Sunday, 3 October 2010

Of Pirates, Panic, and Precipitation

September 27 – October 2

So it’s Monday, and we thought we had a pretty exciting Monday afternoon planned. After class we were supposed to be going to go to the Painted Hall. Unfortunately, Jerry Bruckheimer thought differently. In class, we heard that the Painted Hall was closed possibly due to the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean 4, so we headed to the National Maritime Museum for extra credit (and, of course, to see the museum). On the way, we obtained visual confirmation that indeed, Pirates was being filmed here, as was evidenced by the movie set being constructed a block from the museum. NO I DIDN’T F*ING SEE JOHNNY DEPP, SO DON’T ASK! Anyway, it was interesting to see a set being built, and to see the props and actors (extras) all dressed up with their old English clothes, wigs, etc. However, it did irk me a bit to think that they closed down a public exhibition like that just for a movie shooting.

In the program, we have “mentors” who are supposed to be looking out for us. Mine is Nick, who is awesome and only 2 years older than me. I hadn’t met him before this night, but from our emails up to that point, he sounded pretty solid. Anyway, we had an alumni night, where all kinds of alumni (mentors and not) who live in England or happened to be passing by met up at this pub and we just socialized. I. Hate. Mass-socializing. It’s awkward and it’s too chaotic, tow things I can’t stand. My attention gets pulled in a thousand directions and I wind up just standing there, which I did for about 20 minutes. Thankfully, my mentor showed up, so I did some much needed catching up with him for about 40 minutes. Feeling more comfortable with the pub, I then started to engage other alums, though I was still awkward because that’s just how I am. After another hour, we all migrated to a Chinese restaurant. It was a set dinner, but still delicious, and it gave me a chance to interact with even more alums.

Tuesday was really boring with one exception: going to see The Merry Wives of Windsor. Now, I am not a HUGE fan of Shakespeare, though I think he’s all right. Anyway, we were instructed to read the text before seeing the play, and the text SUCKED BALLS. I hated it. It was pretentious and had side plots that went nowhere. We went to the Globe Theatre, which also gave me chance to walk over the Millennium Bridge, part of my rising junior summer research. Anyway, to put it briefly, the play ruled. It was hysterical. It is so interesting how all that pretentious B.S. becomes a comedic masterpiece with the simple additions of a visual component and voice inflections.  We had to stand the whole 2.5-hour play, but it was worth it and I had a great time. This is now my new favorite play so far.

Wednesday, we visited Brighton for Art and Architecture. Brighton is on the South coast and is a beach town that seems to be half-stuck in the 60’s.
Psychedelic, baby.
Then we made our way to the Pavilion, but first we went by the former royal stables.
Those must have been large horses.
The Pavilion is an interesting building with an exterior of predominantly Indian motifs and an interior with predominantly Chinese motifs (no pictures allowed inside; sorry). There was also a strange art exhibit being displayed in the Pavilion. Thousands of black ceramic butterflies were everywhere. It actually kind of freaked me out, especially the ones hanging by the windows. It reminded me of The Birds.
We toured the building and were then set loose to do what we wanted for about 40 minutes, when we needed to start heading back for our next class. First we visited the beach. Though it was exceptionally rocky…
… the coastline itself was beautiful, and we also walked on the pier for a bit.

Oh no! We’re running late. We made a mad dash through Brighton for the train station, only to get on the platform as the train departed. Bad luck. Oh wait. There a train in 6 minutes that takes only ten minutes longer to get to London. Good luck. We got on the train, waited a while, and arrived at Victoria Station. Finally we head back ho- “An emergency has been reported. All passengers must leave the station.” Then an alarm sounded for five seconds. Then the announcer lady said, “An emergency has been reported. All passengers must leave the station.” Then the alarm sounded for five seconds. This cycle repeated over and over. The station became really packed as everyone tried to exit at the same time. Steve, Michelle, and I got separated from the group, and the situation was overall unnerving. The evacuation was caused by a strange smell that cause 4 people to faint, though we would not find this out until after dinner. Continuing on, we did not know which exit we used at Victoria, but we needed to get away from the mob, so we walked in some (wrong) direction. It took a while (though not an excessive amount of time) before we got to class… last. However, it was so good to see redundancy in the system. The fact that Victoria was rendered unusable did not stop the system from operating; you just had to go around the station, and we were still able to get back. Let’s just hope Iceland doesn’t decide to cough in Europe’s face again the day we are supposed to head back to the States.

After Theatre class on Thursday, we went straight to the train station to start our Manchester/York trip (which was really just a York trip). After two hours on the train, we arrived in Manchester. The first thing we did was go to MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry). While the museum looked like it had potential, it was ruined by the fact that we had an assignment that was very vague. Therefore I spent the entire hour taking pictures of the text pieces because I cannot write fast enough. I didn’t really “see” anything the whole time I was there. Very disappointing.

The next thing we did in Manchester was visit… another museum called the People’s History Museum, which traces significant social events, concepts, art, etc. as it relates to current freedoms. This was actually a very interesting museum, but the guide was not the best, and we still did not get to do anything we wanted to do. Well Manchester was a hoot, so then we got on a train for York. Honestly though, Manchester was a damn shame. We saw so many neat things to do on the bus ride to the train station, and all we did the whole time was see 2 museums in a very non-constructive manner.

When we arrived at York, it was drizzling, but we do not stop for rain so we headed toward the hostel, which was 20 minutes away. Midway, it began to rain kind of hard. It blew. We got to the hostel and rested for a bit before going out to find dinner. To our surprise, we could not find anything within a 10-minute radius of us. I wound up eating a doner (lamb) pizza at this tiny shop. Afterwards we hung out at a pub for a little while and finally headed back to the rooms. We had a television in our room, so we made use of that (game show, weather, The Matrix Reloaded), and then Steve spotted a HUGE spider.
Yes, it is a significant percentage the size of Steve’s hand.
After releasing it into the wild (out the window), we went to bed.

The next morning started out with a tour by what is right now my favorite tour guide. First we went on a tour of York with what would be my favorite tour guide yet. However, while the guide was funny, interesting, and informative, the 2+-hour tour did not actually take us that far from where we started, which was a shame because we did not actually get to see much of the city (also, IT POURED THE WHOLE F*ING DAY). I particularly enjoyed his little stories about how certain discoveries were made, which were usually by accident with someone doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing.
Our next tour was of York Minster Cathedral, seat of the Archbishop. Our intended tour guide waited for us in the wrong spot but found us later, so we had half of the tour with one guy and half with another. I couldn’t hear the first guy very well, but he was extremely detail oriented. After semi-briefly giving us the history of the building, he spent the next 40 minutes talking about the meanings and histories of all the medieval glass. Then he took us into the chapterhouse and showed us several dozen interesting stonework designs and what they mean. Like I said, detail oriented. It was about this time that our intended tour guide showed up and took over where the other left off. He continued about some more interesting individual characteristics of the building, including an entire section of ceiling designed by children (read Maddox’s I am Better than Your Kids to get an explanation of why you shouldn’t let children actually design things). As it turns out, young teens were also allowed to participate so some of the designs were good. We then went into the lower (modern) level, where we were shown the ingenious engineering steps taken to prevent the tower from moving. Down there were also some discovered artifacts as well as remnants from the original minster. Throughout both stores I mainly just stared at the pretty interior. Here are some pictures (exterior and interior):
The last activity of the day was called Jorvik ,another informational ride that had a mechanism identical to the Annie McLeod Experience (only it seated more). This ride was also equally pointless, as once again you could have just walked through this section. Despite the more infamous subject (Vikings), this ride was not scary at all, and involved no spirits trying to steal your soul. After the ride, the exhibit had a redeeming walk-through section that proved very interesting with several interactive bits. The gift shop was cool too; they sold medieval axes for £70. After the exhibit, I went off on my own for a bit to think, but met up with Steve and Michelle for dinner at Pizza Express, which was amazing. I was unfortunately not that hungry, so I only had about half of mine. Back at the hostel, Steve and I played The Logo Game, which was impossible. We also were not helped by the fact that it dealt primarily with logos in the UK. We went to sleep afterward.

Finally on Saturday morning we went to the NRM (National Railway Museum). One again, the museum looked like it had a lot of potential, but the tour was very disorganized (especially when they tried to show the inside of carriages to 25 people, when they only seat between 5 and 10). On top of that, I couldn’t hear the tour guide at many points in the tour. Thirdly, he had this knack for showing us interesting things that were not actually relevant. For instance, is seeing Eisenhower’s chair neat? Yes. Does it tell me anything useful? No. However, as always, it was fun to look at trains.
The ride back was fine, and since we ended up at King's Cross, we decided to see platform 9 and three quarters (you need a ticket to get onto the platforms and since our rail passes were good for the day we decided to use them). We got off and got onto platform 9. We walked down only to find out that oh wait, you need to go onto platform 8 to get to platform 9 and three quarters, which makes perfect sense.
Since I can see it, I am obviously a wizard.
The rest of the day consisted of a nap and going out for a friend's birthday.

No comments:

Post a Comment