When walking around Phoenix, Tucson, or any city on the western side of the U.S., one generally does not contemplate the history of the place where they are walking. Actually, in the case of Phoenix and Tucson, one rarely walks around at all. It is very difficult to describe the atmosphere back home, apart from complaining about how hot it is in the summer. When you are driving around, you normally are focused on getting from Point A to Point B and never stop to take a look at what is around you.
But London is completely different. Here, the history is not just confined to one of the numerous museums and historic buildings; it is in the cobblestone sidewalks, the graceful buildings lining the wide boulevards of South Kensington, and the lush grassy areas of Hyde Park. Everywhere you go, you live and breathe the history and the tradition of this fascinating city. It is impossible to go anywhere without seeing something that reminds you that this city has been around for hundreds of years.
One of the most famous places in Kensington is Hyde Park, one of the largest parks in London. It is also the location of Kensington Palace, where Queen Victoria was born and lived until she ascended the throne in 1837. Since then, it has served as the residence for other notable royals such as Princess Diana, Princess Margaret, and most currently the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Walking inside is literally stepping into history. Between gaping at the ornate paintings and the grand scale of each room, there is also the fact that royals such as Victoria have climbed the staircase you are now climbing, and their footsteps echoed off the very same wooden floor. There is currently a special exhibition called “Victoria Revealed”, and it deftly uses quotes from her journals and letters to give the visitor an intimate glance at the woman behind the legend.
The history of London does not involve only the royal family but also literary geniuses such as William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. The Globe Theatre is a faithful replica of the original place where Shakespeare’s plays were first performed. Incidentally, at the time the theater was considered to be a bawdy and unrefined pastime. Therefore, the theatre was located on the south bank of the Thames and outside the city walls. We toured the Globe Theater and were able to act out a small scene from “Romeo and Juliet”, rehearsing in a manner similar to that of the period. The actors did not receive the entire script. Rather, they were given certain cue lines to listen for, and it was these lines that indicated when they were to speak. It was an interesting look at the play, and definitely much more in-depth than any sort of interaction I had with Shakespeare in high school.
We will be returning on Thursday to see “Henry V”, and I am looking forward to it, as well as exploring more of the city. I have read a lot about English history, but reading does not compare to the actual place and the experience of visiting the place where it happened. The adventure is only beginning, and I have just barely scraped the tip of the iceberg.