Day Two: London From Big Ben To King John

IMG_2330My first day in London was a delight. It was a glorious day in London and I walked for over ten miles in visiting different landmarks. London is not simply a gorgeous and inspiring city but it is filled with people who are eager to help any lost tourist and simply to chat on the streets. I have yet to meet a single Londoner who was not incredibly cheerful and helpful.

After buying an “Oyster Card” to use the Tube for a week, I was able to visit different parts of the city. I am staying at the Shangri-La in the iconic Shard building. I will be doing a review of the hotel later but it is in a perfect location in Central London with unparalleled views. (My room looks out on the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and the HMS Belfast is directly under my window).

We started the day with a breakfast at the Frontline Club (the club for war correspondents) where I met with my family friend Ed Vulliamy. Ed’s father and my father were very close friend and our families have maintained the long relationship. Ed has spent much of his life on dangerous assignments from Bosnia to the narco-wars of the South America.

We then walked to Hyde Park and made our way over to Trafalgar Square, Westminster, Big Ben, Buckingham, and Parliament. We then walked over to the Globe across the Thames to watch the new production “King John” — one of the least well known play of William Shakespeare. It seemed the perfect way to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta signed by King John.

400px-The_Globe_Theatre,_Panorama_Innenraum,_LondonHundreds still stand as they did with the original Globe theater. We were seated (and you can rent a pad to sit on for one pound which is worth the money). The play starts with the immediate aftermath of the death of Richard the Lionheart and the rise of his brother John to the throne. The French are threatening King John’s reign with an alliance with his nephew, the young Prince Arthur. Director James Dacre does an inspired job in setting this play visually and efficiently for the audience. With a relatively small cast the play casts a long shadow. The play has its hilarious moments as King John (played brilliantly by Jo Stone-Fewings) adopts the Bastard, Philip Faulconbridge (Alex Waldmann), a wonderfully opportunistic figure who offers cutting narratives through the play. Tanya Moodie plays Constance, mother of Arthur with a passion and range that stands with the best of her craft. All of this occurs with musical elements that are haunting and mesmerizing with Medieval instrumentals, chants or prayers. (One critical note for the musicians would be to avoid reviewing the musical numbers with white plastic binders in an otherwise lovely stage set up. It was a jarring disconnect when two different players pulled out the notebooks at different points in the performance. It was not that the performance was entirely historical given the accordion in the band but the note books took away from the actors standing a foot or two away).

The play has many overlooked brilliant moments and lines like Arthur’s mother wailing: “Here I and sorrows sit; Here is my throne, bid kings come bow to it.” Perhaps my favorite line is “Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale; Vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man.”

300px-Southwark_reconstructed_globe This play is a must see for Shakespeare lovers and should be particularly appealing with this anniversary. Many of us have been repeated productions of classics like Hamlet or King Lear or Macbeth. King John is worth your time and the Globe theater does a masterful job in bringing it to life in full glory. Better yet, you can enjoy this wonderful theater and wonderful production with a pint of good English beer. What is not to like about that? If you are in London, go and see King John. It is a rare opportunity to see this play performed by the very best cast in the perfect setting.

We then walked around the Thames for a great evening stroll as the sun went down on an incredible day.

Here are a few images from the day:


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13 thoughts on “Day Two: London From Big Ben To King John”

  1. England has many dog breeds. English Setter being one. HumpinDog has a girlfriend who is an English Setter. She is here at the machine reading the blog and wanting to go home to England.

  2. While I enjoy hiking in the country, I also take pleasure hiking through cities. In some respects, I enjoy it more. The one big drawback is the noise pollution, a pox on our culture that doesn’t get enough attention. I think if everyone would take up walking, getting off their butts and coming outside themselves, we would have a much more pleasant world. Time for a long walk. These travelogues are always pleasant and inspiring.

  3. Sounds like you’re having a lovely time.

    It’s been many years since I’ve been to England, but I greatly enjoyed it. It’s so green and cool. I went riding and saw the Queen’s deer, getting some double takes because I’d brought my English chaps. (Apparently the “real” English have no idea what English chaps are and thought I was a cowgirl. 🙂 ) Saw the original Chesire Cat pub. Visited more cathedrals than I thought were possible to exist in one small country. Saw the real Canterbury and shopped at Piccadilly Square.

    What a wonderful place to visit.

  4. Always love the travelogue. I love the iconic phone booth photo, and the info on King John. I’m certain your family friend was in Colombia in the 80’s/90’s. The narco terrorist, Pablo Escobar, exacted horrific revenge on journalists during his reign of terror. Guillermo Cano, the courageous editor of El Espectador was gunned down by Escobar’s killers. Escobar would later destroy the entire newspaper building w/ a truck bomb. Cano was not the only journalist killed, just the most famous. There are real journalists in the world. We could use some of them in this country.

  5. England and a visit to London is chock full of history. Historical sites and beautiful green scenery in the rural areas. I loved visiting there and in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Really worthwhile experience..

    In California if you have a building or town that is over 100 years old, that is a marvel. 100 year old buildings in England are a dime a dozen. If you have a family that has lived in the same town since the 1880’s they are also a marvel Amazing history and to realize the generations of people who have lived in the same place, even occupied the same house for hundreds and hundreds of years.

    I found it to be a great place to visit, somewhere that I would NEVER want to live, however. Everything (other than the giant palaces and monuments) seemed small. Little streets, little houses, tiny kitchens, itsy bitsy appliances, tiny rooms with low ceilings, dark interiors with no views of anything other than the brick wall of the neighbors little house, cramped cramped cramped, narrow roads, little cars, side by side houses in the villages, tiny yards (if a yard at all), small groceries, small selection of goods. People piled one on top of the other in the cities. No wonder our ancestors wanted to get out of there!

    I’m used to the wide open spaces of the West. Miles and miles between towns. Acres and acres between neighbors. Our house isn’t large, about 1700 sq ft with spacious rooms and high ceilings. Lots of windows and sunlight. Killer views from our own property

    Nope. Great place to visit and appreciate where we came FROM. No place I would ever want to live. I’ll settle for this.

    Winter sunrise.

  6. We heard that London Bridge has fallen down and moved to Arizona. JT: let us know if that is true. Also can you substantiate the rumor that the English sense of humor is drier than the Texas sand?
    And if you meet some Americans who have been there for awhile do they articulate that they want to go home to the armadilla and to country music from Amarillo?

    1. The London Bridge that fell down is not the one that moved to Arizona.

  7. Sooo, I saw a really good movie about what happened after the Magna Carta, called “Ironclad”, about which wiki says,

    A prologue describes how the barons of England, aided by the Knights Templar, fought against totalitarian King John in a war that lasted more than three years. It ended with the King signing the Magna Carta, a document granting rights to all English freemen; but what followed had yet to be told.

    King John regrets succumbing to the pressure of the Barons to sign the Magna Carta. Soon after, he hires an army of Danish mercenaries under the leadership of a warlord, Captain Tiberius, to recapture John’s kingdom under the presumption that the Pope has agreed to keep Christian missionaries out of Denmark.

    It was good, but there was a lot of blood and stuff. And you can watch the whole movie here:

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

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