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Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in London is a must-see for anyone who likes theater or Shakespeare, history, or the art of acting.

The original Globe Theater was built in 1599 by Shakespeare’s theater company but burned down some fourteen years later. A second Globe was built on the same site in 1614 and was used until the 1640s. Today, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater sits in almost exactly the same spot as the original theaters.

It is also constructed very similarly to the original theater, making use of a thatched roof and being open to the elements. There are no elaborate sets, no special effects, lights, or speakers. The theater-going experience is as close to an authentic Shakespearean production as you are ever going to get.

You have the choice of purchasing seats or standing in the open-air pit. Those who purchase seats are protected from the elements, elevated, and have the ability to buy cushions to soften the wooden, bench-like seating. However, I would recommend standing – the tickets are very reasonably priced and it is an incredibly authentic feeling experience watching a play while in the pit surrounded by other rowdy theatergoers.

I was able to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream and was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the acting. The actors were so engaging that you never noticed the lack of settings or props. And even though it started raining as I was watching the performance, it was still an incredibly enjoyable afternoon.

There is a tour of the Globe offered though it is rather expensive and does not actually take you backstage at the theater. I chose to see a play rather than visit the museum and take the tour. Not only was I able to see an authentic Shakespeare production for half the cost of the museum and tour, I am pretty sure I also had a much more enjoyable and genuine experience than the tour could have offered.

If you are in London and have an afternoon or evening to spare, I highly recommend you take in a show at the Globe.

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November 10, 2015 0 comment
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I was so excited to go to Stonehenge. You would think my excitement derived from my love of archaeology (in which I have a degree) and you would be somewhat right. But I was mainly excited to go to Stonehenge because of Doctor Who (and now I have also revealed myself to be a huge nerd).

But here’s the thing about Stonehenge…it looks how it looks. What I mean by that is, if you have seen a picture of Stonehenge, you’ve basically seen Stonehenge. That’s what it looks it. There is nothing new or unique that you gain from actually being there other than being able to say that you visited Stonehenge.

Now, should you happen to visit Stonehenge on one of the solstices, this would be a different story. Stonehenge acts as one very large astronomical calendar, with the rocks falling into alignment with the sun on the summer and winter solstice. These days are hugely popular and bring many tourists to the area.

Now Stonehenge does not have a museum or much written information available in the site. There is an audio guide, but I thought it extremely dry (granted, it seems that most audio guides are). There is also a small visitor center selling pictures of Stonehenge (when you could just go outside and take a picture of Stonehenge). So all in all, there’s not much there.

If I had made a special trek just to see Stonehenge I would have been very disappointed.  However, I took a tour from Bath that included Stonehenge, Avebury, and a number of cute villages in the Cotswolds. I would highly recommend you do something similar if you want to see Stonehenge and are without a car.

And if you decide to visit Stonehenge on the solstice – good luck. There are some crazy people out there

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November 5, 2015 1 comment
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I’m just going to say it – I was disappointed by the Tower of London. So much history! So many people who lived and died in its walls! So many amazing stories!

And yet the site was a bit too “Disney” for my taste. Don’t get me wrong – it was still very cool to visit the site of so many famous events, it just didn’t pay as much attention to history as I would have liked.

First of all, I was expecting an actual tower – it really is more of a fortress. Which makes sense; the Tower was at used as a residence, a prison, and an execution site. I was just a little sad that there wasn’t an actual tower, per say. That disappointment, I will admit, was all on me.

Secondly, it’s expensive. More than £20 to get in, which is about $30. For someone with a frugal budget, that can eat up almost an entire day’s allotment of sightseeing money.

Thirdly, the exhibits seem highly geared towards children – interactive, “fun”, but not particularly educational.  I thought the whole maze of activities through the tower was disorienting and somewhat trite.  The focus was far more on cheap entertainment (Torture devices! Interactive displays!) than on the deep cultural and historical significance of the tower. Call me a nerd, but that’s what I wanted to see.

I found the historical re-enactors a bit grating as well. Everything was just so staged and campy. The Yeoman Warder, or Beefeater, Tour actually seemed like it would be quite interesting. These fun, free tours are energetic and entertaining, but they are also very crowded – if you are like me (introverted and somewhat claustrophobic) this tour is probably not for you.

Then there is the Crown Jewels – I was excited to see these and they did not disappoint. Just be forewarned – there will be a line and you will only be able to view the jewels for a brief moment. There is actually a people mover that takes you past them at a slow but steady pace.

All in all, I’m glad I went to the Tower. I just wish it had fulfilled my expectations. Bring a good guidebook (I love Rick Steves) and you will get more out of it by reading about the historical significance of the different locations within the complex.

And one more thing – try to keep your head!

October 29, 2015 0 comment
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