Like New York, London is a cosmopolitan city, and like New York, it’s hard to find any locals. There are many South Asians in London as well as Eastern Europeans. The Chinese, of course, are everywhere. Where have the natives gone? Where are they who built the empire on which the sun never set?
The weather here, as I had been warned, is quite predictable: Expect rain. Of the five days that I’ve spent here, it has rained at least three. Luckily, it hasn’t been a constant rain, but it comes and goes at will, often catching us off guard. It also gets fairly cold here. I left 90 degree weather in New York to find temperatures as low as in the 40s here. Fortunately, I brought a jacket.
Yesterday, I visited Big Ben and the House of Parliament. I felt a peculiar sense of fulfillment. I remember working on a model of the Big Ben in middle school. As a child I had ascribed some fantastic qualities to the old monument. It was a legendary edifice, located in a far away place, which I could only hope to visit some day. These memories lurched forward as I stood before the clock, and I found myself smiling.
Later Kamran and I attended a play at the Shakespeare Globe Theater. I had wanted to get the £5 standing tickets, but the show, The Merchant of Venice, was sold out by the time we got there. We ended up buying £15 tickets from a scalper instead. I had read the play in college, so I looked forward to seeing it performed at the original location. I wasn’t disappointed. Though the accent was a bit difficult to understand at times, the play was well done. The setting itself is quite extraordinary. It is an open-air, circular theater, built as a replica of the original theater (which burned down). I also enjoyed the interactive aspect of the performance. The players walked amongst the people standing in front of the stage and drew them into the action. The play itself is a comedy, and everyone seemed to have a good time.
I also visited the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms. It was a fascinating display of the British war machine during World War II. It intrigued me to see how the war made a hero out of Winston Churchill. Generally, he appears to have been a mean-spirited, war-mongering, racist old man, but he’s considered a hero for leading the British through the war effort. I was pleasantly surprised to observe that the US was given pride of place in the exhibit. It was clear that the British were grateful for America’s involvement in the war and for her friendship.