Friday, November 8, 2013

Day 4: London

We woke a little before 8am to very dubious weather outside the window. I managed to drag Cazy out of the hotel room just before 11am. The weather seemed fine and I was annoyed that my brother’s procrastinating had cost us the opportunity to see the changing of the guard. I posted some letters (the UK has vending machines for stamps which makes it so easy!) and then we headed for the nearby London Bridge station.

As we entered the tube, we heard that a station was closed and a line was delayed. We had meant to catch the train to Bank and change for Tottenham Court Road (Destination: the British Museum!) so we had to take a different route. It was a warmer day so I shoved my coat into my bag which made it very heavy (ow!). As we exited Tottanham, we heard a voice announce that there was a “passenger under train” again. My Google street view knowledge conveyed us swiftly to the British Museum, which was good because rain started pelting us on the way.

The entrance on Great Russell Street

Cazy grabbed a hot dog and then joined me at the dry entrance. So the first scents I encountered at the pillars of the British Museum were the hot dog and desperate people puffing cigarettes. Some were even sitting on column bases to roll and lick their own.

We entered through the gift shop and purchased maps before tackling the Egyptian sculptures on the ground floor. The smaller reliefs and statuettes were astonishing but I was mostly impressed by the grandiose statues, truly larger than life. Rameses II was the most captivating. Cazy’s favourites appeared to be a small cat (he misses his cat, recently passed) and a giant dismembered granite arm that he posed with as though fistbumping it.

The very overbearing Rameses II

I had to race to the bathroom (huuuge queue) and so missed the Rosetta Stone but we found it later. We finished the Egyptian sculptures. I was struck by how their original intent succeeded - these kings wished to be eternally remembered as gods.

We remember them.

Humans so wish to leave a legacy...I read about how towards the end of pre-Roman times the sculptors in Egypt started reusing old styles. We so often look to the past to define ourselves and long for those grander times.

Anyway, we progressed up two - three? - flights of stairs, passing many Roman mosaics, and then found our way to the other Egyptian rooms, including the mummies. I did make some references to the 1999 film The Mummy - Cazy was amused. I quite liked the Roman mummy - Egyptian style carving but printed in the Roman style. There were so many crowds in there - very hard to move. Some jerk shoved me aside to take a photo.

The Roman mummy

We escaped into a Sudan/Egypt room and Cazy insisted on skipping much of what followed in favour of the medieval Europe section. We passed through ancient Europe first. I was very excited to see two pieces which Neil Oliver himself held during the filming of A History of Ancient Britain (the deer headress skull and the golden twisty torque). Lindow Man was too dark to photograph. I do not believe he was killed for a ritual. There was such pain and fear on his smushed boggy face. He was murdered.

I sniffed a door nearby for my friend Elly’s craving of British Museum smells. It was not old wood, not anything near as majestic as oak, but a comforting scent nonetheless. I caught a whiff of perfume earlier. And because of the rain, wet wool abounded. 

Much to our disappointment, large scores of the medieval Britain section were boarded off with white wood. But Cazy was quite taken with a medieval chess set (he later bought a small replica). Ah! Just realised I forgot to mention the Roman Britain section - read those infamous Vinolanda letters.

We zipped to the Easter Island statue and found a poor showing of Pacific items - most of them seemed to be from New Zealand. This then led to the Americas section which wasn’t much better. In an attempt to escape, we traversed the room of Enlightenment and burst out the doors of what seemed to be an older building in the museum. It smelled of vomit at that entrance. 

Panicked, I told Cazy to help me find the Rosetta Stone. Its importance is more interesting than the stone itself.

The Rosetta Stone

We spent obscene amounts of pounds in the gift shop then departed. We went back to London Bridge station and had lunch near the Clink prison museum. Cazy retreated to the hotel to read/watch so I browsed Borough Market, buying local goods. So many chocolate brownies!!

I visited the Golden Hind gift shop (near a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind - this copy has mimicked his global journey twice) and bought some nicknacks. Got dinner from where I had lunch.

I returned to the hotel, hoping Cazy would leave to do the Clink prison or The George but argh! He stayed in the room, preventing me from having a restful time alone.

Have to get up early for our day trip to Paris!

Bye now. :D

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