Wednesday, July 21, 2010

devil take the hindmost

Today was the London Derby, that perennial event of street dashing and tube crashing. The point of the Derby is to teach students to use the tube on their own, with the added benefit of seeing remote sights around town, with the added benefit of sweating and possibly winning prizes! (The prizes are generally Love Bars from Pret.) To refresh your memory, here are the rules for the London Derby:

The students are in teams of 4 or 5, with names randomly drawn. This year, each team had a captain who had been on study abroad before. So we had Team Daniel, Team Alex, and Team Stringhams.

Each team captain draws the name of 5 London sites out of a hat.

Each team has 2 1/2 hours to get to as many of these sites as they can, even if they are on opposite ends of the city.

For every site seen (with photographic evidence!) the team gets 5 points. They also have to tell me something interesting about each site. If it's boring, they don't get the points.

An additional 2 points are given if students take pictures of the following:

--A Busker or Street Performer
--Red Phone Booth
--A Theatre
--Statue of Someone
--a blue dot plaque (Famous Residence)
--a Church
--a Pub
--An Art Gallery
--a Garden
--A bridge

Teams must meet me at the Trafalgar Square lions within 2 1/2 hours or they are elminated.

If The Amazing Race and the America's Next Top Model go-sees met and had a baby, it would be the London Derby.

So this means that while they are zipping around the city I get 2 1/2 hours to explore on my own. So I picked a neighborhood I didn't really know much about and set out for it. This year I picked Marylebone, just because it sounded really exciting, right? MARYLEBONE. Even the name alone holds a strange mystery. Turns out Marylebone is the Medical Center of London. So not so much mystery. But it also happens to be the Architectural Center of London. And I have a budding interest in architecture, so I walked around and pretended like I knew how old everything was. I would give tour guides in my head, saying exciting things like "Now, this is a perfect specimin of late Georgian." And then I would look up in my book to see if I was right. And I was! Not all the time.

I saw the following buildings of architectural merit:

This is Park Crescent. It faces Regent's Park and was once full of Doctor's offices in the mid 19th century.

Again with the medical theme, this is The London Clinic. Isn't it fancy? And also spooky?

And on a final medical/architectural note, this has to be the priciest urologist in town.

This cat and fish have nothing to do with anything. I just saw them in a back alley, and wanted to remember them. I don't even like cats.

Marylebone is also the home of Madam Tussaud's Wax Museum, but I didn't go in there because there were approximately 1500 people waiting to get in. And there were street performers keeping them entertained - but you know I'm not tempting THAT AGAIN. So I did the next touristy thing: The Sherlock Holmes Museum! It's right there on Baker Street, just like in the books. 221b.

I've never been to the Sherlock Holmes Museum. And I really liked it! It's pretty small - three floors but only two rooms per floor. They have all these wax figures acting out scenes from the books, only one of which I have read (HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES.) But I thought the set-up was charming and funny and I would recommend it do any of Conan Doyle buffs. One thing I thought was odd was this little old Indian man who stood in one of the rooms and kept saying the same speech: "I am Sherlock Holmes. When I am bored I shoot the name of the Queen into the wall with my pistol. Please sit on my divan and try on my hat." And he said it 400 times while I was in that room in the least enthusiastic way possible. And I was suddenly very, very grateful for my occupation.

But then I turned a corner and suddenly came face to face with THIS!

With a united effort we tore off the coffin lid. As we did so there came from the inside a stupefying and overpowering smell of chloroform. A body lay within, its head all wreathed in cotton-wool, which had been soaked in the narcotic. Holmes plucked it off and disclosed the statuesque face of a handsome and spiritual woman of middle age. In an instant he had passed his arm round the figure and raised her to a sitting position. IT WAS LADY FRANCES CARFAX!At 3:30 I made my way to the Trafalgar Lions for the exciting Derby Finish Line! I was slightly delayed on the tube because the Bakerloo Line was delayed. And the Bakerloo line was delayed, we were told, because of "a person under a train." Sounds like a caper for Sherlock Holmes! Really, I shouldn't make jokes about that.

The big winners of the Derby were Team Daniel! They got 100% of their destinations and arrived at Trafalgar at 3:29! They made it to the Peter Pan statue in Hyde Park, Cleopatra's Needle, The Churchill Statue and War Rooms, and the Hay's Gallery Fountain. Nicholas even performed the Chattanooga Choo-Choo on the steps of the National Gallery!

Second place was Team Alex. They made it to Marble Arch, The Reformer's Tree, Temple Church, and the Oscar Wilde Memorial. They worked hard. It's not easy being #2.
Third place was Team Stringhams. They were third place because they got a little creative and didn't mind losing. Basically they gave up. They saw the Princess Di Fountain, and then took a bunch of pictures of a Freddy Mercury Statue, Platform 9 3/4, and a giant billboard of Edward Cullen.

Tonight we found out that Love Never Dies. And it truly doesn't. This is the new Phantom of the Opera sequel. And we really liked it! I thought it was super schlocky and melodramatic, but a lot of fun to watch. The technical aspects of the show were incredible - amazing projected sets and locations - more like a movie than a play. I also thought the score was beautiful - as good, in my opinion, as the original. And maybe better? I hear they are retooling the show for Broadway, so in the hopes that Andrew Lloyd Webber reads my blog: GET RID OF THE FOUR ARMED MONKEY BARTENDER. It's not scary at all. We just laughed the whole time that monkey was on. It's really distracting. And also, everyone can see the big twist at the end a mile away. And the circus freaks had dumb parts. But everything else was awesome!!!!

After the show we were on a bit of a high, so we walked home over the Hungerford Bridge, through ghostly St. James Park, and past Buckingham Palace into Knightsbridge.