Another trip to London…

June 10, 2009

Today, I remembered an entry I wrote many months ago (back when I was updating more regularly). While in a somewhat depressed mood, feeling blue because my friends were studying abroad for the semester, I vowed to travel more. The thought was, “Hmm. I’ve got this money. I don’t really need to save it. Why not spend it on something frivilous that I will actually not regret a few days after?”.  That seems a reasonable explanation, if not entirely true. More accurately, “Damn. My closest friends are moving away in my last semester, I am moving to another country soon after they return, and I am already feeling out of the loop. Emotions. Double Damn.” So, I made this semi-public assurance to myself that I would see them in one of my travels this semester, while attempting to acclimate to a life of travel and friend destabilization.

As I mentioned soon after making that promise, I had bought a ticket to London on Student Universe, which was incredibly cheap at the time (something like $450+/- round trip). Thank god, I am a student: real life is too expensive! Anyway, I put off life (Italian lectures, 4 jobs, and free meals at the dining halls) for 10 days and traveled across the pond to see Jess and Meredith, who seemed to be in their touristic element while in London, seeing every site possible and making 3+ facebook albums for each. As such, I was excited to see them (who will deny the appeal of being tagged in a bundle of facebook photos? Not Narcissist, not me!).

Nido Student Residence

Nido Student Residence

It was certainly a welcome change to see them again and live an entirely ridiculous life in London together. When, but in these years of your life, can you pick up and leave your home one day, and live together with your friends in the (slightly off) center of London the very next? It is a fantastic feeling of power. To be honest, the reality of a temporary life abroad wasn’t as glamorous. Both Jess and Meredith lived together in NYU’s London housing unit, called Nido, in which each suite is roughly the size of a large walk-in closet with a bathroom (the size of a very small closet) and two beds. Situated in Islington, very nearby St. Pancras and King’s Cross Stations, Nido looks like an improved version of the monstrosity on 3rd & 13th in Manhattan: colorful, but what the hell were they thinking? After rearranging the room a bit, we had a large king size bed to share among the three of us and little standing room to move about in. Not a penthouse at the Ritz, but snazzy enough for the likes of me (Did I mention that it was a free place to stay?).

It was one of those very perfect vacations, where relaxation can somehow coexist with business and checking things off the to-do list. We never planned in advance. We went with the flow and did things that interested us all. And I loved it so very much. Here is an account of the trip (of what I remember of it, that is):

  • Two West End shows: Sunset Boulevard & La Cage aux Folles.

J & M outside "Sunset Boulevard"

J & M outside "Sunset Boulevard"

Sunset Boulevard: A well-reviewed revival Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical interpretation of the classic 1950’s film. With minimal sets, a small cast (playing their own instruments, as is currently favored), and an intimate theatre, this production makes an overwhelming score and story seem more gritty. Rather than a tableau of replicated scenes from the film, the small size of this incarnation gives the feeling of a psychological study, which works well in a show with two main leads. I am sure the size also accounts for the length of this show’s run, which (without a star) would not be very long if they maintained the high costs associated with the original Patti LuPone and Glenn Close productions. Overall, enjoyable (though still over-the-top). I am told it is closing soon.

Graham Norton as Zaza

Graham Norton as Zaza

La Cage aux Folles: After struggling to convince Jess and Meredith to see this production, which features Graham Norton, we saw this outstanding show on the last night of my trip. I am so thrilled we did (and even more so that it is now being transplanted to New York). Though Mr. Norton seemed to be quite ill at our showing- or else just a bad singer-, he was still absolutely hilarious in a show that is absolute heaven! Jerry Herman’s fantastic score is so moving and powerful (in spite of the melodrama of it all) that you can hardly resist singing with them by the end. Much better than the movie, I say! And I have since discovered the Royal Variety performance with the would-be Albin/Zaza in New York, Douglas Hodge. Favorite song at 4:50 min.

  • Running in London. Apparently, the weather was warm enough in February to run about the town. Or maybe I had consumed a few too many fish & chips meals with Guinness and could pretend it was warmer than it actually was out of necessity. Regents Park with Meredith was probably the best place to run, where there was little to disturb us but thousands of ducks and geese. And it was very nearby Nido, which helped. Other random runs were an excellent way to explore, as well.

    Regents Park

    Regents Park

  • Breakfast at the Tate Modern’s Ground Level Cafe. The girls had class one morning, and I had to throw together the final script for Julius Caesar. So, I walked myself down to the Thames, crossed, and went into the Tate Modern for a little breakfast. No art, just tasty treats. Far too many cups of tea later, I had finished editing and had successfully people watched for over two hours. Success.

    Tate Modern Cafe

    Tate Modern Cafe

  • Shopping on Oxford Street. One of the many benefits of a worldwide recession is a decreased Pound-to-Dollar exchange rate. While there, it was 1 Pound to 1.46 Dollars…much better than the 1 to 2 of my trip six months earlier. Jeans from Zara were roughly $10. Trench coat from Uniqlo was about $45. Spending excessive amounts in a faltering economy…priceless.

    Oxford Street

    Oxford Street

  • Random & exceptionally long walks! I love walking cities, and I truly believe that walking is the only way you can really get to know a city. Therefore, I forced Jess and Meredith to walk everywhere (except on Jess’ birthday when everyone was in heels and we took the tube). We discovered the lovely canal bank leading to Camden town. Small boutique shops with gorgeous clothes at cheap prices lined streets we discovered. By the end of my trip, Jess and Meredith always asked me where we were and if we were near something. Even if I had no idea, at least I could give the appearance of knowing the city from all my walking.

    The canal to Camden

    The canal to Camden

  • Fish & Chips. So very many take out boxes of fish & chips. I nearly positive that my blood has been replaced by cooking oil entirely.

    My meal of choice, Fish & Chips

    My meal of choice, Fish & Chips

Enjoy some of the other (odd & random) photos from the trip, taken from Jess.

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