What do you call two men in suits waving bananas in East London? A Banksy.
— William Skinner
Join Eckerd students at the college's London study centre and explore some of the world's best museums, architecture and history of London and Paris.
What do you call two men in suits waving bananas in East London? A Banksy.
— William Skinner
He steadied the lens and framed the shot, making sure to capture the façade in all its ethereal beauty. He waited a minute for the clouds to pass over and the light of the sun to strike the reliefs at just the right angle. Satisfied, he pocketed that quiet moment in time with a soft click of his shutter. He would later pull it out from time to time while making his way home to Osaka. The image had a strange gravity that he could not explain. It would soon draw him to frame a glossy print which he could then place upon his kamidana, opposite the now two-year-old portrait of his late wife. As he would explain it, he was able to worship before two of the most sacred sites he knew during his prayers each morning. And each morning he would remark on the curious presence of a single tiny figure, walking along the bottom of the frame, forever astride the topmost step of Chartes cathedral. A man in a red shirt, alone in his redness, the spires rising precipitously above him. He would wonder who this man was and where he might be now. He would wonder whether the man had been as humbled as he by the structure which still dwarfs him. He would wonder if the man was still alone in his redness.
The next time the man wore red was two hundred and fifty miles away, walking on the outskirts of Covent Garden at night in search of the place he had since come to call home. He was alone in his redness, but he was not alone. He was accompanied by two lady friends now, and was in the presence of yet another pair, Max the oboeist and Judy the cellist, on their way home from the Royal Opera House. He had received the directions he needed from Max only but a few minutes ago and yet was already discussing with him the prospect of meeting up for drinks after a ballet the upcoming week. He was in love with his uniquely British mannerisms and was not used to such friendliness from strangers back home. He chuckled as Max apologized not once but twice for swearing at the bitterly cold weather. After the two groups parted ways and as he walked away into the London night, listening in on some conversation of L. Ron Hubbard and E.E. Cummings, both dead, he did not know he would not see Max again.
The night of the ballet Max was seated at a table in an Indian restaurant, unaware that his absence from the orchestra was at that moment a subject of inquiry. He had jumped through all of the hoops necessary to get the night off, weeks in advance. His plans had not, however, included staring at an origami napkin swan swimming on the plate opposite his, the empty seat behind it out of focus. “It’s something I’ve picked up from my daughter. She’s made three hundred and fifty already.” Max’s gaze was broken. “She’s folding cranes of course, but I enjoy the graceful form of a swan.” An slim Indian man with a thin smile and a distant look on his face was standing over him. “They’re a bit easier to make with these bulky napkins too.” Max smiled and placed his order. For the duration of his meal, he imagined the swan in flight, himself on its back, diving with finesse through the window of a California flat, grabbing Alex by the hand and refusing to let go. His meal finished, his reverie dissipating, Max folded his own napkin expertly back into a twin swan. When the waiter came to collect the check, Max handed his swan to him. “For your daughter. I hope she gets well soon.” Max then stood up and walked out the door, singing to himself, “merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily…”
The hour was late and closing time had just arrived. The waiter was sitting alone at one of the tables. He had not seated anyone since that peculiar man about an hour ago. During this idle time he had left the swan on the register counter. He had several times caught himself staring at it intently just as the man had done. It was an awful pain that kept his eyes upon the swan. If only I could have the same faith, he thought. When he finally left the restaurant for the night he grabbed the swan on his way out. He set two red waste bags down on the curb and hesitated before perching the swan between them. He did not look back as he walked on into the cold night. Wait and see, wait and see, he thought, wait and see.
The swan rested there until morning, when the binman stopped to collect the two red bags. He almost didn’t notice it, only something small and white tip over in the periphery of his vision as he hoisted the bags into the truck. He turned to see what it was and saw the swan on its side. He might have left it there but he instinctively picked it up, not carefully and by a single fold. The napkin unfurled in his hand and from where there might have once been wings had the swan seen fit to spread them out fell two fifty pound notes. “‘urry it up, eh? We do have a schedule you know,” the driver shouted. The binman quickly pocketed the notes and hopped back on the truck. For the rest of the day, his mind was at ease. He could actually afford to shut up his landlord another week while he waited for something to sell. After he got off work in the afternoon, he quickly popped into a supply store and bought a few tubes of paint. Today was the day he would finally finish that Claude. It was not since he left Paris that he had completed a master. The National Gallery was a far cry from the Louvre, but he had known that he would have to make some sacrifices if he was ever going to make enough money to open his own gallery some day. Today, it did not matter. He carried his easel and paints through the door with a spring in his step.
The man was not alone in his color anymore. Every color he could imagine was in this very room with him from the deepest, most vibrant red to lapis lazuli blue. As he slowly circumnavigated the walls, studying each artwork with the utmost reverence, he became entranced by an artist painting a landscape in the corner. The artist’s seemingly scientific mixing of hues and swift and sure application of each brush stroke fascinated him. This, this is what I’ll do, he thought, I’ll paint the world, my world. I will be an artist. No… I am an artist.
The man knew color and color knew him and he was never alone again.
— William Skinner
“The infinite vibratory levels, the dimensions of interconnectedness are without end. There is nothing independent. All beings and things are residents in your awareness.” — Alex Grey, visionary artist.
I’ve spent a lot of time this trip reflecting on “home.” I was reluctant to come on this trip, as I knew I would be leaving my house (and of course my personally decorated room) for the last time. The last thing I wanted in that moment of separation was to be tossed into an unknown foreign country, but the house on Gower Street has taught me an important lesson about life. It is something, perhaps, I already knew and just hadn’t experienced. Home is where you make it.
I came to Gower Street knowing only one other person, I leave with 17 new friends. I know that we will all be sure to not lose touch. When I first got on the tube (NOT the metro!), I was amused by a voice telling me to “mind the gap” and that “the next lift will be lift number 3,” all in a amazing British accent. Now its just part of my daily routine and I know I will miss it.
I took a moment today to say my last goodbyes to this amazing city. I went to the Covent Garden Market, and just walked through the rows of stalls, enjoying the culture. I brought a bouquet of daffodils and carried them proudly through the streets. I then took the tube back to my favorite station, good old “Goodge Street.” Instead of taking my normal walk straight to the house, I found myself strolling down Tottenham Court (the main road). As I walked I encounter familiar stores and friendly people. I walked all the way to the British Museum, just absorbing it all. I then followed Gower Street back to number 35.
I open the door to even more familiarity, the face of friends, the chill of the common room, the warmth of conversation (and the radiator in my room). I felt as if I’d just come home from a usual day in a city that truly felt like mine. Later, we went out to the local pub. (There is a pub just around the corner from here where the bartender knows us when we walk in). I’m very sad to be leaving London, something that came as quite a shock to me. The only word I can use to describe London is “Home,” and for that I will always love every piece of this city and its familiarity. I was only here for a month, but I feel as if I have been here a lifetime.
So, today (it is after all 2 am), I leave home once again, with a new view of its definition. I will greatly miss London, but I know I’ve grown a lot from this experience and will return one day. If you ever have a chance to come to the Eckerd College London Study Centre, I would recommend you do everything you can to get here, you will NOT regret it.
I have been in London for nineteen days, and spent four days in Paris. I can’t believe that I am leaving tomorrow. There is so much that happened on this trip. I really don’t know where to begin. From the random and awesome sighting of Jude Law - David shaking his hand, and Liz’s reaction; to waiting an extra hour in Paris for the train; to hanging out and having fun with everyone; and going to all the museums and galleries, which I liked doing a lot but I just felt rushed in most of them. There is just so much to see inside the museum/art galleries and all over London. The only art gallery I didn’t feel like I was racing to be somewhere else was the Van Gogh Exhibit at the Royal Academy.
It was opening day for the Vincent Van Gogh’s exhibit, and it was packed. For me this was an experience in itself, because each room had blob-ish lines of people walking along the walls and around the center showcases surrounding each artwork. At times, I found myself responding to Van Gogh’s writings to his brother or sister, having similar very points. Especially with his quote “in all of nature, in trees for instance I see expression and a soul” (written on the wall, not sure the letter number) because I feel the same way. Also Van Gogh wrote “One must take it up with assurance, with a conviction that one is doing something reasonable, like the peasant guiding his plough or like our friend in the scratch, who is doing his own harrowing” (letter 400). This quote really inspired me to continue with where I am going with my life. One of my favorite paintings is “Two Crabs” which was inspired by Hokusai’s woodcut “Crabs.” I appreciate it because the crabs look alive, and the ocean moving. I feel like I was looking into Van Gogh’s feelings. This painting is very expressive, similiar to his Orchid paintings.
Another great memory I have is planning my team excursion. It was a bit of a challenge trying to figure out where we wanted to go, but in the end we agreed upon The British Library, and The Globe Theater. It was fun heading back over to the Globe Theater with Kelly, Sarah, and Liz. Also bring up our favorite desert to figure out what Kelly would like for her birthday. I enjoyed going to see the collection of writing and the Magna Carta at The British Museum. Our tour guide at The Globe was hilarious, and very informative. Also I liked seeing Annah get dressed in Shakespearean clothing. I plan on seeing a play at The Globe Theater. It would definitely be interesting to see a play as Shakespeare would have seen it. The fact that the theater is almost exact and has not changed to match the modern world brings me closer to history, similar to being in a Cathedral.
My favorite Cathedral in London is St. Paul’s, because I saw William Blake’s tomb in the crypt. ”To see a world in a grain of sand - And a Heaven in a wild flower - Hold infinity in the palm of your hand - And Eternity in an hour” (William Blake), when I read those words I started to cry. I really appreciate Blake’s poems. I also started to find other poets and artist, most of them where President of the Royal Academy of Arts. Also the view from St. Paul’s was amazing, although it was a cloudy and snowy day so the pictures look quite interesting. My favorite Cathedral from the whole trip is the Chartes Cathedral. When I walked through it, I was amazed. It was not commercialized, and it didn’t have electricity. Plus, the information our guide gave us was just amazing. Although it was rather cold with the windows being out to clean.
Today after the team 4 excursion, I ate at the cafe with Amy, David, MaryBeth, and Lindsey then headed to the Holocaust Section. Then Amy and I headed over to Covent Garden. I have not gone to the Natural History Museum, the Saatchi Gallery, and I did not get to go back to other museums that I wanted to spend more time in, but as Professor Gliem says “You’ll just have to come back.” And I plan on doing just that. Plus, I didn’t get to go to the cemetery to see any famous dead people, like Shakespeare. :)
The journal prompt for our excursion to Stonehenge asked us to take a moment of reflection. When I felt ready to look back on the past month, I was standing in the middle of the circular path encompassing the monument. My timing was terrible. The cold had completely numbed my hands and forced my cute little nose to run. The only thoughts that passed through my mind were “Oh My God! I am so cold!”, “My hands are gone!”, and “All the tissues in the world could not stop this explosion of snot!” My ponderings were rudimentary and hyperbolic. There wasn’t a single thought of the masterpieces I had encountered or the exquisite experiences I had enjoyed. My inability to harness my mind frustrated me. Now, I was cold, annoyed, and ready to abandon my muddled meditations.
The ancient stones filled with silence and mystery captured my attention entirely. All my petty thoughts stilled. Bewildered by the surprising tranquility that overtook me, I gasped. The cold air rushed into my lungs so that I had to gasp again to catch my breath. A slow, deliberate thought formed. I was happy. The cold and the chaos could not taint that happiness. It was a joy that grew from the moments when I was totally engrossed in the vibrant, dynamic brushstrokes of Picasso, playing silly pranks in London’s busy street, or tasting delicious meals flavoured by savory conversation. That is how I thought and felt about this trip.
A crow flew frighteningly close to my face. My moment of reflection was finished.
Bridges mean different things to different people. For some, they are merely a means of getting from here to there. For others, they are architecturally fascinating. For me, the London bridges symbolized my connections to the city. I had decided before even leaving my house in December that on a free day, I wanted to walk along the Thames River and cross as many bridges as I could in one go. Last Monday, the 18th, was to be my “bridge day”.
It was typical London weather: cold, grey, and foggy. I began my adventure with a relaxing (and delicious) breakfast at Pret, also throwing in my plastic Pret bag (a constant in my life) some food to eat for lunch “on the move” later. I had decided I would hike from east to west, and would stop at the Battersea Bridge. There are about four or so more bridges west of Battersea, but one of these doesn’t allow pedestrians to cross and the others were out of bounds for my already-paid-for Oyster card.
Comfortably clad in my sneakers, sweatpants, sweatshirt, coat, hat, and gloves (more life constants), I stood in front of the Tower Bridge (on the north side of the Thames) at 9:30am, ready. And so it began. For the next four hours I walked, stopping only twice (for bathroom breaks). The weather actually aided in my experience; due to the lack of sunlight, I was not distracted by any “pretty views” or picturesque angles of the bridges. I certainly used my camera quite a bit, but solely for documenting my travels, and not for any artistic reasons.
And so I walked. While crossing each bridge and traveling along the river’s edge, I experienced a tremendous sense of integration with London on a deeper level than I had felt prior. The bridges represent a literal and tangible connection between both halves of the city, and my journey across each of these connections symbolized myself becoming a part of London. Standing on the Battersea Bridge looking out, I felt whole. I had not simply perused a few shops, seen some cool buildings, and walked down a bunch of streets. I had zig-zagged my way through and alongside the Thames, taking in as much of London as I could see, focusing intensely on each moment of movement. It was a very overwhelming sensation upon completion. I no longer feel like a tourist, but rather a well-versed foreigner. I am part of the city – and it, part of me. London is truly something special; my experience on this day just further proved to me that I must live here at some point in my future.
— Kelly Henry
On the tube on the way to South Kensington with a small group, one of the stops brought on a guy who had this large, long, odd-shaped bag. I look down at the bag, perplexed and then I look up at the guy and ask with a playful smile in my eyes “Body?” The guy smirks and with a nod of his head and a matter of fact jutting of his lips he replies, “Yeah, Body, all sliced in here.” I furrow my brow and I shake my head in acceptance as if we were talking about nothing more than the weather and I affirmed with, “Right, I thought so.” Three seconds go by and he mentions loosely, “Yeah that’s how I keep my relatives around with me.” I nod again and added “They’re a lot easier to handle that way.” he reflects with, ” a lot less noise as well.”
We scoff at our on-going superb repertoire of conversation and I question what is actually in the bag. I find out that they’re skis and that he is on his way to Colorado. He tells me his name is Nick and that his girlfriend is not going with him because she is not as interested in skiing as he is. We talked for probably 5-10 minutes. He had had pale blue eys, straight dirty blonde hair that wisped over his eyes and over his square framed glasses. He was a rather tall gentleman, slender with a grey and lime green hoodie on and jeans.
We were quiet for about thirty seconds before he mentioned that people did not usually talk on the tube and I knew this because I had been in London for about 3 or 4 weeks by now. I had to comment though, I had to say something about his bag. I told him about a restaurant on top of one the mountains in Colorado that served an 8 course meal that would change your life according to my mother. He shared a restaurant that was right around the corner of the tube station that he praised on it’s cheese and wine platters. It was called “Le Cave” and I took a mental note to go there that afternoon. As I left the train I bid him farewell by calling over my shoulder, ” I hope you have a great time and don’t break a leg!” he tossed out goodbye as well, he called ” You too Sarah and never!”
This kind of encounter, this kind of connection is what I love about people. It doesn’t have to be romantic, or deep, it can be the smallest of converstions but to me those are the most memorable. I would rather talk to someone for 5 minutes than sit on the tube and pretend like no one but myself and my own little universe exists. London has allowed me to have small moments like this one with dozens of people. I have learned so much about others as well as myslef because of this. London in all the generalizations has changed me, maybe I’m not a completely different person but I am a little bit different. I have a little more perspective, and that’s all I ask for. Thank you London, we shall meet again some day.
Sarah Katherine Yost
A London Experience
Recently we had a free afternoon after discovering our destination (The Saatchi Gallery- a modern art museum) closed till the end of the month. We were all a little disappointed, but took the opportunity to take a break from museums for the afternoon. Being in the mood to sit, instead of doing lots of walking) several of us decided to go see the Sherlock Holmes movie at a theatre on Bakers Street. It was an amazing experience. Not only was the theatre experience its self different, but we all enjoyed seeing scenes in the movie of places we had visited.
I thought this was the best possible experience with this movie, but today it just got better. A group of us decided to go to a diner in Camden Town. We were all enjoying our amazing Sunday brunches when in walks Jude Law! I think everyone at my table had a heart attack. Every conversation keeps coming back to how amazed we are to have seen someone so famous in such a perfunctory place. Needless to say, this entire experience in London has been amazing and unique. I will truly miss being in this city.
I can’t believe how fast three weeks have gone by. I’m not ready to head back to the states yet! We have hit up almost every major museum London has to offer, but I still feel like I’ve barely made a dent on this city. This last week has been jam-packed. After a quick trip to Paris, we arrived back in London exhausted. We started the week off seeing a play at the National Theater called The Pitmen Painters. Tuesday we went to two museums and a jazz concert in the evening. Wednesday, two more museums and the Royal ballet’s performance of Romeo and Juliet in the evening. Today and the last few days are equally as busy; I don’t know if I’ll have time to relax and appreciate my last experiences with Eckerd College.
Today pretty much embodied a stereotypical London day. It was raining lightly outside but not enough to be too uncomfortable. We gathered in an East London tube station for a group excursion. Our itinerary for the day was to attend a walking tour of London’s street art. I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. As we were waiting for a couple stragglers, we met our guide, Mike, one of Alli’s friends, and I couldn’t help but think about how young this kid looked and how he couldn’t know that much about art. But I was quickly proven wrong! He was very charismatic and an excellent speaker. It was clear that he had a passion for street art, which is so much more than graffiti by the way. We walked around East London, which is a very trendy area. We saw art by Banksy, Shepard Fairey (the artist who created the infamous Obama Hope posters), and a really cool London street art crew who call themselves Burning Candy. It was so refreshing to see this street art after spending practically every day for the past three weeks in museums. I think that the street art was so awesome because you don’t know how much longer it will be there for the public to see. The art displayed at museums is sometimes hundreds of years old and will probably always be there for you to visit and admire. I’ve seen a lot of awesome street art in New York, Barcelona, and even in Portland, Maine, but I’ve never really put much thought into who the artists were. After today’s tour with Mike, I have a feeling I will view graffiti much differently.
This fall was my last semester at EC. I’m transferring to Maine, where I’m from, this spring. I had a difficult time deciding whether or not I wanted to a winter term trip at all. I’ve spent a lot of time abroad though and I absolutely love traveling and seeing different cultures. I am so glad that I committed to this trip. I can’t think of a better way to end my Eckerd career than with these amazing people in a foreign city.