Monday, July 7, 2008

Five IC students make it to London!

So I woke up in my London flat this morning planning to pick up my five Ithaca College journalism students from the airport. I was expecting a late morning pick up -- it turned into a late afternoon pickup. As is the norm nowadays, their flight out of JFK was delayed nearly 4 hours.

When I finally arrived at Heathrow I welcomed five dazed, disheveled, and down in the face looking students. They were pretty much the look of every traveler jilted by the airlines.

After making sure they were all ready, we made our way to the tube station below Heathrow and took a 45 minute tube ride into central London. The tube is usually a fantastic first entrance for students -- especially journalism students. Being so alert and observant can really be a fun thing on the tube.

When we arrived to where their accommodations are, we were greeted with a pouring rain. Everyone got a good soaking, and after they were all moved in I gave them a walking tour of their local area. We finally made our way into the cozy confines of a local pub, and sat down with a drink and some dinner.

Tomorrow class officially begins and we'll be checking out the Tower of London. After the meal everyone seemed a bit more chipper and I sent them off to get prepared for the rest of the trip, and to get some much needed rest.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

4. Speaker's Corner on a Sunday

As journalists, you should all want to see free speech being expressed in a very public way -- on Speaker's Corner. Close to where the ancient hangings at Tyburn took place, some people think the condemned man's right to speak ended up turning into Speaker's Corner.
Others say worker's demonstrations in the 19th century that happened in Hyde Park led to Speaker's Corner. Whatever started it, it's a long-held tradition in the U.K., and one that is beloved by tourists and Londoners alike. Karl Marx and Lenin both spoke at Speaker's Corner, among others.

Some myths about Speaker's Corner is that you are immune from arrest for speaking your mind. That notion is false, as police step in (only rarely) if they receive a complaint or if the speaker in question is swearing a bit too much.

When you arrive, take a walk up and down the area where the speakers congregate. They talk about all sorts of things -- religion, the U.S., government, war, and anything else they can think of.

The term "getting up on your soapbox" comes from Speaker's Corner. It was another long held notion that if you you were not literally on English soil, you could talk about the monarchy without getting arrested. Not technically true, but it makes for a good story.

In any case, you've got to try it out at least once. And if you have something to say, bring along a soap box and speak your piece!

Directions: Take the Piccadilly line to Hyde Park Corner. Cross the street in front of you and walk along Park Lane. The Speaker's congregate near Marble Arch which is the far corner of the park. Conversely you can walk from your flats north to Kensington Gore/Hyde Park Gate, take a right, follow the park until it ends, take a left across the street, and follow Park Lane to the northern edge of Hyde Park.

5. The Music Scene

It's no wonder that London is known around the world for it's music scene. There are so many bands that got their start in clubs like the Astoria, or Shepherd's Bush Empire that it almost defies description.

London has some great concert venues for big acts as well. Wembley, the Royal Albert Hall, the Earl's Court Exhibition Center, and the Hammersmith Apollo are the main large arenas. The pulse of London's music scene really resides in the clubs around the capital that cater to the up and comers, and the almost there's.

From Shoreditch to Brixton, to Shepherd's Bush, London's music scene truly stretches across the capital.

Here are a couple places worth checking out:

Astoria and Astoria 2: Located in Soho, these two sister clubs have had some fantastic acts through the years. They've booked bands like Oasis, Pearl Jam, Radiohead (who has a live album at the Astoria) U2, and the Rolling Stones. This year both Amy Winehouse and The Shins will play there. Gnarls Barkley will perform while we are in London.

Brixton Academy: In the south of London, this venue used to be known for what I like to call the "ecstasy" acts that played it. Now it pulls from all different scenes. A cozy venue, it only seats around 4,000. Death Cab For Cutie is one act that will be there during our time in London.

Shepherd's Bush Empire: This is a favorite of mine. I've been to all three of these venues, but the Empire holds a special place in my heart. Phish, Elton John, and David Bowie have all graced the stage. It's also the place where the Dixie Chicks dissed President Bush. All in all, a really interesting venue. Eddy Grant, Jason Mraz, Band of Horses, and the Wu-Tang Clan are all playing the Empire while we're there.

This list is far from exhaustive, go to this website for a much more exhaustive list. You can also go to the Wembley website for a list of many of the acts performing in the U.K. while we're there.

With all this said, this post fails to mention the wonderful live music a lot of pubs have on a nightly basis. All in all, London is a pretty musical place and worth a big mention on this list.