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A Fine Semester in London

Author: WackyHeathen (More Trip Reviews by WackyHeathen)
Date of Trip: September 2003

Cheap Thrills
I was also on a relatively tight budget -- not as tight, however as the horribly stingy people that I lived with, but tight. There are, fortunately, many things to do even if you're low on pounds sterling.

Every Sunday at Hyde Park (Marble Arch station), approximately six stops on the red line from our flat, there'ssomething called Speaker's Corner. In the spirit of free speech and self-love, rhetoricians would come out and blabber on about whatever subject matter that they enjoyed blabbering on about. There were always quite a few people with a somewhat frightening religious fervor, be they haters of the Jews, lovers of Jesus or both. Quite often, there was this woman who went on and on about the "pure breed" of British. Her speeches were surreal, drawing large crowds of bemused onlookers, who thankfully saw her as some cosmic absurdity rather than an upholder of Aryan truth. She was mocked relentlessly, her face becoming a shade redder following every verbal assault. Anyone who tried to debate her was always met with unfailing support from the crowd, and regardless of the opposition's rhetorical talents, crowd solidarity would quickly destroy her. She was left in a pitiful and bitter silence, eyes averted, head slightly bowed. Her pridewas all that prevented tears.

Most of the museums are free, and they are every bit as great as people say. Imperialism was a smashing success. The British Museum certainly attests to just how good it was. While they were taking over most of the known world, they were also thinking about the future. They knew quite well that the"artifacts" they plundered would be worth billions of dollars some day. Unfortunately, they didn't foresee the ungrateful nations thatthey hadfreed demanding the return of their treasures.

The National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery are also not to be missed. If you're in London for longer than two weeks, return visits to all the museums is really a great idea. They are just too extensive to get the feeling for in just one visit.

Things to Pay For
London has a great theatre scene. The people are quite proud of this aspect of their cultural heritage. And as part of one of my classes I was fortunate enough to see a play a week for 12 weeks. The plays ranged from West End (Broadway of London, or maybe Broadway is the West End of NYC) blockbusters like Tom Stoppard's "Jumpers" starring Simon Russell Beale to experimental offerings staged on miniscule budgets. The Royal National Theatre offers fantastic plays at great rates. The British government believes in subsidizing the arts, and so common blokes get the chance to see Kenneth Branaugh in Mamet's "Edmond" for about 14 pounds ($24). For the more expensive, international known plays and musicals, there is an officialHalf Price Ticket Booth at Leicester Square.

Londoners also fancy themselves having great taste in music. Instead of bland pop garbage monopolizing the charts like we have in theStates, they have a nice mixture of bland pop garbage (Atomic Kitten)and more interesting(British Sea Power) choices. I had the chance to see Radiohead at a cavernous, bunker-likevenue called Earl'sCourt (Warwick Road, Earls Court station). Myfriend said that it would be areligious experience, but I was skeptical. Itturned out to be the best concert I've ever been to.

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