Tag Archives: England

A Day for Arts and Culture

For those of you have been following my blog, you know that over the last couple of summers I have traveled for internships to fulfill the requirements of my Masters in Arts Management from George Mason University in Virginia. 

My focus during my time at Mason was on international arts management, as I hope to one day move out of the United States and work in the arts or cultural realm abroad. England is a good place to start, I think, for someone who is interested in arts policy and fundraising because, despite still being quite different from the US, the UK has the closest related system that wouldn’t be such a stretch to learn and adapt to. 

That being said, I had hoped to visit several performing arts organizations during this trip and have a chat with some of the administration just to get a feel for what it might be like to work in the UK, and in London specifically. As you know from my previous posts, it didn’t really happen. 

But today I was able to visits several different arts and cultural organizations that have solidified even more my desire to someday move to and work in Europe. 

The first stop today was at the Royal Academy of the Dramatic Arts. It’s been a dream of mine to visit this amazing school that had produced some of the finest actors Britain had ever known, as well as top-level theatre technicians and set/costume designers.

Sadly, my friend Jeniffer and I were not allowed to visit any classrooms, but we did get a chance to speak to a woman who works at the cafe which is open to the public. She was able to tell us a lot about how the school functions and what it takes to be a student at RADA. We would have loved to see a performance, but the school had just opened again from winter break, so there was no chance of that happening. Guess I’ll just have to come back sometime. 



We then returned to the British Museum. The forty-five minutes there the other day was simply not enough to fully grasp the amazing amount of knowledge and artifacts available in these halls. 

Jeniffer and I walked through ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, ancient Rome, medieval Europe, and the empire of the Mayans. There were some famous pieces like the Rosetta Stone, the Lewis Chess Pieces, and the double-headed turquoise serpent. Tons of lesser known, but no less important, pieces grabbed our attention and filled us with wonder and interest. 




We could have easily spent another couples of hours than we did in the British Museum because we didn’t see anything from the Middle East, Asia, or Africa. Such an amazing museum!

Once we left the British Museum, we headed across town by Tube for the Victoria and Albert Museum. This is a world-famous museum, yet none of the exhibits really caught my fancy. That is to say, except one in the history of underwear. It was a special exhibit, however, requiring a tickets and I was already spending so much money today that I thought it would be best not to go. 

There were some pretty things-mostly clothing and instruments from the 19th century. But soon we decided to move on to something a little more interesting. 


That something happened to be right nearby. 

Royal Albert Hall is a fantastic performance venue that presents all sorts of acts. The big show they are currently advertising is an act from Cirque du Solei called Ama Luna. 

We didn’t get to go inside and explore, but it was cool to be able to see the venue again and be reminded of good memories from the NEYE 2009 tour. 


One thing I don’t remember doing the last time I was here was walking around the back of the Hall and seeing the monument to Queen Elizabeth as well as the Royal College of Music. 



While we still were not able to explore classrooms and the like, Jeniffer and I were able to see a lot more of the building than we did at RADA. There was gorgeous marble everywhere and mosaic-tiled floors. No performances were taking place, but it sounded like a rehearsal of an opera or something was taking place in the hall. 

As if all that wasn’t enough, the final touch was to see a performance of Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. 

Wow. Just wow. 

I was completely blown away by the sets, the costumes, the lights, the orchestra, the actors, and of course, the music. No spoiler warnings, but I will say that it definitely helps to be familiar with the Wizard of Oz story, either from the original book or the 1939 film, in order to catch or understand all the references in this phenomenal musical. 

It was a treat for me (so much cheaper to see it here than on Broadway), but it was an extra special treat for Jeniffer because she had never been to a musical before. What a show to give a first impression of the wonderful world of musical theatre!


It truly has been a wonderful day, my second to last in London. I have yet to see what my final day will be filled with, but I’ll be sure to share tomorrow. 

-Wandering Minstrelette

PS – I hope you’ve been enjoying the pictures I’ve been sharing. They were all taken from my iPhone 7. 

Golden Tours Excursion

Today I had the great privilege of participating on one of Golden Tour UK’s day trips to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath. 

It sounds like a lot, and it was, but what an enjoyable and amazing day!

I had to meet the tour bus on Buckingham Palace Road by 8:30am, meaning I had to leave my AirBnb before the sunrise to make it in time. Yes, it was early, but I finally had the chance to see my London sunrise.


There were so many people interested in this particular trip, that we were actually divided into two groups. I ended up on the bus with Alton, the bus driver, and Eddie, the guide. They both proved to be absolutely wonderful people and made our day trip everything we could have asked it to be. 

Our first stop for the day was in Windsor Castle. It wasn’t until we arrived at the foot of the castle that I remembered that I had actually been here before with the New England Youth Ensemble when I was in college. Memories flooded back, but I also had the chance to experience tons of things for the first time. 


Sadly, as was the case with the Parliament building and Westminster Abbey, pictures were not allowed to be taken in many parts of the castle. But while I cannot show them to you, what I can saw is that this one of five homes of the current queen is utterly exquisite and ornate. Nothing was left unthought of when it came to materials used and decorations displayed. 

Enormous paintings covered the ceilings of several rooms, featuring individuals who had lived in the castle among the gods. The armory was breath-taking and the hall where royal dinners are often held was quite long. Apparently they have a single table that stretches across the whole expanse!

There was a special exhibit to honor the Queen’s 90th birthday that featured her outfits from across the decades. Riding costumes to theatrical garb to estate dinner gowns. Everything was so beautiful, but one thing I noticed was the height. The Queen does not seem to be, by the looks of her clothes, very tall at all. To me, that makes her all the more charming. 

I exited the exhibit just in time to catch some of the changing of the guard ceremony. Not quite as elaborate as that at Buckingham, and certainly not as crowded, but still quite fun to watch. The musicians accompanying the ceremony were a fife and drum corp, and the fife players were struggling a bit with playing in tune. It was entertaining, but I also felt I could sympathize with them since I play piccolo and know that the cold weather makes it difficult to stay in tune. 

Let’s be honest, the piccolo is just hard to keep in tune regardless. 



Just before we had to leave, I ducked into St. George’s Chapel, one of the oldest parts of the castle. It was ornate to the highest degree and also a fully functioning church. I wonder if it is open to the public every weekend and what exactly happens when the Queen is residing there. 

Our second stop was to something that had been on my list for a long time now – Stonehenge!


These ancient rocks, despite all the archaeology and study that has been done on them, still maintain an air of mystery and wonder. 

Visitors are dropped off in the parking lots and then must go through the visitor center before taking the mini-bus up to the path that leads to the rocks. There was also an option to walk a trail to the rocks. It was only a little over a mile, and I would have done it, but the cold was just too nippy. 


The mini-bus leaves visitors just within view of the stones, but as you walk closer, you can feel the whole aura of this ancient place. 

In fact, I made myself stop for just a moment. No pictures, bracing the cold, and took in the atmosphere. Sometimes I’m too “trigger happy” with my camera and forget to be present in the moment. Let me tell you, this was a moment to be present in. 

There are varying theories as to what the stones represent and how they were brought to the Salisbury plains. What is known is that the structure could be as old 5,000 years and that on the summer and winter solsitices, the structure is perfectly aligned with the early morning sun. It is believed that the Beaker people, named for the unique type of pottery they used and the builders of Stonehenge, could also use the formation to predict eclipses. 



Around Stonehenge were various ditches and mounds. The ditches helped outline the perimeter of the ancient memorial, placed there by ancient peoples for purposes not entirely clear today. The mounds are actually burial grounds, where the wealthy and influential Beakers were buried and prepared for the after life. 

There were also lots of birds that inhabited the rocks and the plain surrounding. Jackdaws and rooks were abundant and some of the rooks even were brave enough to land on a couple of the memorial’s wardens. I tried to convince one to come sit on my hand with peanuts, with the consent of the warden, but no luck. 



Our final destination of the tour was city of Bath, once an opulent city when Britain had a powerful Roman presence that fell into disarray when the empire crumbled. However, the rediscovery of the Roman baths in the 19th century brought people back to the city. Jane Austen, British author of the late 1700s/early 1800s, mentioned Bath in a couple of her novels. Her finally novel, Persuasian, took place entirely in Bath. 

It would have been nice to see more of this ancient city, but we were there to see what had started and revived the city-the Roman Baths. 


Wandering through the museum portion of the site and then standing by the large green pool was truly a memorable experience. Once again, I felt as if I had been placed in a time capsule. To think, hundreds of years ago, this was a place where the wealthiest came to worship and relax. 




What famous people must have entered these waters? What amount of people have these walls seen? 

There were pieces of the ancient altars and parts of statues that were revered, including a bust (more just a head, really) of Minerva, the Roman god of wisdom, to whom the baths were built in honor of. (I believe her Greek counterpart was Athena.)


After a quick glance through the gift shop (there always seems to be a gift shop, huh?), we were back in the bus for a two hour ride back to central London. 

I have been on several tours, day trips and otherwise, and I can honestly say that this is one of the best I have been on. The timing of our visits and the travel in between were perfectly calculated to allow us to see all we could want, have us leave wanting more, and still never feel rushed. Eddie, our tour guide, was pleasant, funny, and approachable, making our time together enjoyable. 

If I had the time, I would book another tour that they have down to Kent and Dover, but I believe I will have to wait until I return to the British Isles for that trip. 

I highly recommend Golden Tours for your visit to London, and no, I was not asked or paid to say this. I really just liked it that much. 🙂

Hard to believe I only have two days left before I return home! I’ll be sure to press in as much as possible within the next two days–and then share all about it! Look out for my next blog post. 

-Wandering Minstrelette

 

Cramming in the Highlights

There are so many wonderful things to see in London, it’s sometimes hard to know what to do. 

So I was thankful when potential plans to go out of the city fell through, because it meant I was able to see a few more things I had on my list. 

One thing I had always wanted to see was the changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace. Online I had discovered that the Band of the Scots Guard was going to be participating in the ceremony today, so I knew I had to go. 

My new friend Jeniffer, whom I had met last week, joined me in the massive group of people craning to see anything of the time-seasoned tradition within and near the gated palace courtyard. 


The soldiers were wearing their winter gray coats instead of their brilliant red uniforms, but the bear hats seemed fluffier somehow from when I had come last time (which had been summer). 


There were no bagpipes in the band, as I had been hoping, but the members of the ensemble were without a doubt amazing musicians and I enjoyed everything they performed. It was kind of cute that some of the instruments, brass mostly, had little leather jackets. I’m wondering if it was to keep the instrument warm or help the player hold it while marching. Probably the latter. 

As I had mentioned before, there were tons of people present to see the ceremony meaning not everyone really had a good view. Jeniffer, myself, and some others nearby started watching everything from some other guy’s phone screen, since he was filming with a selfie stick and was able to stick it through the fence to get a better angle. 


Maybe seeing something like this on TV would have allowed us to have better views, but I actually really enjoyed the experience of being out there and feeling the atmosphere of tradition and pomp. 



Once the ceremony was over, we met another friend, Barbara, by the National Gallery and took a bus to Tower Bridge. The setting sun shone perfectly for pictures of the bridge and the nearby buildings. 




Eventually Jeniffer had to split, but Barbara and I continued our adventure by visiting the British Museum. Hopefully I will be able to go back before I leave London because in the 45 minutes we had before the closing of the museum, we saw some wonderful things and there was so much more yet to see. 





I always love seeing artifacts from ancient cultures and imagining how life must have been once upon a time. Some of the pieces were quite stunning and thought provoking, but the lion from Babylon’s gate had a special sense of nostalgia, bringing me back to my trip to when I had seen the whole Ishtar Gate in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. 


After the museum closed down, Barbara decided she was ready to head home. I, however, felt like the night was still young and pondered what to do for a while. Purchasing same night tickets for the West End was expensive, there were no movies out that I desired to see, and most everything interesting was already closed. 

Then I remembered that there was a place I wanted to visit that was certainly open – the extravagant and magnificent Harrods department store!

I had been told many stories about this place, so I had to experience it for myself. 

Gracious, it was overwhelming. 


Six floors, plus a ground and basement level, with literally anything you could ever think of. Furniture, books, technology, toys, jewelry, perfume, wine, top-of-the-line (sometimes exotic) groceries, and of course, lots and lots of clothes. 

Each area was decorated to create a certain mood that aligned with the products. I mean, highly decorated. I can’t imagine how long and how many people it must have taken to put this whole thing together. 


One special moment in the store, though, was coming across a memorial statue and fountain to Princess Diana and her lover, Dodi Al Fayed, that supports underserved children in the community that the princess was originally from. It was touching and very human. There was even a condolences book that people could sign. It’s amazing how much Princess Diana is still missed after all these years. 


Wandering through the halls on nearly every floor, I observed the types of things sold and the prices they were marked at. You did not come to Harrods to find something cheap. Even things on sale were pretty far out of my price range, including the groceries section. It truly is a place of wealth and extravagance.  

Literally, there is a restaurant dedicated to all things truffles. 

By that alone, I think you get my point. 

It was only after meandering on most of the floors, that I decided it was finally time to end my day and head home. Besides, tomorrow is going to be very exciting and I want to be well rested!

But I won’t tell you what it is, you’ll just have to stop by the blog tomorrow to find out. 

Hope everyone’s new year is off to a great start!

-Wandering Minstrelette

Bracknell

Short post today. 

London fog has finally made an appearance. It kind of set the mood for the day as soon as I walked out the door. 


Newbold College is located in Bracknell, about an hour out of London. My journey took much longer than it should have because of uncertainties and second guessing. A whole other hour was frustratingly added to my trip, meaning I wasn’t going to be able to participate in something I was hoping to do, but what matters is I made it. 

Pr. Vili, who I met last night, picked me up from the station and took me to the campus. The fog made it difficult to truly wander and take pictures, so I hung around the church while he packed up a video camera and other equipment he had been using. 





The afternoon was relaxed and honestly kind of slow. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I guess it was nice to have a change of pace. 

I was definitely given a glimpse of life in England outside the ever rushing London heartbeat. Quaint homes in small villages, big Walmart like one-stop-shops, people knowing all the other people in the stores. It was pleasant and refreshing. 

I wish they had this in the States!

The way back was probably what made my evening though. Two adorable little girls, aged 4 and 7, sat by me in the train and took a liking to me. The chatted with me, with smiling parents looking on, the entire way back to Waterloo Station. 

Earlier in the day, I was kind of feeling like today was a bit of a loss. There are so many other things I could have done. But then a phrase one of my teachers in college loved to say came to mind, “Not every measure has to be a masterpiece.”

Every moment of every day doesn’t have to be grand and amazing. It would be more tiring and less special if they were. So, I am thankful for today, and for the fact that I was able to come home early to enjoy the beginning of Sabbath and rest. 

And tomorrow is New Year’s Eve! I hope to have some good stories to share with you. 🙂

-Wandering Minstrelette

Westminster and Leicester

I didn’t walk quite as much today as I did yesterday. 

Mostly, it was because two of the attractions I went to involved standing in line and the third was all sitting. 

With a rather late start to the day, I decided to pick a point and explore around it. I had mentioned in an Instagram post that I was planning on getting closer to Big Ben today and I very well succeeded. 

The clock tower was looming over pedestrians right at the exit of Westminster Underground Station. 

As the Parliament building was right there, I thought I would visit. It wasn’t something I had done before and was hoping maybe to get closer or even inside Big Ben. 

However, admission only allows so many entrants every 20 minutes and since I had come by lunch time, a good portion of the day was already full. The next available entrance time was three hours or so later. 

I took it anyways, figuring I could fill my time with something else nearby. And of course, right next to the Parliament Building is Westminster Abbey. 

I can’t remember whether I went into the Abbey last time I was in London. Since no pictures are allowed inside the space, I have nothing to reference. We must have gone in, but I thought it was worth to go just in case. 


The Abbey is an interesting place. The hall for worship is beautiful and the sections where the choir sings, coronations take place, and the most recent royal wedding happened are exquisite. The rest is an interesting mixture of tombs, memorials, and out of the way rooms for prayer. 

Some of the most interesting for me were G. F. Handel, David Livingstone, Sir Issac Newton, Henry Purcell, Charles Dickens, all three Brontë sisters, Shakespeare, and sister queens Elizabeth and Mary. There were many musicians, literary artists, politicians, and of course, members of the royal family from across (literally) centuries were represented there. 


Westminster is an active church, holding services every Sunday and holding moments of prayer every hour throughout the week. How interesting it must be to attend a church with so much history and that most people view only as a historical symbol. Also, I can’t imagine working at the Abbey. 

Residence in the Abbey of an Abbey staff member. I wonder if all clergy and worship leaders are required to live there.

To be in charge of music (official title being Organist and Master of Choristers) or even to be a member of the Abbey choir must be such an amazing honor and a heavy burden, knowing the great standard of musicianship that is expected.  

In case anyone is interested, there is an annual apprenticeship position in the Abbey to work along the official Organist and Master of Choristers and their two assistants. There are also other vacancies In case anyone is looking for something new and interesting to do. 

Taken with my iPhone 7, thank you very much.

I left the Abbey with just enough time to grab a quick sandwich, crisps (chips), and a Kinder Egg (illegal in the States, so I had to get one) before making my appointed time to the Parliament Building. 


The surprise from my Kinder Egg!

Now this building I know I had never been in before, and I’m so glad I chose to spend the couple of hours walking through and listening to the audio tour to learn more about how the United Kingdom’s government developed and functioned. 

Part of the tour included visiting the rooms where the House of Lords and the House of Commons function and debate. Everything in the hall for the Lords was red and for the Commons green. Made for some interesting items in the shop afterwards. 

There was a story shared about the position known as the Black Rod (House of Lords), which is like the Sergeant-at-Arms for the House of Commons. Back in 1642, someone from the House of Lords wanted to arrest five members from the House of Commons, but the members of the latter house refused to let it happen. Since then, there has been an annual ceremony of the Black Rod coming to the House of Commons to summon the MP’s to the State Opening Speeh of Parliament, but the door gets slammed in his face. This is supposed to represent the autonomy of power that the House of Commons has from the House of Lords. The Black Rod then has to knock on the door three times with his staff before he is attended to and finally can make the proper summons. 

It’s an interesting display of tradition and ceremony that I would like to discuss further, but not at this time. 

The Parliament Building overall is very grand and majestic. Sadly, we weren’t allowed nearer or inside Big Ben. I also don’t have too many pictures to share because like the Westminster Abbey, photos were allowed throughout most of the building. 

Westminster Hall – at the time it was completed, it was the largest hall of it’s kind in Europe. It’s ceiling/beams are very special and unique.

St. Stephen’s Chapel

Grabbing a hot tea in the cafe before leaving the Parliament Building, I was able to ask one of the staff what I should do with my evening (that didn’t involve drinking – he found that amusing). After thinking a bit, he suggested I go up to Leicester Square where I could find some cinemas that screened a wide variety of blockbuster, independent, and vintage films. 

I made my way to the square and passed by yet another throwback to memories from 2009 – Trafalgar Square, the Lord Nelson column, the National Gallery, and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Maybe I’ll be able to go back there tomorrow for a proper visit!

After walking another 10 minutes or so, I finally reached Leicester Square and started looking for the cinemas. Kind of hard when they are not clearly marked on maps and you don’t have cell service… But as I wandered around trying to find them, I noticed posters for different theatre productions. Then I realized the street name on one of the posters was the same as the street I was on and it hit me – I was in the West End!



Forget the cinema, I instantly decided I was going to see a musical. 

I had to make a decision fast – performance started in roughly 45 minutes and there were so many to choose from! I wanted something that wasn’t going to be easy to find in Broadway or the Kennedy Center and that had a distinct British flavor to it. 

All that in more was in the delightful show, “Half a Sixpence.” For £25, I had an amazing seat in the Noël Coward Theater to a show I knew nothing about and ended up thourougly enjoying. Sweet, heartwarming, and filled with fun songs and breataking choreography (especially from the lead actor), I could not have picked a better show to be my first experience on the West End. 


If you are, or will be, in London in the near future, absolutely come see “Half a Sixpence.

I hope in my time here I will be able to see some other performances, including something in the Globe and at the Royal Albert Hall. If I plan things right, I might be able to even meet with some of the administration of these organizations. Making connections is always a good thing. 🙂

A full day is gone and another is just ahead. Keep a look out for tomorrow’s post and don’t forget to check out my Instagram: @wanderingminstrelette

-Wandering Minstrelette

Impromptu London

For the first time in my life, I’m spending Christmas at an airport. 

Detroit Metropolitan Airport, to be exact. 


It all came about rather last minute. 
For the first time, I have a full time job that requires me to make proper vacation requests. Originally, I had wanted to travel to Eastern Europe in February, but circumstances made that very difficult, so I decided to take advantage of the two weeks of vacation for the “price” of one.

I looked into trips to South America or Asia, but not seemed to quite fit or work out. Finally, I decided to do what I should have done from the beginning–pray and ask God where I should go. 

The answer came much quicker than I expected: “London.”

I had been before, back in the summer of 2009 with the New England Youth Ensemble of Washington Adventist University. It had been a blast and I have wanted to go back, but was kind of hoping to go somewhere new. However, the answer was clear. 

Some friends and I from the 2009 NEYE tour.

Unsure of why, but completely sure this is what I needed to do, I made the necessary arrangements just before Thanksgiving. Quite tight in terms of a time frame for finding a plane ticket, accommodations, etc., but you know? Things fell right into place. 

Which brings me to today. It was a short flight from Washington DC to Detroit, with a seven hour layover before my flight to London. 

Leaving DC
Entering Detroit

I spent a lot of that time walking (I don’t think I’ve ever reached my step goal so early in the day!), observing people, and thinking about what is in store for the next two weeks.  


I have made some connections with people in London/Southern England and have some friends who happen to be in the in the city that I plan to meet up with. I did plan one official tour (can’t wait to see Stonehenge!), but otherwise my days are very free.

God is sending me here for something. Guess I’m just going to have wait and see what He has in store for me. 

Oh, and I’m completely open to suggestions of things I should see or do while in London. Please, comment with suggestions and I’ll see if I can actually see them through!

I pray that each of you are spending your Christmas (or Hanukkah) exactly where you want to be–with your loved ones, making wonderful memories to cherish for a lifetime. There is truly few blessings greater than that. 

Merry Christmas! 

-Wandering Minstrelette