I have discovered an intriguing phenomenon: although I do not sound like a Londoner, I look like one. I deduced this from that fact that people stop me to ask for directions at least twice every day. I’ll let you in on a little secret: I am absolutely miserable with directions. But despite having no clue where I’m going, I apparently look like I know where I’m going.
After spending four days in London, I quickly noticed that some things just don’t make sense here. My flat number is 69, but I live on the 5th floor, and when I get out of the elevator, an automated British voice cheerily chimes, “Level 8.” Hmm…
At least I am making sense of my neighborhood. I live very near to the Thames River, and yesterday, as I walked along the Thames to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, I passed Millennium Bridge. Harry Potter aficionados may recognize this as the bridge that collapsed in the sixth film following an attack by Death Eaters. Thankfully, the bridge was Death Eater-free when I crossed it later that day.
I went up to the highest floor of a shopping center for a panoramic view of London, including St. Paul’s Cathedral, an Anglican cathedral designed in the English Baroque style in the late 17th century by Sir Christopher Wren. At 365 feet, its dome is one of the highest in the world. While taking the lift (see, I’m working on my British terminology) back down from the highest floor, I noticed the man pressing the lift buttons had an illustrious title printed in fancy letters on his shirt: “Automatic Door Specialist.” Well, if university doesn’t work out for me, I suppose there’s always a lucrative career in Automatic Door Specialty.
To update you on my issues with driving on the wrong side of the road in the UK, I would like to mention that looking left is not always sufficient. Theoretically, one should be able to switch from looking right, as we do in the US, to looking left because cars travel on the opposite side of the road here. But no, no, no. You see, there are so many one-way roads that you never really know where to look. Hence, the Brits include a plethora of instructions: “Look left.” “Look right.” “Mind the gap.” “Heads up.” Mom, at this point, I would like to thank you for teaching me to look both ways before crossing the street as a child.
I visited the National Gallery and found marvelous collections by Monet, van Gogh, and Titian! I delighted in the opportunity to see Titian’s famous piece, Bacchus and Ariadne, which depicts Bacchus, god of wine, leaping exuberantly from his chariot towards Ariadne, forsaken by her lover on the Greek island of Naxos. She initially fears Bacchus and tries to turn away, but he persists, raising her to heaven and turning her into a constellation. Note the vivid colors (Titian was a master of color, particularly red) and the way the clothing furrows out into the wind. My inner art historian rejoiced!
I will leave you with a photograph of van Gogh’s iconic Sunflowers.