March 14, 2008

Ancient and Modern

After all the things we've done and seen in the last several weeks, I had pretty much wrapped up my "must see" list by last week. Sure there are lots of other things I would have liked to have done and lots of other things I would have liked to have seen, but those will have to wait for another trip.

I did have a few last things though to get checked off my "must see" list and I didn't want to leave them until the very last minute. So last week we headed off to St. Paul's, the Millennium Bridge and The Globe Theater.

St. Paul's is practically modern when compared to Westminster Abbey. It is obviously more planned and certainly less crowded with graves. Clearly it was the place to be buried during the Peninsular Wars (the Duke of Wellington and Lord Nelson are both buried there), but much before or after there weren't too many bodies hanging around.

St. Paul's also has always been a Protestant church, unlike Westminster Abbey, since this St. Paul's is the rebuild after the Great Fire in the 1660s. Even so, it is much more ornate than any non-Anglican Protestant building would be. The mosaic tiles on the ceilings were lovely and the whole church very impressive. There are no pews in the building. I haven't done my research to see whether there ever were, but now it is all movable seating to make room for events and changing needs.

Much to the children's disappointment we did not walk up the 2 million stairs (a slight exaggeration) to the upper galleries. Not only did I already know I would never make it carrying the one year old and dragging the three year old behind me, but there was a big sign saying people with medical conditions such as pregnancy should not make the attempt. Perhaps some other time conditions will be better.

Since I denied them an vertical climb, we went horizontal instead and left the "practically modern" St. Paul's for the thoroughly modern Millennium Bridge. The structure itself isn't beautiful to one who isn't much into modern architecture and the fact that it design over substance played such a huge role in its creation that it wobbled and had to be shut down for the first many months of its existence is most amusing, but it is a convenient way to walk across the river. It takes you straight from St. Paul's to the Tate Modern and the Globe Theater next door.

We headed to the Globe, where for the second time that day the ticket sellers looked at my brood and only charged me admission instead of all the kids they could have also asked to pay. I suppose it is always nice to get a large family discount.

The tour of the theater was well done (and the guide mindful that there were children in the audience limited some of her descriptions of the time to be more carefully worded than they might have been for adults, although her statement that "Southwark was like the Amsterdam of its time" led my eight year old to whisper to me, "What does that mean?" I told him I'd tell him when he was older.) The craftsmanship that went into recreating the theater is pretty amazing. It's put together entirely with sixteenth century techniques from pegs and the like (instead of screws, bolts and modern building pieces) to the thatched roof on top. I would love to see a play there some day, but we didn't come in season, so that treat was denied us.

Shakespeare, who is already well known to the kids, because they have an English major father (who wrote his college honors paper on satire in Shakespeare) and because our wonderful Nashville library has put on three excellent marionette productions of Shakespeare plays, really did seem more alive and more real to us all after the visit. Although not a child-specific place to visit, since all the kids were familiar with the man and his plays, they all thought it was well worth the time to visit.