Alyssa Reimenschneider, Study Abroad – London

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There is something magical about Southbank on a Sunday morning. Maybe it’s the people of all ages that line the street, dressed in leather jackets and old jeans, playing guitars and accordions and saxophones for their chance at some loose change tossed into an overturned top hat. Maybe it’s the colorfully graffitied backsides of art and theatre buildings, where low-capped teenagers flip their skateboards like pros. It could be the slightly salty breeze off the Thames that colors everything with freshness and fills the air with anticipation as you make your way down the crowded walk, taking in all the sights and smells and sounds of a busy hub of culture.

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Feeling completely new, disoriented and ignorant in this vast city, I decided to try to familiarize myself with a part of it by taking advantage of CAPA’s first My Global Education event: a Sunday morning walking tour of Southbank, an artsy segment of London across the river from Big Ben and Westminster. We started off at Westminster tube station (another first for me), where we had a breathtaking view of the London Eye rising over the Thames. With Big Ben looming over our heads, we crossed the bridge towards Southbank, weaving through tourists with cameras and crowds watching men performing card tricks.

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On the other side awaited a conglomerate of food, art and culture, a unique blend of historical and modern with a distinctly London taste. We passed stand after colorful stand of street food of all different varieties – paella, frozen yogurt, burgers, shish kabobs, even macaroni and cheese. And apparently, the variety of cuisine is constantly changing.

I was inspired by a large open-air book stand filled with rows of second hand books and by a group of artists on the bank of the Thames meticulously etching larger-than-life drawings into the sand. I was (rather unpleasantly) surprised by the living statues performing under the trees, men and women dressed and painted in full-body garb to resemble a tin man, or a tree, or an eerily levitating Yoda that jumped at me as I passed by. Others stood with giant nets, which they dipped into large buckets of soap. As they spun around, enormous glassy bubbles filled the air, drifting past delighted children’s fingers and distorting the form of St. Paul’s Cathedral across the Thames.

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We passed multiple bridges, including the topsy-turvey bridge from the seventh Harry Potter movie, saw an eclectic mixture of new and old architecture from the other side of the river, and stopped to stare at the exact replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

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After the tour, as we wandered back the same way we had come, there were just as many wonders to discover as the first time around. They were little things, like logs carved into benches, children touching the large hands of statues, pubs shaped like carousels, and bright advertisements for musicals and late-night cabarets.

To me, it was like a festival that never slept, a wonderlandish flurry of activity, stimulus and life. I felt myself standing alone in a crowd of a million people, some of them musicians and actors, some of them writers and cooks, tourists and residents and workers following thousands of paths of life. I wondered how they all came to be here, together but apart in this thrumming corner of London. I wondered why they had come, and where they would go, and what my own path might be.

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Comments

  • Albright ELCDC  On September 24, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    The bubbles picture looks like a postcard! Thank you for sharing! – Karen R

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