With two weeks of classes left before the end of our school year, my art history class is all done with field trips. I was pretty bummed as I enjoyed the opportunity to explore different parts of London instead of just learning about them in a classroom setting. Instead, we are focusing on our final presentations, which I will write more about next week once mine is finished!
After our classes on Wednesday, May, Anisha and I took advantage of the beautiful day and went to Hyde Park. The second we got there we immediately realized that we were the only ones without a bite to eat and some wine, so we quickly took advantage of the situation and ran to a nearby Sainsbury’s to pick up some cheese and individual mini wine bottles. We returned to the park just as the sun was setting, and we sat around talking and enjoying our food and drinks. It was such a European moment, as we saw people all around us drinking and laughing but no one was too drunk and disorderly. I feel like if something like this were allowed in the States, the park would be filled with rowdy college kids who are completely trashed.
After we went to the park, we met up with some other friends to go to a bar called O’Neil’s. We’ve all become big fans of this bar as it has a very casual yet fun vibe. It’s usually pretty crowded and packed with Syracuse students, but for whatever reason it was completely empty that night. We decided to ditch O’Neil’s and made our way to Roadhouse, an American-themed bar we also like to go to. At Roadhouse we had a great time dancing and hanging out by the bar, and were definitely happier about the atmosphere.
The following day after our morning class, Amy, Carly and I tried to go to the Saatchi Gallery. This was the last museum that our art history professor had asked us to go to, and we were planning on knocking it out right at the beginning of our weekend. Unfortunately, we didn’t check what was going on that day in advance, and realized a private event was being held at the gallery that evening. Discouraged, we headed home.
We all signed up for a field trip to Bath early the next morning, so we stayed in and watched movies all together. We had a brutal 6:45 AM wake up the next morning in order to get to school on time to catch the bus to Bath. Luckily, the ride was two and a half hours long, so I was able to catch up on my sleep. As I dozed in and out of sleep, I got a chance to look at the beautiful landscape around me. A highlight of the view was that we got to see Wales from afar!
Bath is a town in South West England, about 12 miles from Bristol. It’s best known for the hot spring baths that were used to create a spa built by the Romans. In AD 60, these baths served as a tribute to the Roman goddess Minerva, and they had special healing powers. The first thing we did when we arrived was check out these Roman baths and learn about their history. I hate to admit it, but the baths were a little underwhelming. I’m not exactly sure what I really imagined, but when we got there all we saw were the baths. There was a museum underground where you could learn all about the history of the baths and the chemical composition of the water and even look at artifacts that were used back then, but after a while, it all just seemed a little redundant. We did get to try some of the water from the hot springs, and it tasted like warm copper. Yum!
After our tour, we walked around in search for a place to eat. We stumbled upon a pub that let you buy two entrées for the price of one, and since we hadn’t eaten all day, we all took advantage of the deal. I got a sausage and mash plate along with some mac and cheese, and instantly regretted it after scarfing it all down. At the time, it seemed like a genius idea, but after eating all that food I felt like I was going to pass out.
We walked off our full stomachs and explored the town a bit before it was time to go home. A few of our friends stopped at a gelato place before we got back on the bus and headed home. The ride back was beautiful; we drove through the English countryside and it looked straight out of a magazine. The one thing that I love about traveling through Europe is that despite the long bus rides or train rides from one city to another, you pass through the most picturesque scenery imaginable. I tried so hard to stay awake to keep looking at the beautiful landscape, but I couldn’t help myself from dozing off.
After two long hours on the road and another painful hour in traffic, we finally made it back home. As I came home, I got an email from my recruiter at Bank of America with my placement for the summer. I’ll be spending three months in Boston, and I can’t help but admit that I’m a little nervous. I haven’t been to Boston in over six years, and don’t really know anyone there. It’ll be a tremendous growing experience for me, as well as the opportunity to become familiar with yet another big city. If you have any tips for me this summer or know of anyone who will be there, definitely let me know!
That night we took up an offer from our promoter friend Amy to have dinner at a club. I was pretty curious about this experience, as I had never heard of anyone doing anything like this before. I expected finger foods and cheap drinks, but when we arrived at Mason House, we were completely surprised. We were led to a separate room in the club where there was a huge dining table. There was another group of British girls sitting next to us, and they were super friendly. I struck up a conversation with the girl sitting next to me, and I found out that she actually has family in Cincinnati that she visits quite often!
We were served a two-course meal that consisted of a starter salad, steak and another smaller salad. The food was all right, the salads were pretty good but the steak was a little too overcooked for my taste. I couldn’t complain though, we didn’t pay a dime for any of it! The best part of the meal, however, was the unlimited wine. We had an awesome time talking and drinking all together, and after our meal we all moved to the dance floor to start the party.
After a well deserved late start to our day, we decided to knock off a few tourist attractions we hadn’t seen yet. Carly, Anisha and I bought tickets to go on the London Eye, and it was a perfect day to do it. There wasn’t a single cloud in the sky, so when we got to the top, we had a completely unobstructed view of London. It’s a very flat city, so aside from a few skyscrapers, you can see the city extend all the way to the horizon. We went in the late afternoon, once the sun was starting to set, so we weren’t able to get the best pictures of the landscape. Despite the poor picture taking lighting, it was breathtaking. I definitely recommend The Eye to anyone who visits London!
After getting off The Eye, we met up with some friends to go on a boat ride through the River Thames. It seemed like a pretty good idea at the time, the weather was perfect for a peaceful and scenic ride down the iconic river. However, once we got going, we realized we had made a grave mistake. We sat at the top of the boat to get a good view of all of the sights, and didn’t realize how cold we would get as soon as the boat started moving and the wind engulfed us. In our light spring jackets, we were absolutely freezing and could hardly focus on what our guide was telling us. Luckily, as soon as the boat turned around and we were riding with the current, the wind stopped and we were able to enjoy the ride.
Once we got off, we headed over to Soho for some dinner. We found a cute tapas restaurant called Pix on Canarby Street, and enjoyed their alternative style of dining. We were given a plate upon our arrival, and were guided to a buffet-like arrangement of food. Each tapa you picked up had a different stick that corresponded to a price, and at the end of the meal the waiter simply counted up your sticks to calculate your bill. We were a little bummed that not every item on the menu was being served that night, but we still had an amazing meal. We returned home with full and happy stomachs!
On Sunday we made reservations to grab lunch at a restaurant called Natural Kitchen on Baker Street. A few of our friends at school couldn’t stop raving about the place, so we decided to give it a try. The food there is made out of organic ingredients, and I enjoyed a delicious ham, cheese, onion, tomato and pepper omelet with a side of avocado toast. After our brunch, Amy and I decided to give the Saatchi Gallery a second shot, so we headed over to Sloane Square.
The Saatchi Gallery has by far been my favorite museum visit since I arrived in London. Ever since I saw it was one of the places covered by my art history class, I’ve been excited to go. The gallery is a contemporary art gallery opened by Charles Saatchi (the same Saatchi from the famous advertising firm). He purchases art from up and coming artists and displays them in his private collection, instantly boosting these young artists into stardom.
Something I found peculiar about the Saatchi Gallery was the fact that there were little to no labels to describe the works of art we were looking at. It was interesting, as we had no real knowledge of the paintings aside from the artist’s name, the title of the painting and the mediums used in its creation. Oftentimes, the labels just listed the information for all the works of art in one plaque, so sometimes we weren’t sure which inscription corresponded with what painting. This opened the opportunity for us to walk through each work of art and discuss it together, and question what the artist intended to portray instead of simply reading about it.
Some of the highlights from the exhibition included a room filled with small graphic prints that were for sale. They were different and provocative, and I was very tempted to purchase one (they were 75 pounds a piece, which is expensive, but relatively cheap in terms of original art). I digressed, but still enjoyed walking through each one and admiring them.
Our professor had told us about a room that would confuse us, and even disorient us with its smell. We didn’t really understand what she was talking about before we went to the museum, but as soon as we got to the room, we understood. In the basement of the gallery was a giant room with what looked like a mirror extending across the entire floor. After admiring the piece a little closer, we realized it wasn’t a mirror, but rather some sort of black liquid covering the entire floor. We walked up to the plaque and realized that it was an entire pool filled with oil and molten steel, which explained to us the odd smell. I was intrigued by this piece, especially because of its strange composition. It was in a weird in-between state of liquid and solid material, and reflected its surroundings perfectly, to the point where I thought that the room was a symmetrically displayed. Dozens of visitors stood by the museum completely perplexed by this phenomenon, us included.
However, my favorite part of the entire museum was the Hermès collection on the third floor of the gallery. I had never heard about this exhibition prior to going to the Saatchi Gallery, but I’ll be honest, this was the best installation I have ever seen in London, and possibly in my entire life. When you walk into the first room, you completely forget you’re even in a museum at all. Fancy and extremely attractive men in suits greeted us, and directed us inside. Once we stepped through the doors, we were in a room that looked like a nightclub, with a disco ball in the middle that reflected light all around the room. We were introduced to the flânerie, a term Hermès coined as the “wonderfully liberating art of urban wondering.” The rest of the exhibition consisted of explaining this concept through different forms of art and beautiful images.
The second room we were led into was filled with walking sticks that decorated all the walls. We learned more about the history of this iconic brand, and waited to walk through a beautiful doorway that looked like an armoire. As we walked through the closet doors, we were transported inside a wardrobe. The room was split in half, with a men’s dressing room in one side and a woman’s on the other. The lighting in the dressing rooms alternated every so often, causing us to move our heads back and forth as we observed all of the beautiful clothes in front of us. The exhibit showed the two sides of flâneur: male and female.
As we walked through to the next room, we were transported to a street scene, where there was a mirror-like projection of people walking on the ground below us. Whenever we stepped on top of a person, we could hear their thoughts as they walked down the street. As we moved along, we reached a street intersection, except when we looked up we realized the scene was upside down. I walked around observing all the little trinkets and purses, and loved the entire setup.
The next room was decorated like the outside of a café, complete with an outdoor seating area and everything. When we walked inside the little restaurant, we were greeted by hundreds of little trinkets that have been left behind on the tables, and when we looked closer at them, there were smaller projections dancing around inside them. In a teacup, we saw a ballerina, in a bottle, we saw a man playing with thousands of colorful rubber balls. Everything was perfectly thought through down to the smallest detail. It was astonishing.
The next room was my favorite room of the entire exhibit. It was all about street art and free expression, and that’s exactly what the area reflected. All the walls were covered in graffiti, and pop art images adorned the entire area. It was such a bright and colorful room that celebrated uniqueness and individuality, and I loved it.
As we walked past the graffiti, we went through a beautiful passage that resembled an outdoor window display. As we peeked into all the fake shops, we saw beautiful decorations on all the windows that rivaled those in Selfridges and Harrods. After walking through this small fake street, we reached another patio where there was a windowsill at the end of the room. As we peeked in, we could see an entire apartment filled with thousands of tiny trinkets and beautiful decorations. At the end of a long hallway was a giant portal that was painted onto the wall, but was lit in a way that made it look three-dimensional.
We sat on a couple of benches and watched the beautiful flickering lights, and reflected on everything I had just experienced. It was such a beautiful exhibition of not only fashion but also Parisian life that when Amy and I got home, we couldn’t stop raving about it.
It’s crazy to believe, but this weekend is our last trip. I’m amazed at how quickly time has gone by, and I’m so upset to leave this beautiful continent. However this trip is one that I have been looking forward to for a long time – we’re going to Barcelona! I fell in love with Spain over spring break, and couldn’t be happier to be going back. As always, if you have any tips for me, please let me know!