dmjewelle: (<3)
D.M. Jewelle ([personal profile] dmjewelle) wrote2013-05-26 04:01 pm
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[Day 4] Let's Get Out Of London (and get cultured)!

Hello! I went back to work and got bad news, but then there was good news so I feel more motivated to write! Let's continue!

After the previous day's epic meeting with epic folk, mum and I had to wake up epically early because we were going for a tour and the pick-up service would pop over around 8. I don't have a picture of the guy, but I should've taken a pic of him because his hair was slicked back, he wore those sunglasses with gradient tint, and wore a suit sans tie with unbuttoned collar. Everything about him screamed ITALIAN MOB BOSS and I really was worried he was going to lump us all in the bus and give an offer we can't refuse, then pay more for whatever he was going to threaten us with. I mean it's bad enough I'm paying £84 for a coach ride...

But let's continue.

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I wanted to take pictures of London going to work/school and how all the kids ride scooters, but my camera AND my phone have suddenly become incapable of taking pictures of anything that aren't stationary. :( So instead you get a view of the Victoria Coach Station, taken from standing in line with all the other people going on tours. The guide told us there would be several lines, and we would stand in line depending on which tour we took.

Ours had eight a 50-seat coach. 3 Singaporean girls, 2 Taiwanese ladies, mum & me, and a Cuban guy. It was cushy all right.

Our guide was an old Irish lady named Tish (or Millie if you wrote a bad review on TripAdvisor) who was really funny, and the driver was a Hungarian named Atilla. Tish's son travelled to Malaysia and contracted dengue (he got better) while Atilla's only memory of Malaysia was Batu Caves ('bloody lot of stairs...') and "Dilarang merokok". Foreign impressions!

So off we go to our first stop: Stratford-Upon-Avon!

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Here's a guy using the rented bikes. I wonder what happens if you don't return them...

By the way if it LOOKS like it's hot, it's not - the weather was a lovely 15°C that day with a balmy spring breeze.

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Tish: This is the Spanish embassy. Useful if you want to keep in touch with news from Spain...or learn the flamenco...or find out anything about Spain.

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London looking like Malaysia #2: Morning traffic jams!

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Apparently this department store has the coolest window displays. Too bad I couldn't get a good shot of it.
Tish: This is a good place to come and spend someone else's money.

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This is Westfield, a HUGEASS shopping place with luxury brands. We will get back to it eventually, but this is all you get for now.

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London looking like Malaysia #3 - would you be able to tell the difference if I didn't say anything?

The ride to Stratford-Upon-Avon took about an hour on a highway. Most people just ended up dozing off in between trips. Although they told us to put on our seatbelts, Tish also just told us to change seats whenever we wanted to take photos since we had a ton of empty seats in the bus.

You know you've reached your destination when you see:

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Some of these houses/shops are a lot older than they look. This one dates back to the 1500s. If the UK can preserve a wooden house for FIVE HUNDRED YEARS is there a reason why our government can't preserve a pre-WW1 shophouse?

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Pictured: an adorable decorative roundabout. Not pictured: All the crazy modern cars swerving around it and trying to not kill everyone trying to cross the road.

The bus let us down near Shakespeare's Birthplace.

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Aww what an adorable lam- GAA get away from me SlenderWickerMan!

We got guidebooks, and walked through a tunnel.

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Whoa, so that's what young Judi Dench looks like! O_O I always thought she looked old since forever!

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If the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust says Leonardo DiCaprio is a SHAKESPEAREAN ACTOR, I'm not arguing. Tish said the tickets for David Tennant's Hamlet performance was £100 each. She wanted to get them for her husband, but decided she didn't love him that much and settled on waiting for the DVD release instead. The joy of the RSC performances is that the company records their performances so if you want to see a particular play, the chances of finding it is higher than Trevor Nunn's Hamlet (which had Ben Whishaw and wasn't recorded, presumably to torment his future fangirls).

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The window drawings reminded mum about the time my hospital had a sighting of the Virgin Mary on a window. I'm not sure which is creepier - a smudge that looked like a dinosaur depending what time you saw it, or...this.

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I notice a lot of trees have these bulgy bits around the trunk, like tumours. I have concluded that they are actually tree babies that failed to come out from its parent. Like aborted/miscarried tree foetuses.

You're free to walk around inside, but the actual house is so small that 1) you'll be sceptical 15 people apparently lived in the house at one time, and 2) you'll have to walk in the set path they've decided for you.

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Don't believe how small the house is? Take a look.

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The dining area.

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The guide talked about glovemaking. Shakespeare's dad (Shakespeare Snr) was a glovemaker, and his workshop was inside the house and probably looked like this except reeking more of leather and whatever chemicals they use in glovemaking.

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We go upstairs, and step on 500-year old floors. They creak VERY loudly OH MY GOD DON'T POP A RIVET OR COLLAPSE ON ME NOW D8 What's that, you want me to walk where everyone else is I DON'T WANT TO DIEEE.

...Fine, I'll stick my neck out from where I stand!

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Right up to the 20th century (spoilsports), famous people would come to Shakespeare's birthplace house, look at the window and go OHH MY GODDD I'M IN SHAKESPEARE'S HOUSE I GOTTA SIGN ON THAT WINDOW! and do just that. 4 panes of famous vandals later, they put it in a glass case for preservation and made tourists play "Spot the famous signature". It's an exciting game because as you scroll through the glass panes the floorboards will CREAK and GROAN and it's a race against time to find Henry Bishop's (who?) autograph before the wood gives way and you fall into the 15th Century, never to return!

...Fine maybe not, but that would make a good short movie.

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In this room you can see how small double beds were in those days. Included: Early pull-out underbeds. You thought only the 20th century invented them? Hah!

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Man has always been tempted by the lure of remodelling and renovation, as this exhibition shows.

Outside there was an open rehearsal forThe Winter's Tale. I think the guy with the motorized wheelchair gave the best performance because he DROVE it across the lawn!

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And at this corner we have a bust dedicated to Rabindranath Tagore. Randomest statue in the randomest place. 8\

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And on the right is the house I just entered. It's like those cartoon houses where the outside looks really small but there were 8 rooms inside the place all fully furnished with beds and stuff, so now you know where they got the idea from.

The souvenir room had the usual Shakespeare memorabilia including study texts on certain plays, pocket-sized mini books of your favourite plays, and a centrepiece dedicated to the HORRIBLE manga Shakespeare books. Not even the superior subtler Wiley editions of manga Shakespeare are available. NO, it's all CYBERPUNK Hamlet and SHIBUYA Romeo & Juliet and what do you mean they haven't even touched Richard II?! Screw you! T__T

I only had less than an hour to look around after that, so the first order of business was to run down to-

Mum: Ooh here's a nice dress! Let's shop around a bit more!
Me: ...May I hop over to the RSC building?
Mum: What, and leave me alone?!
Me: I'm pretty sure you can take care of yourself just fine.
Mum: I don't know the way back!
Me: The bus is just right back up the road...!
Mum: Sure? You sure about that?
Me: What shall I swear by?
Mum: Do not swear at all! It's bad!

And then I run off.

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Aww, the dog looks like it has Cushing Syndrome! <3

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Suddenly I thought of the Tiger & Bunny anime.

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Mice! X3

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I do admit I have a fascination with death and its trimmings. Problem?

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Way to go old guys! You rule! \m/.

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Past the park and I'll be at the RSC building!

Went into the shop, saw The Hollow Crown bluray for RM100 (!?), saw the goddamn MANGA SHAKESPEARE books, but no Trevor Nunn Hamlet. I hate you so much Trevor Nunn. >(

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Ran back up the street where the tour bus had arrived and everyone was ready to leave.

So now we're off to the Cotswolds!

The Cotswolds are large tracts of land where people rear sheep and cattle and generally live in the sort of rolling English countryside we see in movies, pictures, and books. It's protected land so trees don't simply get lopped off and development is minimal, and houses cost a bomb because everyone wants to stay in a quiet little town, away from the noise and pollution and everything that makes a city a city. One must also point out this area was untouched by the Industrial Revolution, so there aren't any public transport or trains - you want to go out to London? You DRIVE.

Oh, and they also grow rapeseed.

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Whoever thought up the name of this plant must have been male.

The 1+ hour drive through the Cotswolds can either be boring or downright riveting depending whether you get THRILLED seeing large country house on hills over yon distance (look, it's like Brideshead Revisited!)...

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Sometimes you can see sheep grazing.

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Or you may say sod it and sleep through the ride.

In any case, we ended up in a little town called Burford for lunch at the Cotswolds Arms pub.

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And had chicken-mushroom pie that....defied our expectations of a pie.

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That's not pie, that's a pastry square on top of the pie filling! Mum promptly went to complain but the cook seemed more confused than us, and I'm pretty sure that guy was British. Like British-British, not someothernationality-British. Still, he was proud of his pie and charged us half price for it.

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Burford is PACKED with old people. Here is a group of old people having lunch...and 1.30 in the afternoon. Sounds like right fun indeed!

After that mum told me the guide said we were only leaving at 3.30...

Me: 3.30 in the afternoon?
Mum: Yup.
Me: That's 2 hours from now.
Mum: 3.30, that's what she said.
Me: What the heck can you do in a one-road town for 2 hours?!
Mum: Imma gonna go look for a bag.

FINE 3.30 it is then!

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Welp, time to explore this 1-road town! For some reason the town screams MIDSUMMER MURDERS to me. All the old people walking around doesn't help. It's like someone will just clutch their heart and collapse on the sidewalk, a lady will scream, and BAM A MURDER CASE.

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To jog his brain, the detective will stroll through the picturesque British village.

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...And wander through a little tunnel alley.

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And then he'll notice a shop tucked away in the corner of said alley.

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And look around a shop for clues while the shopkeeper prattles on about the victim's daily habits, wherein the detective will turn around and notice a clue in a harmless little shop display....

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And then everyone will gather in the town hall where the detective will point out the murderer!

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But the murderer will also probably be some old chap who in true British manner will surrender peacefully unlike in American cop shows where there'll be running, a dramatic chase, and a gunshot/car accident/both. And in the morning after, the detective will reveal his method to his colleague/client in a quaint breakfast pub/cafe like this one.

See, TOTALLY like Midsummer Murders!

Reality however is nothing like that. According to Tish the village is so boring they have cheese-rolling and bed-rolling festivals in summer, and a downhill race that always has at least one broken leg, so an ambulance is always on standby at the foot of the hill. England!

While walking up the road, I found a museum!

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Well this is the outside of the museum. It doubles as a tannery.

Inside this one-room museum was a miniature dollhouse...

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...Original land charters (that I didn't take pictures of because it looked like it could crumble under sunlight), and various artifacts dug up around the city.

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For a tiny one-road town, it sure is overflowing with history!

Once I reached the end of the road I made my way across to the other side and worked downwards!

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Something is seriously wrong with the property prices here...these have GOT to be rentals.

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The bridge leading to the village is narrow enough for one car to pass through - the traffic light determines which lane goes first, and by god the cars SPEED OUT of there. The bridge has little alcoves for people to duck into to prevent getting swept away by the cars, and that is how I took this picture. If you squint hard enough you'll see the old man tending to his garden on the left side of the bank.

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BRIDESHEAD MANORRRR okay I shut up now.

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Ooh a side road leading to a church! I wonder how-

Me: *phone* yes?
Me: *watch* It's only 2:45! You said it was leaving at 3-
Me: The eff YOU SAID IT WAS-
Mum: *hangs up*

So I hotfoot it back to the bus, where I let my mum apologise to everyone because SHE gave me the wrong time and couldn't even be civil on the phone and admit the guide gave HER the wrong time AND she wouldn't apologise to me for it. There were LOTS of drama this entire trip, but this is the only one I'm permanently pissed about.

Now let's go to STONEHENGE!

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Tish: There are two people who visit Stonehenge: One group will be awed by the structures, fascinated by the wonders of an ancient civilisation, leaving with a feeling of the mystical and supernatural. The other group...will see a pile of rocks. Some people feel ancient energy flowing through the grounds, brought on by the Welsh sandstones. So if you feel a tingle, you might be standing too near the electric fence they put up to keep the sheep away from Stonehenge.

We only had an hour here so let's HUSTLE.

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Since most of Stonehenge is barricaded, visitors can touch and compare the stones right at the entrance. The imported (?!) welsh stone on the right is smoother and apparently restores energy. Energy restoring drinks/points, save markers, health-restoring inns...England is all your RPGs rolled into ONE LAND!!

Tish: I come here twice a week, I've got enough energy reserves to last me a while.

So they gave us audio guides and let us walk around the stones!

Mum: You have to WALK around the stones?! Sod it, I've been here before, meet you back at the bus. *leaves*

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Tourists were taking photos of each other standing next to the stones. My mum can't take a photo to save her life and asking people for help are for PUSSIES, so the logical thing to do was to take a selfie WHILE listening to the audio guide because that's what MORONS TRYING TO BE COOL do!

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Pile of rocks, check. Audio guide, check. Srs bzns face, check. All good to go!

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Did I mention the sky was GORGEOUS the whole day? Well now you know! Not pictured: a bunch of black girls doing their best 'bitch please' poses at the stones. Hilarious stuff but there were 5 of them, one of me, and very soft soil all around - mud wrestling just isn't my thing, sorry.

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Let us marvel at the scenery and the result of using 'rule of thirds' on pictures. Beautiful.

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GAH FACE! x__x

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Artist's rendition of Stonehenge construction. Not pictured: two conservation staff waiting patiently while I took these shots. I thanked them, they laughed and said, "Good picture!" and walked past. Meanwhile, mum spoke to the Cuban guy: he and & his wife migrated to the US, his wife comes to London on business while he babysits the kids, so this time he goes for a holiday while she babysits. I can't help but wonder whether their US migration was as dramatic as the ones we see on TV.

Then it was time to go home!

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England has so much land that the cemetery plots actually have EMPTY SPACE waiting for more dead people to be buried! @_@

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Not pictured: Massive honking at roundabouts.

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The bus dropped us off at Gloucester Road where we returned to Paddington and got cheated by an Indian food restaurant (should've just eaten the proper burgers):

The menu outside doesn't state you NEED to order at least one main dish/person until you read the menu they give you. I ordered rasam soup, and my mum was left foodless for HALF AN HOUR before the waiter explained the starters must be finished before the main course comes! We flipped a table and got our food immediately. Bloody waste of money anyway. =_=

If you read this till the end thank you for looking through SIXTY FIVE pictures of England. I hope your Sunday has been properly wasted!

Next up: Sherlock, Sherlock!, London: The Cliff Notes, and schoolmate reunions 10,000 km from home!