Monday 7/1: Selfridge’s & Regent’s Park

Yesterday, I woke up at 6:00 (to drink tea and write!), ran two miles, took a shower, and hopped on the bus headed for Selfridge’s, where we would spend an hour zipping from floor to floor, reveling in the shimmering Shangri-La of 21st century materialism that is Britain’s most famous department store–in fact, so voted the “best department store in the world.”

Seriously, Selfridge’s was immense, glistening from floor to ceiling, decked out in chrome and crystal. It felt sort of like Oz–like I might pass from the dazzling shoe department into the Emerald City at any given moment. I had never felt so American here before, loping around in my Nike shorts and tee, gangly, disoriented, and endlessly out-of-place, my faux leather backpack slung limply across my back and my plastic water jug dangling from my crooked ring finger, rather than clutched in my fist, as if in a gesture of feigned daintiness. I have been assured, in the past, that I do not have an accent or, for that matter, any sort of “vocal extremity,” but in that moment I deemed my voice grating and riotously wrong. Nails on a chalkboard. A donkey braying.

A conclusion that led me straight to where other 16-year-old foreigners undoubtedly drown their sorrows:

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The giant candy shelves.

And, consequently, a “candy floss” machine, which invoked childhood memories of Angelina Ballerina and her wonderful mishaps at the country fair.

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The food hall (“It sounds so much better than ‘food court!’ Brandy laughed) had dozens of sweets shops and delicatessens set up, all advertising delicious-looking items in their glass display cases.

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After Selfridge’s, we trekked over to Regent’s Park, where we admired the flowers and ate lunch on benches, taking photos all the while. (We were in Queen Mary’s Gardens, an inner district of the park that accommodates more than 30,000 roses of 400 types.)

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(Yellow roses! My favorite!)

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We had some time before the performance of The Winter’s Tale, so we strolled around the park with no particular direction in mind.

Lots of birds–over 100 species of waterfowl.

(Several hundred years ago, these birds might have been targeted by hunters, whom King Henry VIII ushered in by appropriating the area as a hunting ground during his reign.)

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I’m not sure what type of bird this is, despite my (admittedly weak) attempts to identify it online later. But there were several in the pond, diving and surfacing continually. It was very cute.

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Also a few herons!

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Two people brought an entire loaf of bread solely for the purpose of feeding the geese.

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This pretty duck was just sitting on the pavement, unflinchingly, as we passed. Just goes to show how good birds must have it in these London parks!

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A swan was preening itself in one of the smaller lagoons.

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We also saw the home of the British ambassador to the U.S. Which was huge. Not a bad gig.

We made our way back to the Open Air Theatre–the only professional outdoor drama venue in Britain, and a widely acclaimed one at that–just before the doors were opened and the audience began spilling in.

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I was thoroughly impressed with the performance. I was somewhat hesitant about the whole thing, mostly because we’d been informed the previous day that it had been advertised as both appropriate and entertaining for children ages six and up. What? A Shakespearean play that’s fun for kids? But, yes, the cast and crew pulled this feat off spectacularly, incorporating (principally as interludes after exceptionally humdrum slices of the show) interactive songs, raps, dancing, and even a stuffed sheep-shearing competition between groups of audience members. Something I really liked was the free movement of actors in and between the seats of the theatre. They weren’t afraid to grab hats off heads, speak directly to individuals, sit on laps, etc.

So that was basically Monday. The weather was amazing–sunny, warm, absolutely perfect. Thanks for the read! Now, on to constructing Tuesday’s retrospection!

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Slackin’

Good morning everyone! I want to apologize for the lack of posting yesterday. We were literally out all day, and got in late. I will be sure to fill you in on everything later today: the Houses of Parliament, Piccadilly Circus, Criterion Theatre and The 39 Steps, and all the hustle and bustle of Saturday night in London. It was definitely one of the best days yet.

I’m going to be honest with you here, I don’t know what we’re doing today.* Brandy doesn’t either. (We’re running on about five hours of sleep a night and limited water provisions, cut us some slack.) Hope you/I/we like surprises!

Bonus:

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Should be back around 5:45 (12:45 NC time)!

*7/3 edit: It just occurred to me that I could just have checked the itinerary that I posted here. Huh. This constant sleep deprivation-induced debility is really smothering my common sense.

Wednesday 6/26: Wednesday Already?

Good morning! It is 6:45 here in Surrey and 1:45 over in Charlotte. I have this image of my dad’s BlackBerry buzzing in the middle of the night to alert him about my early posts, and I really hope nothing along those lines is happening to anyone.

So now I’m just sitting in the common room, listening to twangy jazz music drifting from the open door of a school administrator’s office and waiting for 7 so I can go out and run. My legs are really sore, but I’ve always been okay with that feeling, knowing that it means something wonderful is happening under your skin.

Had some very weird dreams last night, but I guess that’s what I get for drinking Twinings’s “Orange, Mango, Cinnamon” brew before bed. “A moment of calm,” the packet advertised. False. A moment of screaming baboons and hovering heads of British monarchies, and other such chaos. I’m telling you, they were some very weird dreams.

Brandy is still asleep. She told me last night that she was getting up at 6. I asked her what she would be doing for the hour and a half before breakfast, particularly considering that she can’t run, having recovered from a serious ankle fracture only about week ago. “Math,” she replied. Math? What freaky alternate dimension are you living in that you’d rather do math than sleep in? I guess she sided with me over her alarm clock.

Wish I could shower after I run but I don’t think I’ll have the time… I’m also a little disappointed that I won’t be able to take pictures in London today because my camera is low on battery and I’m not sure how to charge it, or if I even have the charger with me.

I’ll check back in as soon as I can.

Tuesday 6/25: Day 2 Begins

Just woke up, made my bed, filled up my water bottle, and now I’m waiting in the “common area” for 7:00 so I can head out to the track. Geez that was a struggle. Brandy told me last night to wake her up to but I couldn’t do it, she looked too tired.

What’s kind of cool is that I just discovered a room at the end of the girls’ dorm hall with couches, a TV, and a full kitchen with a water heater! Perfect for tea! (Although the green tea, my favorite, is currently out of stock. Apparently it’s everybody else’s favorite too.)

Looking forward to meeting the Chicago kids at breakfast. Although, come to think of it, there’s a good chance they’re sleeping in.