London Update No. 1

I’ve been in London approximately ten days and it has been an exhausting but amazing journey so far. Last weekend, I frequented some  great vintage shops in the Brick Lane area followed by a visit to the National Portrait Gallery. I thoughouly enjoyed the gallery, especially the Tudor and Romantic themed areas, how could you not love gazing at a portrait of Lord Byron? Other the highlights from the past week include having tea at the University Church in Oxford and wandering the grounds of the Stowe House. Thursday I was lucky enough to go see Ian McLagan play a concert in his hometown. The show was fantastic and it was fascinating to witness the differences between his Austin shows. While at the concert, my friend and I inadvertently met some quite interesting people, including someone who was perplexed why we were so into listening to a musician from a past era.

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View of Radcliffe Camera from the tea garden of University Church in Oxford

In efforts to see as much of London before my friend had to return to Paris as possible, this past weekend was a whirlwind. We attempted to balance visiting iconic popular sites, such as the British Museum and record shopping in Portobello Road, with less crowded activities like eating fish ‘n chips by the Thames or sitting in the park. Besides Mac’s show, Sunday was the best day my friend and I spent together. We devoted most of the day to wandering the Victoria and Albert Museum, one of my absolute favorite places. The museum has spectacular collections including the legendary fashion galleries (which displays my favorite outfit, designed by Marion Foale and Sally Tuffin), theater and performance pieces, sculpture, furniture, and my latest obsession, the V&A Cast Courts. The cast court is vast atrium housing plaster casts of famous significant European architectural feats. The gallery contains facades of cathedrals, pulpits, graves, sculptures, and Trajan’s Column. After the museum we traveled to 221B Baker Street to visit the outside of what would have been Sherlock Holmes’s house. 221B is conveniently right down the street from the very beautiful Regent’s Park so we spend a long while watching ducks before heading to dinner.

Picturesque view of the river Avon

Picturesque view of the river Avon

My first ten days in London have been amazing! It is hard to pinpoint my favorite moment so far, but definitely in the top three would be seeing the Royal Shakespeare Company perform Henry IV, Part 1 in Stratford-upon-Avon. I was unfamiliar with the play and was concerned that I would have some difficulty following along. After seeing the fantastic performance I was reminded how essential seeing Shakespeare’s words acted out is to understanding the themes of his plays. Henry IV was captivating, entertaining, dramatic, funny, and accessible. Here’s hoping my next ten days will be a brilliant as the last!

Live from the Stowe School

Today we traveled outside of London to tour the library at the Stowe School. The school is housed within the Stowe House, a large estate built for Sir Richard Temple beginning in 1676. In 1923 the Stowe School was established. The school operates in the original building and many of the rooms have been restored based upon archival evidence concerning the estates original architecture. In addition to the beautiful building, Stowe School also boasts magnificent gardens. Our group enjoyed a wonderful and informative tour but there is one thing that was not brought up, a special performance by the Beatles in January 1963! Listen to John Bloomfield’s first hand account of the concert in this special BBC Radio clip.http://audioboo.fm/boos/991933-a-rare-performance-by-the-beatles-at-stowe-school-in-buckinghamshire

Stowe House Gardens

Stowe House Gardens

On to Oxford

[Please note this entry is a work in progress]

Today, the first day of class began with a trip to Oxford to tour the Bodleian Library, one of the oldest and largest libraries in Europe. While the library houses a staggering collection of rare manuscripts and folios, one of the most interesting aspects of the tour was learning about the institution’s revolutionary book security problem solving procedures. Patrons within libraries do not typically think about book security when utilizing the library but this practice is essential for operation.  The Bodleian implemented early medieval tactics to keep books by housing the materials on the second floor. The safety of the second floor meant the library’s collections were less likely to be harmed by flooding, thieves, and other dangers. The Bodleian’s Duke Humfrey’s Library, the oldest portion of the institution, still operates on the second floor.

Radcliffe Camera

Radcliffe Camera

 

The Tower of the Five Orders

The Tower of the Five Orders

From Waterloo Records to Waterloo Station

A few days ago, I was lucky enough to attend Ian McLagan’s record release show for United States at Waterloo Records in Austin. Listening to the album brought back some great memories of seeing Mac perform at the Luck Lounge. If you have not had the chance to see his Thursday gigs at the Luck Lounge please go! One would be hard pressed to find a group of more talented musicians than the Bump Band or better Hammond organ playing by an incredible rock and roll hall of fame member than Ian McLagan. I cannot think of anything better than listening to Mac tell stories about his mod days in the Small Faces, his adventures with Keith Richards or Moon the Loon, and his obsession with the Marx Brothers. Now that I’m in London, I cannot wait to see Mac play at The Half Moon in Putney in just a few days. Knowing him it will be a great show with lots of mad stories!