Day 7: V&A Museum, Les Misérables, and Hyde Park

I go wherever I want, wherever I please
I look forward to the day where this is just a memory
Come on, come on I gotta get away
Save all the bullshit for another day
Get me a ticket and an alibi
There's nothing holding me down so teach me how to fly
Here we go, up up and away

Up Up And Away - Newton Faulkner

Day 7 was spent all day in London. The plan was to go to Victoria & Albert Museum then take an 1 hour or so break in Hyde Park before going to Queen's Theatre to watch the matinee performance of Les Misérables. The V&A Museum opens at 10 am so I didn't have to get up so early. Managed to get there without much trouble because the sign was clear from the tube exit. It's actually quite a long walk through the tunnel. The V&A Museum like many other museums in the UK are free. It's seriously really nice of them and imagine living in a place where you can see amazing collections and don't have to pay a single cent or penny as they say in England.

The V&A Museum is very big and it has such a varied collection. So varied that there were times when I was surprised finding what they have in their collection. Here are some of the different things I saw there. This below is a french board game about love. It's made of ceramic and I'm not sure if it's played with a dice. My french was too awful to understand how to play this.

This is one the gallery with paintings. I particularly like the dog there. I think there are many paintings from English painters. Unfortunately my knowledge on this is really limited. There's definitely a few from J. M. W. Turner, who I learned to know from a movie (Mr. Turner).

This one below is a stage set model from Matilda the Musical. The V&A Museum has a whole section on Theatre & Performance and it features sets like this from play or musical, costumes, and posters. Really interesting.

This one below is from the ceramics collections where there are many rooms with shelves and shelves of figurines such as below and also of ceramic plates, vases, and so on. I think it might be the biggest collection of this kind of figurine anywhere in the world. It's like when you are allowed to go crazy to collect as many things as you want, you may end up with all of this. I wonder how many of these items are there in total. Wikipedia tells me that there are 74,000 items in the ceramics section. For more pictures from this museum, you can go here.

So anyway here, quite early in my visit when I was in Raphael room, I met a girl who was in my tour group the day before. She was alone too then. By the way, the Raphael Room is quite something. It features these big paintings from Raphael and they belong to Her Majesty the Queen (again the royal family is really rich). So anyway, we kinda looked at each other the same time and so the only thing we could do was to say hi. Her name I found out later is Laura. At the beginning I thought she's an American Chinese. She does live in America currently, but in actuality she's PRC Chinese. I complimented her on her accent which sounded great and she said she worked hard on it. It made me feel sad that I don't have a good accent. She said let's walk together. She had a flight to catch later on so she couldn't stay long. We talked about this and that. She once spent some time in Singapore to do some design competition and she loves Singapore. She said she's actually with a group of people while in the UK for a study work trip, but she didn't feel like hanging out with them because she felt they're too young. I was curious about her age. She's 27 and these young kids she mentioned are in their early twenties. I was quite surprised finding out she's so much younger than me. I thought she would be nearer my age. She was surprised finding out I'm 34 and she said I looked like 23. I think she's being nice. By her logic, I should feel like I couldn't connect with people her age.

You might think after doing so many things alone in the past few days, I would have enjoyed the company and the chance to have a conversation. I actually didn't. Walking and talking, I feel it made for a rather distracted visit and one that wasn't effective especially considering I didn't have the whole day to spend. In Raphael's room I was curious to find where the Raphael Cartoons are. I couldn't find it then. We both agreed perhaps our understanding what the cartoons are is quite different from the actual thing. Now reading that link above, I think perhaps what I thought were just paintings by Raphael are the actual cartoons. So anyway, I actually just wanted to get off her, but I couldn't tell her. Then we kinda have circled the same area again and I said I was going up and she said okay perhaps she should start heading to the airport. At one point, she said she should ask for my Facebook. I told her that I don't use Facebook anymore, so that's just that. We said goodbye without making any attempt to stay in touch. I know it's very bad of me and I should be thankful that God gave me a friend for a short while and I should appreciate it. I hope she didn't feel that I was rude or anything. She was a really bubbly chatty girl. I wonder if it's because she's young and since I'm this old, I'm just so jaded. However I think I'm always jaded regardless which age I'm in, perhaps not when I was a toddler or in my teens. High school onwards I think I have a more tired look of the world :(

After we separated, I quickly explored the rest of the museum. The sections that I kinda missed or didn't see much were the Asian and Britain sections. There were so many things to see that I scrapped the plan to go to Hyde Park and I just stayed at the museum until it's near time to go to Queen's Theatre. I almost arrived late again. Oh my God, it's so bad of me. I arrived like 5 minutes before it started. I got a really good seat for this. Stall section, 4th row from the stage. It's not cheap, at 79.92 GBP, but it's much cheaper than in Singapore for the same section and I think it's one of the reasons why I chose to watch this in London. Another reason is because I have heard a lot of good things about it. The theatre is still kinda small if compared to Singapore, but I found the seat to have more space than Her Majesty's Theatre. Les Misérables was really really good. I love it so much more than The Phantom of the Opera. I actually have a new found appreciation for the 2012 movie and thought yeah Anne Hathaway did a really good job. Hearing On My Own still broke my heart like when I heard it for the first time sung by Joey Potter (Katie Holmes) in Dawson's Creek. It was really really good and I'm glad I went to watch it. I was on the fence about it because of cost and such and thought there were many other things I could be doing, but truly I'm glad I made the decision to watch it. Good job Eka. Oh, forget to write this before. One interesting thing about these theatres in London is that during intermission, inside the theatre, they sell snack, like Häagen-Dazs ice cream and you can eat it inside the theatre. I just can't imagine this being allowed in Singapore.

After it's done, since the sun was still out and it was still quite early, I thought I should go to Hyde Park next. Reading about this park, I found out that there are cycling paths that connect to Kensington Gardens and there are a few Santander Cycles stations nearby where you can rent a bicycle. So I thought that would be fun. Exiting the station, I couldn't find the docking station which my map told me should be there. Eventually I did spot it from across the street, but it looked empty for me and I didn't feel like investigating more, so I just walked in. You can't cycle in some places like the rose garden and Diana Memorial Fountain so walking has its benefit. There were quite a number of people there, tourists and families, enjoying the nice day with the sun. I saw this cave like tree which is so cool. A lot of kids were playing inside it and some were climbing up. I heard one of the kids shouted, "This is the most awesome tree ever!" and that kid was right :)

Reaching The Serpentine which is this lake in the park, there were more people sitting around it and birds, geese, and swans. Some of them are really big and some people threw some bread to feed them.

If you're really active, you can take one of those pedal boat and explore the lake. If I'm in any of this boat, I don't think I'll make it far. I walked all the way to the Serpentine Bridge which turns out to be a bridge accessible to cars as well. From here, you get a more lengthy view of the lake.

Nearby this area, I know that there's also a Santander Cycles docking station and I was right. I found it and there were some bicycles and there's this couple using the machine. Honestly, I really wanted to cycle around the park but at the same time I was also lacking the confidence to do so. It's like what if something went wrong, I got into trouble, and I couldn't figure it out. It's kinda the same fear as when I went to hike up Arthur's seat. You may think that I had done the extraordinary of going alone to a country thousand of miles away, 6 hours time difference from home, a country I have never been before, so I should be daunted by things as minor as these. Surely travelling alone to a foreign country was more difficult to do and a bigger mental mountain to climb. Yes it is, it's just, I have thought about this and I guess in my mind when there's trouble going up Arthur's Seat or cycling in Hyde Park, then I may trouble other people to help me and being that burden is bad and also very embarrassing. Getting on a plane alone and figuring out things are all on me, it would be very unlikely I would have to get people to rescue me. So when there's a chance I have to involve other people, I just get more shy about it I guess. I don't know if I am making sense or if this really is the issue in my head. Seeing that couple, I thought I had to do it because they're doing it as well. One of the points of travelling alone is to challenge myself, conquer my fear, try new things, and put myself in new different situation. I cannot always be in my comfort zone. So that's another reason I told myself I had to do this.

It took awhile for them to use the machine and then I understood why. Let me explain a bit about this Santander Cycles. In London there are a few of these unmanned Santander Cycles stations where you can rent a bicycle. Santander is a bank currently sponsoring it. With the many dedicated cycling paths in London, this is actually quite fun. You can also cycle on the roads, but I don't trust myself to do so. To rent the bicycle is quite straightforward. You need what in the UK is called a cash card. Basically if your ATM card or your credit card has a chip on it and you activate it for overseas use, I think you can use it. You go to the machine and follow the instruction and read the many disclaimers and information; there are really quite a number of pages hence the process is quite long. Using your card, you will pay 2 GBP for a 24-hour access to a bike. So this means for 24 hour you can take a bike in any of the docking station. Once you are done with the process, the machine will print out a slip with a number on it. You go to the bicycle that you want, I chose the one with the lowest seat possible, enter the code in the keypad and take the bicycle out. You suppose to check if the bike is okay to use, but what do I know about these things. The bicycle felt much bigger than what I thought it would be when I saw people using it. Though it was already the lowest seat I could find, only my toes managed to touch the ground. You can adjust the seat, but I didn't bother. You can also adjust the gear. When I started it felt super light and I was going much faster than anticipated going down, but I decided to keep it.

The first 30 minutes ride is free, but after that you will get charged. I forget the rate, you can check the internet if you're interested. The advice on the internet is to dock the bicycle before 30 minutes is up and then take out a new one if you still need it. This way you don't have to pay anything aside for the 2 GBP access. I actually don't know how the process to take out a new bike after docking works. I guess if you insert the same card then the system will notice it and you don't get charged again. Anyways, my plan was to just dock this bike before the 30 minutes. If I had followed my original plan, I should have cycled up to Kensington Gardens, but I chickened out on it because to do so I have to encounter cars as I navigated the Serpentine Bridge and the road around it. It is a shame but I think public safety is important. I don't trust myself. The last time I rode a bicycle was in Moerenuma Kōen back in 2013 and even then in an empty park I think I was a bad cyclist. In the end, I was just proud that I didn't kill anyone or anything like a bird. Yes there's dedicated cycling paths but there were many pedestrians as well. One time there was this toddler who just ran and almost got into the cycling path, luckily she didn't get hurt.

I basically just cycled back to Hyde Park Corner tube station. It was a really short route. I had fun and wished it could be longer. Okay let's put this in the list if I ever get a chance to go to London again, to try more of their cycling paths. I returned the bicycle at the docking station near Hyde Park Corner tube station. I know I should push the bike into an empty place, but I was a bit confused if I should consult the machine again upon returning. There were a few guys using the machine and as mentioned it takes a while, so I just pushed the bike into the docking station until the green light was on and it's really locked. I did it correctly because when I checked my bank transaction history, I was really charged only for that 2 GBP. It's really fun people, I suggest you give it a try when you're in London :)

:) eKa @ 4:51:00 PM •

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