The River Thames Festival: A Night of Good Food, Good Fun, & Good Fireworks

The River Thames Festival: A Night of Good Food, Good Fun, & Good Fireworks

Last night, a large group of we Grinnell-In-Londoners adventured down to the banks of the River Thames for the Lord Mayor's River Thames Festival. It was a wonderful atmosphere, taking place from sunset until late at night. We enjoyed some great food, saw an incredible parade, walked around, and watched one of the most impressive fireworks displays I have ever seen.

 

 

 

 

Of the various options available, the fish and chips called out the most strongly to our group, as both Teddy and I are on quests to find London's greatest fish and chips. The fish and chips we had at the festival were freshly fried and hot, slathered in delicious vinegar, and just the perfect food to eat while watching the sun descend over the River Thames. While delicious, the fish and chips did not stand out in any particular way to win the honor of best fish and chips. We did enjoy our feast, and as the pictures below may indicate, we are already major fans of the iconic British dish.

Teddy, Joe, & Greg Enjoying Food & Fun

Next, we headed back to the streets to watch the parade. The crowds were enormous, but we managed to get a great spot streetside to watch the elaborate floats, incredible dancers, and outrageous costumes go by. Check out the crowd and some choice parade pictures below!

 

 

 

 

Post-parade, we persisted in plodding around until we procured some paella. (Awesome alliteration, eh?) In any case, we found a great Spanish stand selling paella, which Teddy and I split. It was intensely flavorful, the result of cooking in that massive pan for so long, and the chicken practically fell off the bone, infused with flavor and so delicious. Claire opted to get an incredible chorizo and chicken wrap from the same stand, an excellent choice which she so graciously let me try. The chorizo was so powerful and scrumptious, its inherent smokiness leaching into the chicken and giving it a spicy touch as well.

 

Teddy Displays Our Choice

 

Quality Assured

My Half Serving of Paella

Chorizo & Chicken

Happiness and Silliness

After our second snack of the night, we had to kill a little time before the fireworks. A few of us decided to go down a slide attached to the outside of a temporary lighthouse. It was presumably intended for little kids, but the majority of slide-riders were our age or older. We felt incredibly mature and dignified… Kind of.

 

Finally, the forays of fireworks flew into the skies, an incredible sight to behold. Some boats in the river were loaded up with fireworks, and they lit the sky beautifully. They made the riverbank, packed with thousands, glow as if it were day, and left our ears ringing and hearts pounding. It was an amazing sight to behold, and seemed a perfect cap to the atmosphere of happiness and celebration. I managed to get some pretty nice shots of the fireworks, so enjoy them below!

 

 

 

 

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Another Pleasant Day

Another Pleasant Day

Today was another ordinary, exciting day here in London. It was routine, but routine in this city is rife with little surprises and twists. I slept in pretty late today, as we've been really busy this week and I was pretty exhausted. I woke up, had breakfast, and went to the YMCA to work out.

On that note, I am, as of a few days ago, an OFFICIAL student member with full access to all classes and facilities! There are a huge range of classes, and I'm starting out next week with a free session with a trainer, as well as yoga and kettlebell classes. In addition, I am training on Thursdays and Sundays with the swim club, and on Tuesday evenings with a triathlon/distance swimming group. Between the classes, clubs, and my regular training regimen (including exhilarating runs on the Thames, which is surreal to think is real life), I should get in even better shape! Check out my fancy new YMCA card below!

Beautifully Blue YMCA Card

 

The YMCA was followed by a trip to the British Museum to study and explore. It was immense and totally mind-bogglingly amazing. Highlight of the day? A carved crystal skull from South America. Originally thought to be an exquisite Aztec specimen, it was proved a fake by microscopic analysis that showed use of tools that post-dated by the Aztecs by a few hundred years. Fake or not, it was a beautiful specimen, and brought to mind Indiana Jones and that adventuresome theme song. (Which, incidentally, is my alarm clock song…)

Cue the Indiana Jones Theme…

After puttering around the British Museum for a fair amount of time, I made my way down the street to Mr. Brainwash's art exhibition. This was the exhibition I visited earlier in my adventuring. Mr. Brainwash, I learned after some research, was a prominent follower of the famed graffiti artist, Banksy, and part of the film Exit Through The Gift Shop. The show, with its playful twists on classic pieces, was amusing and thought-provoking as before.

John & Yoko, With a New Message

I returned home on the bus (which I actually love riding) and cooked a supper of Carribean-style rice and beans. It was extremely filling and so very flavorful! I'm learning so much more about cooking and manipulating different types of food. It's an adventure within this big London adventure.

After dinner, we went to the Last Night of the Proms, broadcast in 3D to a nearby cinema. It was a beautiful production, filled with amazing music and a uniquely British style of patriotism. The 3D was quite nicely done and the production was incredible for being streamed live. The music was spectacular, especially two younger virtuosos, one on the violin and the other a terrific tenor opera singer. The enthusiasm and patriotism were infectious, leaving me humming Rule, Brittania all the way home.

Even the Cinemas Are Gorgeous

 

I came home and Skyped my parents and Emily. It was so nice to just chat for awhile and be reminded of all the treasures that lie back home. And now, onward to sleep!

 

Julius Caesar, Live in London

Julius Caesar, Live in London

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!

This evening, I saw a production of Julius Caesar that was impressive beyond words. The actors, confident in their skills, made the words radiate pure power through the air. The impassioned monologues, the verbal duels, the air of conspiracy, and the dramatic death of Caesar all were brought to life by the talented actors.
I saw the play in the Noel Coward Theatre, a picturesque locale, as the pictures below may indicate. The grandeur of the theatre added to the atmosphere of the play. I was simply blown away by the quality and sheer addictiveness of the performance. I was literally on the edge of my seat the entire time, the electric atmosphere flying off the stage into the audience. I was also surprised at how relevant and relatable this ancient play still is. The themes and characters are timeless, a point the creative director chose to exploit by setting the costuming and set in a modernish Africa. It seemed to allow the actors a little more freedom to push emotion into the performance and showed how the fallen, martyred leader is a character in all societies. The African setting also opened up a discussion of Shakespeare's role in Africa. The articles within the program (which I bought as a great souvenir) explained how Shakespeare connects well with African culture and that he was one of the only non-African authors preserved in the curriculum in some nations.
I found the play, the venue, and the modern twists on the classic themes all incredible. This experience was yet another unforgettable memory. Hearing these immortalized lines sent shivers down my spine, most of all when Cassius proclaimed, “How many ages hence/ Shall this our lofty scene be acted o'er,/ In states unborn, and accents yet unknown!”


Dressing Up For the Theatre

 

 

 

 

 

 

Play: London Road

Play: London Road

Tonight we saw the play London Road, a verbatim-style play based on interviews with residents of a neighborhood following a series of murders. The victims, all prostitutes, were rather looked down upon by the citizens of the area. The play was incredibly interesting for a variety of reasons. First, the author of the play had to take apart recorded conversations and pick out the important or recurring themes to help craft the story in verbatim. Second, the actors had to reproduce the interviews literally verbatim, with every stutter, pause, and um. Finally, because this was a musical, they also had to sing the lines while not trivializing the subject of the material. It was quite well done, with some intentionally dissonant singing at times helping to emphasize the lack of agreement among the neighbors.

 

In all, it was a very well done play by some extremely talented actors. I do not expect to ever see anything quite like it again due to its uniqueness and creative approach to the subject. I am still in awe that not only do I get to see such incredible performances, but Grinnell-In-London pays for us to see them.

Flat Group Shot Before the Play

 

Poster for London Road

Ending Set of London Road, with Flowerpots Abounding

 

Paralympic Cycling: An Inspiring Experience

Paralympic Cycling: An Inspiring Experience

This morning, after a nice little tour (for class) of the area surrounding the Olympic Park, I ventured inside to go watch the cycling. (More pictures from my walking tour and my pictures from the Olympic Park are on a post coming up soon. My ticket did not let me into the aquatics facilities at all, so I will be returning to try capturing photos of the amazing pool.) After an extensive walk, I made it to the Velodrome, where the track cycling takes place.

 

I met up with Ed, and we got settled in. He helped me understand the various rating system based on a ability. Essentially, those athletes who are less affected will see their times unchanged, while those who compete with more difficulty see their times adjusted to a percentage of their final race time. For example, athletes without one of their legs may see their final times be 89% of their completed time. This helps level the playing field a bit and also helps widen the categories whilst remaining fair and conscious of everyone's ability level. We had great seats (thanks to Ed, yet again, and some of our neighboring seats took pictures of us for us.

 

The cycling began soon after I arrived. We watched the Women's C1-3 & C4-6 classes compete in the 500m race. This meant two laps around the Velodrome for each woman once it was her turn. This was followed by the Men's 4000m Pursuit. All of the athletes were absolutely incredible and so inspiring. No matter what their ability level, as soon as they got onto their bike, they were graceful, powerful, and completely at ease. It was an incredible afternoon, with multiple world records being broken, and team GB and the US both scoring a few medals as the day went on.

The atmosphere and energy of the crowd was astounding. Though they were loud throughout the entire session, when Team GB athletes were performing, the crowd exploded with noise and waving Union Jacks. it was an amazing experience that I will never forget. It was completely made possible thanks to Ed Senn. He is the epitome of Grinnellian generosity and reciprocity; my grandma taught him a variety of important work lessons at the Forum, and he has done so much for our family, from establishing a scholarship in my grandma's name, to sharing advice over coffee in Grinnell with my brother and me, to taking me out for some amazing London experiences. Enjoy the pictures below (and I will add more after I sort through the nearly one thousand photos I took today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chariots of Fire

Chariots of Fire

Last night I saw my first London theatre production, Chariots of Fire. This stage adaptation of the famed movie was an amazing experience. We went to the Gielgud Theatre, a beautiful old building with ornate detailing throughout. Everything felt so luxurious and incredible, and this was before the show even started! We had great seats and could easily see the action unfold on stage. The stage had a very creative set-up that made the blocking (movement and placement of actors) for the show very interesting and well done. The main stage was circular and comprised of one main circle, with another circle surrounding it. The outer circle moved and was used in a treadmill-like fashion to great effect throughout the show. There were also two balconies that the actors used for certain scene, and a track running through the entire theater. It was a spectacular show, and I thought it translated quite well from screen to stage. I'm still astounded (and thankful to Grinnell) that I got to see this amazing performance for free! We have seven more free plays this semester, one per week, and it's going to create memories for a lifetime. The show was inspiring and totally incredible. From the moment its iconic music began roaring from the speakers, I knew I was in for a phenomenal show. I can't wait to see what's next!

 

 

Albert Memorial and the BBC Proms Concert

Albert Memorial and the BBC Proms Concert

We awoke today to another sunny (yes, sunny) London morning and embarked on our newest mission: find, catch, and ride the correct bus to the teaching site. Thanks to some careful pre-study of the bus system by my flatmates, a convenient red light, and a mad dash to close the last twenty feet, we caught the correct bus that got us relatively close to the site. After our arrival, we went on a coach ride around the streets of London, with narration from a quirky, yet adorable Englishwoman who strongly reminded many of us of Mrs. Weasley in both her voice and mannerisms. The highlight, pictureswise, was the Albert Memorial and the Royal Albert Hall. Built in a similar style to Westminster, these two structures are both majestic and imposing.

 

After the tour, we bought some groceries and then went home to the flat to cook lunch and get a little more organized. Later in the evening, we returned back to Royal Albert Hall for a performance in the BBC Proms concert series. The Grinnell-in-London program bought us all great balcony tickets, so we got to sit to watch the performance. This concert was themed around pieces by Wagner and was quite moving aand impressive. One solo violinist was so particularly great and exuberantly energetic with the music that he was called back for an incredible encore by the crowd's rowdy feet-stamping and yells. It was an almost magical experience seeing the concert, the performers were all so well-practiced and enthusiastic. It was also something I would have been unlikely to find on my own, so Grinnell providing me (and the rest of the group) with tickets brought us to this amazing gem of British Culture.