Monday, July 20, 2009

woke up, it was a chelsea morning

Since my students don't arrive until tomorrow, I had a full day of doing what I like to do best in London: walk around randomly. It's the best way to learn the city if you, like me, are too embarrassed to take one of those giant open top bus tours. I like to choose a destination or borough, and then I pound the pavement. Today I chose Chelsea.

Chelsea might sound like an odd destination since it's just below Kensington where we live. But I have never been there. I'm always going north or east, but never south. And south is Chelsea, a quiet neighborhood that runs along the banks of the Thames. I think Chelsea is most known for Thomas More, who lived there with his family before his beheading. When I was at BYU I was in a production of Man for All Seasons, which is a play about Thomas More. I played Henry VIII (typecast) and so I wandered the streets of Chelsea today with a heavy heart and a good deal of guilt for beheading him.

The first place I stopped was at the Chelsea Physic Garden, a place I've always wanted to go to, but have been too afraid to admit. I don't want the fellas thinking I'm a sissy about gardens and plants, when in truth I totally am. The Chelsea Physic Garden has been around for hundreds of years, and it was established by doctors and other medicinal types. It's a great place to go if you want to see a ficus, or England's largest Olive Tree. There are also Tropical Corridors, Glasshouses, and Beehives. There is also a really nice tour guide who politely asks you if you have paid to be on the tour, and if you say you haven't, she politely asks you to leave the group. My favorite part of the garden was the Fortune's Tank Pond, where I saw a whole bunch of guppies under a lily pad.

After the garden I strolled over to the Royal Hospital. Just my luck! Today was the 13th Annual Great London bike race. So about 4,000 people wearing spandex shorts were on the hospital lawn and in the Ranelagh Gardens. So I fit right in! Just kidding, I wasn't wearing spandex shorts. They were lycra. Anyway. While I was in Ranelagh Gardens I saw a catering service offering a "hog roast," and I couldn't pass that up! You basically get a bunch of pig shavings on a Bap, which is a hamburger bun. It was delicious! I was happy to have it.

I crossed the Chelsea Bridge, and man it was windy! But I made it safely to Battersea park where I contemplated my inner Buddha at the Peace Pagoda, but got bored of that pretty quickly. Hearing music, I moved further into the park and listened to this guy for a while:

I thought he was pretty good. I liked his upbeat songs. Later he started singing songs about "giving praise to the little ones," and I would bet you ten bucks that guy doesn't have any kids. He seems like one of those guys who always talk about children being the hope of the future, or the banners of peace or whatever, but he won't pick them up because he's afraid that he'll get jam or poop on his shirt.

As I wandered further into the park, I found Henry Moore's Three Standing Figures:

And then I walked around the lake for a while, and this guy jumped out of some bushes and kind of scared me, and then I watched an exciting game of cricket!

Finally, leaving the park, I headed past the boy and the dolphin statue (bad angle?) and dwelled at Thomas More's church for a bit. Services were just letting out and all of the people looked very posh. This seemed like an upscale parish. I read that Kate Middleton and Hugh Grant lived on Old Church street, but I didn't see them in the congregation. So I left. And I walked around old Chelsea, and found this awesome car:

And then I found the Chelsea farmer's market where Chris and Gwyneth supposedly shop. But I didn't see them, either. I mostly saw little shops that sell fancy things for people's pets. Seriously? Pets? I bet that guy in Battersea park who sings about children has a dog that he buys organic treats for. Just beyond the farmer's market is St. Luke's church, where Charles Dickens was married.

My final thoughts on Chelsea? Windy. Guilt. Spandex. Gardens. Cricket. Hog Roast.