row.” Luckily the area wasn’t turned into a war zone by the protesters!
Tuesday, June 1
LONG. Very Long. Paul Spicer’s morning sessions were interactive and kept my attention, but the afternoon ones were 100% scripted. I’m sure if he had given the exact same words on the fly, it would have kept my attention. The attitude he had since he was reading created an aura of boredom. If the afternoon sessions had involved some interactions with “the audience,” then we as students would’ve paid better attention.
As a side note, lunch was at a little French patisserie down the street from our flats. As we walked to and from, the weather was typical English: light rain. I loved it and was glad to experience my vision of England in person.
After our sessions with Paul Spicer concluded, Jake, Emily, and I headed out to see Robin Hood. It was a great film! The adventure was getting there. We took the tube and walked to where we were supposed to be, according to the internet map provided by the cinema. There was no cinema in sight, and it should’ve been visible since there were 14 screens at the cinema. We walked through some sketchy parts of town that I won’t see again, I’m sure of it. Eventually we made it to the Westfield’s mall where the cinema was located. Of course, it was really close to where we started, just in a slightly different direction.
Of course, we also had difficulties getting our tickets out of the machine, so we waited in a line for a bit. By that point, it was after 8, and the movie started at 7:45. But when we walked in, there were still 15 minutes of previews and commercials going. I’m glad that we didn’t have to sit through all of those previews, but I was antsy the whole time waiting in a line. The movie, as I said, was incredibly done. Creating the back story for Robin Hood and ending where most films start was a brilliant move.
Wednesday, June 2
I got the opportunity to practice the organ for two hours. I got through quite a lot of repertoire, which was good. I feel real hope for my recital in the fall. It has been wonderful getting practice in while I’ve been in London. I was afraid that things would fall apart before I got to Cambridge, which would’ve been devastating, at least mentally.
The opera itself was an experience. The seats we were in were most uncomfortable because there was no leg room. But the building was incredibly opulent. During the second act, there was some excitement in our area of the theatre. A woman got sick and, of course, a whole lot of commotion commenced: people standing up and moving around. Things turned out in the end, but the dramatic music played by the orchestra really fit the moment well!
Two things were disappointing in the opera, on a very generic level. The third act scenery was weird. It had a futuristic, artsy feel that stood in opposition to the traditional settings of the previous acts. Also, the death of Tosca was anti-dramatic. For an “opera diva” to just fall off the balcony instead of deliberately leaping was disappointing.
Thursday, June 3
I enjoyed the tour of Canterbury Cathedral, but found it interesting that our guide was not a member of the Anglican, or even Catholic, faith. I loved being in the cathedral and seeing the living story of the Anglican faith. Following Becket’s pathway of assassination was exciting, as well. I would love to see this site during the heyday of the pilgrimages to Canterbury; I’ll be sure to do so in the next life.
After the guided tour, we headed over to the St. Augustine Abbey site a block away. It is a very old site. I couldn’t believe the date that we were seeing on grave markers. Sister Hall commented that it was probably the oldest site we’ve been to on our trip, and I think she is right. That means it is the oldest site I’ve been to before.
Then we ran to catch our punt tour. There were 12 of us in the boat. We had a most enjoyable ride; I would love to own a punt and nap on a lazy river, or read a pleasant book on it. The tour guide gave us a great history of the area around Canterbury and told us the stories of the four other Archbishops of Canterbury that were killed. Their deaths were most interesting; for example, one was killed by his drunken captors as they threw beef bones at him.
We had enough time after the boat tour to stop in at Marks & Spencer to grab dinner food. As we walked toward the food hall, we saw the England football display (since M&S is the official clothier of the national team). A few of us bought jackets and Phil got a tie. The tie was really nice, so I might have to get one.
Friday, June 4
Brother Wimmer gave an excellent presentation on the World Wars and the history surrounding them from a British perspective. I have always loved 20th century history, and the British viewpoint was enlightening. I gained a whole new perspective and appreciation for the strength of the British people and their armed forces. It was hard, though, to think that a whole village’s male population could be wiped out in one action.
The War Museum was fascinating. I hope to go back before my time in England is done, we saw so little of it in the few hours we were there. I didn’t even get through all of the WWII exhibit, yet alone the post-WWII and Holocaust exhibits. I still haven’t gone to the Holocaust Museum in DC, so I want to go here where it is a free museum. Seeing a war museum from the viewpoint of the British also taught me a lot and helped me understand things that had been glossed over in previous studies of the world wars.
After our time at the museum, Phil, Jake, and I dragged Oliver, Emily, and Steve to the Savoy theatre to help us in entering the ticket lottery for Legally Blonde. We got there a few minutes before the actual drawing, entered our names, and waited. A few minutes after the hour, someone came out and told us that everyone who had entered the drawing was a winner for the night. Oh well for Emily, Steve, and Oliver...I’m glad they came, though; it was fun to visit with them and would’ve been useful if an actual drawing had taken place. It was nice getting seats for the stalls at £25 apiece.
The show was funny. An interesting side note is the theatre: instead of being built up, the stall seat holders walked further and further underground to get to their seats. Part of that has to do with the building being on a bit of a hill, but not entirely. Our seats were comfortable, but since we didn’t rush to the front of the queue when the tickets were given away, the balcony obstructed the top foot or two of the stage. No, we didn’t really miss anything, but it was distracting.
On our way home, we grabbed some Wafflemeister waffles for the tube ride home. They are so good. We joked about franchising in Provo. We think it would turn out; after all, there are lots of frozen yogurt stands in Provo, the waffle stand would be the new trend. We would take over the J Dawgs stand… The likelihood of this taking place: slim to none; the fun in dreaming and discussing: great! I’m sad that in a week we will be split up.
Saturday, June 5
Did I wake up on time? No. Did we leave on time? Not exactly. But we did go to Portobello Road once Jake, Phil, and I were awake. We decided to take the bus all the way there since it was so close and was such a good day. While we waited at the bus stop, Miriam walked up and we traveled there with her. We wandered down Portobello Road and this time we made it to the end, which actually isn’t much further than we had gone the last time we ventured there. We each got a pastry at a little stand, and they were huge! I looked at some prints for quite a while and almost bought one or two, but I decided to wait on purchasing any.
When we got back to the flat, we decided that some food and a short rest would be good before traveling to St. Paul’s. And Phil had decided not to go, so it was up to Jake and I to go. However, Jake’s nap started going long and then I decided to take a short nap. We both woke up to shouts of protestors going by on the street. At 4 PM. That ruled out our St. Paul’s trip! However, it meant we got to watch the thousands of protestors marching past our flat on their way to the Israeli embassy. Israel is not being wise with these aid ships. I’m not sure of all their options, of course, but the way they are acting and portraying their actions is not winning them any friends in the international arena. I’ll admit, watching all the protestors en masse, it was the first time that I’ve been nervous and a little scared since being in London; there weren’t very many police officers in sight, and they didn’t have guns, anyway. I wish the officers here carried guns.
Phil, Jake, and I then journeyed to dinner at the Trafalgar. It was gloriously delicious, but our sadness came with dessert. The rush made it so they couldn’t bring us the fabulous brownie that we wanted to try. Oh well, this means I’ll have to return sometime soon. We made it to the concert of The Creation barely on time.
After the concert, Steve, Emily, Jake, Phil, and I went to the Sloane Square My Old Dutch restaurant. I had another pear pancake. So good!
Sunday, June 7
When the time came for our Windsor trip, the coach was practically empty. It turned out that there was a whole host of people a hundred yards away, just visiting. It was good that everyone came, but I was rather excited for a quiet bus ride to catch up on my sleep. However, my sleep didn’t really happen because we had the BEST coach driver in the world. As we drove through London, he acted as a tour guide. I really enjoyed it, particularly since we hadn’t driven through that specific part of town before. I wish he had been our driver through all of our time in London. I found out after we arrived in Windsor that Nathan had been requesting this particular driver the entire time we’ve been here and this was the first time we could get him. Nathan had gotten several bits of advice to do so. I’m so glad that he did.
After we got to Windsor, Jake, Phil, and I tagged up with Nathan and Sister Hall to go through the castle and estate. Alan and his wife were with us for a bit, and then went on their own way. The estate was incredible and the interior was breathtaking! There were so many paintings inside! I loved seeing the originals that I’ve grown up seeing in all my history books. And the decor was phenomenally well-kept, after all the years of use.
Something I was unaware of before today, there was a fire that destroyed much of the structure in 1992. Hardly any of the artifacts were destroyed, but much of the building itself suffered. The reworking looked just like other parts of the house. I’m greatly impressed with the level of craftsmanship they were able to afford. And apparently the final product came out under budget.
After the time spent traipsing across the grounds and through the house, we waited for entrance for evensong. The interior of the chapel was gorgeous, and I was sitting in on of the Knights of the Garters’ seats. I didn’t recognize the name, but it was cool to think of all the people that have sat there: heads of state from around the world, various politicians of England (folks like Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill), and many great men from across the countryside.
So, today was good. We enjoyed our session with the only LDS professional singer in England today. Then we worked on plans for the time after London. Things aren't all finalized, but closer. The best part of today was seeing Wicked tonight! Yes, this was the second time in my time here, but it was so worth it. We walked up to the theatre with less than 30 minutes before the show and bought our tickets at 7:10. And, most surprising of all, the show got a standing ovation by the audience. I'm pretty sure that is the first I've seen since we've been in London.