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My Time in Italy

The past two weeks, I have been messing around with different types of content to post on my blog. I’m still learning as I find my voice in my writing and learn the reason as to why I write. But, I think it’s time to stick to my tried and true travel logs that I’ve started off with and hopefully branch off into more personal posts. When I write my travel logs, I post my pictures first and create a story based off those pictures. For this post, I’ll be writing from my head and complimenting these words with my photosFrom the week of Oct 14 to Oct 17, five of us from our group decided to take a vacation in Cinque Terre.

So, what is Cinque Terre and why would I go there instead of Rome, Florence, Venice or Milan? Cinque Terre literally translates to “five towns” in English. Cinque Terre( or Chin-kwa Tare-ray)  is a strip of five towns along the northwestern coast of Italy. There are a bunch of terraces built along the coastal ridges. Why did I choose to go here instead of the other beautiful cities? Because I wanted peace. There was one word that I would describe my trip and that would be peace. Cinque Terre was isolated from the rest of city life and we wanted to get away from the hectic life of London. Florence was on the top of my list for cities to visit because, the video game, Assassin’s Creed II made such an accurate replication of the city and inspired me to visit. But, I needed rest.

I’m going to compare this trip to my trip to Berlin because those are our two independent trips that we took in our semester abroad. I had a great time in Berlin. I saw my friend that I met from church and I saw many historical sites from World War II. But, there were so many things going wrong with our trip to Berlin. Our flight was supposed to leave at 8:00pm and it takes about two hours to fly to Berlin. Once we boarded the plane, we found out that there was a thunderstorm that delayed our flight by two hours. We were originally planned to arrive in Berlin at 11:00pm( because going east adds an hour) but we landed at 1:00am. Our group traveled in two separate groups because we bought tickets at separate times and we found out that the other group( that flew in the same airline as us) only ended up being delayed 20 minutes. We didn’t have a chance to change our currency to Euros when we landed and we learned the hard way that stores in Berlin do not take American credit cards. We also weren’t prepared for the weather that was going to come. What we thought was going to be a light shower turned out to be a torrential downpour. We took the train to see the Topography of Terror( Gestapo HQ turned museum) but the train skipped our stop because of intense rain. So, we had to walk in the mud and flooded streets to find the Topography of Terror. As we were flying back to London, the trains at Stansted Airport were canceled because someone decided to sit in front of the train tracks. We were forced to take the bus back home. We eventually arrived at our place at 3:00am.

 

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Our time in Berlin!

In contrast, our flight to Italy was smooth and on-time. Because of our stumbles in Germany, we prepared ourselves for the weather and exchanged our money beforehand. That first night, we arrived at our Air B&B in Corniglia (pronounced Cornelia) and rested for the night. The next day was expected to rain and that meant the coastal hiking trails were closed due to the risk of landslide. We visited Monterosso, which was the northernmost town of Cinque Terre. Monterosso is a beautiful resort town. We visited its beach and hiked toward the top of the mountain. We met an awesome American couple exploring Italy for their 10th anniversary. After spending an hour of hiking, we tried to look for some spaghetti, because apparently, the world’s best spaghetti is located in Monterosso. We found out that the restaurant that we were looking for was closed, so we found another restaurant to go into. This was where the weather turned into a complete 180. As we entered the door, a sudden downpour started showering outside. Our waiter told us that we had to evacuate to the train station after we were done eating because the weather had achieved a level of red alert. The food here was amazing. I ordered gnocchi for the first time and that was amazing. Gnocchi is little balls of potato mixed with tomato or pesto sauce. But, my favorite thing from the restaurant was the water. The water was amazing. It was a gift from God. It was fresh mountain spring water. The taste of the water was PURE, untouched by metal. Anyway, after that, we were trying to catch the train back to Corniglia, but as were trying to walk there, the winds picked up to 40mph. Dust was flying into our eyes, trash cans were rolling in the streets and waves were slamming the beach. The weather was crazy. It felt like being in a hurricane. This was our first day of exploring Cinque Terre. When night time rolled around, the skies cleared up. We went to our rooftop terrace that overlooks the town and set up dinner. It was romantic. Not the lovey-dovey romantic, but the idealized romantic. We had a candle-lit dinner on our rooftop terrace, next to the town and the Meditterean Sea, and underneath the stars.

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Monterosso! Unfortunately we went on a cloudy day.

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The view of Monterosso from the mountains.

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Top of the mountains in Monterosso!

Our second day, it was a lot better. There were blue skies when we woke up and that meant that we were going to hike. We started our morning off with a little breakfast and then hiked in the mountains from Corniglia to Manarola. The hike was about two hours long. The hike upward was a bit challenging and it rained a little. But, once we were in the mountains, the view was amazing. The rain stopped and we saw a double rainbow. We saw the beautiful Corniglia from afar and the Azure Mediterranean Sea. As we were hiking, we traversed through two towns high in the mountains. It was interesting to see the rural side of Italy because these towns were so secluded from the rest of society. We also walked through these people’s vineyards, which was an amazing experience. We got to see how they picked their grapes and how they crushed their grapes into wine. Once we got to Manarola, we found a restaurant. This restaurant offered a lot of seafood because it was next to the coast. There was something so amazing on the menu that caught my eye, so I HAD to order it. It was Spaghetti with Octopus in Spicy Tomato sauce. It was heavenly. The spaghetti and the sauce was freshly made and the octopus was grilled to perfection. We then went to the cove and dipped our feet in the water. The Mediterrean Sea was so blue. After that, we went to Rio Maggero( which was the southern most town) and visited the beach. This beach reminded me of the Sunset Cliffs of Point Loma because the water was temperate and the sun ruled the sky. We then went to the last town, Vernazza, and ate Gelato and watch the sun set over the Sea. I had an amazing day exploring the rest of Cinque Terre.

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The view from our window in Corniglia!

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Our hike in the mountainside.

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View of Corniglia at the top of the mountain!

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We encountered cool trails.

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We hiked among the vineyards.

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Saw some tornados forming over the Mediterranean Sea.

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Towns isolated in the mountains.

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The town of Manarola!

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Spaghetti with Octopus and Spicy Tomato Sauce

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We dipped our feet in the Mediterranean Sea!

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The Beautiful Rio Maggero!

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Rio Maggero!

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Vernazza at golden hour!

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Everyone’s gotta take a dive at sunset!

Our last day in Italy was spent exploring the city of Pisa because the nearest airport to Cinque Terre( and Florence!) is Pisa. We tried to find the Leaning Tower. It took us a while, but we managed to find it. I can confirm that the tower is indeed leaning. We saw a bunch of people trying to push the tower back into place. There was also an absurd amount of gnats flying around. We managed to eat at an outdoor restaurant with the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the background. We ordered a lot of pizza and gelato before we left. Our flight back into London was smooth. We arrived at an appropriate time of 9pm and had a goodnight’s rest before class started.

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Our Time at the Leaning Tower of Pisa!

I hope you guys enjoyed my experience of both Berlin and Cinque Terre. I’m hoping that I can find my writing style soon because I enjoy sharing my experiences.

My Experience With Theatre in London

“Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” – William Shakespeare. I recall that throughout high school, I hated reading literary works, such as Shakespeare or Dickens, but coming here in London, I’ve learned to appreciate their works. In English class, I would always say to myself, “Why are we reading this? This language is so outdated and the book is not going to help us today.” In the past six weeks, our professors had taken us to see at least a play per week and exposed me to a lot of modern English Theatre. They’ve taken us to many great theatres, such as the famous Shakespeare’s Globe, the National Theatre, and the Young Vic Theatre.

I’ve come to the point where I see why Londoners prefer plays over films and I wholeheartedly agree with them. Plays here are interactive. Probably the main reason why I don’t enjoy watching films too often is because you’re just staring at a screen for about two hours. You aren’t socializing, you aren’t moving, your eyes are just glued to the screen and I find that absolutely torturous. But these plays make you feel as if you’re part of the story. Some plays have audience involvement and some plays ignore the audience completely and have us acting as the fly on the wall observing.

A play that had the most interaction with the audience that we saw was Treasure Island ( If you don’t know the story, perhaps you’ve seen Treasure Planet?) at St. Pauls church in Covent Garden, London. Treasure Island is the original pirate story that features an adventurous to be a pirate that joins a respected pirate captain’s crew in search of buried treasure. It inspired all the stereotypical pirate things like “X marks the spot.” The first thing that the production did was separate the audience into two crews, the good pirate’s crew(Jim Hawkins) and the bad pirate’s crew ( Long John Silver). The audience is part of a pirate crew! How amazing is that?  The best part about this play was that the location changed every act. The first act was about Jim Hawkins in his home dreaming about finding buried treasure. We were watching this inside the church. Then, as Hawkins embarks on his adventure, we move outside the church to this mock pirate ship and sit inside it. Members of the audience were recruited to turn the wheel that drops the anchor of the ship. After that, we went to the front of the church and then back inside it. It was amazing to move along with the actors across the church and see the story as it progressed. Some of us got to dress up as pirates and hold pistols and been in a gun match.

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I managed to sneak a pic of the inside of the church.

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The time that we saw Treasure Island, we walked out the church headed into this new area that had the feeling of being on a pirate ship.

In contrast, we saw Yerma, starring Billie Piper (who played Rose in the Doctor Who series) at the Young Vic Theatre in London. The Young Vic was a cool theatre/bar. The theatre itself was a glass box that made us feel as if we were a fly on the wall peering in on the story. Yerma had no interaction with the audience whatsoever yet made us feel as if we were right there with the characters. Originally set in Rural Spain, Yerma tells the story of a young woman struggling to bear a child and believes that once she has this child, everything from her relationship with her husband to her career as a blogger/journalist will go well. This play drastically changed to adapt to a modern audience. The cast of Yerma is British and is set in modern London. The production actually changed Yerma into a nameless protagonist, played by Billie Piper, which I assumed represented the everyday woman. (I will still refer her as Yerma) This play, however, is a tragedy, and Yerma, because of her desire to bear a child, causes her to neglect everything around her. She goes off a crazy breakdown and pushes her husband away from her, and she starts doing drugs and loses her job. This was one of my favorite plays that I’ve seen so far because it made me feel catharsis for the first time. In my high school English class, I’ve always known what catharsis was because it was “a feeling of relief from strong emotions.” But how could you describe a feeling unless you’ve truly felt it yourself? The production successfully built up tension and suspension up until the climax of the play where (*SPOILERS) she kills herself. As typical as it sounds, the play’s atmosphere felt tense. My stomach was tight, my legs were shaking, and my heart was pounding. All this tension broke at the moment she stabbed herself and let out an agonizing scream. “Holy crap, did that just happen?” I said as I was left distraught at the scene.

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Billie Piper as the nameless protagonist.

Watching plays at Shakespeare’s Globe was one of the best experiences that I’ve ever had. The house itself was built after the original Elizabethan theatre that burned down. The building company tried to replicate the Elizabethan theatre as close as possible to the original by using the same materials and measurements (Elizabethan measurements) but, made it applicable to a modern audience. The inside consists of a yard where the audience would stand (called  groundlings) and on the edge would be the stands where the affluent customers could pay and sit. Because the groundlings are so close to the stage, (we were literally leaning against it) there was a lot of audience interaction.

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View of Shakespeare’s Globe.

One of my favorite plays that I saw was A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  The play has existed for about 500 years and has been performed countless times and is read by students all across the western world. It’s hard to make something 500 years old seem new, yet the Globe seems to have done just that. Emma Rice, the artistic director of the Globe, has probably seen the show a thousand times and decided to spice things up. She changed Helena (a girl) to Helenus (a guy) to make the weird love quadrilateral that Shakespeare had into a weird gay love quadrilateral for the modern day audience. It made things funny because Helenus is essentially Hermia’s gay best friend. One of my favorite moments in the play was when Helenus snapped his fingers and said, “giiirrrrlllll, let’s get it on!” And both of them randomly dance to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.” I also appreciate that the production has an ethnically diverse team. Hermia, Helenus, Oberon, and Theseus were played by people of Indian descent and Demetrius was played by a Black actor. The production had a band that played Indian style music. There was an Indian woman that lead the band with her sitar and I saw a Sikh man on the drums. The music just added to the kooky, comedic feel that Shakespeare originally intended without the Elizabethan feel. Another cool thing that the production did was that the four lovers were dressed as the modern, everyday Londoner while the supernatural entities were dressed in typical Elizabethan clothing. Another cool part was that the play started out with workers from Shakespeare’s Globe saying the rules like “no drinking, no smoking, blah, blah, blah,” and assigning other members roles as a security guard and trash person and the workers just stood within the audience. As the play went on, when they were about to introduce the guild that performs Pyramus and Thisbe, all the workers, like the security guard and the trash person, were like “Psych! I was acting along.”  I just went “OH Shoot! Inception! Actors acting as Globe workers acting as actors!” My mind was blown.

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Hermia and Helenus dancing to “Single Ladies.”

This was my experience with theatre in London. This experience has truly brought to life what theatre was originally intended to do: to entertain an audience. Theatre is not only a script that you read in an English class, but it is also meant to be pure entertainment with a message. I do wish that America would have the same appreciation that the English do about theatre because that would help students appreciate literature. There’s no way you can teach students about catharsis unless they truly undergo that process themselves. Theatre should also be expressed as entertainment and not just a script.

Thank you for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it.

Pilgrimage To Canterbury To Write Our Own Tales

On Friday, August 26, our professors took us on a field trip to Canterbury to simulate the adventure that the 29 travelers partook in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. In context, the Canterbury Tales were about 29 travelers who met at a tavern in London and all decide to make a pilgrimage to the Canterbury Church to witness the body of the religious martyr and Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket. In The Canterbury Tales, the travelers tell stories to keep themselves occupied for their two-day trek.

When we reached the city of Canterbury, we were greeted by the great wall that the Romans had built around the city when they colonized England. There was a bridge connecting the train station to the top of the wall and we walked along the wall as we made our way to the entrance of the city of Canterbury.

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The wall the Romans built around Canterbury.

Our professors gave us ten minutes to explore the city before we had our afternoon tea at the Moat Tea Room. We were fortunate to arrive at Canterbury on this day because the weather felt like the warm, Californian sun that we’re used to. We check out a lot of street markets on the street selling fruits, vegetables, jewelry and other novelty items.DSC_0095.JPG

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Natalie showing us the vegetable stand.

We then had lunch at the Moat Tea Room which was a small and cramped, two-story building that pretty much serves classic English Tea and baked goods. I was surprised that we could fit about twenty people in that small corner to take a picture. The plates that they served us had slices of strawberry, raspberry, and chocolate cake on the top, scones( biscuits as us Americans call them) in the middle, and sandwiches consisting of cucumber and egg on the bottom. The tea had so much flavor to it and the scones were baked to perfection at the point where it was crunchy enough to melt in your mouth like butter.

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Us taking a group photo in the Moat Tea Room.

After our time at the Moat Tea Room, we headed straight to the Canterbury Cathedral. This cathedral is the Vatican of Anglican churches and the Archbishop has status comparable to the Pope. Throughout the ages, many pilgrims have traveled across the world to see the body of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury of the 1160s. Becket became a martyr because he had a dispute with King Henry II over the rights of the church. Two of Henry’s men happened to hear this conversation and wanted to show their loyalty to the king, so one day, as Becket is kneeling on the floor praying, Henry’s men showed up and cut the top of Becket’s head off and killed him. People saw Becket as a martyr and began traveling to the Cathedral to see the shrine or his body. Around 1538, Henry VIII split away the Catholic Church because he wanted to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon to marry another woman. Because he wanted to split against the church, he had to destroy the shrine and the bones of Thomas Becket.

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The massive size of the Canterbury Cathedral in comparison to humans.

Walking inside the cathedral was so surreal. There were so many shrines devoted to former archbishops and priests and this place also held a crypt for its bishops and had a section devoted to martyrs. I unfortunately couldn’t take any pictures in the crypt.

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The inside of the cathedral.

 

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The pulpit

We then embarked on a tour around the city of Canterbury. Our tour guide was a sweet, old lady named Maureen and she gave one of the coolest tours I’ve been on. She told us that the city of Canterbury’s architecture had two different styles: An older style dating back to the time of the Romans, and a modern style that was built after WWII. The old style was built with flint. The picture below is an example of the modern style that was built because German forces dropped bombs in this area in 1942. The Nazis planned to bomb the Canterbury Cathedral because of its significance but missed and hit parts of the city instead.

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A tower that still stands after the bombing of WWII. The tower is one of the things here made of flint.

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The King’s School of Canterbury, a private school with an annual tuition of 33,000 pounds or 45,000 US dollars.

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A house that Charles Dickens describes it in 1849

“… a very old house bulging out over the road … leaning forward trying to see who was passing on the narrow pavement below …” reads the tiny text in yellow that hangs above the leaning door. Maureen noted to us that this house started leaning because the builders placed a fireplace on the top floor and that created an imbalance for the house and the top two floors to tilt. The bottom floor remains upright, but the door was made slanted to match the leaning floors.

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A plaque honoring Christopher Marlowe, born in 1564, the same year as William Shakespeare. He was a rival playwright to Shakespeare and was said to have equaled him had Marlowe not faced an early death.

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A river that runs through the city of Canterbury

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An awesome flower bed that sits beside the river on the outskirts of the city

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Got a footlong bratwurst hot dog from a German food stand. This hot dog was worth the five pounds.

Our trip to canterbury was amazing. It was amazing because, on the train ride there, we got to tell a bunch of stories to each other like the travelers did in The Canterbury Tales. Our professors told us to either tell a story about your most embarrassing moment or your favorite vacation spot. I decided to tell an embarrassing moment because it was more entertaining and my favorite vacation spot is yet to come. (I’m going to Berlin, Germany in September and Cinque Terre, Italy in October) I don’t think I can share my story here because it’s a tad bit inappropriate, but nonetheless, our stories made our trip much more memorable.

 

 

Life In London

Today marks the beginning of my fourth week living in London. The past four weeks have been filled with an overwhelming amount of events, classes, and homework.  My routine normally consists of class time during the day, a play in the evening, and then homework in the night. Now, that I’ve found the time where I can slow down and gather my thoughts, I figured I should finally write some blog posts for this website.

I’ve found adjusting to the life in London was easy because it’s so familiar to the American Lifestyle. I’m currently staying in a hostel for international students in the Kensington area of London and it’s pretty much in the middle of everything that a tourist would ever dream of seeing. Within walking distance, there are three museums next to each other that pretty much tower over everything that I’ve ever seen in California.

 

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This is the Natural History Museum. One of the three museums I’ve talked about. It’s got a cool dinosaur exhibit and  other cool science stuff.

 

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The first thing that you’ll see when you walk through the door of the Natural History Museum.

 

We’re a ten-minute walk away from the London Underground, which is definitely one of the best ways to travel in London. In contrast to New York’s subway system and Paris’s Metro, the Underground is a lot cleaner and fluid. (Opinions from my friends here since I’ve yet to visit New York and Paris) The Tube( as the people call trains here) is pretty much our best friend because it helped me visit places such as Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, and Covent Garden.

 

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London Underground.

 

 

 

About two weeks ago, I’ve had one of the best and tiring weeks of my life because I was constantly doing something every single day. Let’s start with Wednesday, Aug. 10. Our class had the opportunity to go see the finale of BBC’s “The Choir” which is pretty much a knock-off version of “The Voice.” We went to Westminster Abbey at around noon to pick up our tickets, but we found out that they were going to start recording around 4pm. That gave us about 4 hours of free time to do whatever we wanted in Westminster. So, Breann, Julia, Mallory, Wylder, Leah, Joseph and I went inside Westminster Abbey for the first time. Westminster Abbey is one of the oldest churches in England and it’s where the new kings and queens get coronated and where Prince William and Kate Middleton got married. When we walked in, we found out that it wasn’t only a church, it was also a crypt. There were many tombs and memorials dedicated to the famous people of England. Many famous graves that we found were: Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, Bloody Mary(The Queen of England and not that creepy witch thing), Henry V, James VI & I, and many more English poets and monarchs.

 

 

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Westminster Abbey

 

We then watched the finale of “The Choir.” I hated it. The host was an unprofessional kid (he’s like 24 or something) who had to keep restarting the taping because he forgot one line. He also stopped one of the choir’s performances and told them to restart again. I’ve learned to see the behind the camera scenes of a television studio. The producers pretty much told the audience to do things, such as clap as if we’ve declared a winner so that they could film us doing it and then edit it in later. The final three choirs were also mediocre at best.  Lucky for some of us, we were seeing a play that made us leave the set early. The play that we saw was called ‘Children of Eden.” I also found out that my professor had contributed some lines in that play so that’s pretty cool. We saw this play in a minuscule backroom of some random pub on the outskirts of town. This play was SO much better than the choir. Children of Eden is a retelling of the classic bible stories like Adam and Eve and Noah and his ark. They had some cool twists in this production that made the play much more relatable. During the story of Adam and Eve, the production team made Cain kill his brother Abel because he was mad at his father, Adam for being controlling. The twist in Noah’s story was that one of his sons fell in love with a woman that bore the mark of Cain. So the son, Japheth, had the ultimatum of choosing his family or the love of his life. This was my awesome Wednesday in London.

The next day, Aug. 11, Katie, Jennifer, Leah, Joseph, and I visited the Tower of London. The Tower of London is not just a tower, but a huge castle. This castle held the Crown jewels, which were pretty much all the important crowns and jewels of past English monarchs. We got to see Queen Victoria’s crown which was the biggest by far. Her crown held the Koh-it-Noor diamond which weighed a massive 105 karats. Around the tower, there we many cool events going on like a medieval knight reenactment. We then went to the White Tower because that’s where all the armor held. We got to see one of the world’s biggest collection of weapons and armor. Once we reached the top, we found a mechanical dragon, which was totally random.

 

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Weird mechanical dragon we ran into.

 

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Tower of London Adventures

Later that night, all of us went to Shakespeare’s Globe. This was my first time at the Globe. The modern day Globe is just a replica of the one in Shakespeare’s time because the original burned in a fire. We watched the play “946” which was a story of the horrendous story of Operation Tiger. Operation Tiger was a time where during World War II, American troops were practicing their naval routine, but because of numerous mistakes that day, the Americans accidently ran into German submarines and the Germans attacked the Americans. 946 American soldiers died that day. The play wanted to educate us about this event because both the British and American government tried to cover it up.

 

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The stage of Shakespeare’s Globe.

 

 

Aug.12, A lot of us visited Windsor Castle, which is the oldest inhabited castle in England. Windsor was about an hour and a half train ride from London and the city itself is beautiful. It was a small town next to the countryside. The beauty of the city lies in the contrast of the verdant green countryside mixed with the antiquated brick roads. We saw the living quarters of the previous monarchs of England. Pretty much all the monarchs of England’s history has lived here.

 

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A view of the castle.

 

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Small alleyway in the streets of Windsor.

Aug. 13, Cassie, Rebecca, Alex, Mallory, Sarah and I visited Hampton Court Palace because everyone else who was taking the Shakespeare class were in Cambridge. Hampton Court Palace THE biggest place I’ve visited so far and it’ s my favorite so far. The palace itself is bigger than Windsor Castle and the Tower of London. There were also a ton more gardens that made the place humungous. The gardens were essentially parks. We first visited the hedge maze, which was one of the largest hedge mazes of the world and we managed to conquer it in five minutes. We then visited the Magic Garden and released our inner child because the Magic Garden is a huge playpen for kids. The interior was filled with so much history. It was the summer home for Henry VIII, Charles I, William III and Mary II and many others.

 

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Henry VIII’s Majestic Rose Garden. Used to be a place for Henry VIII where he used to joust before he got fat.

 

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William III’s Privy Garden

 

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Maze Adventures.

 

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Cool channel that fuels the fountains.

 

 

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The Palace Itself

I’m glad that I’ve gotten the chance to sit down, relax, and reflect on what I’ve done the past few weeks. If you’ve made it this far, I want to thank you for reading this. I’m hoping to post more the following weeks that I’m here.