Day four of our London Adventure greeted us with an unprecedented amount of sun. Though we were a shocking 2 minutes late and therefore nearly left behind by Dr Bell, we did for the first time, quite literally, start our day off bright and early. Sadly, our early morning tube ride did not take us past a Pret A Manger, however, we did get to enjoy some Starbucks courtesy of The University of Maryland before being bustled off to the next tube station. After a brief train ride, we emerged from the Underground and met up with Dr William Pettigrew, who would be educating us on London’s role in the slave trade and leading today’s romp through the city. The first site we went to was the Museum of London (a familiar site), where Dr Pettigrew told us of the Roman city of London and how it was built upon the backs of slaves– slaves at this time most likely being native Britons or other ancient people’s captured during conflicts with the Empire. We learned about some early anti slavery action, when Queen Boudica burned down Roman London in response to it’s inhabitats enslavement of her people, before we set off again (at a estimated 25 miles per hour– the proven walking speed of all historians) to the site of London Guildhall.
London Guildhall was also built upon the site of Roman ruins, and it’s main purpose was effectively to serve as a city hall and court for the City (mainly the small financial district that was ecompassed by the bounds of the Old Roman City), and had been in operation since the early 15th century. Being stone, this was one of the few buildings that survived the Great London Fire of 1666 . Inside, Michelle and I did our best to educate our peers about the landmark court case Somerset v. Stuart, with the help of the Guildhall’s magnificent acoustics. Pettigrew didn’t stop us at any point during the presentation to chastise us for misinforming the audience so overall I think we can consider it a success.
Next, we got to check out John Smith’s snazzy boots (Yeezus season 5, $1607)* and learned how indentured servitude also played a role in the creation of English colonies in America. From there we took a brisk walk throught the finanicial district and soaked up some sun, while making periodic stops along the way to learn about various Londoners who were involved in the Trans Atlantic Slave trade. Finally we stopped at a mall and took the Lift up to the roof in order to get a breathtaking view of good old London. After we took some selfies, instagrams, and snapchats we learned that more people are enslaved in London today than ever before. Then we got fish and chips.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese was a favorite pub of our old friend Dr. Samuel Johnson so what better place to spend lunch? Like all other tourists, we were stuffed in the basement, and it was there we enjoyed some classic English Tea, some classic English tap water and some classic English Fish and chips. I learned that I don’t like smashed peas (I took a survey and 3/4 dentists agree it makes your mouth taste like cigarette smoke). Other than this, it was excellent! After we climbed back up from our cellar abode, we set off for part #2 of the day’s siteseeing.
Taking another strenuous walk with the human machine known as Dr. Bell, we arrived at the National Portrait Gallery, where we were greeted by some of the most famous faces of British history (though we missed David Beckham to everyone’s misfortune). We got to present a portrait of whatever famous person we were assigned to and we learned quite a bit about King Charles I, Sir Isaac Newton, Mary Wollstonecraft, many others that I now forget, and finally a large painting about abolitionists from the Society of Abolitionists preaching in a courtroom, where Andre and Lilliany did a fantastic job of explaining the role of abolitionsists in British history. It was also very disheartening when we observed that there were a grand total of two portraits of black people and very few of women, following the trend of mostly dead white men being recognized.
After this insightful presentation, we headed to dinner in a restaurant I would best describe as an “asian Chipotle”, where we ate some of the best (and most filling) ramen, teriyaki, and fresh fruit drinks. Since we had so much time until our date at the theatre, we stopped by yet another café, where we got some delicious cakes and drinks. This was also a good time to catch up on some sleep, so that Dr. Bell wouldn’t throttle us for sleeping through the play.
Finally we arrived at the Young Vic theatre to see a rendition of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which kind of surprised me when I saw a bustling hub full of young people drinking and having fun. I had thought we would be surrounded by old people, but it seemed that Londoners had great interest in seeing one of their greatest historical figures at work. The play was interesting to say the least. Throughout the chaos of mud, pantyhose, and screams, I could see the original plot and the very creative twist that it had taken. I have to say that the timid roars of the almost naked “lion” and the very feminine and dramatic gestures of the man who played Thisbe were my favorite parts. Seeing shirtless, grown men prancing around the stage made the play way more entertaining and enjoyable.
Overall, it was a great experience and I think everyone inlcuding Dr. Bell enjoyed it (from who I heard roaring laughter from across the room at some points of the play). It’s hard to see how any future plays will top this one off.
Some Final Photos of things I’m too tired to format including but not limited to: St. Pauls, Various Group Selfies, Our lord and Saviour Lord Admiral Nelson (Nelly), and Views of London (Photo creds to Alexis and Andre as well)
*disclaimer: There is no historical evidence that Kanye West manufactued John Smith’s boots–this is merely speculation given Mr. West’s “creative genius” which one can only assume includes the ability to time travel