Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Typical Weekends...

...aren't so typical in London. Last weekend, for instance: Cambridge. Next weekend: Edinburgh. So what did we get up to this weekend? Just, a regular, laid-back weekend at home, right? Well, sort of.

Teriann and I finally went out to Hampton Court Palace. I went with Matt back in April, and ever since, I've been trying to get Teriann out there.

It's not as posh as more modern palaces — instead, it's grandiose in a 16th century sort of way. At the same time it is both magnificent and a reminder that the Renaissance had not yet arrived in England.

And in celebration of Henry VIII's anniversary year (they are apparently quite proud of what a monster he was), they're fixing the place up. This courtyard was just a patch of soil in April, and since then, they've recreated what a Tudor garden might have looked like.




The grounds were, as usual, in full bloom.



Here is where the oldest grape vine in the world (about 1750, they think) is kept. The ground where the roots are is kept unplanted so the vine doesn't have to compete for nutrients, and the shoots are wound inside the specially-built greenhouse. Yes, there's a plant in London that is older than America.



The chimneys in the background stick up throughout the palace, and I think they were a source of inspiration for Antonio Gaudi, the one-of-a-kind architect who shaped so much of Barcelona. It's a comparison I wouldn't have been able to make the first time I went to Hampton Court because I had not yet been to Barcelona.

Compare for yourself:




And another thing I didn't notice the first time: Sir Christopher Wren, the architect who designed St. Paul's Cathedral — and just about every other church in London — lived right across the street!



That night we went to a rock concert in a grubby little bar in Soho; one of our housemate's friends is in a band (Badtown and the Rockers) and has been staying with us for a few weeks, so we thought it'd be a good time to go see the show. For someone that is more accustomed to seeing a symphony than a rock band, I had a great time and the band was surprisingly good.

The last event of the weekend was the London Mela, an Asian/mostly-Indian festival in our local Gunnersbury Park. Though the website looked cool, it was clearly more developed than the event itself, which offered mediocre carnival food, endless sponsor tents (Ford? Really?), and not much else. There was nothing particularly Asian about the music either; there were several stages blaring pop music that was unmistakably Western, regardless of which language it was sung in.

The only thing that saved it from being a complete loss were three bizarre dinosaurs walking around. The costumes were cleverly built around performers on stilts, and to alleviate the burden of being realistic, were gleaming chrome.

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