Thursday, September 1, 2011

Day 13: The Last Three Hours

This is my last post of London! I have since returned, but as I did manage to squeeze in quite a few things before my flight home, I wanted to share them here. 

In the morning, I packed all my things, including my new suitcase, with the treasures of my adventures, and checked out of the hostel. I was able to leave my bags in their storage locker, so I decided to head back into Westminster, since it's on the same Tube line and I wouldn't have to go far out of the way. First I stopped near Green Park to visit The Royal Academy, which had an exhibition on about Hungarian photographers.
The exhibition was excellent, and among many others, features the works of Maholy-Nagy and Gyorgy Kepes. These two artists were associates of the subject of my masters thesis, so I thought it was an important and unique opportunity to be able to see their work in this context.

My next stop was in Westminster, where I had a Rick Steves walking tour on my iPod. It starts on Westminster bridge, giving you this awesome view of the Palace of Westminster and the bell tower (the bell is called Big Ben, apparently.)

Another shot from the bridge.
And the London Eye again. The clouds were so spectacular. It really shows the rapidly changing weather patterns. Dark and gloomy rain clouds exit the picture to the right hand side, making way for a stretch of blue sky and cotton candy clouds. It is, however, short lived as you can see, the whorls of impending rain are creeping in again.

The Westminster Bridge also has this amazing statue of Boadicea, the warrior who cut off one of her breasts because it got in the way while she shot of arrows.

The towers of Westminster Abbey, with matching sky.

The walk continued up Whitehall, where I saw some monuments and other important buildings I hadn't yet had the chance to stop by and see.

The Cenotaph, a WWI memorial. It is also ceremoniously used to remember all the dead from the wars Britain has fought in, and on Remembrance Day, members of the royal family and parliament place wreaths, and soldiers march past. On the audio guide I learned that it's said that if all of Britain's WWI dead were to march four-abreast past the Cenotaph, the parade would last for seven days.
There is also this memorial to the Women of WWI.

No. 10 Downing Street! You can't see the door, but it's that black and white building there. I did see the door to No. 10 that was used by Winston Churchill, in the Churchill Museum.

And here is all that remains of the once ENORMOUS and faboosh Palace of Whitehall. It's amazing dining hall, now known as the Banqueting House, is all that is left of a palace that must have been quite something to see.
Aside from hosting elaborate high teas and classical music concerts, the Banqueting House is the site where Charles I was beheaded after the British Civil war, when Oliver Cromwell took over...and got rid of all the crown jewels  >:-(   Clearly, thats the main thing I took away from the British Civil War. 
Then I walked by the Household Cavalry Museum, and saw the mounted Life Guard. They are the Queen's body guards, along with the Blues and Royals.

Uhhhh watch out little girl...

They bite!
About this time I had to leave to go collect my things at the hostel and head to the airport. I had purchased a Heathrow Express ticket beforehand, because August 29th was a bank holiday, and I wasn't sure what to expect from the Tube. I think I would have been better off taking the tube, however, because that weekend was Carnival, the big Carribbean festival in Notting Hill, and that stop was only two down from Paddington, where I had to get off for the express. So there was me, apologizing profusely for my massive amounts of luggage, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible. Needless to say, I got a few good bruises from my efforts.

The airport was fine, and I got my VAT tax refund. Security at Heathrow is twenty times that of JFK, which I thought was interesting. With all the additional security, however, I never had to take off my shoes.

I watched several movies on the plane, and gradually slipped into a state of suspended psychosis, as my brain tried to comprehend the ticking of my internal clock and the persistence of the sun out the window. My flight was at 5pm yet I landed at JFK at 7:30pm, as the sun was beginning to set. And in my condition of non compos mentis, I saw the most spectacular view from the plane window. Never wanting to forget the experience, I jotted down these words, a blithering and loquacious description of the sunset, which I will use to bring to a close my trip to London:

Through the small portal I behold a most blinding sunset of rich, resplendent golden orange, the star in the center brilliantly glowing with the warmest of light. The glittering rays sparkle down through the atmosphere; a rain of fire, casting the skyline of Manhattan in a majestic purple shadow. And against the orange sky, ablaze, the cool aubergine monoliths of the city are dramatically silhouetted, seeming to sizzle as their bracing forms reach into the hot sky. The Empire State Building stands as a lone sentry, victoriously piercing into the golden veil sent gloriously from the retiring sun, with its crisp dark spire.

With its last efforts the wizened sun alchemically transforms lakes and ponds from leadened gray discs to pools of deep liquid gold, a feat of magic so very fleeting, and only seen from the sky. What magic the birds must see, what transformations! We must envy them all the more for their flight, not just for the exquisite freedom, but also the qualifications to witness the Sun's secrets as it steadily slips below the horizon.