Day 4 - The Big Bad British Museum

Wednesday, April 01, 2009
Day four already. I'm half way through my week in London. Wow, time really does fly when you're having fun! Up very early this mornng with a sore back courtesy of the bed. Cornflakes, toast and Tang for breakfast then I headed out around nine o'clock. Unfortunately, my confidence in my ability to ride the Tube like a pro was shaken when I got off on the wrong stop on the wrong line and had to figure out where I was. And an FYI for newcomers to London...Euston station is just plain confusing (and not the closest station to the museum). I can't remember exactly why now but that's what I had written down at the end of day four so I'm guessing it was.

The plan for today was to spend it wandering the rooms in the British Museum. Along the way, I walked past a tiny strip of green that was virtually empty. Needing a bit of a rest for my knee, I decided to check it out. I believe it was called Tavistock Park. At the very centre is a statue of a seated Ghandi. The little slice of quiet in such a busy city seemed the perfect spot for his statue. I sat here for about twenty minutes enjoying the peace and tranquility, seemingly so far from the hustle and bustle of the rest of central London, watching the few pigeons who stopped by and staring at the flowers. Did I mention that London is in full bloom? There are flowers everywhere. Tulips, roses and violets (I think)...I'm not great with the names. It's quite the change coming from a place where there's still snow everywhere!

As it was getting closer to the opening time of the museum, I picked myself up and continued on my way. I passed through Russell Square, another lovely park (and the location of the tube station I should have gotten off at). With a beautiful little fountain which seemed to double as a bird spa, it was very soothing and relaxing. I ended up spending almost another half an hour watching the pigeons flutter around, bathing themselves, and listening to the soothing sounds of the water. I love fountains. I could sit and listen to gurgling water all day long. Thankfully, I'm not one of those folks who instantly get the urge to have a wee the minute the water starts running. Back on my way, I headed across the square and down the street. As I rounded the corner and turned onto Great Russell Street, I stopped short at the sight of the huge crowd outside the museum on the steps. Egads! Perhaps visiting on a Sunday morning was not the smartest plan. It also happened to be mother's day in the UK ... that might explain all the families. Oh well, too late now, I'm already here.

As with the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, the British Museum is free to the public but donations are encouraged. The building is spectacular to see both outside and inside the great court but it doesn't compare at all to the exhibits. I started off with the Egyptian and Middle Eastern rooms to the left of the entrance. And...so did everyone else. Not surprisingly, it seemed to be the most popular area in the museum. At times I was worried I was going to be pushed into one of the displays and destroy it when it and I both fall to the floor. Thankfully none of the annoying people around me bodychecked me into a statue, they just stood in my way, blocked my photos and bumped my elbows as I clicked the button on my camera. Nice. Have I mentioned that I don't really like people? No? Not yet? Well, I don't.

I wasn't prepared for the popularity of the Rosetta Stone - sure, you expect people will know what it is but I didn't think I would have to fight my way through a massive crowd of people, elbowing other visitors left and right just to get close enough to take a halfway decent shot. If all I had seen in the museum was the first few initial rooms dedicated to ancient Egypt, Rome and the East, I would have been satisfied. It was absolutely beyond description. There is so much to see in the British Museum. I'd be writing pages and pages if I tried to capture all that there is to tell you about so instead, I'll give you a few highlights: the head from a statue of Ramses II; the Parthenon Friezes and a number of other Greek and Roman statues which were so exquisitely carved it made me want to cry; the Egyptian mummies; glasswork throughout the ages; the Lamassu; a Roman Diptych leaf; a few rooms dedicated to the history of money throughout the ages (my dad would LOVE this); and a 16th century clock in the shape of a galleon where the cannons would fire and sailers would strike the hour on bells in the crows nest.

I somehow missed the Battersea shield which I was quite looking forward to seeing but did see some contemporary pieces. The craftsmanship throughout the centuries is absolutely astounding. Three and a half hours, and £50 in souvenirs later, I wandered outside dazed and bedazzled. My senses are overloaded. I made my way back to my pigeon pals in Russell Square to recooperate. I could have easily spent longer in the museum on any other day when the crowds weren't so insane but there were just too many people and the temperatures in most of the display rooms, combined with the heat of so many people, made it too hot for my cold Canadian blood.

I stopped by Pret a Manger again and picked up another jalapeno chicken wrap to take home. Mmmmm. Also popped into Tesco's for fruit and water. Must stay hydrated with all this walking I've been doing. On the way home, I say a bee and a spider - summer has definately arrived in London! Relaxing in my room, I finally got to see an episode of Time Team. They were excavating what they thought might be the site of a medieval house and one of the sites they were digging in looked very familiar. And no wonder!!! They were digging in Lincoln's Inn Fields, a little spot of green Milla and I had walked through a few days ago near the Royal Courts and the Royal College of Surgeons. What a great surprise.

2 comments:

Wandering Coyote said...

Apart from the knee and the Tube mix up (it happens to the best of us), sounds like a wonderful day.

* (asterisk) said...

I didn't know there was a Gandhi statue in London. Weird.

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