V&A, part II

I didn’t have class on Thursday, so I went back to the Victoria & Albert to see the rest of the museum. I tried to go out today, to see another museum, so I could combine them into two posts but once I got into putney to get onto the tube, the station was closed! It was already around 3pm by then (museums close early on weekends, like 5), so I gave up and came back home.

Before I went to the V&A, I went to see Covent Garden, somewhere I hadn’t been yet. It was so cool! Definitely one of my favorite places so far. I didn’t take any pictures though, I felt super touristy, and had no reassurance to take them anyway because I was by myself.

I started on the 2nd floor and immediately got trapped in “Ironwork”. sounds boring, and I thought I’d fly through it, but it was full of cool gates, signs, and keys (which is where I lingered the longest). 

They were so pretty! #21 has the monogram of William & Mary in it – yes, the same W&M as the college. 

I liked the Greyhounds

After that, I walked to the textiles room, which was FULL of hundreds of textile samples. They were renovating two more rooms (thank god, I can’t believe there was that much to look through). 

There were hundreds and hundreds of pieces of fabric organized like this! It would have taken hours to search through. There were some students and an older woman there who looked like they were researching them, almost like a fabric library.

I quickly went through the Theatre & Performance rooms, filled with memorabilia, like posters, costumes, and set miniatures. I didn’t stay long because there was this really loud, annoying spanish tourist group of teenagers. Also, most of the items were fairly recent.

THEN I got to the jewelry rooms. 

And I thought VMI rings were big.

These are snake armlets (worn around the upper arm) from ancient Egypt, 100 AD

I took a picture of the sign for this so I could remember: Starting in the center of the spiral at the first arrow, the gemstones are Diamonds, Rubies and Sapphires, Spinel, Chrysoberyl, Beryl, Peridot, Tourmaline, Topaz, Garnet, Zircon, “assorted gemstones”, Quartz, Microcrystalline Quartz, Opal, Lumachella, Turquoise, Malachite, Lapis lazuli, Pyrite, Pearl 

Jack Russell Terrier Bracelet.

Somewhere along the line I came across Shakespeare’s First Folio, pretty crazy. It is the first known collection of all of Shakespeare’s works, published in 1623. Of 1,000 printed, 228 still exist today.

After that I was pooped, and on my way out peeked into the bookshop. I wanted to get a book about the museum itself (& it’s architecture.. pictures below), but I could only find books about certain collections. Before I could even start looking hard enough, they turned off all the lights and announced the shop was closing. I left, and headed back to the tube to get back home. 

The Courtyard

Main Entrance. That thing in the middle is a sculpture by a famous artist. I don’t like it, I think it looks like a huge bundle of glass lawn ornaments.


Museum Library

Another view of the courtyard

this weekend

So, after my Harrod’s adventure, I met up with Lauren and Blakelee for dinner. We went to Chinatown and got a delicious buffet meal! After that we went back to the flat and went to the Bop at school which we found out once we were there was “American High School” themed! What a laugh!! I think people here think Americans dress for school like the kids in High School Musical. So many people were wearing football jerseys and cheerleader costumes. I’m pretty sure the only time I ever did that was when I was Richard for halloween and wore his homecoming jersey. One girl was wearing a complete pink ladies getup. That was fun, nothing noteworthy besides the theme. 

SATURDAY we went on a Jack the Ripper tour through newEurope, the tour company we used in Paris (I highly recommend! They are fantastic!) This is Me, Blaklee, and Lauren with our guide, Giles.

London Skyline at night, the yellow egg shaped building to the left is city hall. 

Our guide told us other ghost stories of London, including those of public execution and hauntings in the Tower of London. 

Tower of London

This is Traitor’s Gate, which, at the time would have been entered by boats under the London Bridge and into the Moat. Anyone who entered here would not come out. All of the prisoner’s heads were displayed on pikes outside the gate. 

Tower Bridge:

While we were over near Tower Bridge, our guide told us a story about sending convicts to Australia; Usually people would be sentenced to x amount of years of hard labor in Australia, and immediately after their trial, they would be sent to a little jail cell near the docks below ground level. Once there were enough convicts to fill up a ship, they would set sail (3 months long) to Australia. When people were sent to this little underground cell thing, they said they were going ‘down under’ …. and THAT is where that saying comes from!

Our guide took us to a part of London I’d never think to find! It was the last remaining piece of the Roman Wall (With some Norman Wall on top), 2,000 years old. 

Then he pointed out some cool buildings, this top one here, known by the locals as ‘the gherkin’ is built by the same architect who built city hall. It’s also in a Harry Potter movie. (after that, he did a great Alan Rickman impression for the three of us) 

This one below is hated by a lot of Londoners and is referred to the ugliest building in the city. Basically, the architect moved all secondary structures (stairs, elevators, heating systems) to the outside to maximize floor space. 

This bench is the exact spot where a Ripper murder victim was found. Lauren and I thought we were pretty funny. 

Next, he took us to a road that would have been like the roads of the 19th century – Jack the Ripper’s time. Many streets like this were destroyed in the blitz, but this is one of the surviving few. Imagine it without lights, with a stench, and apparently some dead bodies, and that is what it would have been like to live in the slums of London in the 1800s.

The ten bells is associated with two Ripper murders – both women frequented this pub, and one of them was last seen here the night she was murdered. After meeting him in the pub and inviting him back to her flat, he had 10+ hours to strangle her and mutilate her body (which he did, apparently there were blood and organs everywhere, although they never found her heart) That was the last known attack from Jack the Ripper. 


Afterwards, we went into a grocery store to get some snacks and we found these: wine pre-packaged in a wine glass. 

SUNDAY we went to the national portrait gallery in trafalgar square. It was a nice size, and full of interesting portraits. 

That night, we went to Brick Lane to get dinner. Brick Lane is known for its ethnic food (the curry mecca of London). We lucked out though, because there was a huge Sunday market with all kinds of food! There was indian, thai, chinese, japanese, mexican and even jamaican food. I got some chinese food and egg rolls. Because we stumbled into it right as people were cleaning up, we got good deals on all the food, it was ridiculously cheap; when I asked the lady how much were the egg rolls, she said “uh 6 for one pound!” and I was like okay! and we were going to split it between the three of us.. and then as we were scooping them into our tray she kept yelling take more! take more! We really lucked out. Now I know the secret for cheap delicious food!!

HARRODS (deserves its own post)

Lauren’s friend came to visit this past weekend so I tagged along while we did some typical london touristy stuff. Friday I went to Harrod’s in the morning while Lauren waited for Blakelee’s train to arrive. I thought it would just be a department store like Bloomingdales or Neiman – I was wrong! It has literally everything anyone could ever want. Their motto is Omnia Omnibus Ubique – All Things for All People, Everywhere. That is true. It has 330 departments and is over ONE MILLION SQUARE FEET. Anyway, when I said it has everything, it does. It’s got all the basics like perfumes, purses, shoes, gift items, and designer clothes (Lauren & Blakelee met me there and we saw so many dresses that celebrities wore)… on top of all those luxury goods there are 32 restaurants that serve anything from coffee, chocolate, tea and krispy kreme to spanish tapas, sushi and indian food. There are champagne bars and oyster bars. There’s a beauty salon, barber shop, spa, AND a dog spa. BankS (yes plural–i guess you need the money to be in this store haha. Also, just read online that you can buy gold bars at the bank.), personal shopping, caterers and design services. Optometrists, hearing services, Pharmacy, key cutter, shoe repairs, sigar shop, travel agents…etc etc etc There are even custom tailored clothes (duh), gift items, AND you can have someone make you your own fragrance.  You aren’t allowed in if you are wearing army fatigues, a scout uniform, shorts, a mohawk, or apparently, they refused entrance to a woman who was over 15 stone (200 pounds). 

My favorite parts of the store were the Egyptian Escalators, Egyptian rooms, and Egyptian Elevators. Its basically beautiful art deco -esque, with greens and golds. I really cannot describe it to its potential, but here’s a video (still not as amazing as the real thing) : http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4219104098246230802#

At the bottom of the escalators, there is a fountain dedicated to Diana and Dodi (his father owned Harrod’s until just recently). It has a used wine glass from the night of the car crash and an engagement ring in a glass case. The wine glass is kind of gross, actually. 

Some other noteworthy things I saw:

  • There is a pet store with purebred Chihuahuas and French Bulldogs. If you have £4,500 on hand, you can buy one. There’s also a dog spa/groomer where your pup can get a Blueberry & Vanilla Facial, Aromatherapy Bath & Body Massage, or a Thalssotherapy Mud Bath.
  • Not only does it have 32 restaurants, but Harrod’s has a full grocery store – a bakery, fromagerie (cheese), charcuterie ( fancy butcher), traiteur (butcher/delicatessen), wine shop, candy shop, tea shop, coffee shop, confectionary, patisserie, fish, poultry, meat counters, fruits, veggies, florist, and anything else you would need
  • There’s a huge room of oriental rugs, one full of outdoor furniture, and one full of antiques. If you needed a bed shaped like a giant shell, one of the Rolling Stone’s jackets, an original Snow White movie poster, or fossils, they have it!
  • There are 4 Harrod’s gift shops
  • There are reasonably-sized Waterstones (Barnes & Noble) and HMV (Best Buy) within Harrods
  • Within the Sony electronics store, there are spy listening devices and bullet proof clothes. 
  • Safe Deposit Boxes
  • a Piano room, guitar room
  • a phone store
  • need I go on?

Lastly, I noticed that they had a SPELLING MISTAKE in their store map! Ha! They spelled the word “object” wrong, so I nicely decided to send them an email. Look at this:

maybe I’ll put my title as “her royal highness" 

anecdote #2

This past weekend, when Lauren and I went to Bath, we were on the train when the trolley lady came through asking if anyone wanted coffee or tea. Without skipping a beat, we both looked at each other and said “Anything from the Trolleeey?!!!” just like the lady does in Harry Potter.


John Bull

While working on homework for my history class, I stumbled across this gentleman, John Bull. He is the personification of Great Britain, equivalent to our Uncle Sam.

He is usually depicted as a stout, middle-aged man, often wearing a Union Flag waistcoat…As a literary figure, John Bull is well-intentioned, frustrated, full of common sense, and entirely of native country stock. Unlike Uncle Sam, he is not a figure of authority but rather a yeoman who prefers his small beer and domestic peace, possessed of neither patriarchal power nor heroic defiance.”

Bath Time!

Friday Lauren and I went to Bath for a day trip. I LOVED it, it’s such a beautiful, quaint little city with lots of people around. 

The morning was a little rough, because we got to the train station and missed our 9:04 train to Clapham Junction. The guy working at the desk wasn’t the most helpful of people either (typical of the english though, apparently). After a lot of worried looks and questions, he finally told us we could take the 9:13 train and still make our connection (at 9:27) by seven minutes if we run to platform 9. (The 9:27 train at Clapham was the only train going to bath that morning, so if we missed it we were screwed) It kind of sucked that he didn’t tell us that in the first place, but whatever. We hopped on that train and leapt off the second it stopped, running amazing race style towards the platform. We probably didn’t need to run, as once we got there we had plenty of time to stand, and even pick out drinks from the vending machines. We both agreed that it would have been much cooler if we ran straight onto the train as the doors were closing. 

The train ride was almost 2 hours long, and we both fell asleep for a little bit; riding trains here is so relaxing! We got there around 11:30 and went to Pret-A-Manger to get some lunch. We walked around for an hour-ish through the center of town, looking at everything. After that, we met up in the abbey churchyard to take a free 2 hour tour. The tour guide was pretty boring, and went off on tangents while telling his stories (“…and so the King got dressed in the morning and he put on a red – no was it blue? – i think red – or blue – well, he put on what i think was a red shirt” … I made that up, but it was that kind of thing) but we got to see some cool sights that I wouldn’t have known about if we wandered around alone.

Quick History. Bath was first treated as a religious shrine by the Celts, the main spring (of three total) was dedicated to their God Sulis (whom the Romans called Minerva). The Romans invaded and renamed the area Aquae Sulis. They constructed at temple around 60 AD and built walls around the springs. They also added a defensive wall surrounding the city. The Romans left and the buildings and city fell into disrepair. The Anglo-Saxons moved in around 675 AD, building a monastery & abbey. Then, around 1100, a Bishop moved in and planned to build a huge cathedral with a Bishop’s palace next to it. He also rebuilt the buildings around the three springs. In the 1500s the Cathedral was falling apart and Henry VIII decided to rebuild a smaller version. The baths were improved and attracted the aristocracy for it’s reputation as a spa. Our tour guide described three people most notable for bath during the Georgian Period: The architect, John Wood; Ralph Allen, the owner of the limestone quarry; and Beau Nash, who was pretty much in charge of all of the social events (cool job!). During this time, the Crescent, featured in Jane Austin books, was built, as was the Grand Pump Room, and Royal Theatre. 

This was an abbey built in the late 1500s, on the site of a church built in the 8th century that was apparently massive – our tour guide said that you could fit this cathedral in the nave of the previous cathedral. The previous cathedral was destroyed by the Normans when they invaded. 

The abbey is actually called the Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, who are outside the front doors. Funny story, some iconoclast whacked Saint Peter’s head off, and they carved him a new head out of his superlong beard. He’s the one on the left:

During our walk, the tour guide was talking about the local man who was in charge of the stone quarry nearby. Bath has it’s own kind of stone (like how Blacksburg has hokie stone) But he erected a castle on the hill as a way to advertise bath stone.. according to our tour guide, it’s only a meter-long façade. You can see it – realllllly small right smack dab in the middle of this picture:

This archway is part of the original wall surrounding the city. Notice it’s below ground level because that’s how old it is! – the Roman Baths are below ground level as well. 

In the 1730s, this Hospital was founded for the poor and sick. It claimed that the mineral water from the Baths had healing powers. In actuality, the water contains a lot of minerals and it gives you the runs. Unless they had a more serious disease, many people were “healed” because their diet consisted only of water – which flushed everything out of your system- & crackers. 

A panorama of the Royal Crescent, designed by John Wood. The residents bought a façade and built a house to their liking behind it. It’s also mentioned in Jane Austin’s Persuasion.

Apparently the Georgians were picky about having symmetry in their Palladian style architecture – so if a window on the outside didn’t work with the floorplan on the inside, they painted a window in a blank frame. 

Speaking of windows, at one point there were a bunch of taxes happening to homeowners in bath. First, there was a tax on fireplaces, the more you had, the more you had to pay.. so people would connect all their fireplaces into one chimney, which is what the inspector would check. The city realized that wasn’t working, so they decided to tax windows. Homeowners retaliated against this by blocking them up (below) or like this creative house (second picture): move the windows closer together, as the definition stated that if the seam between the window panes was smaller than 18 inches, it would be counted as one window. 

Finally, the Baths!

There are three natural springs – one hot, one medium, and one cold. How convenient. The main one is the hot one, it gets really hot! I think they said around 40˚C, which is over 100˚ Fahrenheit. The Medium and Hot baths are still filled with water, and the pool for the cold one still exists, and is undergoing some archaeological excavations. You can’t go in them obviously, but one reason is because the edges are lined with lead. There is a real spa next door, inside one of the old buildings, probably much nicer than this lead & algae infested water.

Lauren & I had some fun in the gift shop before we left:

After all that, we went to grab some food at a pub. I tried beer made locally in Bath, it was alright. We waited for an hour and our food still hadn’t come! When we asked about it, our server had apparently forgotten to hit the “complete” button on the computer and never sent it up to the kitchen! They apologized a bunch, and we got our burgers really quickly after that – and they were delicious, by the way. The manager even gave us free desserts.

Then, we still had time to kill, so we went to a little tea room that was still open. I tried the Bath House Blend, which was really good, and Lauren got Darjeeling. Then, all of a sudden we had to leave so I chugged down the rest of my tea and we walked toward the train to get home. It was a loooong ride home, especially bcecause we were so tired. But, I had a fantastic day and can’t wait to go back!

anecdote #1

When we were on our way back to Roehampton from Paris, one of the funniest things happened. You know when you bond with strangers over the littlest of things? This was one of them. 

Lauren, Sarah and I were in a pretty empty rail car with one business man sitting next to me on his phone. I asked Sarah what stop we were at and she replied Full-Ham! (Fulham is pronounced here like ful-hm). Lauren started smiling really big trying to keep herself from laughing. I immediately mocked Sarah with a huge southern twang saying FUULL-HAYM!! The businessman next to me couldn’t contain himself any longer and burst out in laughter at Sarah and [I think] my impersonation of her. It was hysterical. And, as if it couldn’t get any better, he said to his friend on the phone that he was at “full-ham station”

Funniest. Bit. Ever.  

God Save the Queen

Lauren & I went to an evensong service at Westminster tonight, and it was nice! They seat the mass in the choir section with a boys choir (they were ADORABLE). It’s not a full service (well actually I sat through the whole thing stupidly thinking it’s a Catholic church – more on that later.) but it lasted quite awhile with all of the singing. I found it interesting that they actually say “God Save the Queen” in the prayers at the end. Lauren pointed out afterwards that in the Apostle’s Creed they mention the Roman Catholic Church. We weren’t allowed any pictures during the service but I’m planning on going back for the tour hours during the day so I can see things like the coronation chair, unknown soldier, the US medal of honor, people’s tombs (I think Mary Queen of Scots is buried here), etc.

To go back to what I mentioned earlier, “Westminster Abbey is an Anglican Church. Westminster Cathedral is a Roman Catholic Church, situated about 400 m (437 yd) west of the Abbey.” Interesting… Confusing too. 

After that we went over to Piccadilly to walk around a little before getting dinner. We walked to Leicester Square and got dinner at a “mexican” restaurant (we’ve been craving it!). It was really good, but definitely not the authentic mexican I’m used to – I miss little family owned restaurants like Burrito Chop and Del Rio! 

Then we were craving something sweet so we got some Ben & Jerry’s nearby. We figured it best to not take it on the tube, so we wandered around Leicester a bit. We ended up stumbling into Chinatown! It was still decked out from Chinese New Year (this past Sunday, I’m sad i missed it). We walked by so many little restaurants and they all looked so good! I’ll have to go back there one day for dinner.