All posts in the Sightseeing/Travel/Touring category

Last Days: The Stage, The Law, The Entertainment

Published August 8, 2011 by Aker

I will be leaving England in a couple of days…boohoo! So I have been trying to pack in a few more sights before I leave. Yesterday, I went to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre for the tour and exhibition. It was interesting to learn the history of the Globe theatre. It opened in the 16th century and was very popular, but it burned down a century later when a canon was shot during a performance. After it was rebuilt with a tile roof, but later closed and demolished when theaters were closed during the reign Puritans. In the 20th century, an American actor name Sam Wanamaker, who loved Shakespeare, wanted to rebuild the theatre and spent the rest of his life raising funds and planning for it. He died in 1993, but his dreams came true in 1997, when the theatre officially reopened. However, it was hard to build the theatre the way it is now because of the thatch roof, which easily catches on fire (the English have been fearful of fire ever since the Great Fire of 1666), and not knowing the exact look of the original theaters. Also, I found out that Wanamaker’s daughter Zoe appeared in the Harry Potter films as Madame Hooch, and that King Charles II had a thing for actresses (if you know what I mean) and was involved pushing to have actresses be in plays (only men could act before that). Supposedly a lot of the aristocracy were descendants born out of his fascination for actresses. Haha!

Speaking of fires, I woke up this morning to find out about the student riots in East London over the weekend. Buses, cars and even buildings were set ablaze, including the Tottenham High Road’s Carpetright Shop. Several are saying that it started after a black man named Mark Duggan was shot and killed by police, but the causes behind the riot actually have been bubbling up for some time. We are very close to it, since we are staying on the east side of London. Wow! Don’t worry, we are all safe. In fact, the whole day went by smoothly as if nothing happened, but I wonder what that area looks like…

Also, today we went to see a trial at Old Bailey court near St. Paul’s cathedral. It was interesting to see that the judge and the lawyers (barristers) wore powdered wigs and that the defendant was kept behind a glass wall as well as the witness. We sat in on a murder trial for a man named Charlie, who is allegedly stabbed a man named Abraham. Most of what we saw was the witness, Angela, who stayed in a flat with Abraham, discuss what happened. All I can say is she was a bit erratic (they did a lot of crack).

The end of my day, I went to the British Library, which is huge! The library has a few intriguing exhibitions, such as for Alice in Wonderland, poet Mervyn Peake, and Out of This World, history of science fiction. To top it all off, a Nigerian engineer student flirted with me, but I did not feel a connection, so I left. Then I explored Russell Square and Covent Garden, where I watched a few buskers, including a hilarious man in a red tutu dancing with two other men and a young girl in tutus. So yes, I have had an eventful past few days!


Drink Time

Published August 6, 2011 by Aker

Tomorrow I turn 21 and it feels as if I have already celebrated it because the age for drinking in England is 18. And it makes sense why the drinking age is lower. Supposedly, the English are know for putting away a lot of alcohol! Our professor actually told us that the English are the biggest drinkers in Europe and some pubs are hundreds of years old. Wow! Everywhere you turn there is a pub; Near Queen Mary University, there is the New Globe Pub, where we have seen several people having a little too much to drink. For a class trip we went to The Lamb Pub, which was Charles Dicken‘s favorite pub.I had the Kronenbourg 1664 French beer, which is has a nice thick nutty flavor. I later bought a four pack of it later. My suitemate Sunnie gave me a Carlesburg beer, which was a bit more bitter and lighter than the Kronenbourg. A week before that, I had bought a bottle of Oxford Landing’s South Australian Cabernet wine at the local supermarket. It felt good not to be carded and I must say that I enjoyed it very much; it had a nice slightly fruit taste, especially with the pomegranate. Yesterday, some of my classmates and I went to a bar in Barbican and I had a Madame Butterfly cocktail drink, which is a melon and passionfruit liquor drink mixed with pineapple juice, cream and chocolate sprinkles. It was good! I also had a sip of an mixed Absinthe drink; now that was strong despite its taste. So, cheers to me turning 21, now I can go home with a beer gut. Just kidding!

Mind the Gap

Published August 5, 2011 by Aker

This song makes so much sense now after being on the London Undeground or Tube. Although it is cleaner than NYC subways, it is smaller, more cramped and the heat is unbearable most times because there is no air conditioning. I swear I sweated more in there than outside. Also, the tube stops working around midnight, so late night travel is harder.

Maybe I can do a song about the NYC subway system when I return. Haha.


Please give up this space
To someone worthy
Of course we are not worthy
To rest our bones
Ignore the human race
At your peril
Although magazine values
Are all around
I see tired and deflated faces
What is this thing un-happening

Climb on to the magic bus
Soon you will be part of us

Tra la la la lah (etc)
If you see an unattended package or bag
Donít ignore it, don’t touch it
Alert a police officer
Or a member of staff

Look out please, mind the gap
Watch out for the people trap
Here we are, going down
Hold on before we hit the ground
Look out please, mind the gap
Stiletto stuck, in the cracks
Look out please, mind the gap
Someone is gonna get a slap

Ditto, ok, that’s cool, that’s fine
Yes sir, no sir, sorry, no thanks

Dah dah dah dah, dah dah dah dah (etc)

Mind the gap, mind the gap
Better mind the gap, mind the gap

Tra la la la lah, la lah la la lah, la la lah …

Some Time For A Jubilee

Published August 1, 2011 by Aker

Abbey Road

Saturday was music day for me! I went to the O2, which was a mall-like venue under a huge white tent at North Greenwich. Besides flat fountains that spouted up water, restaurants, a cinema and a Titanic exhibition, there was also The British Music Experience, interactive museum, and that was my destination. The museum had the concert feel, the doors opened at scheduled times and you walked into a dark room to watch on a short video on how the museum worked. Then you walked down a hall which felt like the same walk musicians go down before they hit the big stage: a lot of noise and strobe lights. The next set of doors opened to reveal a circular room with British music of the past 66 years (1945-2011) divided into sections based on the musical era. In each section, were rooms filled with fake keyboards and guitar frets used to select short clips discussing each item in the display case. Then there was a huge screen displaying facts from each time period that you could click on. with a huge mouse as well as jukebox machines to listen to several songs from each time period. Also, each room had short documentaries that you could watch with musicians and other creative people who were part of that time. Other sections in the middle of the room displayed media (ex. radio) technology that was used to broadcast music and music shows, dances over the years, geography and music, DJ culture and two studios in which you could actually play instruments. At the end, we walked into a dance club room where they mixed together all the music and music videos of over six decades on a screen to hear and see what music might sound like in the future. I find it interesting how much American, British and even Caribbean music are connected and influenced each other and I have a whole new crop of artists to listen to now. It was a great experience and worth my $12 ticket.

Abbey Road Studios

After I left the souvenir shop, I rode the Jubilee line again to St. John’s Wood and walked to Abbey Road, the famous crossing that was part of The Beatles’ Abbey Road album. It was hilarious to watch people try to do the pose before they were almost hit by cars; it is actual street that people walk and drive on (some say it should be cut off for visitors, but oh well). I walked a few feet down to Abbey Road Studios where people were taking pictures of the outside (visitors are not allowed to go in, boohoo) and signing the walls of the gate, so I signed it, too. On the wall, I wrote “Thanks for the great music – Sherese. BTW, I love Ringo!” Haha.

Over the Hills and Far Away

Published July 29, 2011 by Aker

As you can probably tell from my Led Zeppelin reference, we traveled far today. Where you ask? To Glastonbury! On what? A tour bus! We were off at eight in the morning and listened to our tour guide, Chris, as he told us histories behind the East end where our university is located. This is the area where Jack the Ripper roamed looking for his next victim, where the crime family the Krays committed crimes at the Blind Beggar pub and where Winston Chruchill went to the trial of the anarchists who did the Siege of Sidney Street. We continued to the Magnus Martyr, the place mentioned in T.S. Eliot’s Wasteland, and the place where John Quincy Adams was married. We traveled under the bridges of London, where Chris mentioned the Waterloo Bridge, also known as the “Ladies’ Bridge” because it was built by women, and the Blackfriars Bridge, which was the site of a murder of an Italian banker for the Vatican.

Then we went deep into the countryside of England with the sheep, cows, bulls, horses and pigs. We passed by the Stonehenge and heard a brief history of it. As he told us the truths and legends behind King Arthur, we rode into Shrewtown, where they had a old-fashioned jail called the Cooler because they believed that a criminal had hot blood and so a cool stream of water flowed under the jail to cool them down while they were in there. Also, we passed by another town, a German one formed during the Cold War. The classed learned about the origins of the rhyme, Jack Horner, which was about a man named Thomas Horner who received deeds to manors made of lead, a metal with a latin name, Plumbum, hence the plum in the rhyme.

When we arrived to Glastonbury, we climbed a VERY HIGH holy hill, or tor, that was worst that climbing the 311 steps of the Monument and on the way met some sheep and a lot of feces. However, the view at the top, next to the St. Michael’s tower, was beautiful, even in the fog. Back down the hill, we went to the Chalice well, which was said to hold the Holy Grail. I drank from the water, which tasted like pennies. After that, we walked around the neighborhood and basically the people in Glastobury are “new age” types of people, aka hippies. They have a Glastonbury festival every year, which is comparable to Woodstock. At the end of the day, the bus passed London’s Natural History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum and Harrods. So, today was a really productive day! Now for sleep!

Avenues and Alleyways

Published July 28, 2011 by Aker

The above song “Avenues and Alleyways” is by English singer Tony Christie and the song’s title covers where I have been going for the beginning of this week. I have observed the street performers, or as they are called here, buskers, in Piccadilly Circus, the mostly Muslim community of Whitechapel at night, the Docklands, the streets where the homes of Dracula (138 Piccadilly, where there is a Hard Rock Cafe now) and Sherlock Holmes (221B Baker Street) were located in the books and today, Brixton, a neighborhood similar to southeast Queens where I live in New York City. These places are definitely not your typical tourist attractions, but it is interesting to learn the history behind these neighborhoods.

Also, our professor introduced us to a 1966 British film, Morgan, which he was named after. It is actually a funny and engaging movie; not only because it has the wacky British comedy, but it also has subtle commentary on communism, capitalism, marriage, love and sanity. Here is a clip:

If I Could Save Time In A Bottle….

Published July 24, 2011 by Aker

The classic struggle and balancing act between being a tourer and tourist, and the obligation of being a student in a stuffy classroom and wanting to explore a new city. This is where I stand right now and it is exhausting. London has so much to see and I have so little time to see most of them, especially with a three-hour class five days a week and walking around London, which is tiring. But I will persevere… Did I mention that there is SO much to do in London.

Tuesday, the Tower of London:

Not much to say about it, but it does reinforce the fact that London is a very stony city. We went into two towers, the White Tower and the Bloody tower, before we were bored and decided to leave. I guess the history of the place as a tower for torturing and killing prisoners as well as the seat of power for the monarchy did not quite connect with us. However the Thames River walk did and I actually wrote my first piece for class on a staircase at the beginning of the walk along the Thames that led directly into the river. It may become a full piece of work by the end of this study abroad trip.

Wednesday: British Museum

The museum is huge! I went last week, but our professor wanted us to go again and it is still immense the second time around. Actually walking around with a journal in the museum, I noticed how many of the visitors were taking pictures of the artifacts and artwork in the exhibitions instead of actually looking at them and enjoying the experience. After a while, I was slightly annoyed by them and tried to get away from every person who was taking a picture…oh no, I am becoming more deep! haha.

Thursday: Dicken’s house and pub

Charles Dickens lived in a nice house. I stood next to the seat and desk where he wrote his last words, looked at the funny sketches on the walls, and saw his dingy looking washroom and wine cellar. Then we went to his favorite pub, The Lamb, for a few minutes but I didn’t get a drink (paper due next day, ugh!).




Friday: Ferry ride on the Thames to Greenwich

To the land where modern Time was invented! Wondering why London is five hours ahead of New York, blame this place! We traveled on the City Cruises’ River Red Rover ferry ride on which we heard stories of pirates, pubs and prolific novelists (Dickens again). Then we took a walk up the large hill to the observatory and maritime museum, but instead of going in, I decided to go around the park and take notes in my journal. I recorded a lot about animals that day; I may have notes for a new Animal Farm, hehe.

Saturday: Camden Market

I think I may have fond the perfect flea market for me! This market has so many things: food, clothes, bags, records, posters, shoes, CDs, DVDs, accessories, etc. I was so tempted to buy everything. But as you have heard yesterday, my day was dampened by the death of Amy Winehouse, who lived in Camden. So, we were basically in the same area as her when she passed. RIP.

London Bridge

Sunday: Thames Walk

This may have been the longest walk of my life! I started by going back to the staircase at the beginning of the Thames Walk and the waters had receded to the point that you could see the whole staircase and there was a small sandy beach. Then I went to the London Bridge, which looks like a pieces of cardboard in comparison to the Tower Bridge. Why is there a song about it! I walked across it where I saw an immense view of the Tower Bridge, Tower of London and ships. After, I walked back and went to the Monument of the Great Fire of London. Stupidly, I decided to climb all 311 narrow steps to the top and almost passed out at the top. When I got out, I gasped for breath looking for an open store to buy a drink and also to look for the London Stone, which was embedded in a building and I almost missed it (not worth the trouble to find). Then I went to St. Paul’s Cathedral and sat in the garden. The next stop was the Museum of London, where I went through the history of London compacted into several exhibitions. I liked the Changing London exhibition best because that was the only one I could relate to (Yay, Brixton!) Finally, I went on a long walkway to the Barbican Center, where my journey ended near the fountains by it. Now I am back in my room feeling dead with sores on my feet. So time for a nice warm shower, a book to read and bed. Bye.