Day 5: A Taste of Freedom

Today, it was wet outside due to rain as well as our tears from having to walk through it at 9 in the morning. Our sorrows, however, would quickly dissipate as we received our daily dose of Pret a Manger and were soon after met with another brilliant discussion of British imperial history from Dr. John McAleer. Today, we learned about Britain’s maritime presence in a different context as we explored the East India Company’s ventures, which began in the 17th century and ended in the mid-19th century. As always, it was pretty cool learning how aspects of modern British culture we’ve observed connect to what they did centuries ago. Did you know that tea is the national drink of Great Britain because of the East India Company’s extensive trade with China? I did not, and I found it to be quite informative.

McAleer.jpgDr. McAleer dropping some major knowledge on the abolition of the East India Company.

At this point, about half of us (including Andre) split off to take a trip to Harry Potter Studios. Little did we know that the trip there would quickly become quite the ordeal. We boarded our train in eagerness, expecting to arrive promptly at our destination within the hour. It was the wrong train. Luckily, it turns out Harry Potter Studios doesn’t care about anything, and let us in an hour late to our tour, no questions asked. They even asked if one of us wanted to get a coffee before we went in.

The tour was MAGICAL. Without spoiling the trip for those who are going Friday, we can say that there were quite a few objects related to the Harry Potter film series. We recommend the butterbeer! You can make one in your home in about 10 seconds for a fraction of the price, but it would certainly be lacking in the authenticity that Warner Bros. Studios offers.IMG_2642.JPG The big entrance to the tour – quite a sight! John seems to like it (featured right).

HP.JPGA dazzling accessory to the set of the Yule Ball in the Goblet of Fire. Truly an architectural marvel.

The other half of us stayed and enjoyed the wonders of the Cutty Sark, a ship once used to transport tea, but it now a museum – complete with a small theatre inside. The ship truly truly retained an authentic and historic nature, as it smelled old and musty, somewhat like an attic. It was also really low down there – even Lilliany had to duck to enter the premises. We toured the boat, learning more about its instrumental role in tea trade from China as well as the lives of 17th, 18th, and 19th century seamen. The learning was facilitated by a few fun interactive features, including a nautical racing game to see who could get from Australia to Great Britain faster – us or the sailors of that time. We also got a chance to take a look at some of the food that seamen enjoyed/suffered through aboard their ships. It largely consisted of old pork and mashed peas – not quite up to par with Pret.

Boat.JPGAll aboard the Cutty Sark!

Not going in.JPGAmanda and Lilliany recreating some film about a boat on a boat.

Our groups would diverge even further at this point, as the Potter-goers continued to enjoy their time at Harry Potter studios whilst everyone else branched off to enjoy our first day off of the week. Some decided to visit family, while others enjoyed a nice meal at a pub in Greenwich. We embraced our inner tourists and decided to venture into the complicated system of the underground Tube on our own. Somehow, we managed to arrive at the Tower of London where we took pictures. As we took pictures with the Tower Bridge in the background, we saw a giant Raven sitting by the Tower of London.
As it squawked at us, we learned about a folktale. People cut the feathers off of these Ravens because it is believed that if all of them fly away, London will fall.

Raven.jpgThe majestic raven, a reminder of home in Baltimore.

We then began another journey, across the Tower Bridge to Borough Market, recommended by Amanda. We bought desserts (Matt bought a fudge), Turkish delights, and refreshing drinks. Meanwhile, in another part of London, Joey ventured on a solo stroll including the buildings of Parliament.

Still, in the midst of all this chaos, we all adeptly managed to converge in time for dinner. Truly, it was a miracle we all made it back together at relatively the same time.

Dinner was served at a quaint little all-vegetarian restaurant called Tibits. The restaurant allowed us to pay for the food we ordered by weight on Maryland’s dime, essentially rendering it an all-you-can-eat. From a quick post-dinner poll among our fellow peers, it was an interesting culinary experience. We would recommend the breaded fried mushrooms in their sweet and sour chili chutney. Very interesting indeed.

Dinner was promptly followed by a viewing of the critically acclaimed play, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. It was incredible from start to finish – a riveting story about a teenage boy named Christopher with a very unusual personality. Excellent at maths and not-so-excellent at navigating everyday social situations, Christopher undertook a beautiful journey of development as he came to terms with the difficult atmosphere in his home. Employing very impressive stage effects and incredible actors, the theater wowed us for a second night in a row and made us truly rethink how we look at people who are different from us.

TheaterThe impressive techno stage of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.

On a serious note, there was a relatively high profile attack which broke out near Parliament today. Details are still unconfirmed, but we’d like to send our sincere thoughts and prayers to those who were affected. Thankfully, all of us were safely far away from the incident and it occurred, and we are all okay.

Thanks for tuning in for another exciting installment of our blog!

– Lilliany and Andre

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