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[29 Jun.] London, Day 3

[NOTE: I apologize if the post has been empty for the past few days. While I write my contents daily, I need to edit photos taken from each respective day. I've been extremely busy for the past few days due to meeting up with some people and preparing to move away from London to Cambridge. I hope you will understand, and I really appreciate your presence here as a reader.]

Today, I felt I was being hypocritical to myself. Yesterday, as I walked past the London Aquarium down at the London Eye Pier, I immediately wanted to purchase a ticket and go in because I love aquariums (and science museums/exhibits) so much. (I am a bit of a nerd as you can tell.) However, the posters and decorations around the place appeared to be catered towards small children, and I doubted my dignity and ego if I have had gone in. Of course, naturally, I came back to this place today and went in. More on this later.

I began today by revisiting Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery. Because I did not go too late, the National Gallery still had its front balcony open. Thus, I was able to take a panoramic photo of the crowded Trafalgar Square, which included the famous Nelson's Column, the colorful members of the crowd with their variegated colored shirts, and several street performers. It was only about 10am, and the Square was already so robust.

(Apparently, if the photo is too large, the blog will automatically decrease its quality in order to fit it inside. I apologize for potential blurriness!)

In the previous day, I visited more contemporary paintings, ranging from 1800 to the present. Today, I went to see the more ancient paintings, ranging from the pre-medieval era to about 1800. I personally loved the portraits painted post-medieval area. Portrait styles that blossomed during the Renaissance up till the end of the Romantic era deliver authentic emotion and presentation. They all have lively depictions of their characters' contexts/situations, stark contrast of light and darkness, and raw emotional expression on characters' faces and bodies. I walked past many today, and one of my favorites (or rather memorable) was a painting of Saint Helena, mother of Constantine (the first emperor of the Byzantine Empire who converted to Christianity). In the portrait, she is sitting by a windowsill, her right hand covering her face in a pensive fashion while her face was looking down with eyes closed in a worried manner. In the sky, an angel holds a cross. The story behind this portrait is that Saint Helena wanted to find the true cross in which Jesus Christ was crucified upon. As she slept, an angel appeared in her dreams and showed her the location of the true cross.

Besides some vivid portraits, there was a huge section of the Gallery dedicated to medieval paintings. All of them related to Christianity. There were paintings drawn on wearing wooden panels which could be folded inwards. Each panel depicted a story in the Bible. There were also paintings drawn on bricks, which were especially shaped and designed to be embedded on church walls. As I walked through this section, I thought to myself the impossibility of not associating the history of England with Christianity. It was a bit ironic too, as England embraced Protestantism and was more secular than most of the European countries. Of course, many (most) of these paintings were not originally from England.

Fantastically, in this huge medieval section, there's a small room displaying two paintings of Leonardo da Vinci. While I initially expected this to be in the earlier section, I deducted that this room was located here due to the paintings' relations to Christianity like so many of the medieval paintings. One painting was The Adoration of the Magi, in which many people were inspired by the Magi inspired by the Virgin and her Child. It seemed like the painting was drawn with a yellowish-brown filter. The second painting, in which I paid much more attention to, was Virgin of the Rocks, which showed the Virgin with her Child who's blessing a baby John the Baptist, with an angel accompanying the trio sitting next to the Child. This painting had immensely intricate details of light. However, I was mainly fascinated by the composition of the painting. The angel accompanying the baby indicated that the baby was the Child, baby Jesus. Jesus was blessing a baby John the Baptist, whom was tucked under the Virgin's arm while the Virgin looked at him instead of baby Jesus. However, the Virgin extended her other arm towards baby Jesus, which showed the holy connection between John the Baptist and Jesus. In the background, the stark landscape seemingly untouched by human actions indicated purity.

I spent two and a half hours in the National Gallery, and I left around 12:20pm to meet with my friend Jacqueline, who is currently studying abroad at the London School of Economics and Political Science, for afternoon tea. It was my first experience of British-style tea, and I was quite excited to experience the bourgeoisie life of wealthy Brits. We went to a tea place called The Yacht, which was quite literally on a boat next to a dock. The boat was rocking as we walked to our table and during our tea.

British afternoon tea provides one with a choice of tea (of course), finger sandwiches, and an assortment of pastries. For us, we finished our finger sandwiches very quickly due to our hunger. We moved slowly through the pastries, ultimately not being able to finish them. I ate a bit more than Jacqueline, and I think it was because of my lemon & ginger tea that helped me digest faster. During our tea, we talked about Jac's experience here at London (she came here about three weeks before I did), our plans when we go back to Berkeley, and potential plans to travel together while we're at Europe, such as to Paris, France. We departed at about 1:50pm due to Jac's afternoon class. From here on by myself, I proceeded to make my way to the London Aquarium because for the life of me I could not take my mind of off it.

Jac! <3

I believe that the admission for the London Aquarium was a bit overpriced, which cost 24 pounds. The entrance of the Aquarium had a bag check, in which a British lady with a small kid was telling at a security for confiscating her "tool," a ten inch knife. She said that it was a tool to open her locks. Whatever that means. Anyway, the entrance then led me to a dark tunnel. In the middle of the tunnel, there's a glass panel on the floor which revealed several large fish swimming underneath! Then, there was a mandatory photobooth for all attendees. I had to pose normally, pointing to a turtle, and looking up. Unfortunately for me, this reminded of how lonely I was throughout this London trip. Just kidding, not really. I may be by myself, but I am not alone!! (Also, does anyone buy these photos, really? I mean, I am sure some people do, but can't you just say beforehand that you don't want to take a photo? They seemingly force you to.)

The aquarium was similar to all of the aquariums/science exhibits I've been to (I've been to many), displaying aquatic animals in different environments ranging from the salty water of the deep sea to the tropics. However, what stood out to me in the Aquarium was the inclusion of sharks and huge rays that many other aquariums/science exhibits did not have. The Aquarium also included a myriad of messages urging attendees to support shark wellbeing and oceanic environmentalism. It also had large prints of the charity works the Aquarium did, such as breeding several species of endangered animals and rescuing sharks. These messages were usually accompanied by cute cartoons meant to entice children. I was also able to experience the Aquarium's newest exhibit of jellyfish. It had several species of jellyfish, a couple that I have had not seen before. At the very end of the Aquarium, there's a short film detailing the protection of the River Thames and the development of the London sewage system through time. Initially, wastes were dumped directly into Thames. Now, wastes go through a series of filters and tanks that store and recycle/clean/breakdown wastes.

After the Aquarium, I went to get a pair of Snapchat Spectacles!! I was hesitant about getting a pair before but wasn't sure about its value. But now I have a pair! Exciting!

I am planning to go to Windsor Castle tomorrow. Stay tuned!

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