Today, I began my exploration of literary London!
This morning I had a meeting with my spiritual mentor, Shannon. After an hour and a half of awesome Jesus talk, she bought me a mocha from Starbucks and dropped me off at the Hammersmith rail station. From here, I hopped on the Tube and got off at the King’s Cross exit. (No, I didn’t see Platform 9 3/4. I was on the Underground, not the normal train.)
From there, I went to… well… why should I explain it when I spent the past ten minutes making this fancy map?
My first stop was the British Library!
I didn’t delve into the archives or anything, but I toured the main floor and looked at all the manuscripts on display. And, oh my goodness, my not-so-inner literature geek was going crazy. I mean… my eyes have now beheld the Beowulf manuscript! THE Beowulf manuscript! And I’ve gotten to see the first ever collected folio of Shakespeare’s plays! I stood in front of Jane Austen’s writing desk for a long time, imagining Jane sitting before it, looking out her window, lost in her mind, dipping her quill into the ink and penning those famous words “It is a truth universally acknowledged…” I also got to see the Gutenberg Bible! Not to mention the original manuscript several Beatles songs, including “Yesterday”. I also got to behold the handwriting of John Milton (yes, the same man who wrote Paradise Lost!), William Wordsworth, Robert Browning, Edmund Spenser (author of the fabulous epic poem, The Faerie Queene, which is a TRIPLE ALLEGORY), and W.H. Auden. In addition, I got to see notes and letters written by Charles Darwin, Michelangelo, W.H. Auden, Winston Churchill, Albrecht Durer, and Leonardo da Vinci (I even got to see his famous mirror script–all his notes were penned backwards!). It doesn’t stop there, though. On display was the original manuscript for Handel’s “Messiah”, along with compositions by Beethoven and Mozart. (Mozart’s wedding certificate was there too!)
Oh my goodness. I could have stared at those manuscripts ALL DAY. But, I pulled myself away and wandered through the Bloomsbury borough! One of my professors recommended that I visit. It’s home to the Charles Dickens museum (I didn’t have time to stop today, but I plan to) and the area was the haunt of the Bloomsbury Group…. i.e. Virginia Woolf! (See my first post for more on how Woolf has already impacted my time here…)
While in Bloomsbury, I ended up wandering into several locally owned bookstores!
After Bloomsbury, I wandered for a LONG time. (That long time being nearly forty-five minutes.) Eventually, I came by Covent Gardens, Leicester Square, and Piccadilly Circus. With this came more tributes to British literary greats…
If you’re following my map, I then headed to point five. Because we had come and gone so quickly in the Photo Frenzy, I wanted to spend more time poking around Buckingham Palace. I rested for a few minutes in St. James park, had my daily sandwich (I always pack one when I go into Central London so I won’t have to spend money), and watched the swans.
The last leg of my journey included strolling through Hyde Park. That place is ENORMOUS! It must have taken an hour to walk through the whole thing. By the time I arrived at the Kensington Palace on the far end, I was exhausted. I had been on my feet for five hours and needed to head home.
Like the independent, adventurous soul I have become over the past five days, I located the nearest Tube station (Kensington High Street), scanned my Oyster card, and train-hopped my way back to Hammersmith. It was here that I stumbled slightly–I found the right bus to take me back to Roehampton, but got on the one going the wrong way. I ended up waiting for the next one for about twenty minutes, followed by a fifteen minute ride… let’s just say it was late by the time I finally walked up the steps to my flat.
I’d like to note that, all of this, I did on my own. Studying abroad has definitely boosted my confidence and my self-sufficiency. I really enjoyed exploring Central London solo. This meant that I could plug my iPod in one ear as I got to see whatever I wanted and spend as much time as I liked there. Did I feel uncomfortable going alone? Not really. Although there is certainly crime and problems like any city, it is a relatively safe place. Weapons of any kind (including pepper spray!) is illegal here. Some Americans I have met here say this makes them feel unsafe. Personally, I find it refreshing and reassuring. Yes, guns do give you a level of security, but the European mindset is so different from the one in the States. It’s not even an issue! As long as I keep my purse and pockets close, eyes straight ahead, and walk quickly and confidently, no one looks at me twice. You see, if you walk like you’re on a mission, you fit right in.
Stay tuned for more on literary London. This is only the beginning of my exploits!