London is a city full of amazing sights and unique attractions to entertain and amaze tourists from all around the world. There are endless free museums, tons of restaurants, countless shows, etc. Yet it took a class assignment to drag me out of bed this week, and I am proud to say that I actually had a good time.
You see, this week there was a Tube strike. It’s my understanding that Tube workers were protesting the use of unmanned ticket machines, or something like that, but while they were taking a stand, the rest of London was standing too — on severely overcrowded buses and packed sidewalks. At the risk of sounding anti-social (the American kind; see English Lessons page), I would have been very content to wait out the strike in my warm, dry apartment, but we were forced to venture out onto the streets for a trip to the National Portrait Gallery with our very enthusiastic Visual Journalism professor. I was not happy. It was rainy and cold and the traffic was horrendous. After we arrived, the class viewed a special portrait exhibit which featured the winners of an international portraiture contest, where I rediscovered my love of photo displays. The portraits had varied subjects and purposes, and it was interesting to see all these different representations of complete strangers and their lives. I also saw two of the portrait subjects in the exhibit viewing their portrait! It was really cool, and I offered to take a picture of them in front of their claim to fame and then secretly took one for myself because they’re basically celebrities.
Then my roommate Jill, my friend Kathy and I wandered around the rest of the museum. I wasn’t expecting much because, let’s be honest, a portrait gallery doesn’t exactly sound like a barrel of fun, but I actually really enjoyed it. It totally escaped my mind until then that England has the best, most interesting people to paint portraits of — the royals!
It was a very unexpectedly fun experience, followed by an unexpectedly long commute home during rush hour (an hour as opposed to 15 minutes), but it was completely worth it. We rounded out the afternoon with Chipotle for dinner, and it was perfect.