Friday, July 31, 2009

All The World's A Stage

*editor's note: This was written last night but didn't get posted because of internet issues. So this was Thursday*

* editor's note again: pictures now added!*

And today we went to the Globe theatre.

The day began with a Bankside walk. We felt lazy this morning -- up too late last night, liking the merlot/shyraz a little too much. So we dawdled around, ate a late breakfast, then headed out on the underground to The City (0fficial financial district of London -- only place in England in which the Queen is #1 and the Mayor is #2 instead of Charles being #2). We crossed the Thames (that's pronounced "Tims" for all you Americans) on London Bridge and started wandering around Southwark (that's "SUTH-uck").

Standing on London Bridge and gazing out over the Thames gave us a view of the other bridges that span it -- Tower Bridge and the Jubilee Bridge. We could see the Tower of London and St. Paul's Church and teh Tate Modern and we just stood there for a few minutes, forcing the toursits and business professionals to flow around us, while I marveled about the fact that we are actually in London.
David really likes the Tower Bridge.

Then we headed for Southwark Cathedral, where William Shakespeare was a parishoner. There is a statue of Shakespeare inside the church which really delighted me. I like the idea of religion being an extension of art -- a striving for something grander (a bit of the humanist in me, I guess). The inscription below the statue explained that it was a tribute to God in graditude for his "good gift to men in the genius of William Shakespeare." Above the statue is a stained glass window that depicts scenes from plays -- Romeo and Juliet was the most obvious -- and the seven stages of man from the famous "All the World's a Stage" speech. Quite apropos, as we saw As You Like It at the Globe tonight!

After we left the cathedral, we wandered in the Borough Market which was sort of a surprise and totally great. It was bustling and busy and colorful and noisy and smelly and once we got past the seafood booth, the smells were so delicious that even though we'd eaten breakfast late I was instantly hungry. We gawked at the vast spreads of vegetables and fruits and meats and sweets and wines and breads.



I ate a veggie burger wrapped in a lettuce leaf and David went hog wild over wild boar sausage (ha ha, I know that was terrible. But he said the sausage was good.)

Ingredients: Wild Boar. 90% Meat.

We got strawberry cheesecake to take away for dessert and ate it on the river bank, then walked by the Clink and were glad not to be imprisoned (although the jail burnt down, the basement cells remain).
Delicious Sweets!

And me in front of a basement cell of the Clink.

We scoped out the Globe theatre but didn't stick around as we were returning later for the show. We popped into the Tate Modern, which is essentially next door the Globe. It is vast and imposing and full of people. We were dutifully impressed but also overwhelmed and running later than we'd planned so we couldn't stay long. It is the sort of museum where you could spend an entire weekend so we really didn't do it justice. Next time.

From the Tate Modern, we crossed back over the Thames on the Jubilee Bridge (all muggles made it safely across this time). Some brilliant engineer thought it would be a great idea to essentially connect St. Paul's Cathedral to the Tate Modern via this bridge and it really is lovely. It never ceases to amaze me as we walk around that buildings from the thirteenth and fourteenth century (or their foundations, or replicas of them, like the globe) stand next to nineteenth-century buildings, which stand next to modern skyscrapers.

David on the Jubilee Bridge in front of the Tate Modern.

Me on the Jubilee Bridge in front of St. Paul's Cathedral

We went in St. Paul's and craned our necks to view the beautiful gothic arches and admire the work of Christopher Wren and the Victorian ornamentation that got piled on top of it. For someone who wasn't officially an architect, he did a freaking brilliant job of raising St. Paul's out of the ashes of the Great Fire of 1666. It was inspiring to think of this building suriving the Blitz.

Less inspiring was the gargantuan line of tourists and the hour-long climb to the top of the cathedral dome. Deciding that London is lessa bout the skyline and more about the view from the grount, we skipped the climb and headed back to our hotel to change for dinner and the Globe.

I was craving pizza so we went to a cute little Italian place around the corner from our hotel and the pizzas were just like we had in Italy last summer. We took the underground to a stop near the Globe and I was so glad that the weather was cooperating. It was clear and beautiful.

We got to the Globe an hour ahead of time because I bought us "groundling" tickets -- meaning they only cost 5 pounds each but we had to stand for the entire show. Just like the peasants of 1660! David was not super enthused about this idea, and after doing so much walking all day long, I was beginning to have second thoughts myself.

But we were early enough that we got a great spot leaning right up against the stage. And I have to say that it was the awesomest Shakespeare-viewing experience that I have ever had. I've never gone to a Shakespeare play that seemed so short -- and we were standing up for almost 3 hours! I would have never thought it was possible, but it was so fantastically entertianing that I never thought about being tired or uncomfortable. The stage was exactly the right height for us to fold our arms and rest them on top of it and we were literally an arm's length from the actors (in fact, the Duke's cloak brushed my face when he whirled around at one point).

Our view of the stage. We really were this close!

From the moment the show began, both of us -- and really everyone in the theatre -- was just sort of entranced. It was incredible to see Shakespeare performed so well and to imagine standing in nearly the same spot in 1660 -- under the same sky, in a nearly identical open-roof theatre, escaping the realities of life (plague, death, sewer-ridden streets) by getting caught up in the comedy. And it was seriously funny.

When the melancholy wit, Jacques, went into his speech, "All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players," it was another magical "London moment" that was not even dulled by the crowds because it felt appropriate to be smushed in with a bunch of other people who were just as excited about the play as I was. It is hard to explain without sounding cheesy but it was so electric and funny and exciting.

David gets used to being a peasant.

From the moment we started planning this trip, I was all about going to a show at the Globe. But even thought I like Shakespeare, I just honestly never expected to like the performance this much. I don't know if it's because we were so freaking close, or because the actors were so good, or because we were in a freaking theatre build with wooden nails and a river-reed thatched roof that opened to the night sky, but it was so exhilerating. It made humanity and comedy and theatre and literature feel so relevant and significant. In the end, David and I were both glad we got the groundling tickets and wished we had time to see another show.

We walked back over the bridge, looking at the London skyline all lit up at night, and listened to a street musician serenade us with his guitar (well, not just us -- there were scads of people on the bridge just as there are everywhere).

Now we're back in the room eating chocolates and the connection is slow so no photos at the moment. Will try to post some tomorrow.

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