After spending over one month in the U.K. our study abroad finally come to an end. Our trip began in London. We took a train to Cardiff, learned about the news, communication, and broadcast of U.K, then got a short flight to the capital of Ireland, Dublin, to experience the city of whiskey. We spent three beautiful days’ bus trip on the country of Ireland, exploring the scene from The game of Throne. Belfast and Derry were not the very famous places but we studied a lot about the independent war in Northern Ireland, and also I drunk in a pub for the first time. Edinburgh was my favorite city in the whole trip, I experienced the art, media and all kinds of living artists in this historic city. After such a long time traveling, we finally came back to London. This city seems as same as we first came here, but my mind and view of this city have already changed.
When my family told me we would visit the UK last year summer, I was not interested in this place at all. The reputation of this country for me is just endless rainy and cloudy days, disgusting food and inflexible old English gentleman. I describe the UK as failing noble before because in my idea this country is not the empire on which sun never sets anymore. But my opinion changed when I first time visited there. This country is still one of the most important centers of culture, art, and media of the world. To explore this place more deeply and thoroughly, I decided to join the study abroad program in just one year after my first-time visit.
Art and Books:
I knew Paris is famous as the center of media and art before but I never thought about London is also a place which converges different kinds of art and media. When I walked along the south bank of Thames River, I found an old book market under the bridge. There are tons of old books there, some books which talks about film, literature, history, and art was unbelievably cheap. However, something there attracted more attention than the cheap books are the old print works. These prints are original antiquarian works and mounted on conservation board. Some of them are old maps of London, Scotland or the world hundreds of years ago and some of them are pictures from old books. I found many beautiful birds and flowers from an encyclopedia and some inset pictures from novels. The surprising thing is I even found some old Chinese stories there, they were printed in Qing dynasty of China. The price is high, most of them are over 50 pounds, but consider their history they probably worth this value. After talking with some of my friends who have interest in antiques, I planned to buy few prints before I leaving. However, my last day in London was too busy, so I forget about revisiting the market! When I type this paragraph on the plane, you can imagine how regret I am right now. Most of the members in study abroad group think it is crazy to spend that amount of money to get some prints, but actually, I saw many English people stay the market for a long time and then picking up a few of them. You can feel their passion for art and media works from this small book market. There is a joke about English people reading the book. A few years ago, some Chinese tourists took the railway of London, and they were surprised many people on the train were reading the paper or news which meanwhile in Chinese subway passengers usually look at the mobile phones. So they wrote an article and said we should study English people’s enthusiasm for reading. But when someone actually asks English people on the train, they said they read the book just because there is no Wi-Fi signal on the train so what else they can do? There is a funny story but no matter what reasons, you can always find people reading the books on the train. And reading has become one of their habits in the daily life.
There are many famous bands born in England like Beetles, the Rolling rocks, and Led Zeppelin. When you walked along the street or caught the train on the morning and evening peak, you will find the reason about why they are born here, not somewhere else. There are thousands of musicians playing on the corner of the road, the narrow hall of subway or park. I don’t know how many times I slow down or even stop my steps when I passed by them because their performers are so professional and impressive. There are also many street musicians on Edinburgh, but the players in London are much more creative. Their existence dispels the depress air of the busy London’s underground railway. Most of the passenger will give one pound if they like their music and I found an excellent musician actually can earn a lot per day(what I don’t think they play only for money, just like musicians in Edinburgh). My friend told me one day he saw an old violinist at the exit of train station many years ago. His violin is so adorable, and my friend didn’t realize he has stranded in front of him for half an hour. After he came back and search this artist on the internet and he finds this gentleman is a famous violinist who has given touring performances in different parts of the world.
Many friends told me the menu of UK are boring and suck before I visited there, and after exploring London for 2 weeks, my answer is: It is. The food of UK is pretty simple, like fish and chips or afternoon tea, you may find interesting first time try but then get bored quickly. However, that doesn’t mean you can’ find good food there. London is a city with the variety of kinds of culture, and people from all over the world bring their food. No matter where you come from and what type of food you like, you can always get what you want easily. You can choose spent 3 pounds to get the sandwich and drink combo in store, trying the Chinese Bao in Soho or take a Japanese Bento box on your way back home. London doesn’t only have fish and chips; you can find many delicious foods if you are willing to explore every street of this city.
Culture and media Environment
I have visited many big cities before, and I think each of them can be represented as one color. New York is Sliver, it is shiny, fashionable but also cold. Chicago is dark gray which is unfeeling and heavy, Boston is the light brown which means lively and historical. In my idea, the color of London is similar to London, but it has much more elements there, it is kind like the colorful scrawl on the wall, London does have the terrible side like the dirty alley and crowded railway, but in general, it provides a platform for all media works. You can find many interesting advertisements on the wall of the subway, some of them are pretty humorous (You can see the photo I took below). You can also find the posters of drama everywhere. It is so pitied that I didn’t watch in a theater before I left London. There was one time I walked into a café shop because of the heavy rain outside. Then I found this shop located in a theater. The waiter and waitress invited us to sing the songs together until the sun came out again. I was pretty impressed by that because English people always give us an impression of rigid before and I never thought they also have such an optimistic side.
Video of a girl playing Guitar at Chinatown
No matter how much I love this place, it is time to leave. Fairy music, fantastic drama, lovely people, and lively culture environment, London is a place fusing all kinds of different media and different culture. That’s why even the U.K. is no longer the giant empire anymore, it is still the center of mass media and culture. People always say it is easy to get bored of a city if you stay here for a long time, but London is a kind of town that the longer you stayed, the more charms you will find.