Classes have officially ended. Final papers are due in about a week, everyone in the Oxford MOSAIC program for July has left, except me. I discussed staying extra days with my husband before I took off on this grand adventure. As he stated before I was even accepted into the program, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and he stood by that the entire time. He agreed that staying a few extra days would be a good idea so I could really ‘get’ London and Oxford. I had originally wanted to take a trip to Paris, but after much research I found that it was out of the question. (I guess that means I’ll have to take another trip across the Atlantic some time.) I am a little lonely as my roommates have all left and my family is still at home, but I wouldn’t trade the extra days of travel and experience for anything. I have seen things in these few days that others can only wish they had seen. I’ve taken a trip through centuries and never left the modern world. Today was a grand example of experiencing the culture of another country.
My day started out as a typical English day, rainy. It’s ironic as the majority of the time I have been in this beautiful country it has hardly rained and the locals say it’s a bit of a heatwave. For those of us back in the Midwest of the United States, 70-75 is a cool front in July, which is what the Brits call a heatwave. Anyway, I gathered my backpack, mapped out my route and set off to the train station in Oxford. I stopped at the local Sainsbury market first to grab some snacks to keep me going through the day. I made the mistake of not taking snacks yesterday and wolfed down ¼ of a Domino’s Pizza when I got back to the flat that night. Talk about heartburn!
Back to the task at hand, today’s adventures. After boarding the train to London, I finished reading the first Alice in Wonderland book, as Lewis Carroll wrote the books in Oxford and based them off of a little girl named Alice that lived with her father at Christ Church in Oxford, I found it fitting as part of my experience here. The book ended before the train ride so I moved on to Lion Among Men by Gregory McGuire (I also saw Wicked while I have been in London). The ride ended and we all got off the train at Paddington Station. As I had mapped out my travels for the day I knew where to go on the Underground (or Tube) and headed in the direction of the line I needed to get on so I could transfer. I am proud to say I can successfully navigate the London Underground with minimal mistakes and am very proud of that! Have you seen the map of the Underground? If not, take a look at it.
Yeah, I mastered that bad boy.
I hopped off the Tube and headed to the British Library first thing. I didn’t allow myself to be drawn in to all of the books, because I would never leave if I did that. I love books so much! I headed up the steps and found the area of the Library where they keep the treasures. I was excited to see things like the Magna Carta (which was off display because of a special paid exhibit) and the Gutenberg Bible. I was NOT disappointed. Not only did I see wonders like the Gutenberg Bible (which is quite large and beautiful), I was able to see some of Da Vinci’s notebooks, original scores from Bach, Handel, Mozart, Chopin, Galileo’s Starry Messenger notebook, original writings of the Diamond, Heart and Lotus Sutras of Buddhism, original writings by Shakespeare, the sole surviving manuscript of Beowulf, original lyrics from the Beatles, and the writing desk of Jane Austen just to name some highlights. The room was dimly light with the focus of light being on the works and photography was not allowed. The room was filled mostly with adults and it was very quiet. Everyone was taking in the history before their eyes. We all had a common goal, to absorb and appreciate the works of art before us. Works of art that are written are no loss impressive than paintings, live music, or sculpture. I fear that some of that is being lost and it was wonderful to be in the same room with others that appreciate the written word.
After about an hour touring the treasures of the British Library I decided to change my original plan (another visit to the British Museum) and decided that going to the Tate Modern Art museum was more important. I had just been humbled by the written word, so I decided it was time to be humbled by paintings, sculptures and photographs. I am a fan of modern art, I can’t really explain why, but I enjoy looking at it much more than paintings by some of the greats like Monet. While at Tate Modern I was able to feast my artistic eye on the likes of Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein and Salvador Dali. As photography was allowed, I snapped a few photos of the famous artists works, but I also was moved by a few artists I had not heard of before, so I snapped a few photos of their work too. I found Tate Modern to be the ideal modern art museum, very minimal, lots of white, black and glass, but I also found it a bit confusing. There were no maps on the walls to help you figure out where you wanted to go, like most British museums I had visited so far. They did have a paper map, for a pound. I didn’t have a pound and figured I’d wing it anyway. I enjoyed the artwork I saw while at Tate Modern and I’m sure I would have enjoyed more, but I was beginning to get tired so I headed out in the rain once again. I stopped at the front of Tate Modern and snapped a picture of the Thames River in the rain and the skyline. I figured I needed at least one “typical” London picture. Ha ha ha! Back to the Tube station I went after the photo opportunity. I decided to deviate from my course one last time, as I had some time to kill before I could get on the train to head to Oxford. I decided to go to the Hard Rock Café in London.
Marilyn Dyptich by Andy Warhol
The kind of weather I was expecting in London
The Hard Rock Café London is the original Hard Rock Café. It was founded by two Americans that wanted to create a place in London where people of all classes could dine together and enjoy their experience. Eric Clapton enjoyed the Café so much he asked to have a plaque put above a specific table. The owners/founders refused as it didn’t fit with their idea, but jokingly told Clapton he could donate something to the establishment. He did! He donated a guitar, which is the beginning of the Hard Rock Café collection. How do I know this? I read it while sitting at the bar drinking my wild berry smoothie in a collector Hurricane glass. I didn’t take any pictures of the Café because it was very crowded and people were eating their dinner. I did walk around and take in some of the amazing memorabilia that adorns the walls. They had guitars from Eric Clapton, Billy Idol, and even Jimi Hendrix. There were outfits or pieces of clothing worn by the likes of Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Jim Morrison Bo Diddley and Mick Jagger. It was awesome to see such a collection in such a small place. If I had the extra money I would have toured the Vault, which is accessed through the Rock Shop across the street to see Kurt Cobain’s guitar and John Lennon’s glasses. I guess that means another trip to England someday so I can check those out too!
Wildberry Smoothie from Hard Rock Cafe
While on this adventure to England I have learned a great many things and appreciated a great many more. One thing I have come to appreciate the most is my family. They have unconditionally supported the idea and trip. Anyone of my family members could have said no and I would have listened. I would have felt guilty for a very long time for listening, but I would have listened. Instead, I have been graced with a husband, son, parents, in-laws, and close friends who have fully thrown their support behind me. I am doing my best to experience this land for its many levels of beauty and history, but not experience it through a lens. I have taken pictures, but I’ve also walked around and appreciated the wonder and glory that is another culture. I see far too many people rushing from object to object in museums taking pictures but not really experiencing the beauty of which they just took a picture. I have seen numerous selfie sticks (the bane of my existence) because people are so self-involved that they cannot remove their face from the wonder of history, art, or science that they are supposed to be enjoying. I am guilty of taking some selfie pictures while here, but as a rule, I don’t really like them. If I take a picture of something it is because I want to remember it for the rest of my life. If I took the picture, I know I was there, I don’t need the proof of my face to make it any more real. I hope that people can learn to put their cameras away, if only for a few moments, and appreciate the wonder and joy of what they are experiencing. I think that is one of my biggest take-aways from my travels, learning to really enjoy life and the wonders that it holds daily. Nothing can compare to standing in the same room as an entire outfit worn by Jimi Hendrix, or seeing a painting by Picasso, or reading the handwritten lyrics of “Ticket to Ride” on the back of a birthday card. Each of these people were inspired at one moment and created something beautiful that is now preserved for thousands of others to enjoy and gain inspiration. Why waste that time finding the perfect angle for a selfie, why not spend that time in awe of the genius that was just witnessed, even if it was 100 years ago.