Do you have a bucket list? Even a half-formed “I guess one day I’d like to do XYZ”? Or are you one of those hyper organised people that has it written down, maybe even electronically, ready to be added to or ticked off at any moment? I’ve got a bit of a strange relationship with Bucket Lists. I don’t like the idea that once you’ve done something you can tick it off and never do it again. If it’s on your bucket list, it must be something so great, so amazing that you want to do it again and again and again! A bit like taking specific tourists photos every time you’re in a particular place….
My bucket list is one of those half-formed ones. It’s had things like “go to an AFL grand final” and “eat croissants in Paris” on it. Perfectly achievable things that I would do again in a heartbeat. Another things that’s on my bucket list? See a Shakespeare play at the Globe. Specifically, I’d like it to be Richard III, but when I saw that Titus Andronicus was on while I was going to be in England, I knew I had to make it happen!
But we’ll get to that.
Jamie and his family live about an hour outside London, which I think it ludicrously close. They get the English country-village atmosphere without being in the middle of nowhere, and it’s completely reasonable to go into London for the day. And given Jamie’s proclivity for history, he was more than happy to give me my very own London walking tour. He’s one of the most knowledgeable and engaging people I know and fun facts just pour out of him with infectious enthusiasm!
For example, it was the 2nd Duke of Westminster who first installed electric streetlamps in London, and he had his official seal painted, in gold, on every single one. Twice. Fact? Yes. Fun? Not so much, but stick with me. Bendor, as he was affectionately known, was having an affair with the one and only Coco Chanel at the time and in a grand gesture of his love, had her seal painted adjacent to his own. I wonder how his wife felt about that….
We continued our mosey down Whitehall until we came to the Horse Guards. It is some poor soul’s job to stand guard next to the entrance to make sure no one enters the barracks. They have to stand perfectly still, on foot and stare straight ahead, much to the amusement of tourists. You know all those scenes in movies where they try to get the guards to laugh? This is the perfect spot to try it out.
Closer to the gate, there’s a guard on horseback, so it’s a much better photo op as this guard is high above the whims of tourists (like me)
We doubled back onto Whitehall and found parts of it lined with the flags of the Commonwealth. Jamie could name most of them, but aside from the Canadian flag there was only one I was interested in….
This also provided a lovely entrance to Hyde Park along the Princess Diana Memorial Walk. I’m quite fond of the Royals, despite the fact that they have very little relevance in Australia. And let’s be honest, it’s not just the Windsors who tickle my fancy, I’m a fan of pretty much any Monarchy that’s still alive and kicking.
Eventually wandered past Buckingham Palace, and kept walking until we came across Westminster Cathedral. And no, I didn’t just mistakenly call Westminster Abbey a cathedral.
West Minster Cathedral is the less famous cousin of Westminster Abbey. It’s tucked away in a much less touristy area of Westminster, and the surrounding areas are mostly commercial. Jamie had never been inside so he was just as keen as I was to check it out.
I’m always amazed at the opulence and grace of many religious buildings and this one was certainly no different. Those are gold tiles on the ceiling.
It was also really interesting how similar Westminster Cathedral was to the Blue Mosque I had visited in Istanbul. Jamie explained why to me but I can’t for the life of me remember now… If anyone’s got any idea, feel free to explain this to me in a comment below!
We paid our respects and returned into the hustle and bustle of London. Jamie suggested we check out Camden Markets, describing it as truly unique. We jumped on the Tube so I could see for myself.
Camden really hits you in the face. From the minute you exit the Tube station you are presented with a smorgasbord of style. From the young punk-goth-looking gents with Mohawks, tatts and piercings, to the Rockabilly babes with their full skirts, heels and pearls (and often tattoos and piercings, just for contrast), to short, blonde, wide-eyed tourists and everything in between, Camden is possibly one of my favourite places.
At first the market starts off like any other, with food as far as they eye can see.
It’s a place after my own heart really.
But once you are past the food stalls, that’s when it starts to get really interesting. There are so many different things to look at! Clothes, homewares, bric-a-brak, gifts and souvenirs galore. Words really can’t do these markets justice. They’re built on the site of old stables so although the alleys are generally in straight lines, there’s no telling when another line of stalls will suddenly open up. It almost reminded me of Diagon Alley in Harry Potter….
The people watching was also supreme.
Having worked up quite an appetite, Jamie suggested we go somewhere for tea. At home, I’d think this meant dinner, but in England tea shops are aplenty. These are little cafe-like places which quite literally sell tea, coffee, cake and sometimes sandwiches. That’s it. The one Jamie knew of was set in the middle of the markets but upstairs and mostly outside.
We wandered in, and to my delight there were so many different types of tea to choose from. Even in my depleted hunger-fog, I managed to get ridiculously excited about the different types of tea to choose from.
In the spirit of the Turkish apple tea I had been drinking on Contiki, I ended up going with a brew called “Wanderlust” purely because of it’s apple flavours and name. Jamie had a lemon-scented tea. I picked a wholemeal apple and apricot loaf to accompany and Jamie had a lemon cake to compliment his tea.
I told Jamie I felt there was something terribly sophisticated and quaint about taking tea of an afternoon. He laughed and muttered something about Australians and oxymorons.
One of the positives about being up so high above the hustle and bustle of the markets is it provided a beautiful view of the canals below.
If you’d like to know a little more about Yum Chaa, I’d suggest checking it out here.
Feeling much more spritely, Jaime and I began our pilgrimage to the Globe via South Bank. The Festival of Love was in full swing which provided us with more than enough to look at as we walked off our cake. Like this guy, who was playing the Bagpipes on the beach.
Jamie is one of my favourite people, so in keeping in the spirit of the Festival of Love, I told him so. This was his reaction.
We arrived at the Globe with plenty of time for some dinner and a drink before the main event.
We chose this stunner of a pub a few hundred meters away from the theater and found a table surprising quickly given how busy it was.
We chattered for literally hours about life, love, theater and everything in between, while taking bites of the delicious pub grub. I do love a good pub meal. Before long, with excitement building, it was time to make our way back to Shakespeare’s Globe!
Titus Andronicus is Shakespeare’s most bloody, gruesome play. I won’t ruin the ending for you, but basically Titus is an aging, returned war hero engaged in a cycle of revenge with Tamora, Queen of the Goths, whom he has captured after a ten-year-war. As with any Shakespearean play, there is as much political intrigue as physical brutality, which only serves to add to the theatricality. In fact, the play embraced it’s violence so enthusiastically that every time someone was killed on stage, at least three audience members fainted. After intermission, a good few people never returned to their seats, so we could move to a better vantage point. Brilliant!
I can definitely say that “revisit the Globe” is now somewhere near the top of my imaginary bucket list. What’s on yours?