6/25/10: London, England
I’ve made a startling discovery in the last months of the trip. I love big cities. This surprises me for a few reasons. 1) I hate crowds. 1a) I hate it when strangers brush up against me or touch me unexpectedly. 2) I am afraid of loud noises. 3) I don’t like crossing busy streets. But despite all these things, I loved Tokyo, I loved Sydney, I loved Madrid – and I love London. It surprised me too, believe me, but it’s our first day out in the city (Wimbledon doesn’t count), and there is so much to do here. Luckily, we have a lot of time.
Our first stop of the day: Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery. Most of the museums in London are free, including the National Gallery, and when we walked in, the first thing we saw was a big clear donation box with a sign saying “Please give ₤3 to help keep this museum free.” The irony.
Trafalgar Square reminded me a bit of some of the other plazas we’ve seen, with one very notable exception. It is forbidden to feed the pigeons. Good idea, London!
Then we walked over to St. James’s Park. Not as famous as Hyde park, but beautifuller.
We kept walking, and lo and behold, we ran into Buckingham Palace.
We missed the changing of the guards by about a half hour, and we didn’t get to take any pictures with the men in the funny hats. If you asked me before this what things I associated with the city of London, I would have said men with the funny hats, double decker buses and red telephone booths.
Then we walked up to the British Museum.
The British Museum was really cool, one of the best museums we’ve been in.
The Egyptian section is particularly large. Apparently back when a lot of excavations were being done in Egypt, some British archaeologist got permission from the Egyptian government to remove any artifacts he wanted. So he did, and then he sold them all to the British Museum.
I’ll reveal my ignorance by telling you this, but I always thought that the Rosetta Stone had a lot of different languages on it. I basically thought it was a magic stone with the same thing written in ten or fifteen different languages, and that’s what helped us decipher the ancient languages. But it’s really a big stone plaque with a decree written on it in just three different languages: Hieroglyphics, Egyptian demotic script (the standard written Egyptian language) and Greek. They did use the stone to help decipher Hieroglyphics, so at least I wasn’t too far off on that account.
The British Museum also has a fairly large (and free!) collection of mummies. We didn’t stay in those rooms for too long. Being around dead people in glass cases sort of freaks me out.
They have also somehow managed to acquire many of the sculptures that used to decorate the Parthenon.
They also have a moai! When we first saw this, we both thought the same thing: “Wow, that thing is tiny.”
After the British Museum, we went to catch the matinee showing of Avenue Q. We bought the cheapest tickets possible (₤10), but when we arrived at the theater, we got upgraded to the eighth row. One ad had billed it as “pant-wettingly funny,” but that was an exaggeration. I enjoyed myself immensely, but I didn’t wet my pants at all.
Picture of the Day: Flowers from the “South Africa Landscape Exhibit” at the British Museum.