Five on Friday – The London Edition (Cathedrals, Theatres, Epic Fails & New Year’s Eve…)

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It’s Friday! I almost wrote that it was the first Friday of the new year, but that’s not actually true – huh? Oh well.

Last year I decided to join up with a couple other blogs that do Five on Friday and I’ve enjoyed it so much, I’ll think I’ll keep it going for 2016. If you have a blog, feel free to join in for this year – just write about five things that are on your mind…it can be anything from a new beauty product or a quote that has stuck in your head, maybe a song that you’re playing on repeat…seriously, whatever is on your mind!

I decided to make this first Five on Friday of 2016 a continuation of my recap of my recent trip to London. I’ll hope you’ll enjoy; London is still definitely on my mind, I’m sure I’ll get things back to normal next week. Ha-ha!

One: Straford-Upon-Avon – The second stop on our Wednesday day tour, Stratford-Upon-Avon was the home of William Shakespeare…in many points in his life. We were able to visit and tour his boyhood home, where he lived until he was about 18 and then married Anne Hathaway. There were Shakespeare landmarks all over Stratford, but we didn’t get to see them for two reasons. The first being the time constraints and the second being that by this time in our day, the rain was coming down HARD. And again, umbrellas weren’t really of much use because that rain was accompanied by driving winds. So – delightful.

Shakespeare’s Home
The view of Henley Street from the second floor of the Shakespeare home.

The tour in and of itself was pretty fascinating – even if short and sweet. We were shown a short video about the lasting impression(s) that Shakespeare’s works have had on the world at large; the video shared how often in a day a play by Shakespeare was being performed in the world, I can not remember that number nor can I find it anywhere! I know it was not a small number. Shakespeare’s parents were fairly well to do; his mother Mary Arden was the daughter of a gentleman farmer and his father made gloves, so they lived comfortably for the time period. William would have attended school started at the age of six and school usually lasted for up to 12 hours a day…most of this in Latin. He married Anne Hathaway at the age of 18; she was a bit older than him, and the wedding was most likely a “shotgun” wedding since she presented him with a daughter just six months after their wedding.
The two would remain married all of their lives and have three children…but this doesn’t mean William was necessarily a dutiful and faithful husband. He wrote about love, loss and anguish on so many levels that it’s likely he wrote from the experience of a multitude of relationships over his lifetime. After the birth of his twins, he disappeared from public record in Stratford for almost a decade before popping up again….in London! Of course, the Globe Theatre wouldn’t come along until a bit later…and so that story will come along a bit later too.
A sign for the Rose & Swan – you can’t tell what it says, huh?
The Shakespeare Home – the street view.

Two: Oxford – Oh man, I would have loved to have arrived here sooner and not in the rain. *sigh* I suppose you have to take what you can get when you halfway around the world, right? It was raining pretty crazily and the sun was setting…the wind had died down, but man – it’s hard to hold an umbrella in one hand and take pictures with the other. Oxford is obviously the home of Oxford University, once the home to such legendary writers as C.S. Lewis and JRR Tolkein; some of the buildings were also used as filming locations for some of the Harry Potter films, so there is quite a bit of literary history here. We passed a pub called the Eagle and the Child where Tolkein and Lewis used to meet to compare chapters of their books – and while we weren’t able to get down to check it out (those time constraints), I did take a picture. That you will not see on here because it doesn’t even look like much more than a white blur. Blegh.

Colleges at Oxford University
Perhaps this lamp post will remind you of somewhere? Or does there need to be snow?
I will say with 100% certainty that the coolest aspect of the quick jaunt around Oxford in the rain was the tale about the inspiration for C.S. Lewis’ novel, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. See the lamp post pictured above? The story goes a bit like this…
One Winter evening Lewis was invited to dine with several of his students and after a filling meal and a glass or two of wine, he decided he was ready to head home but wanted to make a more discreet exit. He knew if he left the way they arrived, he’d have to stop and speak to each student, say long and drawn out goodbyes and he just wanted to sneak out and head home. He asked about a back exit and was pointed to a back door…through the coat closet. Are you feeling where this is going yet? While they’d been eating, it had started to snow and as he emerged from the back door/coat closet exit onto the snow covered square, the light from a solitary lamp post cast shadows on the buildings carvings…including a carving of the god Dionysus…who is often portrayed as a faun. 
So – a walk through a coat closet to come upon a solitary lamp post in the snow…and a faun. I think we just made out way to Narnia and met Mr. Tumnus!  
Oxford’s very own Bridge of Sighs
Literary souvenirs abound in Oxford…& also, that’s my sweatshirt!

Three: Westminster Abbey & St. Paul’s Cathedral – All of the churches, am I right? Except these aren’t really “churches” so much as astounding and dramatic works of art where people also come to worship the Lord. Seriously, they are both so breathtaking in their own way. You weren’t allowed to take pictures inside Westminster, which just broke my heart because it has to be seen to be believed; the Lady’s Chapel in particular was my favorite, the ceilings were an absolute masterpiece in and of themselves.

Of course, Westminster Abbey is where Will and Kate were married back in 2011 – I couldn’t even imagine having such a dramatic venue for my wedding ceremony…but then again, I probably won’t marry someone who is second in line for a throne. I do think the most fascinating “thing” I saw in Westminster Abbey were the tombs of Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots. They are literally buried across the “hall” from one another in the Abbey; two women who were at odds with one another all their lives, now lying eternally mere steps apart.

Once again, their stories fascinate me. Elizabeth, the child believed least likely to make a good ruler because she was 1. a woman and 2. the daughter of Anne Boleyn is one of the most well known monarchs in history… Determined not to let a man take her power, Elizabeth never married and had no children, so when she died she had no successor. Mary, Queen of Scots went her entire life with a legitimate claim to the English throne (she was the granddaughter of Henry VII) and was imprisoned for nineteen years by her cousin Elizabeth, before finally being executed for high treason…plotting to take the English throne. However, when Elizabeth died childless, it was Mary, Queen of Scots son James who became the next King of England. Fascinating, no?

The Abbey from outdoors…
St. Paul’s Cathedral 
We hopped the tube from Westminster Abbey to St. Paul’s Cathedral (MIND THE GAP) and made our way into that “church” to tour. Now, you weren’t supposed to take pictures here either but no one was being quite so vigilant about watching people with cameras…and it’s amazing what you can manage to snap when you just lay your camera in your lap, lens pointed up and push the button. Hehehe. St. Paul’s was the site of Charles and Diana’s wedding way back when and while it was also absolutely lovely to look at, it didn’t quite catch me the way Westminster Abbey did.
However, St. Paul’s has this wonderful rotunda and you can climb up into the rotunda…by climbing up and up and up 255 stairs! Granted, you can go higher than that, but I wasn’t feeling the whole climbing 500+ steps. I don’t do heights, so 255 stairs up was plenty of height for me, thanks aplenty. The stairs were in a big circle that wound tighter and tighter the higher up you went – going up was fine but by the time I’d gone down in a circle for 200 steps…the last 55 felt a bit dizzying. I let Lindsey and Jeffrey go all the way to the top – I scooted back down and listened to the organ being played…and snapped all my sneaky pictures. 
See the rotunda? I climbed up there…
I did not keep climbing up to there though….

Four: Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre & Epic Fail – After we’d toured the churches, we crossed Millennium Bridge and took the 3:30 tour of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Now, this particular Globe Theatre is the third to be built here and is not (sadly) the original theatre from Shakespeare’s time, however it has been built to be as authentic to the original Globe as possible – right down to the thatch roof. Remember that fire in London I mentioned a few posts back? Yes, well…because of that fire, it’s illegal to have a thatch roof in the city of London – the Globe is the only building in London with special permission to have a thatch roof.

Did you know? Long ago, the Globe was on the North side of the river and during the night, Shakespeare and his fellow actors (the Chamberlain’s Men…later the Kings Men) took the theatre down piece by piece, floated it across the Thames and rebuilt it in the South Side of London…and named it the Globe. The man who owned the theatre when it was on the North Side of the river tried to sue to have the theatre returned…but he lost, because he only owned the land…not what was built on it. Victory to the Bard!

The Globe Theatre – thatch roof & all. 
And yes – it’s an open air theatre – no real roof here – for light purposes, of course
The Globe Theatre has been in operation since way back in Shakespeare’s time and plays are still performed there today – from the end of April until mid-October – that open air theatre thing only works well when it’s not freezing out. Seats to a show at the theatre usually cost around 3 pence (like 3 pennies)…which seems like small change, but in Shakespearean England, a person normally only made about 12 pence a day. You could pay 1 pence and stand in front of the stage to watch the show…and you’d be referred to as a “penny stinkard”…for obvious reasons: you were poor and you definitely stunk. In fact, everyone probably stunk because in ye olden days, people believed in bathing about twice a year – if you were having a healthy year, you might not bathe at all – you don’t want to wash off the layer of “protective” filth you’ve got, right?
You can still stand on the floor today. You will be referred to as a groundling now; I’ll let you decide if that seems to be less offensive. The “best” seats in the house were the ones located directly above the stage – you couldn’t actually see the play you’d paid money for seats at, but what you were really paying for was recognition – because everyone else in the theatre could see you sitting in the most expensive seats possible. Theatre is funny like that, no?
Theatre is also funny because it was the only place where anyone besides Queen Elizabeth I could get away with wearing red. No – I’m serious. If you just decided one morning that you wanted to wear a red dress and you weren’t QEI – off with your head! It was considered treasonous to wear red, unless you were wearing that color as part of a cast, in a play…and then it was perfectly fine! The same went for wearing purple – it was a no go – you wouldn’t get beheaded but you’d end up thrown in the Tower and on one really wants that, right?
All the worlds a stage – and the world must have a heavenly canopy above…
One of those costumes with red in it – not to leave the theatre – or else! 
Fear not – I won’t leave out the epic fail. I enjoyed our tour of the Globe so much, but I really felt like it didn’t end on quite the right note of drama…and so I felt I needed to add my own little “spin” if you will. As we left the theatre, there was a slight step off the curb into a cobblestone walkway (and we I say slight, I mean…slight. I like to trip and fall on the flattest surface possible. Always) that I just couldn’t quite manage. I slipped sideways, my ankle twisted sideways and with arms flailing and legs askew…down I went in a truly ungraceful heap. My camera smashed the cobblestone and I just knew it would be shattered but it was remarkably unharmed. My right knee and left ankle were not so lucky – I’m still sporting a shiner on my right knee and I cannot seem to get the left ankle to quit twinging. Oh well – at least it isn’t still swollen to double it’s size, right?

Five: Adios to 2015 – Which I did in grand style, standing on Westminster Bridge with a lot of other people and listening to Big Ben chime the hours till midnight…and then, when midnight arrived and Big Ben “bonged” especially loudly as the fireworks roared off the London Eye.

Counting down the minutes…
Boats on the Thames waiting to see the fireworks.
My Mom purchased tickets ages ago for the New Year’s Eve celebration in London – it was a ticketed event and you had a designated spot where you were allowed to be. I was pretty impressed with the whole thing…it was handled really well, there weren’t a million people all trying to cram onto Westminster Bridge…if you had a ticket, you had to be in place by 10:30 or you didn’t get to be there at all. Certainly there were a lot of people on the bridge, but there was never a time I felt like we were all crushed together and that’s nice, you know? 
The fireworks were pretty impressive – I especially liked how in between blasts, as part of the music and whatnot, they said “Mind the Gap”. Ha! Once the fireworks ended (they lasted about 12 minutes) a lot of people hung around on the bridge; I’m sure a lot of people headed right out to their favorite pub, we joined the herd of people making their way to the Waterloo Underground station. Initially I began to worry that we would be in a crowd of people waiting to get a train home for hours and hours…and we were herded a bit like cattle (okay, a LOT like cattle) into the Waterloo station…but once we got into the station, the crowd almost completely disappeared, there was no line and we hopped on the very first train that came into the station…only a minute or so after we arrived. 
I must admit – I was impressed on every level by the Brits and their public transporation – I won’t extol the virtues here, but suffice it to say I got to my bed on January 1st a lot sooner than I thought I would. 
Boom! Lighting up the sky!
Pretty amazing! 

So – that’s my five for this Friday and now there is only one day of my trip to recap! I can’t believe it! I hope you’ve got a wonderful and relaxing weekend ahead. I do! I can’t wait till 5 PM rolls around and I can head home, put on comfy clothes and just relax! 

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