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Penultimate Picspam

Well, it's about time to wrap things up around here, but I've still got a few more things left to share -- an army of pictures, for one. Here are some random moments -- odds and ends, really -- that seem to particularly capture the spirit of this trip.

And one for the road.


Jul. 12th, 2009

I'm home again, and miss England already. More of a post later -- just wanted to say that the plane ride was entirely uneventful yesterday, and I am back in the USA. :D


Hey guys!

Currently I'm at Gatwick airport in London, using one of those pay-as-you-go internet kiosks. Just wanted to let you know that I'll be home soon!

Irrational Firewalls...

Hi, guys. This is Grace posting on behalf of Erika, who's currently battling a completely irrational firewall at ACS that's now decided to block LJ. Luckily she's found a way around it, courtesy of moi...

Okay, for real though, this is Erika. I haven't got too long, but I'll tell you about some of the stuff we did yesterday and today, unfortunately without pictures...

+ We went to Westminster Abbey, which was beautiful. The lack of pics in this post doesn't really matter, because we weren't allowed to take any inside anyway, but oh, it was lovely. The ceiling looks like stone lacework, and everything's absurdly and beautifully ornate. There are graves all over the floor, and while it was a bit weird to be walking on dead people the entire time, I did get to see (the graves of) some people I know -- Isaac Newton for one, who's been my bane ever since Physics class, and Charles Darwin, who I still maintain a fondness for as a fellow biologist. Chaucer was a few rooms away, and Charles Dickens was chilling near him (I stood on his grave especially for you, Kallie.) *laughs* It was definitely interesting, and I wish we'd spent a bit more time there. It was really quite peaceful and lovely.

+ We spent some time on Baker Street, and, of course, went to 221. There's a wonderful picture of me and Francesca standing on the doorstep with a poor dressed-up 'policeman', both of us wearing respective caps -- she was Watson and I was Holmes -- and grinning like idiots. I shall have to put it up when I return. (I looked for Basil, Kallie, but I'm afraid he was nowhere to be found.)

+ That night we went to go see The Importance of Being Earnest in an open-air theatre at West End. The show was wonderfully funny, and the set design was very clever -- simple and oddly futuristic-looking, but it worked out all right. I now have a deep and undying affection for Oscar Wilde, who is absolutely hilarious, has a razor wit, and is quite a character himself in his own right. He's been dead for a while, obviously, but it only seems fitting to talk about him in the present tense because his work is still very much alive.

+ This morning we watched the film adaptation of Virginia Woolf's novel Orlando, which was definitely one of the trippiest movies I've seen in a while, and starred a time-travelling, gender-bending Tilda Swinton, AKA the White Witch from the Chronicles of Narnia. Very peculiar, very interesting.

+ I've discovered that Earl Grey tea and Jaffa cakes (a vanilla cookie with a bit of chocolate and a disc of orange jelly on top, not food for Teal'c) are a wonderful snack combination.

I should really go study and pack now. We've got a quiz bowl coming up, and I still haven't memorized The English Throne rhyme entirely, and my closet is distressingly full of unpacked articles of clothing. I'm not sure how many more times I'll update before I'll get home, but Grace, I'm sure, will be the first to pass new information along. (Thanks, dear.)

Yet another picspam.

 Yesterday we went to the Tate Modern and St. Paul's Cathedral. Because pictures in the former were not allowed, I just decided to take a bunch after climbing up five hundred-odd steps to get to the roof of the latter. 

Well hello there.

Have an approximate panorama, spinning from left to right across the Thames:

A few points of interest on the above -- the building with the giant smokestack in the first picture is the Tate Modern, which used to be a power station. You can see part of the Globe theatre there in the first pic too, off to the bottom left. The London Eye is in the fourth picture. Neither of the pictured bridges are London Bridge, alas.

Now, once again, I'm off to breakfast.


Have some pictures from France.

We visited a lot of memorials and battlefields. Well, at least it felt like a lot.

Here's a church at Arrais...

...and a monument to the French dead over an ossuary for unknown soldiers. I once laid the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in DC, but there were hundreds of unnamed dead buried here. It messed with me a little.

Fragments of a destroyed monument. This was peculiarly moving.

Welcome to a trench. It's badly overgrown and filled-in, but this was the German line.

Thank you for the brief humorous reprieve, badly-worded French sign.

Yup, barbed wire.

They graze sheep here rather than cut the grass for two reasons: the ground is torn to bits from bombardments and still looks like a crumpled piece of paper almost a century later, and unlike machines, sheep aren't as likely to set off unexploded shells still buried in the dirt.

Hello, war machine.

We read war poems in this series of trenches. The on-again, off-again torrential rain made things a little more authentic.

A sobering day overall, but there are stories here that needed to be told and remembered.


Dulce et decorum est...

...pro patria mori.

Today's been kind of grim. We visited the War Museum in London, and if you know me at all, you probably know how those sorts of exhibits get to me.

There was a model of a trench that was alarmingly realistic, down to the smell. Dear God, the smell was horrible. I had to completely avoid the Holocaust bit, because last time I saw something along those lines in Washington DC I wound up half-collapsed on a bench in the middle of the room, crying for about ten minutes. and I preferred to avoid repeating that experience here. The whole thing was terrible and sad, but I suppose it did its job well.

Therefore, dearest friends-list and followers: tell me about something that made you smile today.

Also, we're going to France tomorrow, so bedtime's early. Mi familia, if you wanna call to chat, my extension is 440-1932-867-251-8015. Call around fiveish your time, and I'll be around.

Marmite for Breakfast

~An Impromptu Culinary Drama~

This... I don't even know. This was loosely transcribed from breakfast yesterday, and provides two things -- an insight into our group dynamic, and a strong anti-Marmite sentiment. My dear people, DO NOT GO NEAR THAT STUFF. Anyway:

"Look what I've got."

"What is it?"

(A small plastic container holding a brownish goo is presented to the breakfast table.)


"Yeah, but what is it?"

"It's some sort of yeast extract...compound...thing.  I actually have no idea. In Australia it's called Vegemite.You're supposed to put it on toast."

(There is a collective grimace from the group.)

"It looks pretty weird."

"I know, but I'm going to try it anyway. It's for science!" (At this point a butter knife is brandished dramatically in the air.)

"Thank you, Spock."


(Marmite is applied dubiously to a piece of toast, and a bite is taken after much hesitation.)


"Um. Well. That was....bizarre. It's like..." (a moment is taken to summon the proper metaphor) "...the bastard child of soy sauce and a bullion cube. Gone horribly, horribly wrong."

"Ew. That's disgusting. ...Let me have a bite."

"What is this stuff? Does this even qualify as food?? Good lord."

"Um, wow. No."

"Epic fail."

"You can say that again."

"Okay. Epic fail."

(The communal Marmite-besmirched toast is passed around the table like some absurd and distinctly British ritual. The Americans, as a whole, don't much care for it. The Swede is indifferent and takes a large bite, to the awe of the rest of us.)

"Oh, look, you've found some Marmite! What do you think?"

"Hi, Mr. Powell. It was very...interesting."

"People usually love it or hate it, you know."

"It's not that we hate it, exactly. We'd just think the world would be a bit better off without it --"

" -- Yeah, I'd never put that in my mouth again."

(Cue inevitable 'that's what she said' jokes and laughter as breakfast dissolves.)

Sorry I've been out for a while -- things have been hectic here. I haven't got long to write, but a few brief snippets from the last couple of days:

+Yesterday we went to Portsmouth. We checked out the HMS Victory (what Nelson was on during the Battle of Trafalgar, for you history buffs) and did a good bit of shopping. I'm bringing home an absurd number of presents for you people. :D

+Today we went to Wales. It's really quite beautiful there. We got to go into Big Pit, which was...well, a mine. A very deep, ominous mine. It was absurdly cramped in some parts of the shaft, and for most of the time I was bent almost double, but it was pretty cool. My Converses are still covered in schmutz from the floor there.

Have some nice hills.

And this fantastic old abbey. Cathy, I thought of you.

+We also learned about the Romantic movement, and so went and sat up on a hill and sketched naturey things for a while this afternoon. Behold:

Garden gate.

And plantlife.

Okay, off to dinner. More later. I still have to tell you about Marmite.

Star-struck, not star-crossed

Well, yesterday was probably my favorite day trip in a long series of day trips. We went to Shakespeare's Globe to see As You Like It, and seriously? It was the best theatrical production I've seen in my life, and this includes Hairspray on Broadway, fourth-row-center. Oh my gosh. The actors were fantastic -- truly fantastic -- and the entire show was uniquely wonderful. It amazed me how such an old text could have such life even today. Aside from the occasional plane going anachronistically overhead, this could have been anywhere in time back to five hundred years ago. What a neat concept, no?

I wish I could have taken pictures during the performance, but alas, there were rules against that. I did, however, get to be a groundling -- one of the people who stands on the floor beside the stage. It was so, so cool -- we could have reached out and touched the actors if we'd wanted to. Most of us girls would up with a slight thing for Orlando, (Jack Laskey, who looked a bit like a mop-haired David Tennant) but Melancholy Jaques was another favorite. He was something of an amusingly sardonic emo, rather like a combination of Severus Snape and Marvin the Robot from Hitchhikers' Guide, and broke the fourth wall on occasion to great effect. He's also the speaker of the (in)famous All The World's A Stage monologue, which we all had to memorize here.

Oh, yeah, and I got his autograph. *huge, rediculous grin*

Apparently it's okay to be a bit of a creeper and hang around the stage doors post-production in the hopes of meeting some of the actors, and our group did just that. So when Tim McMullan -- Jaques, that is -- came out, we bounded or sheepishly slunk up to him to fangirl and ask for autographs. He was so nice, and obliged. BEHOLD:

I now have a legit autograph from a legit actor and movie star. *bounces* But this...

...was even cooler. *glee*

This show reminded me of why I really love theater. Watching a really great show gives you a buzz like no other. I've seen a lot of awesome things here in England, but so far, this has definitely been the highlight of the trip!