This officially marks the end of my 1st week in London. Since classes haven’t yet started, I’ve had a remarkable amount of free time to see London. Though I’m hesitant in calling myself a tourist– I know how to navigate multiple forms of public transit, I shop at the grocery, etc– I am many moons away from being considered a local. In the past few days, I’ve taken advantage of navigating myself to some of the more popular sites as well as some places off the beaten path. For the geographically inclined people out there, enjoy this map:
Roman Catholic Church of the English Martyrs
I really enjoy participating in mass when I travel because in addition to the religious aspects, it provides a unique perspective on the culture and community. On Sunday I went to “Roman Catholic Church of the English Martyrs” since it was in the direction of the Whitechapel art gallery that I was planning to visit that afternoon with some friends I met during orientation. Their 9am mass– one of two masses that are said at that parish each Sunday– had ~50 people most of whom were 2, 3, and 4 times my age. Hymns were led by one man singing very loudly in the back of the church and and each member of the congregation could pick up a hymnal (or rather, prayer book as it only had words and no music) on their way into the church.
Fitting to the church’s namesake, one of the petitions and a good portion of the homily was focused on David Haines, the British man who was recently beheaded by Isis. Though Mr Haines was not a parishioner of that parish and it is reasonable to suppose that nobody in the church that morning knew him directly, they came together to grieve for the loss of one of their. In a somewhat strange way, by being invited to share in this grief, I was able to more fully connect with the parishioners and participate in the mass.
Petticoat Lane & Old Spitalfield’s Market
Mostly pictures. Definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in London. It is less crowded and less touristy than many of the places in Central London.
The Whitechapel Gallery featured modern art, but no photos were allowed. We then headed to the WWI poppy memorial displayed at the Tower of London. It was amazing to compare these two modern exhibitions. While I didn’t mind keeping a rather quick pace throughout the multilevel Whitechapel Gallery, I trailed along the edge of the Tower of London for quite some time. Though I haven’t developed a definition of art in general terms, I know it when I see it.
We also found ourselves in the midst of the Tour de Britain. Apparently I’m good at finding bike races, because the Tour de Polone ended in Krakow when I was studying abroad there last summer.
Classic Boat Rally, St Katherine Docks
Tower Bridge & The Scoop
On our walk back into Central London, we happened past the Totally Thames festival which focused on celebrating the local area. In addition to the earth-fairy hats (see picture below) there was a petting zoo and a Sing for Water performance at the Scoop, an outdoor amphitheater.
Another popular place to visit, even on a Monday!
After visiting Athens last summer, I was a bit disappointed to learn that many sculptures from ancient Greece were actually in the British Museum in London. We have nice facilities, we’ll preserve and display them with care, said the Brits. So Greece built their Acropolis Museum in 2009… but they still didn’t get their artifacts back. Though I’m not necessarily supporting the politics behind this setup, it is certainly exciting for me to have access to this Grecian culture in my London neighborhood.
Even though classes will be starting soon, I’m looking forward to continuing the adventures. Here’s to a year of discovery, of becoming a Londoner and not just a visiting student in London.