All the world’s a stage…

…especially in London! Thanks to my school offering lots of really cheap theater tickets, I saw five shows in eight days this week at three different venues.

View of the Globe Theater from the Millennium Bridge (white building).

View of the Globe Theater from the Millennium Bridge (white building).

On Thursday, I saw the first of two shows at the Globe theatre: Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The Globe is a really cool venue that is an approximate copy of what it would have looked like in Shakespeare’s time. And the fact that it exists is really thanks to…Joe McCarthy and HUAC? Yep. The Globe was built by Sam Wanamaker, an American actor who was blacklisted in the 1950s due to his affiliation with the Communist Party. He came to England and made restoring the Globe his life’s work. Like in Shakespeare’s day, most of the seating in the Globe is standing and the theater top is open so if it’s raining, you better bring a jacket! Standing ticket cost only 5 pounds, which is a real bargain considering the quality of the shows they put on.

People wait for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" to start at The Globe.

People wait for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to start at The Globe.

I had never seen or read “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” before but I really enjoyed the show. The actors were hilarious and it was a really fun time. Two days later, I saw “Macbeth” at the Globe, which was also a great but different experience. Macbeth is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays and I’ve read it a few times but this was the first time I saw it performed. The actors did a fantastic job here as well and I really enjoyed it. As a bonus, the show featured Billy Boyd (Pippin in Lord of the Rings) as Banquo. He did a great job!

"Much Ado About Nothing" at the Old Vic.

“Much Ado About Nothing” at the Old Vic.

In between these two shows at The Globe, I also saw “Much Ado About Nothing” at the Old Vic, which turned out to be the one major disappointment of the week. The play was an updated version, which usually turns out either really well or falls really flat. This version starred James Earl Jones (The voice!) but the production as a whole was kind of dull and unexciting. The director made some interesting set choices as well, which didn’t help. (The entire set consisted of a giant polished wood square archway set up in the middle of the stage.)

So, London’s theatre record was no longer perfect, but it was definitely redeemed with a really outstanding performance of “Othello” at the National Theatre on Wednesday. This version of Othello was an updated version as well but the director pulled it off really well. The set, which consisted of two barracks houses could be moved around in all kinds of different configurations, which was really cool. The cast was also great, particularly the actors who played Othello and Iago.

The view from outside The National Theater.

The view from outside The National Theater.

The National Theatre itself is a neat place as well. It has multiple levels and multiple theaters inside and a cool complex outside. It’s also literally right next to the Thames and it was nice to sit outside and watch the river for a little bit since I got to the theatre early.

My week at the theatre ended with seeing “Spamalot” at the Playhouse Theatre in the West End. “Spamalot” is a loving rip-off of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and is a very silly show. I saw it when it was on Broadway several years ago and this British version was even more over the top than I remembered. But, it was a great way to end a week at the theatre!

Spamalot at the Playhouse Theater.

Spamalot at the Playhouse Theater.

Funny Little London Things

I’ve been in London for about two weeks now, which means I’ve been here long enough to notice the subtle differences in the everyday way people do things. Yes, there’s the accents and the love of tea and the British words but there’s a lot of other differences too. Some of them of funny, some of them are confusing and some of them are downright annoying. So, here are a few of my favorite London quirks I’ve encountered so far:

1. Yes, they drive on the wrong side of the road.


2. They really love queues (lines) and will give you dirty looks if you try to violate the sanctity of the queue. They even queue at bus stops.

3. They don’t refrigerate their eggs.


4. The outlets. You have to turn them on before they work.outlet

5. The money. They have one pound coins, two pound coins, two pence coins, twenty pence coins and fifty pence coins here. The smallest denominator bill is a five.


6. Dates and time. They use a lot of military time here. And the dates are written day-month-year, not month-day-year.

London bus tour and Greenwich

Last Sunday (yes, I know I’m way late on this) I got to go on a bus tour of London and then visit Greenwich. Best of all, the trip was run through Faraday, so it was free.

We met at Faraday on Sunday morning and then boarded coaches (buses) to go on a 2-hour bus tour of London. We went all over the city and got to see the Parliament buildings, Big Ben, the Thames, and several statues outside the parliament buildings of historical greats such as Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George, Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela.

But the highlight of the day was definitely getting to visit Greenwich. You can drive over there or take a train, but we chose the more fun option and walked through a tunnel that goes under the Thames and comes out right near Greenwich.

Photo credit: Claire Dunderman

Photo credit: Claire Dunderman

Once we got to Greenwich, we had a few hours to walk around and grab lunch. One of my favorite things about England/Ireland so far has been the prevalence of these awesome markets where you can buy food and tons of other fun stuff. The Greenwich Market was no different. People were selling clothes, jewelry, paintings, books and lots and lots of food!

Photo credit: Claire Dunderman

Photo credit: Claire Dunderman

For lunch, we stopped at a vendor that was selling meals consisting of various combinations of meat, potatoes and cheese. The meal I got was made up of strips of beef, carmelized onions, potatoes, melted cheddar cheese, gravy and Yorkshire pudding. It was delicious! I have never tried Yorkshire pudding before and was kind of disappointed to find that it didn’t taste like anything, even when soaked in gravy.

Photo credit: Claire Dunderman

Photo credit: Claire Dunderman

For dessert, we got chocolate covered fruit from a nearby stand. There was probably more chocolate than fruit, but the fruit was definitely in there somewhere under all that chocolate.


The painted hall

After that, we wandered through the grounds of the Royal Naval College. One of the highlights of this was getting to see the beautiful painted hall and the chapel. Both were gorgeous and covered in plenty of ornate carvings and paintings.

The last stop of the day was the Greenwich Prime Meridian and the Royal Observatory Tower, both of which were located on top of a giant hill with some incredible views.

I’ll be going to some more places in and around London this weekend and will try to post about them next week. Our flat gets wifi in two weeks, and after that I will definitely be posting more regularly.


View from the Royal Observatory

View from the Royal Observatory


The Prime Meridian

Hello London!

Hello all, I have finally arrived in London!

I have to apologize for the lack of updates as the hotel we’re currently staying at does not have free wifi so it’s been harder to find time and internet to update this blog.

I arrived in London Monday afternoon and spent the previous 10 days visiting Ireland and Northern Ireland as part of a pre-semester class. My experience in Ireland was amazing and I’ll be putting up a few blog posts in the next couple days talking about that trip.

We’re currently staying at the St. Giles Hotel, which is right off of Oxford Street in Central London. On Saturday, I’ll be moving into the flat I’ll be sharing with four other SU students for the rest of the semester. The flat is on the top floor of the building (penthouse!) and has a nice terrace, three bedrooms, a kitchen and a nice living room space with couches and a TV.  The flat is located near the Notting Hill area and a few blocks from Hyde Park (for those who are Tube-literate, the nearest stop is Queensway). Pictures to come on Saturday.

Faraday House (Taken from the SU website)

I’ll be taking my classes at Faraday House, SU’s center in London. Faraday is about a 10 to 15 minute tube ride from my flat and is located in the Bloomsbury section of London. Classes start on Monday and I will only have class Monday through Wednesday. In addition to the Ireland prequel class, I will be taking four other classes: Contemporary British Politics, America: A Foreign Perspective, Race, Gender and the Media, and Food, Culture and Identity.

The Thames River at night

The Thames River at night

I’ve been pretty busy looking for a flat and getting settled in London since I got here but we did have some time yesterday for some late night sightseeing. We walked down to St. Paul’s Cathedral then walked along the Thames River, crossed over a bridge and then walked to the London Eye before finding a pub to talk and rest from our mini walking tour. London is beautiful at night and there is so much to do. I think I’m going to love it here.

The London Eye!

The London Eye!

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral