Friday, July 25, 2014

45 Days in London: Day 32

This morning first thing we stopped at the Blackfriars train station to purchase tickets for a couple of excursions. The man at the ticket window must have had some sort of...problem. He had this habit of SHOUTING—high-pitched, red-faced, veins popping—the simplest of statements:

Jeff: "We need three tickets for today to Watford Junction and tomorrow to Einsford."
Train ticket guy: "NOT TOMORROW! ONLY TODAY!"
Jeff: "Okay we need three tickets to Watford Junction for today."
Train ticket guy: "THREE PEOPLE?!?"
Jeff: "Yes, three of us, for today."
Train ticket guy: "LEAVING TODAY!?!"
Jeff: "That's correct. Round-trip."
Train ticket guy: " SAME DAY?!?"

At that point I had to turn around because I was laughing so hard at the absurdity of his fierce responses. As luck would have it, since he would only sell Jeff a ticket for today, it fell to me to purchase our tickets for tomorrow. I waited my turn in the queue, the people in front of us also alarmed and laughing about all the unnecessary yelling.

Hoping my charm could spare me some of his shouting, I greeted him with a big smile and said, "Good morning. I'd like to purchase three round trip tickets to Eynsford for tomorrow." Needless to say, I couldn't possibly out-charm my husband. I got the same shouting treatment, in response to the mildest requests.

Later, Jeff said he thought maybe the man had some kind of emotional disorder. That made a little more sense. Maybe I shouldn't have laughed.

Next we crossed the Millennial Bridge to visit the Tate Modern. It is housed in the coolest building...a renovated power plant. The spaces are amazing! What I loved most about the Tate Modern was the way they group the collection by approach and subject matter. Even for those who struggle with modern art, I think you have to come away with some understanding and appreciation. Listen to how the exhibits are grouped:

Level Two: Poetry and Dream (surrealism and the power of the unconscious)
Level Three: Transformed Visions (seeing in new ways, moving into expressionist abstraction)
Level Four: Structure and Clarity (geometric abstraction, cubism, and minimalism);
                     Energy and Process

For example, the figure section showed a huge variety of ways to interpret the human form. Genius.

Another example: In Transformed Visions there was an abstract expressionist painting on one wall, and on the opposite wall is one of Monet's water lilies. And you realize that the shapes and forms are essentially the same. Two different works from completely different time periods--one essentially subjectless, another with traditional subject matter and technique,—yet they were not just compatible; each piece enhanced the viewing experience of the other. On the third wall was an abstract geometric piece with strong blue vertical shapes that felt like sheets of water. So the entire room gave a feeling of serenity, but in three very different approaches.

{TURNER PIECE FROM TATE MODERN}In another room they have a Turner landscape grouped with other contemporary works, helping the viewer make similar comparisons. There were related connections and groupings throughout the exhibits. Pure genius.

From there we marched past the Old Globe, and on through the Borough Market. Then to the train station to travel to the Harry Potter studios. But it turned out the shouting ticket salesman had sold us the wrong tickets...much farther away and more expensive than we needed. They told us we had to buy a completely new set of tickets and try to get the others refunded. We barely bought our new tickets in time to board the train. Yowza!

But all the stress melted away as soon as we boarded the Harry Potter buses. Inside the studios, the sets were amazing!

We got to walk right into the great hall where they dined every night, walk into Dumbledore's office, peek in on Delores Umbridge's office, walk down Diagon Alley and so much more! What was especially fascinating was the way they incorporated every aspect of filmmaking into the tour. We saw props, met the prop-makers, watched how the green screen action worked for the quidditch matches, saw the original drawings by the concept artists, and so much more. It was probably the most educational film experience of everything we've done here so far.

At the end of the tour you get to walk around the actual model of Hogwarts they used for most of the exteriors. It was stunning! Nearly everyone gasped as they entered the space. The lights would rotate from daytime to nighttime, so you could see it under a variety of lighting conditions. But the design and the detail were astonishing. SO glad we got to be there!

After a long day and another train ride back to London, we spent at least another hour trying to get the original (wrong) train tickets refunded. Still waiting to see if we get our money back. Cross your fingers! It was a highly inefficient process.

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