Sunday, September 28, 2008

Taking a last walk on foreign soil...

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ORIGINALLY POSTED: 9 June 2008
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Of course, the British Museum was not my only stop in London - that really WOULD be nerdy... and slightly sad.

We left the British Museum with plenty of the day (and the next) left to burn.

With the Underground, nothing is very far away in London.

Although it was cold, although it was rainy, although it was generally a pretty gross day to be outside, we were in London... and when in London for the first time, you go out and see London.

Yes, you even brave skies like this...

...and take out the camera to get it on film.

In the world of hopelessly photogenic things, the London Eye has been one of photography's clich├ęs since it was constructed. It really is mighty cool to see, albeit I expected it to be larger.

So, to pay homage to all those millions of photographers who have tried in vain to make an "artistic" image of a giant ferris wheel:

Yep, just about as artistic as the next one... and I even left some edge clutter in there down at the bottom - since that's how the usual "artistic" photograph turns out. Do I sound cynical of the hopeless and hapless millions of people out there who make valiant attempts at making images of objects captured by a billion other tourists and then try to pass it off as art by zooming in to a detail (like above) or tilting it 45 degrees for a "fresh new angle"?

In fact, I am. Let's rant for a moment, shall we?

Actually, let's not - I'll save that for another day. ;)

Phew! Crisis averted!

Moving on...

Even at wide angle, I almost had to stand in the busy street to get all of Westminster Abbey in the frame.

Yep, it's really really huge. Its difficult to impress me with a church building these days, but this one probably pushes close to the top of the list. Not just in architecture - that's not THAT impressive - but by the sheer amount of history contained within its walls.

Most of the major monarchs from most of England's history are interred (or commemorated) here as well as an immense number of "famous names". Sir Isaac Newton, Winston Churchill, Geoffrey Chaucer, George F. Handel, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Watt, Lord Alfred Tennyson, Edmund Spencer... the list goes on and on...

Standing there in the presence of the greatest minds of the English-speaking world is a mighty cool thing to do. They may be concentrated in libraries of books around the world, but in this one place their mortal bodies are brought together so everyone who visits can pay their respects.

Many apologies, but no photography was allowed.

William Shakespeare is not buried there (he is buried at Stratford-upon-Avon) but there is a monument to him there. And speaking of Shakespeare:

The reconstructed Globe Theater. Shockingly enough, the tickets are absurdly cheap - only 5pounds for the floor - but it is open-air and today was probably a horrible day to stand in the rain and watch King Lear.

So we moved on. It was easy to see James Bond's MI-6 down the Thames River from the parliament building, but rain was coming in a torrent at that point and I wasn't going to destroy the D80 for a hazy shot of that.

Not far from the London Bridge was this little boat:

I think I remember it being Sir Frances Drake's ship, but I may be mistaken.

And, by the way, the London Bridge looks depressingly like almost every other concrete bridge in the world... mainly because it is just like every other concrete bridge in the world. In fact, it wasn't even capable of making a good photo...

...and THIS is NOT the London Bridge:

No, my silly friends, this is the Tower Bridge.

"Well, of course its the Tower Bridge," says my European friends. You'd be surprised to know how many people don't know.

"Next you're going to tell me this isn't Big Ben."

You're right... its not. This is the Palace of Westminster Clock Tower. Big Ben is the bell inside it.

Isn't learning fun?

Here's another little educational bit:

Everything in Europe is covered by scaffolding right now.

Its true! Its the metal plague... even the Tower of London can't escape its grasp.

I mean, its not enough that they just put scaffolding around an entire tower... they cover it in plastic, too, so it doesn't even resemble the original structure. I mean, what could they possibly need to cover it up like that? Are the workers working in the nude!?

Okay, I'm done.

And actually the Tower of London is mighty expensive to visit and highly touristy - two things that equal "not worth it". And it was STILL raining. And we'd walked all the way from Westminster Abbey, across the Waterloo Bridge, by the Tate Modern, the Globe Theater, the Millennium Bridge, and all that stuff around the London Bridge... back across the Tower Bridge and to the Tower of London...

...in the rain.

Ahh... to be a traveler...

...and if you didn't already know this either: the Tower of London is actually within a castle.

My two companions - Bethany and Melissa - and I headed back to Hyde Park where our hostel was. I had fish and chips at a local pub and they had a granola bar at the room.

Whatever...

That was the end of Day One in London - as far as tourism went, I'd say. That night was the Chelsey vs. Manchester United football (American soccer) game. It was pouring down rain outside... and strangely enough - so it was at the game.

I thought it mighty cool that the same storm rained on us as it did at that game. It was a pretty good game, too!

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When I woke at 7:30am on Day Two of London, I soon realized that it was my last time to sleep in a European bed...

...scary thought though: it would be almost 48 hours till I would see another one.

More pigeons in the lawn by Buckingham Palace.

Did you know: pigeons were originally imported to America as food for poor people?

Yeah, I wouldn't eat one if you cooked it with an incinerator. You really would get the plague.

And then on to a HUGE crowd at Buckingham Palace. I don't know why.

Surely this isn't all just for the changing of the fuzzy hatted ones.

It was difficult to find a good spot for some attendees...

(I threw this into B&W with my usual 2-step Photoshop recipe.)

I was astounded at the amount of people. I don't even think most of them knew what they were looking at or looking for.

When I see this, it reminds me of aliens or snails with eye-stalks. How good can these eye-stalk shots really be?

So, I opted not for standing back at the back with this in my face, nor did I resign to adding a big-bodied DSLR to the eye-stalk forest... I just took to using the people's elbow and getting to the fence.

For a shot at:

Sorry, England - I'm not up on my royalty these days. Who might this be? He had escorts... so, I thought he might be somebody.

Anyways, it was quite a bit of a to-do - parade, honor guard, band, stopping traffic with horses...

...but being the sojourner, it was time to move on and take our final little stroll through a foreign land.

Even the pigeons stroll...

The wayfaring pigeons of Trafalgar Square. And Trafalgar Square doing what it does best...

...demonstrations and political rallies.

You might recall me coming upon this little group a long time ago when I was in Florence back on Leap Year Weekend.

The Communist and/or Socialist Parties are mighty active in London and this is one of their favorite hang-outs.

Even the rain didn't dampen their spirited rants. But some people don't care about all that political stuff and just want to stay high and dry and have a good day.

And now the time had come to begin our sequence of departure. It was only moments after this that Bethany left Melissa and I for a plane to Amsterdam - and then back home to the States.

Melissa and I took our time getting to Heathrow airport. That's the only way to do it - its a long long way from central London. Before that, spent many hours in Starbucks at the Kings Cross station.

And I assure you, there is a HUGE gap of time here not covered by photos...

We waited until it was almost dark, then saw the sun set from the train car window on the way to Heathrow. Melissa and I conversed about back home: some things like 'what our hometowns are like' or 'little quirks about our families'. All the time, we had a few people with us on the train... they were our captive audience. In fact, they just sat there in silence and listened attentively to our conversation. It didn't bother us, we were hours from leaving after 108 days overseas.

That's when we began our long night in the Heathrow airport. Melissa's plane left at 8am from Terminal 4. It was a long night, needless to say. I slept maybe 3 hours in one hour spurts.

Early on the morning of the 109th day abroad, Melissa and I parted ways. She got on her flight while I remained in London for only a few more hours before my flight from Gatwick.

I met a few other friends in the Gatwick airport from my semester in Greece... we asked each other the menial "How was it?" - "Good." but nobody really went into any detail. Well over half of the people I've talked to spent the night in some airport - whether it was Gatwick or another Heathrow terminal or Paris or Rome or Amsterdam - they all were ready for their own beds.

But such is traveling...

There was a few of my friends from Greece on the flight...

...and after a short 8hr flight across the Atlantic to Detroit, I didn't see them again after customs.

So, then there was one.

It was just me.

I had returned.


Stay tuned,
~Noah D.



PS: "What else could there be?" you ask. I'll be doing a final blog post relating to my experiences abroad.
But don't think the Fledgling Photographer ends here! By no means! And don't think the photos from the travels end, either! I still have rolls of film from as far back as Israel left to show!

And not only that, there are exciting things happening that I'll be sharing soon. The journey is not complete! No, not by a long shot! So really... stay tuned and see what comes!!

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