Monday, February 16, 2009


I’ll spare everyone all the cliches about how wonderful London is, but they are all true.

One of the components of the San José State University Study Abroad program I am leading is an Anthropology course made up of excursions (think of university level Ms Frizzle and the Magic School Bus) throughout southwest England. Last weekend (Thursday through Saturday) we were off to London.

Traveling by train from Bath Spa Station to London’s Paddington, we journeyed down in the morning and set off almost immediately for a tour of the Museum of London. This as our introduction to the city. For many it was, of course, a first visit. My colleagues Andy Fleck and Mari Brookes know the city well, for me it was the first visit in almost thrity years and I was struck by how greatly London has changed not only from 1980, but from Sharon’s and my first visit in 1971. As a result, many of the images you will see below juxtapose what I call old and new London. The postmodernist architecture of the city is stunning on its own and in context.

Friday was our only full day touring in a group. We began with a specially arranged tour of Parliament in the morning, went on to the Imperial War Museum, in my opinion one of the greatest museums in the world, in the afternoon and then saw an absolutely stunning Royal Shakespeare Company production of the Taming of the Shrew. This production, presented within a frankly postmodern, deconstructionist frame, strips the play of its comedy and Elizabethan manners and sets forth a human tragedy.

We were up bright and early Saturday to tour the Tower of London, always a delightful romp through a thousand years of often gory British history. The yeoman guard we were privileged to be guided by was not just a battle decorated veteran of recent wars, but an engaging fellow. Saturday afternoon we were on our own, relaxed and saw a newly opened play, Plague over Britain, about the 1953 arrest of Sir John Geilgud for homosexual activity.

Sunday saw us in Portobello Road searching for pens.
Our first glimpses of London from the ground, St. Paul's Cathedral across from the British Museum.
My first of many (I'm sparing you all many of them) Old and New London images
Us, ready to head into the Museum of London
Once in, two medieval women
The Museum of London exhibits
As a political historian, going through Parliament held a particular reverence
I had not recalled Cromwell outside of Parliament. Not sure how I feel about that one.Behind Parliament, Big Ben.
Can't recall what I shot here, behind St Margaret's Church, across from WestminsterMe, outside Parliament, Rosa and then our students, waiting to get in

Modernist Lion and Unicorn outside Parliament
This plaque on the steps of Westminster Hall as you go into the Parliament speaks for itself. Thrilling to stand on the spot where modern English republicanism began. We could not take pictures past Westminster Hall.
Next stop, the Imperial War Museum. Even those whose interest is not in war and militaria were blown away (so to speak) by the museumMy colleague Andy FGleck and one of our students looking at the mail floor exhibits

I've noted above how fantastic we found this museum. The exhibit on the evacuation of London children during the Blitz was particularly moving,as was experiencing the trenches
Evening took us to Covent Garden where we saw the RSC Taming.
Sharon hanging out, waiting for dinner.
Saturday saw us off to see the Tower of London. Both Sharon and I have been, more than once, but we were both enthusiastic. My first images followed the minor theme, old and new London
But this, of course, is the main deal
The infamous White Tower, dating, if I recall correctly, to the late 12th century
One of the many tours. Our guide informed us that this was a slow day
Our guide, one of thirty-five Yeoman Guards of the Tower, did not look old enough to have served 25 years in the army, in places like Iraq, but had, and for his service now gets to live in the Tower complex and lead tours, among other duties.
A chapel in the White Tower.
A Guard on his way to workj

A nice play of shadow on the main tower.
A final group shot before we headed our separate ways Saturday afternoon. Some stayed in London, as we did, some went back to Bath, a few even went off to Cardiff to watch Wales beat England in some sort of Rugby match
And now I gotta go read and grade. I don't 'spect any sympathy, but I do still have to teach (sort of) four classes plus two independent studies this semester.

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