prom night

7/28/10   –   23:17   [Finally! A date that corresponds to the day it describes]

And I’m finally caught up. Good timing, too. This was my last full day in Europe. I fit in a lot of sightseeing today but kept a very chill pace. Let’s get started, shall we?

On suggestion by Lee, who was here with his cousins last month, I went to Camden Market, a ways north of the city center. I wasn’t expecting much after the second hand markets I’ve seen previously in other countries, but the Camden Lock Market was actually a pleasant surprise. It’s an actual establishment. There are rows and rows of little shops in a covered area. I enjoyed the independent silk screeners with their cheap shirts. They also had some print and lithograph salespeople, so I was pretty happy.

I took the tube to the south side of the Thames and took pictures of the Tower of London exterior because I didn’t feel a dire need to see the crown jewels. Past the Tower of London is Tower Bridge. I actually thought this was London Bridge, but the famed London Bridge looks pretty dinky and is located one bridge to the west. Another attraction that I managed to get free access to was Westminster Abbey. It’s a pretty hefty fee to get in as a visitor, but if you’re going in there to pray–it’s still a fully functioning church, like most cathedrals in Europe–it’s free.

One thing I wasn’t cheap about was my quest of Fanta taste-testing. In addition to yesterday’s Fruit Mix, England has a flavor called Icy Lemon. I was wondering if it tasted any different from Spain’s Fanta Limón, and it did, but only slightly.

After enjoying the wonders of European Fanta once again, I went to the Old Operating Museum. This is an operating theatre from the early 19th century before the widespread use of anesthesia as we know it. It’s in the roof of a church and as such, it wasn’t demolished like the rest of such old operating amphitheatres. There’s two rooms. An herb garret/apothecary and the actual operating room. Scattered about are pretty good exhibits about medicine in the 1800s and how barbaric/incorrect it was. Tonsil guillotines! Bloodletting! Amputation saws! Huge tong things that they stick in men’s urethras to extract bladder stones! Looking at all the tools hurt. As much as I want to barf when I think about 19th century medicine, I just can’t look away. It’s horrible.

Another 19th century tradition that involves less blood and pain is the English penchant for offering education and culture to the rabble. There’s this festival called the BBC Proms [short for “promenades”] which have been held in some form since the 1800s and it’s basically classical music concerts held every night for a month and a half. They’re held in Royal Albert Hall and a ticket to be able to stand in the center of the auditorium [kind of like Shakespeare’s Globe theatre] is 5 pounds. I waited in the queue to get my ticket and attended the “Proms Plus” presentation in the Royal College of Music which is handily located behind the Royal Albert Hall. They had a couple of chamber performances of pieces written by the guy whose piece was premiering in London at tonight’s concert. The acoustics in the Royal College of Music are ridic. But I wasn’t too big a fan of the work.

Similar to my taste in art, my musical preferences [orchestrally speaking] don’t reach too far into the 20th century. I like my music to have a recognizable melody. I can’t deal with his atonal shizz. Give me some Gustav Holst! Give me Vaughan Williams! John Rutter’s Mass of the Children! Grainger! [Colonial Song at the top of the page is by Grainger, btw] If they were playing Holst’s Planets Suite, or even any of his pieces for military band, I think I would have died in the auditorium.

The BBC symphony orchestra was smashing, as usual, and so was the lady who played the concerto. She was thrashing about and it looked like she was shooting people with every note she played. Watching her face was a great accompaniment to the music, really. Pretty amusing stuff.

After the first half of the concert, which consisted entirely of pieces written from 1950 onward [that didn’t sound like anything], it got immensely better. They had two symphonies/suites by German composers and they were from the 1800s. [Are you seeing a trend in my strange infatuation with the 19th century?]

Two things before I let you go, though.

– Their mallet players play seated? what?

– Royal Albert Hall is so classy! It’s all gold and red velvet on the interior and it’s so well lit and acoustically sound. When the concert ended and I walked outside, I half expected people in top hats and frocks to get into their carriages.

But yeah. Tomorrow, I’m gonna check out of the hostel, attempt to get a nice, full English breakfast and head to Heathrow for my flight back to the States.

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