Thursday, June 30, 2016

Wicked on West End: "Because I Viewed You, I Have Been Changed..."

My 3 day long hiatus has been due to an idiotic move on my part. I left my keys in a cycle port when I was biking around London, and had to stay at a friend's house until I could copy a spare set. That, and I was too lazy to do it from my little iPhone screen. So here I am now, playing catch up, with a bajillion things to write about. I'll give you the itinerary highlights, to save us both some time.

Monday 27th

  • British Museum
  • Kings' Cross
  • Camden Markets
  • Regent/Camden Canals 

To be perfectly honest, I found the British Museum a bit lack lustre. It's huge, and it's grand and all - it has the appearance and the makings of an impressive tourist attraction, but didn't deliver to me. I didn't have much interest in the exhibits at all.
Slice of home in the British Museum

I'm a noob and I actually thought you had to buy a ticket to get access to platform 9 3/4 at Kings' Cross. However, turn a wee corner and there it is, complete with a gigantic queue of children and adults alike, adorned with Hogwarts robes and wands. Nerd territory. I love Harry Potter, but I'm not a die hard like these people. There was no way I was lining up for hours for some overpriced photos of me pushing a trolley through a wall.

Camden Markets - a must see/do! You can walk around for hours and not see everything. So much yum food and interesting crafts, gifts, clothes etc to purchase. Just show an inch of interest...scratch that - just make eye contact with them and they pounce on you with "special offers" and "for the pretty lady" to bag a sale.

The canals are so beautifully scenic. Makes me want to live in a house boat seeing them all lined up like that. I will surely go back there, if only for the peace and the pleasantries of it all.

Tuesday 28th

  • National Gallery
  • Trafalgar Square
  • Natural History Museum
  • Ed's Diner
  • Soho bars/clubs

The National Gallery was brilliant. I feel like I have been using that word in unhealthy quantities recently. Anyway, the paintings were exquisite and I had fun trying to blend in as a cultured and artistically aware youth.

What's that? This isn't considered appropriate gallery etiquette?

The National Gallery was adjacent to Trafalgar Square, and honestly when I saw it, only two thoughts were running through my mind: "This is the London skatepark in Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 but in real life", and "Oh my god the red Monopoly card set!" You would be surprised how many times I come across a street and just think, ohhhh so this is what that card in Monopoly was named after.
So many tourists, ugh.
I met Yoda


Me being hot

The Natural History Museum was also fantastic - I was particularly interested in the evolution and earth's beginning exhibitions. I could go back there, if I'm honest. I barely touched on 1/4 of the museum. And they have free wifi, so I could really get on board. I even had a sneaky video call with Mara when I was there, until they kicked me out at closing time.

Ed's Diner in Soho was legitimately the best American diner food I've ever had. That isn't such a weighted compliment considering I don't consume much diner food at all, but still. I had a quinoa chickpea burger with chips and onion rings - delightful. My mouth is watering just recalling the memory. If I get a chance I will most certainly go back, as by joining their loyalty programme I have received a free burger with any drink purchase to claim by the end of July. Okay I digress...

Couldn't resist 20p for a little 60s jukebox jammin'

I went to She Bar (lesbian bar/club part of the Ku bars) apparently far too early, and was tipped about the Ruby Night happening later that evening at the usually men's gay bar. Downstairs in the basement of Ku bar every Tuesday it's strictly gay/bi women only (exceptions for accompanying male friends). It took me a while to warm up, but by the end of it I had met five new Londoners who sat somewhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum - I would have loved to stay past my pitiful 11.30pm, but I was still staying at my friend's house at this point and the last train back to her house left at 12am. It was a long journey home too, delayed further because some unfortunate man got hit by the very train I was riding on. I got home about 1.30am, only to wake up at 5.30am due to not to pull the blinds properly and being greeted by the premature summer morning sunlight. I'll definitely give the Soho bars another go, now that I'm back in my central London accommodation and I have no curfew. I just need to save my poor wallet by being extra frugal the next few days.

Wednesday 29th

  • Camden Markets (again - too much to see)
  • Wicked on West End
I need not describe Camden Markets any further but I will describe the (very not-vegan) nitro ice cream cookie/brownie sandwich with burnt butter caramel and grilled white chocolate I devoured at Chin Chin. Sorry cows, but you were already milked. 
Oh god yes, get in me
I am failing tremendously at this diet, markedly due to my inner struggle about whether veganism is all it's cracked up to be.  It is such a trend amongst teenage girls at the moment, but personally, I'm skeptical. In terms of health, ethical/animal cruelty factors, and environmental impact - I am teetering on the edge of settling for a low-dairy, low-egg vegetarian diet. Better to commit to that than fail, and give up on strict veganism, is my current mindset. 

WICKED was WICKED. Need I elaborate? The cast was superb, and I want to be Elphaba. Seriously I think she is one of my dream roles, alongside Maria in The Sound of Music. I'm embarrassed to mention I almost walked out of the theatre at the intermission, because I thought it was over. Lucky the man by the door told me otherwise!

The plot itself is so magical as a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, as it all ties in so well and really gives depth and sophistication to a seemingly simple children's story. We learn that Elphaba is so much more than a Wicked witch, and under the circumstances it was no surprise that she evolved into the person she did. She was an animal rights activist, a loving sister to handicapped Nessa-Rose, a non-conformist; she was bullied and shamed for something she had no control over (her skin colour) and arguably, I think The Wonderful Wizard of Oz himself is the true villain of the story. It was he who fed lies to the people of Oz to lull them into a false sense of security. Jeez I could write an in depth thesis analysing the morals of this masterpiece. Anyway, I'll sum up with mentioning how the musical numbers were everything I'd ever hoped for. My favourites were The Wizard and I, What is this Feeling, Defying Gravity and I'm Not That Girl. I also appreciated the British vowels, as opposed to the harsh American vowels I'm used to from Broadway recordings - very refreshing!

Good seats! Worth every pound.

Dear Wicked, 

Because I viewed you I've been changed for the better. 
Because I viewed you I have been changed for good.

Lots of love,

Abby xx

I need to finish up here, I don't want to waste today. Thanks for staying up to date with me all! I have literally no idea who reads this, so feel free to comment. Apparently I have some Nepalese fans, according to Google Analytics.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Keeping it Classy: Self-Guided "Sightseeing"

In comparison to yesterday, today's events were fairly unplanned. I found out yesterday from my pedometer app that I clocked 21km yesterday. No wonder my feet and legs hurt so much! That's almost a half marathon...and I sure am out of practice, not being able to walk freely around Bahrain - my legs just aren't used to it. I sound like an old woman! Have grown concerned enough that I have taken to crawling around the house on all fours, to give my legs a much needed rest. I hope I'm not developing shin splints...what a way to start a holiday...(cruising on the interislander, sailing to the other side.) 

Excuse the terrible composition: The Underground
Significantly better shot of the view, not so overcast

So anyway, today's itinerary took a more intuitive route. I went where I felt like, and a few times I had deja vu upon realising that it wasn't in my head and I had in fact walked this very same street just hours before. I utilised the fantastic free bicycle system, my new favourite mode of transportation. They are not only free, and faster than walking, but they are easier on the legs, and many streets even have proper bike lanes. When I say bike lanes, I don't mean your rudimentary little strip of road by the footpath, I mean like legitimate lanes with traffic lights and road markings and it is the cutest thing I ever did see.

Is texting while cycling hazardous?

My first and most significant outing of the day was browsing Somerset House and Strand. They just happened to be having their annual exhibition involving artwork and projects completed by 13-16 year olds involved with a programme called Saturday Club. In a nutshell, it gives young teenagers the opportunity to have weekly taster workshops in universities all around the UK. Typically workshops are art and design based, though sometimes they involve science and film also. It was stunning to see the work that these youth had created for themselves, and we were lucky enough to be allowed to take photos..

Upon further traversing around Somerset House I also found a exhibition/project called Utopia, which explores what an ideal world would look like, how it would interact, and how our current society compares to that ideal. Somerset House has an open garden in its centre and today was the last day of the Utopia market, which had many interactive stalls with art projects to partake in or food to purchase. I even met a Wellingtonian manning a stall who had created her own business distributing day old artisan bakery goods to the general public at a cheaper rate. Funds raised went to support local impoverished and vulnerable communities. It reminded me a little of Wellington's Free Store, a similar concept.

Somerset House Utopia Markets

Can you spot the "Abby-sounding" Utopia? (centre card)
I also spent a stupid amount of time (mainly due to my senseless wandering into markets, galleries and shops) looking for a particular plant-based ice cream parlour called Yorica. It was excellent, and expectedly overpriced. I had to roll my eyes at the hipster people the creamery attracted. That, and the coconut water for sale with the physical shell intact, punctured with a removable soda can cap. You could peel the aluminium cap off and sip out of the coconut like a fizzy drink. Trust vegans to do something so "trendy". 

Notable Moments:
  • I was chuffed to be mistaken for a Londoner by a Parisian asking for directions to Covent Garden. A few people asked me for directions today actually. Glad to know I'm not perceived as a tourist to most, makes me a less vulnerable target for scams.
  • That said about being less vulnerable, I forgot to mention yesterday's run in on Oxford Street at around 9.30pm, with an old woman handing out roses. Basically, she seemed to be just giving them away, and practically forced one into my hand. I stood there stunned, and she proceeded to demand money for it. I tried to hand it back but she wouldn't take it, growing more and more insistent. Eventually I fumbled for some change and she went mad when I handed her 20p. At that moment I shoved the stupid rose back into her hand and gapped it as fast as my sore legs could take me.
  • I had a warm fuzzy moment seeing a gay couple kiss on a park bench...I know that seems real stalkerish but I was just soaking up the sun in the park, listening to some adorable British children's accents...I turned and saw them and just thought, what a time to be alive. To be honest I don't think I had ever seen two men kissing in public before. I loved how the whole thing was just so ordinary and normal; no one even batted an eyelid. How it should be.
  • I was perplexed upon seeing a teenage girl with a tampon stuck up her nose while passing over Waterloo Bridge. Apparently people actually test out Amanda Byne's solution to nose bleeds in She's the Man?
I don't want to end this blog entry with that bullet point so I'll just say off to bed I go, hopefully I go easier on my wallet tomorrow...

Saturday, June 25, 2016

London Pride and Shakespeare's Theatre

Bloody brilliant. Rightfully British opening? The city has been buzzing over the Brexit results. How awful...but as was pointed out to me it's the perfect time to stretch your pounds further when exchanging money from different currencies. Today has been a dream. I just worry this time will go too fast and I won't get to see and do everything. I was out walking from 11am until 11pm today and I didn't even scratch the surface of what this city has to offer.

I started the day on a hunt for the London College of Fashion, where an event called ArtsPride was being held. I paid for a ticket in advance with inclusive lunch. There was a nice buffet there and champagne and cool people to mingle with as a pre-parade sort of thing. I met a Bulgarian chick with galaxy hair of blue and purple, and she was really great. At the buffet was a particularly odd dessert which was essentially a chocolate cherry popping candy tart, made by none other than Heston Blumenthal (look him up, he had a very entertaining food show where he made ginormous confectionary items the size of buses that aired in New Zealand.)

I headed down to the Pride parade with my new galaxy haired friend, and we met an American dude there. We got there early enough to get a great spot. I only stuck around for the first 30 minutes because I had plans with a friend, but what I saw of it was absolutely beautiful. Pride really lives up to its name, because I was feeling the love and feeling the pride.

New friends and pride flags

Beautiful countries, walking united>

London Gay Symphonic Winds, playing arrangement of YMCA
So I hopped on a tube and madly went searching for Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, desperate to get to the play on time. While my friend was waiting she scored us free tickets, and I didn't miss anything. We saw The Taming of the Shrew which was both hilarious and had good plot; it didn't matter we were standing for 2 and half hours - all part of the experience. Aside from experiencing London's hormonal weather patterns ranging from sunny to cloudy to pouring to thunder claps in the space of an afternoon, the most memorable part for me was when the whole cast broke character. How unprofessional I hear you say - but you had to be there. Out of nowhere, there was the most deafening boom from the sky, and one of the actors, who was on a staircase literally fell down. He didn't fall far of course, just onto his back, and he wasn't hurt - it was just the shock of the sound. Then the audience and the cast fell apart laughing and it was just a kind of peculiar and memorable moment.

Naughty snapshot of Globe before I was told off..

Later we walked around Southbank, past the London Eye, and failed at taking selfies with Big Ben due to the murky clouds which covered it. (Evidence below.)

A series of poor quality tourist shots
We had planned to do the Cereal Killer Cafe in the Camden Markets, but ran out of time as it was closed when we arrived. We got falafel plates instead, and are saving the cereal for another day.

We spent the evening wandering around, found our way back to Soho - and had a weird experience in Starbucks with a drunk Brit who was swearing like a sailor about Trump and Brexit and everything that tumbled out of her mouth was hilarious. She was coherent enough to engage in conversation but often forgot what we'd said and would ask us where we were from numerous times. You can't beat Londoners...!

Ummm besides that I need to go to bed because I'm so exhausted and my feet hurt. I will briefly add that my entire Gulf Air flight was plagued by two upset babies who were trying to outscream each other for mum's attention...and the inflight entertainment was non existent, so I split my time between listening to music, reading, and marvelling at the pixelated world map showing the plane's route.

Also I LOVE LOVE LOVE the ease and convenience of the underground. I could never ever get lost here, I just need to hop on the tube and I can find my way back from wherever I end up. The only thing is it gets so busy around 5pm when everyone is heading home from work, and I found myself pushing onto the tube and then squeezing off it. Definitely not one for the claustrophobic or the germaphobic. A sweaty mess, my dears.

Signing off for the night.

Love and peace to all :)