22-Dec-2016 & 23-Dec-2016, Thursday and Friday
London… London is awesome. As in, London is super huge, and a big city, and has tons of stuff and tons of people and at least dozens of tons of history and, and, and…. well, it’s London.
We could have easily spent our whole time in London. I mean… I’m pretty sure people spend their whole lives in London, and still don’t see everything. But we had two days. So, we used those days to the best of our ability. And by that, I mean we walked a lot, and went to museums.
One advantage of the bed and breakfast that we’d booked was that it included two meals per day; we’d assumed that an “organic delicatessen” would include some pretty good food… but we honestly had no idea just how good it would be.
When I finally wandered downstairs, Raffi was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Armand and a new gentleman named Ben (great name, I know) were working the counter. As soon as they saw me, they jumped into action – asking how we’d slept, if there was anything we needed, and if they could make us anything for breakfast.
Since there wasn’t an official breakfast menu, I wasn’t quite sure what to ask for… so I just went with what Ben recommended; scrambled eggs with toast and jam, alongside coffee and fresh-squeezed orange juice. Not quite as British as the meal we’d planned for our train to Aberdeen, but still pretty good. And amazingly prepared – it definitely did the trick for preparing us for the days adventures.
The British Museum. Known around the world for its amazing exhibits, unparalleled store of treasures, and its penchant for stealing things from other cultures and getting away with it… somehow. And coincidentally, our first stop after traipsing through Hyde Park, and checking out the New Zealand memorial along the way (both of which are excellent, if I may say so).
Let’s see if I can give a concise synopsys of our adventures through the British Museum…
- Egypt! Tons of statues and other relics that have been “preserved” by the British Empire.
- Mesopotamia! Wall carvings and armored doors… specifically, lots about a king who loved hunting lions. Still definitely cool.
- Wow…. these are awesome relics!
- My favorite quote was at the enterance to the Parthenon exhibit, where sections of the hallmark of Athens are on display… if I may paraphrase, it read: “People disagree… but since we took these, we’ve kept them safe. A lot of the rest have been destroyed. We don’t apologize”
- One of the best parts of visiting museums with Sarah is the lesson’s that she gives – as an expert Scenic Artist, she sees things that I can’t. I’ve learned to ask “What do you see?” when she’s looking at an exhibit… and almost every time, I get a really interesting story about some aspect of the exhibit that I would never have learned without her.
- After a while even we can get tired… but coffee helps, and the cafe has it for us. But water is nowhere to be found, and we were starting to bonk out pretty bad. We finally find some in a barely-working water fountain outside the men’s room. Someone tried it before I did, remarking “No use here kid… unless you want to lick it” to his son. Well, I was able to make it work for half a nalgene, so… who’s the winner now, huh?
- After our second wind kicked in, we kept exploring… but honestly not much else was as good. There was a weak exhibit on Japanese culture, that tried to cover far too much ground in too little space. Then there was an ancient English exhibit, which was fun, and even some cool Viking stuff that I wasn’t expecting.
Even the greatest museums close though, and unfortunately Sarah and I were at the receiving end of British efficiency, as the security guards physically herded us to the exits. A visit with the ‘historic’ London Tube took us back to Jakobs, our Bed and Breakfast, which in turn led us to having dinner at the restaurant.
An amazing dinner. But not even an amazing and excellent salmon dinner, followed by a few random bars could keep us awake, so soon enough we were back at the place (we did hit two bars, at least) and in bed.
Another morning at Jakobs, means another excellent breakfast. Simpler this time… just enough to give us the energy to do a nice walk down to the Thames and back to get the blood flowing.
We didn’t have much time – our goal for the day was a big one… a place that could easily take up a week of solid exploration. The Natural History Museum!
- Dinosaurs! Since I was a kid, I’d wanted to go to the Natural History Museum in London. Dinosaur bones, exhibits, and everything else a dinosaur-obsessed kid could ask for.
But… honestly, it was kind of a let down. The fossils and dinosaurs were amazing, but the curation was definitely lacking. Sarah explained it better than I, but basically it felt small, cramped, and too controlled for our liking.
- Mammals, marine animals, and more! These exhibits were a bit better than the dinosaurs… but still cramped. And not just because there was a literal blue whale stuffed into a room that could barely hold a blue whale.
- The “treasures of the earth” exhibit – full of amazing minerals and other cool details. THIS. Now this exhibit caught our eyes… not only because it was literally full of incomparable gemstones, but because it was full of neat tidbits without being overwhelming.
- Here’s the thing… This museum has so much writing, I could have spent days in it. Weeks, maybe. So we walked through pretty quickly… and still stayed there right until the end.
- The Treasures – cool one-of-a-kind pieces
- Minerals – The mines of moria, basically. Different than the treasures of the earth section, the minerals area was just a huge room full of vaulted pillars, full of mineral specimens. I legitimetely think that it was a seed for the Mines of Moria, and I could easily have spent days in this room alone.
- The Vault – even more “one-of-a-kind” stuff than before… This room had two cameras on every piece, and a massive automated vault door that I’m sure would slam shut if I so much as sneezed at one of the pieces. An example of what’s in here: a collection of all the possible colors of Diamonds. A snuff box from the Russian Tzar covered in gold, diamonds, and other stones. An emerald the size of my fist. Real ocean’s 11 stuff.
This time, unlike the British Museum, we didn’t stay until we were kicked out. I mean… we did stay ’till closing, but we weren’t chased out by security. So that counts for something, right?
Dinner? Indian. Amazing Indian.
Then? Back to Jakobs, picking up bags, and getting ourselves onto the tube and to the Caledonian Sleeper train, steaming its way North, into the dark lands of Scotland.
ACH! BAGPIPES! YAR!