We started the day off with a classic English Breakfast at the hotel, then it was off for a bus tour around nine. Of course we saw all the classics like Big Ben, the Eye, and St. Paul’s Cathedral, but we even saw pockmarks on the side of a church that are remnants of World War I from a bundle of dynamite that was thrown from a blimp during that period.
At least in regard to war another thing of interest we saw that morning was the memorial to firefighters during the Blitz of WWII and afterwards.
Can you guess what decorated one side?
That’s right: poppies! Except this time they were in the form of wreaths. Afterward we walked across the Millennium Bridge (or the Wobbling Bridge as locals call it for its unfortunate opening) to the South Bank and saw Tate Modern and the Shakespeare’s recreated Globe Theatre (visit shakespearesglobe.com/wordbyword to see what distracted the group for quite a bit).
Then we hoped back onto the bus to head to St. James Park to see the changing of the guard which parades through a road just outside of the park. Unfortunately, the traffic was terrible getting back to the hotel so we did not have time to have our Mrs. Dalloway walking tour, at least for today.
Instead we headed to Trafalgar Square to explore around there, part of the group went to The National Gallery, and a few went down one street to see a cemataph commemorating World War I and II (which had even more poppy wreaths around it). Also on the way to the cemataph was a statue of General Haig, a famous or rather infamous general from WWI.
Some people found paintings directly related to World War I in the National Gallery, but I mostly lingered on an exhibit about Dutch Flowers where I found a painting of a bouquet with a hyacinth in it.
Not only was it a remarkable painting, but it also reminded me of a line from T.S. Eliot’s Tihe Waste Land, which I thought I would share with you now.
“You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;
“They called me the hyacinth girl.”
-Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
Öd’ und leer das Meer.
I’d rather not spoil your present or future interpretation of the work so I will leave it at that and simply highly recommend reading it if you have not.
There was not anything related to the Great War at the Italian restaurant we ate at for dinner, besides the fact that Italy was involved in the war. Afterwards we were walked to Queen’s Theatre to watch the musical Les Miserables.
Initially we were going to see War Horse, but its run ended before we arrived; however, our professor did examine Les Miserables place in time in relation to WWI before we came and even some similar themes seemed to come up between the two. (Spoilers ahead) One of the lead characters, Marius, experiences survivors guilt after he is the only one to live through the night of the blockade. This was quite common for soldiers after the Great War since so many died and those who lived did so seemingly by chance. Also in regard to irony the two events both had few instaneous consequences, but they each led to much larger ones further in the future; the French Revolution for the events in Les Miserables, and WWII for the Great War, along with many other historical events that can theoretically be traced back to WWI. The Great War is often regarded as the Seminal Tragedy of the 20th century. After the musical we headed back to the hotel to turn in for the night.
That’s all for today, thanks for reading!