London 2018: The Globe Theatre

Day 9, Monday, July 2, 2018

Next we wandered over to the Globe Theatre.  The Globe is a replica of the original theatre that was built in 1599 by Shakespeare’s theatrical company.  It opened in 1997 only 750 feet from the location of the original theatre, and is as historically accurate as they could make it, accounting for the fact that they only have incomplete information about what the original theatre looked like, and of course, modern building codes.  They had to get a special exception to top the open-air theatre with a thatched roof.  The theatre once again features Shakespeare’s plays, and you can either get a seat in the gallery, a box seat, or one of the “cheap seats,” in the standing room only section.

Outside of the Globe

The original Globe Theatre was only standing from 1599 to 1613, when it was destroyed by fire.  A second version was built in 1614 and was dismantled after a City ordinance in 1642 banned theatres because of the “inappropriate” content in plays.  It was the Puritans, you know…

We went on the tour of the theatre, and had a bit of time before our tour to check out the exhibits below the theatre.  They have an exhibit on the recreation of the theatre, and the research that went into creating a theatre that was as close as possible to the original.  They also had several artifacts on display that were unearthed from the original theatre, where a partial excavation was done in the late 1980s.  There were also a number of costumes and set display items from the various plays that have been put on at the new Globe Theatre, as well as costumes from Hollywood versions of Shakespeare’s plays.

The tour explained how the theatre would have worked back in the 1600s.  First of all, women wouldn’t be there, neither as actors nor as spectators.  It was not considered acceptable for women to go to the theatre, which was essentially located in the red light district of London.  Additionally, the place would have stank to high heaven!  Bathing wasn’t much of a thing back then, and there weren’t any restrooms in the theatre.  If you had to go to the bathroom, there were buckets.  When you consider that the men watching the show would likely have been drinking a lot of beer, and the buckets were probably getting knocked over by drunk men, ewww…  There was a reason the people in the standing area in front of the stage were called Penny Stinkers.  That area cost a penny.  Only the rich men could afford the box seats.

After our theatre tour, we headed back over to the Borough Market to get lunch.  We all split up and checked out the options; I wanted to try something English, so I looked around and settled on a Scotch Egg.  If you don’t know what a Scotch Egg is, here’s the scoop.  It is a soft boiled egg, wrapped in sausage meat (you can skip the sausage if you are vegetarian) and then wrapped in bread crumbs and deep fried.  Oh my, it was sooo delicious!  My egg came with some salad greens and I bought a Ceylon Earl Grey iced tea to round out my meal.  Street food at it’s finest!  We found a spot on a curb to sit and eat our lunch, and spent some time people watching.  A nice break in the middle of the day!

Costs: Globe Theatre – 17 pounds (free with London Pass), lunch at the Borough Market

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London 2018: Southwark Cathedral and The Golden Hinde

Day 9, Monday, July 2, 2018

We started our morning early and headed down to the London Bridge area of London.  We had only a few days left on our London Pass, and we wanted to get our money’s worth!  We did so much that day that I will be doing several posts!

Our first stop was the Old Operating Theatre Museum.  I really wanted to see it, because it is such an eclectic and kind of morbid museum.  Of course, I forgot that it was closed on Mondays – oops!  Don’t worry though, we did manage to get back there a few days later…

We then decided to wander over towards the Globe Theatre.  On our way, we ran into the Borough Market as they were setting up.  What a great market!  They had fruits, tarts, cakes, and all sorts of seafood, plus every kind of street food imaginable.  We decided to come back for lunch and continued on our way, so I’ll save the photos for our return visit.

Taryn and I stopped in at the Southwark Cathedral for a few minutes.  The Southwark Cathedral was built beginning in 1106 and up until 1538 it was the church of an Augustinian priory; a priory is a monastery.  Then came that period in English history when the monasteries were dissolved by Henry VIII, and the priory became a regular parish church.  In 1905, the Southwark Diocese was established in the Anglican church and the Southwark Cathedral officially became a cathedral.  Like most of the buildings in London that are almost 1,000 years old, the cathedral was built in stages and experienced a few fires along the way.

Southwark Cathedral

Excavations at the Southwark Cathedral – that’s a coffin (bottom L)!

The cathedral is largely built in the Gothic style, with flying buttresses and other Gothic features.  It is stunning!  Unfortunately there are no photos permitted inside, and the narrow streets make it impossible to get a good view outside, but you can get a free guidebook with the London Pass.

London has so much incredible history, so while we were walking we passed the ruins of Winchester Palace, which at one time was the home of the Bishop of Winchester.  Yes, please, I would live there…

The ruins of Winchester Palace, a bishop’s house

Our next stop was the Golden Hinde.  The Golden Hinde is an English galleon that became famous for circumnavigating the globe between 1577 and 1580, while captained by Sir Francis Drake.  Surely you have heard of Sir Francis Drake.  The ship was originally named the Pelican, but Drake renamed her the Golden Hinde to honor his patron, Sir Christopher Hatton.  Hatton’s family crest was a golden hind (a red deer).  Apparently hinde is spelled both ways, with the “e” and without, but the ship in London has the “e” on her name.  The original Golden Hinde was broken up in the late 1600s; the ship that is now dry-docked in London was launched in 1973.  Although it is a replica, it is sea-worthy and sails from time to time.

The bow of the Golden Hinde

As for Drake, the expedition made him a rich man.  It wasn’t without its disasters though.  Only the Golden Hinde completed the entire voyage out of the five ships that originally started it; the others either turned back or were lost.  That isn’t very good odds!  Drake did make it all the way around the world though, crossing from the Atlantic to the Pacific at the Straight of Magellan in what is now Chile, docking near what is now San Francisco to complete repairs to the ship, and sailing across the Pacific and around the Cape of Good Hope.  He was even knighted for his accomplishment.

The ship was interesting – we got to climb up and down the ladders, see the replica guns, experience the low ceilings and imagine what it would have been like to sail in the 1500s!

Tube Stations:  Earl’s Court to London Bridge
Costs: Southwark Cathedral – free (free guidebook with London Pass), Golden Hinde – 5.00 pounds (free with London Pass)

 

Random, Catching Up Book Reviews… (part 2)

In my last post, I started catching up on books I had listened to in the car on my road trip.  Here’s the rest of what I worked my way through in the last six months!

The Light Between Oceans, by M.L. Stedman

This novel is about a couple living on a remote island, where the husband keeps the lighthouse.  The wife is pregnant, but miscarries late in the pregnancy.  A few days later, a row boat washes up on shore with the body of a man, and a baby who is very much alive.  Where did they come from?  Where is her mother?  What do they do with her?  Is she a gift from God?  In their grief, and against more sound judgment, they decide to keep the baby and raise her as their own.  No one will ever know she wasn’t theirs…  Or will they?

The novel is excellent; exploring the fragility of grief and loss.  The reader can see both sides of the story, the tale of the couple as monsters who would steal a child who is not their own, and the desperate desire to have a child to call their own.  There is obviously a morally correct choice, but one can empathize with why they made the decision they did.  The problem is that everyone eventually suffers.  5 stars.

Lincoln’s Grave Robbers, by Steve Sheinkin

This is a brief book about that one time in November, 1876 when grave robbers attempted to steal Abraham Lincoln’s body from his tomb in Springfield, Illinois.  Why? Because they wanted to ransom it in exchange for the release of Ben Boyd, a talented engraver on the counterfeit currency market who was serving time in prison.  The plan might have gone off without a hitch, except for the fact that two of the men who were in on the plot were actually informants.  Oops.  Sadly, in addition to learning more about this strange event in Lincoln history, I also learned about just how poorly his body was treated after his death.  One more reason to be cremated…  I realized later that the book was written for the teen market, but it was still well written and well read.  3 stars.

Scrappy Little Nobody, by Anna Kendrick

Anna Kendrick was incredible in Up In the Air, a movie with George Clooney about consultants who travel the country implementing corporate downsizings.  I didn’t know that she was a child star, making her debut on Broadway at the age of 12.  She is witty and funny, telling her stories through a series of short chapters about life, trying to find love, and growing up as a child star.  She is really quite funny, and it shows through in her book.  She narrates the audio book version and does a great job with it too.  4 stars. 

Someday, Someday, Maybe, by Lauren Graham

I love Lauren Graham, the actress who played Lorelai Gilmore in Gilmore Girls.  She is whip-smart and witty, and can talk faster than one of my prior employees, which is really saying something.  But this first novel fell flat for me.  It is the story of Franny Banks, a young, aspiring actress trying to make it in New York City.  Unfortunately, the characters seem one-dimensional and false, and the writing style is choppy.  Add to it that Graham is the reader for this audio book version, and inexplicably, she is a terrible book reader.  I was shocked when I saw that this was a New York Times bestseller, which I can only imagine is due to Graham’s star power.  And just so you know, it pains me to write this, because I have so much respect for her acting work.  1 star.

The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough

The book – very good.  David McCullough is excellent.  He researches meticulously, and tells the story in a way that keeps his readers interest from beginning to end.  The Wright Brothers were incredible.  Neither one of them finished college, and were largely self-taught, yet they managed to get an airplane into the air to pioneer modern aviation!  The books follows their triumphs and their failures.  The adjustments that they had to make to their flying machine each and every time they tried to get it airborne would make all but the toughest in us quit; their resolve was very impressive.  It weaves in the story of their sister, who provided integral assistance, and the difficulties they sometimes had in getting their work recognized and marketed.  Everybody wanted a piece of the action and to claim the Wright Brothers’ accomplishments of their own.

I only had one gripe about this book (specifically the audio-book version).  David McCullough should not read his own work.  His monotone voice and flat rendition of the book threatened to put me to sleep, and I like history!  It needed someone more skilled in audio book reading…  4 stars.

 

I notice in this group of reviews, that the reader can really make or break a book.  Something for those publishers to really consider!

Random, Catching Up Book Reviews… (part 1)

I read a lot on my trip, just not in the typical way…  That is to say, I listened to a lot of audio books, as I drove an awful lot of miles.  It was soothing, and easy, except when driving in city traffic, then I found myself unable to concentrate on both the road and the book.

That said, here is a partial list of books that I have read and not-yet-reviewed from the last six months…

The Awakening, by Kate Chopin

The Awakening was written in 1899, and is considered to be one of the first novels to deal with women’s issues and feminism openly.  The main character, Edna, finds herself bored and unsatisfied in her role as a wife and mother, and longs for something more.  Eventually, he begins an affair with a man who is known for his dalliances with several women, and also falls in love with a younger man who understands that they cannot be together.  The novel explores Edna’s mental health, her examination of her role as a mother, and her feelings for the men in her life.  She strains against societal expectations while seeking her own happiness.  It is remarkable that this was written over 100 years ago, and it was certainly controversial at that time, for its depictions of female sexuality, her defiance of gender norms, and the depiction of depression and mental health issues.  Unfortunately, Chopin was ostracized after its release, and had trouble finding a market for her stories after this novel’s publication.

I thought it was excellent.  The novel is raw and real, and you can imagine yourself as Edna, trying to find her place in a world where she feels she doesn’t belong. The themes still resonate today.  5 Stars. 

Code Girls, by Liza Mundy

This is a book about the women hired by the Army and the Navy during World War II to break the codes that the Axis enemies were using to transmit coded messages.  There were several encryption machines in use by the Axis powers, so the ranks of women employees grew through time in an attempt to read the messages that Germany, Japan and other Axis powers were sending.  The book depicts the recruitment of the women from colleges and schools where they were teachers, their training, and their work, including the need for absolute secrecy.  Mundy does an excellent job of telling their stories, relying on interviews with many of the women, as well as from source documents at the time.  It is a little known piece of World War II, but these women were geniuses, and truly gave their time and talents to the country in an attempt to win the war. 5 stars.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I read this in high school, and decided to give it another read.  I remember it being “deeper” then, I suppose because my high school English teacher wanted us to find the symbolism in the work.  The failure of the American dream, the divide and disconnect between the wealthy and the rest of us, the playground mentality of the wealthy without regard for the consequences.  Don’t get me wrong, it is still an excellent novel, still full of the moral bankruptcy that I remember from the first time around.  It is also incredibly sad.  Gatsby, the Buchanans and their friend Jordan Baker, for all their money and privilege, are still unable to find any sort of happiness or sustainable meaning in their lives.  They drift from day to day with no regard for how their actions affect anyone, but not even finding any joy for themselves.  For sure, money can’t buy you happiness, but I think I could definitely do a better job of it than they do.  4 stars.

The Life We Bury, by Allen Eskens

This novel was an unexpectedly good read.  It follows the story of a college student, who on a project for his English class to interview an elderly person, finds himself meeting with a dying man who was tried and convicted for the rape and murder of a 14 year old girl 30 years before.  The young man becomes convinced that the elderly man is innocent, and it becomes a race against time to try to clear the man’s name before his cancer takes his life.  It is a fascinating psychological examination of the human condition, as well as stoking the aspirations of every armchair, cold-case sleuth.  There are several interesting plot twists and turns, and I was interested even before it got to be more of a thriller.  Honestly, without giving away the plot, I would have been more than happy had it just continued on its original, quiet path.  Either way, still very worth the read.  5 stars.

The Lonely Hearts Hotel, by Heather O’Neill

Two children grow up in a cold, cruel orphanage in the freezing winters of Montreal, and establish a connection that will last through time.  There is a fair amount of suspension of disbelief that must occur to enjoy this novel, but I did enjoy it.  It’s also not for the faint of heart, as Rose and Pierrot go through every possible hardship that one person could possibly face in their attempts to find themselves, scrape by, and find a bit of joy in this world.  I will warn you now – it is not an uplifting book.  Child abuse, prostitution, drugs, gang violence, pornography, child loss, street fighting… You name it, this novel covers it.  Impossibly, this historical novel (although I have trouble with the “historical” label -see above suspension of disbelief) still held my interest.  4 stars.

We’re Going to Need More Wine, by Gabrielle Union

I didn’t know much at all about Gabrielle Union before I chose this book; she’s black, and she’s an actor – that about sums up what I knew.  She is fascinating though!  Growing up in a middle class and almost exclusively white community in California, and spending summers back home in an impoverished Midwest community shaped this woman into an incredibly thoughtful, intelligent, tough and funny woman.  She dishes about her insecurities about being black, having skin that was darker than is considered “beautiful”, her teenage crushes, her efforts to mentor black youth now, and her opinions on Hollywood and the cut-throat games that people play – she relates all her anecdotes in a way that is both raw and very real.  She is also incredibly honest about her experience being raped and almost murdered while working at a Payless ShoeSource; it takes a lot of courage to tell her story, and I applaud her for it.  Just be aware, she drops the F-Bomb – a lot.  And since I was driving while listening, I never got to listen with wine…  4 stars.

 

 

Road Trip Photo Faves: Horses

Here is another of my favorite photos from my road trip.

It was cold, rainy, and oh-so-muddy (you can see a couple of errant rain drops on my camera lens) when I took this photograph of horses huddled outside the barn in the Fruita Rural Historic District, in Capitol Reef National Park.  I want to get back there on a better day for hiking.  And that pie, of course!

London 2018: The British Museum and Sunday Roast

Day 8, Sunday, July 1, 2018

On to the British Museum!  Until recently, I didn’t realize that the British Museum is one of the world’s most visited attractions.  I guess there are some other lovers of history out there, if perhaps only for an afternoon.  It was busy while we were there!  The British Museum has a huge collection of Egyptian artifacts, including statues and sarcophagi (who knew I would ever get to use the plural form of sarcophagus!), jewelry and figurines and other historically important items.

The museum’s most famous artifact though, is the Rosetta Stone.  The Rosetta Stone is granodiorite stele (an igneous rock similar to granite), that was found in 1799.  On it are inscribed three versions of a Egyptian decree from ancient times.  The three languages on the stone are ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic script (another ancient Egyptian script), and ancient Greek. Even though the stone is broken, and the texts are not complete, there are only small differences between the text in the three languages, so researchers were able to use translate the Egyptian hieroglyphs for the first time.  The Rosetta Stone has been on display continuously in England since 1802, although Egypt wants it back.  It will be interesting to see how that plays out!

Me with the Rosetta Stone

 

The Rosetta Stone writing

Taryn and I spent a bit of time wandering among the exhibits and checking things out. We also stopped in at the cafe for another cold caffeine pick me up.  It was hot in there!

The interior at the British Museum

We were still pretty tired from our late evening the night before, so we headed back to the hotel room and spent a bit of time relaxing, and looking into a day trip to the Cotswolds and Stratford Upon Avon.  We ended up booking it, so we had another excursion to look forward to!

London Street Scene

The guys were wrapping up their wanders for the day too, and Lia had to head back to York on the train, so the four of us met up at the Devonshire Arms pub for Sunday Roast.  This is certainly an English experience that is not to be missed!    For 17.50 pounds, we got roast beef, carrots, turnips, peas, potatoes, purple cabbage, and Yorkshire pudding.  It was soooo delicious!  I had a cider to go with mine.  I am now thinking back on it and craving this meal!

Sunday Roast!

 

A church near our hotel

It was an early night – we were back to the hotel at about 7:30.

Tube Stations:  Oxford Circus to Earl’s Court
Costs: British Museum – free, dinner at Devonshire Arms Pub – 17.50 pounds plus my cider
Fitbit Steps: 11,943

London 2018: Abbey Road and Cartoons

Day 8, Sunday, July 1, 2018

That morning, we slept in a little later, because we had been up so late the night before.  We were up at 8:40 and out the door around 10:30 am.  What can I say; it was Sunday…

Our first destination of the day was to fulfill a dream of Taryn’s.  To walk across Abbey Road and depict the famous Beatles album cover.  Of course, I have seen the cover, but I’m not a huge Beatles fan.  It did seem like fun to go do though!

Once we found the place, we set up our shot and tried to quickly get our pictures while pissing off the local drivers as little as possible.  No one honked at us; I’m sure if you live and drive near Abbey Road, you are used to it, but it was still nice to not get honked at.  In the US, you would definitely get honked at…  I do have to admit it was pretty entertaining playing the tourist in this way.  Taryn even took her shoes off to fully re-create it!  Lia offered to take the photos, which was so nice!

Our attempt at Abbey Road

Abbey Road is also the location of Abbey Road Studios, which was the recording studio that the Beatles were recording at.  Obviously, that’s why the album cover was shot right there – convenience!  The studio is closed to the public, but the wall outside has become a mecca for Beatles’ fans, well-wishers and people looking for some inspiration.  Next door to the studio is a gift shop, where you can buy Beatles items, and also sharpies for writing on the wall.  Taryn really wanted to do it, so we did…  What I wrote was truly inspirational, deep, and thought provoking – haha!

I needed some caffeine, so we headed over to a pub for a pick-me-up.  I had a Diet Coke and some avocado toast.  It was so yummy – I do love avocado toast!  At that point we got back on the Tube and headed over to the Oxford Circus neighborhood; the guys and Lia wanted to spend some more time checking it out.  Taryn and I were more interested in seeing the British Museum nearby, so we said our goodbyes to Lia and split up.

Taryn and I weren’t exactly sure where the British Museum was, but we figured that if we just wandered “that way”, we would run into it.  It is a very large building after all.  During our wanders, we saw the Cartoon Museum tucked down a side street and decided to take a few minutes to check it out, since it was included in our London Pass.  It was not a museum that I would have chosen otherwise, but it was interesting to see the cartoon art.  There was a lot of political art, and a bit surprisingly, a lot of cartoons from the World Wars.  I enjoyed checking it out!  It was a small museum, so it only took about 30 minutes to feel like we had seen everything.

On to the British Museum!

Tube Stations:  Earl’s Court (hotel) to St. John’s Wood to Oxford Circus
Costs: Abbey Road – free, Cartoon Museum – 7 pounds (free with London Pass)