Sunday, June 26, 2011

I Will Miss British: Culture

Today's countdown post (two Sundays to go after today) is in honour of my fabulous trip to London on Friday.  The first in today's list is very related.  I will miss...

Free museums: London contains some of the best museums and art galleries in the world, and they are free to visitors.  I cannot even begin to describe how much I will miss them.   

Anglican boys choirs: Most evenings it is possible to catch an evening choral service in the bigger churches around Cambridge and other British towns.  One of the highlights of living in Cambridge has been Kings Chapel Evensongs with the Kings College Choir Boys.  I have experienced some truly heavenly music here.

Formal Dining Halls: of Harry Potter fame.  Eating gourmet, Latin-blessed many-coursed meals by candlelight in draped black gowns was something so quintessentially Oxbridge (Oxford/Cambridge meld).  Each formal was sophisticated, unique, astonishing and extremely memorable.    

BBC iPlayer:  Perhaps not so culturally sophisticated, BBC iPlayer got me through many lonely nights alone when  American internet options like Hulu and Netflix were blocked because of my European IP address.  I gained a new respect for BBC television series and documentaries, and am hoping the BBC has some kind of American portal so I can continue to follow my British shows...

Pubs: Gasp, I know.  But I love how warm the pub atmosphere tends to be.  There is something beautiful about walking in, finding your own table, perusing the menu at your leisure, ordering at the bar when you are ready, and eating undisturbed.  The American restaurant system has got to figure this out!

Rowing:  When I get around to jogging, I like to run down the Cam river, past the boathouses.  There is something surprisingly moving about watching the rowing teams glide through the water.  I understand, now, this British symbol of athletic strength and beauty.    

Cheap airfare around Europe:  Again, not exactly high culture, but airlines like RyanAir and EasyJet have made friends with me!  I will miss the freedom to fly around Europe from $20 round trip.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

May Week

It has been a particularly enjoyable week.  Last Friday was the end of term and with the essay submitted, I looked forward to kicking my feet up for a week before class started again.  First I was delighted by a welcome surprise from my long-lost husband:

They were a sweet reminder of the ways in which Dave has always supported me, even when it is so hard for him to be alone.  

Monday kicked off May Week in Cambridge, which marks the end of the school year and brings elaborate parties at many of the colleges and a general feeling of relief and excitement.  I did not purchase the extraordinarily expensive (£80 to £200 or $130 to $320) tickets to Emmanuel's May Ball (or any other May Ball), but I was hoping to experience at least a bit of May Ball excitement.  Thankfully, part of the Jesus College ball happened right below my window, so on Monday evening I was able to watch the women stroll by in their glamorous gowns and the men in their snazzy tuxedos.  I also got to enjoy the jazz band that played nearby until about 4:30 in the morning.  We got another treat as well.  Trinity's fireworks let off for about half an hour around 11 pm.  We all ran outside to ooh and aw.  There was something strangely ethereal about standing outside in bare feet, watching fireworks explode in the drizzling rain over the Cambridge skyline.

At one point we thought that they had finished, so we returned to our rooms upstairs.  When they started up again, we all poked our heads out the windows to continue watching.

On Tuesday evening, I attended a Corpus Christi graduate dinner with one of my BYU mentors (Dr. Kerry - the man responsible for my coming to Cambridge) and another of his former students.  We ate a lovely two course dinner at one of the hidden gems just off one of Cambridge's main streets:

After dinner we strolled around the wild English garden seen in the foreground of the picture above. It was another breathtaking reminder of the unique opportunities I have been able to enjoy here.  

On Wednesday night, my 'married friend' Christine came over for one last night of sociability before flying back to the States.  We made dinner and ate GΓΌ chocolate souffle for dessert.  Because I still hadn't rewarded myself for finishing the term, we also had Kelly's of Cornwall Clotted Cream and Honeycomb ice cream.  It was absolutely divine.  The cows must eat well in England, because ice cream just simply isn't as creamy in America.  

Christine and Me at the Harry Potter Premiere
(since I wasn't clever enough to take a picture of the two of us on Wednesday)

 And then I spent yesterday in London at the museums, of course.

As far as I know, we are the only course in all of Cambridge returning to class on Monday.  I have to try not to think about it or I start getting slightly bitter.  On the other hand, the eLearning students will be joining us for the first time since early October, and I am looking forward to enjoying a more diverse student body during class sessions.  I can't believe how quickly my time here is coming to a close.  Just 17 more days now until I'm back with my sweet husband.  Until then, I hope every week goes by as pleasurably as this one!

All Alone

I like to be alone sometimes, but I usually don't like to do alone.  Ask Dave; I hate going to the grocery store alone.  Ask Kathryn and Courtney; I hate walking to class alone.  At parties, I like to have David or a friend at my side as we mutually mingle.  However, I realised two months ago (the night of the royal wedding, actually, when I was in the British Museum for the first time) that there was one thing I must do alone: museums.  When I am interested in an exhibit or painting, I spend a long time in front of it.  And I start feeling anxious if there is someone nearby waiting for me to finish.  So as I truncated my visit to the British Museum that evening to return to friends more quickly, I determined that one day, when I had a day off, I would venture down to London myself and spend an entire day museum hopping.  Yesterday was that day.

It started with a train ride, which always begins with the most ironic sign in the city:

My first stop in London was the Tate Modern, where I was very excited to see my first Mark Rothko paintings ever.  I'm not sure what I was expecting on a Friday afternoon, but I sat in the crowded Rothko room disgruntled at the hoards of people who continually drifted through the small, dim room.  Maybe one day I will find a way to sneak in at night, when I can spend hours in silence, pondering the impenetrable mysteries that are Mark Rothko paintings.

Mark Rothko, Red on Maroon (1959)

My favourite room in the entire museum was just nearby, with a Pollock on one wall, Monet's gorgeous late Water-Lilies on another, a green and yellow Rothko on another, and a fantastic Joan Mitchell on another. 

Jackson Pollock, Summertime: Number 9A (1948)

Claude Monet, Water-Lilies (after 1916) 

Joan Mitchell, Number 12 (1951-2)
There was some other good stuff around too - straight out of my humanities text books.  I love that.

Roy Lichtenstein, Whaam!  (1963)

Georges Braque, Bottle and Fishes (1910-2)
Like Picasso - but so much better! 

Auguste Rodin, The Kiss (1901-4)
The next stop was the British Museum for some real, quality time.  And it was.

King George III's Library in the Enlightenment Room.
This would be my dream library, seriously...

Fancy meeting you here...

Celestial Globe
Much more meaningful after reading the first few sections of The Discoverers.  Fascinating read!

I loved the clock room.

Cyrus Cylinder
Naming my firstborn son Cyrus because of this little rock and documents signed by it...

Stopped into the Lachish room for one last look.

Stolen right off the Parthenon
By the time I had finished at the British Museum, my feet were starting to kill me.  I headed off to the National Gallery for some more wandering.  In the end, I spent quite a lot of time curled up on the padded benches in the middle of my favourite rooms.  I think I could probably live there.

Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed in the National Gallery, but below are images of some of my favourite works:

Caravaggio, The Supper at Emmaus (1601)
Of course, I made a beeline for the Caravaggios.  I sat in front of this painting for a good twenty minutes.  

Paul Cezanne, Hillside in Provence (about 1890-2)

Diego Velazquez, The Immaculate Conception (1618-9)

John Constable, The Hay Wain (1821)

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Gladioli in a Vase (about 1874-5)
Looks much more stunning in real life.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, At the Theatre (La Premiere Sortie) (1876-7)

Elisabeth-Louise Vigee-Libru, Self-Portrait in a Straw Hat (1782)
The eyes are extremely arresting... 

JMW Turner, Rain, Steam, and Speed - The Great Western Railway (1844)
And my very favourite:

Rembrandt, A Woman Bathing in a Stream (1654)
I feel so blessed to have such amazing works of art and history available without any more cost than that of the train tickets to London.  I sometimes regret my humanities degree, but because of it I am able to spend hours prowling art galleries and feel absolutely in heaven.  Combing the British Museum was not quite so satisfying, but I was reminded of the billions of people who have come and gone on this earth and how little I know about them.  I am grateful for a great and loving Heavenly Father who did know them and who is mindful of the turnings of the earth.  In the meantime, I will try to learn what I can about others so that I can develop a sympathy and understanding for those around me, no matter how different they seem.

Thanks London, for a fabulous day out!  Delays on the train trip home made for a late night.  I was very glad to get home safely and sleep my weary feet away!