With 12 hours in layover time in London, I decided it was best to venture out and check out Londontown!
01.07.2010 - 01.07.2010
My apologies for it taking so long for me to start my blogging! The trip is going wonderfully so far and I’m experiencing so much. Ill try and give a brief overview of what I did for my first week and then explain some of the cultural differences and experiences in a later post.
I arrived in London at 8:30am London time on July 1st and was extremely exhausted from the time changes. The flight was good minus my lack of sleep as I watched When in Rome (I liked it!) I was really shocked to find that on the Virgin Atlantic Airlines there were 3 documentaries on Kenya! I take it as a sign. I watched all three and they were definitely insightful and got me pumped for my upcoming trip. Virgin Atlantic also has a really great donation opportunity called Change for Children. In the little bundle of slipper socks (yes I know almost as cool as the hospital!), travel toothbrush and paste and sleeping mask is a small envelope for the on flight fundraiser. At the end of the flight they show a clip of what Change for Children does. It seems that about every month or so (depending on how often funds come in) a crew from Virgin Atlantic on one of the flights down to Jomo Kenyatta Airport go out into different selected communities and present the money collected from travelers donations on the various flights. As there is about one flight a day to Kenya, the money adds up and helps with school fees etc. There is a really cool clip of the last few trips and it seems awesome.
Upon arriving in Heathrow, I was determined to not sleep the day away at a Yotel (more after my return flight but google it if you’d like) and went out into the city. I bought a day tube pass for about 7 pounds ($10 USD) which took me anywhere in the city. Thanks to Josh Siva, Kere Frey and Barbie Vargo’s suggestions, I was able to see Piccadilly Square and have a delicious lunch of Cottage pie at Garfunkles. It was Canada Day (July 1st) in Trafalgar Square so I saw some of the festivities briefly before heading onto the Horse Guards outside of the Calvary Museum (didn’t go in) and saw the Admiralty Arch (see pictures) and then down to St James’s Park. There were many school age children and as it was around lunch time many people were sitting on the lawns. I took a nice 20 minute nap in the lawn chairs available for 1.5 pounds and then made my way to the FREE British Museum! On the walk from the tube I came across Willoughby Street and as I’m a Pride and Prejudice fanatic, I had to take a picture (wish the had a Darcy’s Way or Fitzwilliam Blvd).
The British Museum kept me occupied for a few 2 or 3 hours and saw the library donated by King George III to the people of London which was an idyllic library (not better than the library from Beauty and the Beast though). There was an amazing modern art collection including some features such as the Cradle to Grace by Pharmacopeia (created by Susie Freeman and Dr Liz Lee) which is a representation of the “14,000 drugs the estimated average prescribed to every person in Britain in their lifetime.”
There was also an exhibit on life and death and how different cultures practice the ritual of mourning. Some, like the Ga people of Ghana, make these elaborate and personable coffins. Two Ga brothers made a coffin in the form of an airplane/eagle for their grandmother as she always wanted to fly but never was able to. The concept expanded throughout the area and they are now a large workshop creating “designs that represent the life and dreams of deceased relatives and characterize their personalities.”
There is an entire African art section (absolutely my favorite obviously!) which had traditional cultural pieces of former British colonies/trade spots, as well as modern political art such as “Man’s Cloth” by El Anatsui of Ghana who captured the essence of consumerism as the cloth, which looks like a quilt, is actually created out of the different metals now adopted in Ghana (ie pop (not soda) cans).
Another interesting piece was the “Tree of Life” created of hundreds of weapons from other parts of the world but used in Mozambique’s civil war. The really interesting fact behind this awareness project was the community based effort by Bishop Dom Dinis Senegulane who started the Transforming Arms into Tools Project in 1995. The guns collected in exchange for farming equipment and building materials were used to create the Tree of Life.
I saw many Okolokuruhuru masks used in masquerade rituals. The Kalabari men of Nigeria (West of the Niger River) perform in hopes of being recognized by the elders and being invited to the senior society. I put my favorite mask on the blog site.
I walked through the Arabic/Middle Eastern section briefly and saw the most colorful art of the entire Museum including the amulets pictured here with Qur’anic verses that were popular with the Prophet Muhammad.
These brass alams used for religious processions symbolizing the sword of Imam Ali and are inscribed with the names of Muhammad, his son-in-law Ali and his daughter Fatima. In all honesty, I was truly intrigued by these because they looked like guitars so I wanted a picture for Jake.
On my way to King’s Cross I came across the London Review Book Shop. They have a coffee shop attached and OVER A THOUSAND books in this little shop. Definitely somewhere I could see myself reading at if I lived there (mine and Julie’s 61C ‘Luke’s’ Café of London).
King’s Cross station is located in the northwest of the city to see Platform 9 ¾! Luckily other tourists were there as well and offered to take my picture with the sign and the cart. Outside of the station was this really tall circular arena? It looked just like a Quiditch pitch so I had to take a picture (Harry Potter fans- do you agree?)
Finally, my last stop was Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens where the beloved Peter Pan monument is located. Outside is a really cool Lion and the Unicorn brass(?) gateway. It reminded me of the Lion and the Unicorn poem from Alice through the Looking Glass. Hyde Park is GORGEOUS and has a really nice Princess Diana memorial as well as the Peter Pan statue. I was so excited. See all pictures below of both.
Traveling around London solo wasn’t too bad although next time I go I’d much rather have someone with me. Any takers?
For my return flight, in which I have a 24 hour layover, I want to try and see The Tower of London, the House of Parliament and Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Place and then the day of my flight possibly go to Henry VIII’s Hampton Palace or one of the Windsor Palace by Heathrow and grab lunch before my return flight.
I then boarded my flight to Nariobi where I passed out within minutes of takeoff. See the next blog for details about my first adventure in Nairobi and meeting the AMAZING Muthama family and seeing Dr. Kivuva!
PS- Gϋ Mini Pud is AMAZING! I have to see if I can get some in the States- they served it on my flight to London. I had Cocoa Chocolate Ganache & Juicy Raspberry Compote. So good!