London is so big that even after 3 visits there’s still sooo much I haven’t had a chance to see. We did make the most of our time there, though, despite Iceland Air’s strike cutting our visit a couple days short. The first day we went to the Tate Modern, which was having an exhibit on Sonia Delaunay. I loved the bright colors she incorporated into her work. She began her artistic career drawing and painting, then started working in the applied arts designing textiles and clothes. The exhibit did a great job putting a timeline of her work together so you could see how she transitioned from one type of work to the next. I’d love to have one of her scarves with brightly colored circles decorating it…
That night I went to the British Library, which had an exhibit in honor of the 800 year anniversary of the Magna Carta. I’d allowed about 2 hours to go through the exhibit, but accidentally spent 1 1/2 hours in the first room…but that was where the oldest documents were and where most of the historical context was explained, so it’s what I wanted to learn most about anyway. The Magna Carta was signed in 1215, when a group of barons demanded (for the first time) that the king (King John) be responsible for following written laws, rather than always being able to do whatever he wishes. The charter also ensured that people were put to a fair trial before being punished. It influenced and inspired the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Petition of Right, among others. There was even a quote stating that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the modern-day Magna Carta.
My friend and I had done a lot of walking that day, so we both opted for dinner at the pub in the bottom of our hostel. Staying in that hostel meant we got 25% off at the pub, and they had fish ‘n’ chips, so it was a good deal.
The next morning I tried and failed yet again to go for a run, but my feet were still sore and I knew I would be doing plenty more walking that day. We went to the Victoria and Albert Museum early and were able to get one of the 200 day-of tickets they were selling for the Alexander McQueen exhibit (thank goodness, because we hadn’t tried booking tickets online until they were already sold out for the entire month of June). It was one of the best exhibits I have ever seen. The clothes, shoes, and hats (head pieces? Not sure they all qualified as hats…) were so impressive. And so diverse! The exhibit was curated well so the backdrops complimented the works, and the collections were clearly grouped. As a Tartan, I enjoyed his use of a Scottish plaid in the Highland Rape collection, but really every collection was so different yet equally impressive that I can’t pick one as my preference. The exhibit had some great quotes from McQueen, including, “I want to empower women. I want people to be afraid of the women I dress.”
We walked through some other parts of the Victoria and Albert Museum, too. These are costumes from the Lion King, which I saw on Broadway years ago.
While we were waiting in line for tickets to the exhibit before the museum opened, we had stopped into a place called Gail’s Artisan Bakery for a coffee. The food looked absolutely delicious, so we went back after leaving the Victoria and Albert Museum to grab somethingfor lunch. I finally was able to get some good vegetables with a beet, lentil, feta, hazelnut, arugula and sun-dried tomato salad, but of course also had to try a pastry (I went with the carrot cake. It was amazing.). While lunching we wandered around Kensington Gardens. If it had been closer to our hostel I totally would have run there. People were running, biking, playing catch and picnicking in the grass. The wide walkways cut through bright green and well-trimmed grass, out of which plenty of trees were growing to provide much needed shade on that hot, sunny day.
Our next stop was Leavesden, because of course we had to visit the Harry Potter Studios! I’d been last February, but was just as excited to see everything. Actually, I think I became continually more excited as I walked through the place. I realized it had been WAY too long since I read the Harry Potter books. Even the movies I haven’t watched for quite some time.
The Studios had some new additions: platform 9 and 3/4, the Hogwarts Express (SO COOL) and an interactive Hogwarts Express riding experience, and a much larger food area (still with a bar for butterbeer).
Concept art of the Lovegood’s house.
Me in Diagon Alley
The Hogwarts Express!
The following day we were leaving for Paris, but not until the afternoon, so I was able to squeeze in a visit to the British Museum. But to anyone who may try something similar in the future, note that the Museum’s coat check won’t accept bags over 8 kg, and the hotel they direct you to won’t take your bag unless you’re staying there (even for just an hour and you offer to let them search your bag and pay extra). Luckily, I walked down the same street that hotel was on but in the opposite direction and found a small hotel where they were happy to take 5 pounds to hold my bags.
I finally got to see the Rosetta Stone! Couldn’t believe how many people were already cramming there cameras into the glass case within 10 minutes of the Museum opening, but I was still able to get a decent look at it.
Nearby where Egyptian, Assyrian and Greek art and artifacts. Wandering around those made me want to read my art history textbook, because there are so many things that I remember learning but can’t actually remember many details about.
This was one giant fist that was once part of a larger sculpture of an Egyptian pharaoh.
I tried to make it to the Americas, but only ended up getting through the Cycladic art (I love their white figurines; I think it’s something about their simplicity) and Tibetan-inspired Chinese Buddhist figures.
A statue from Easter Island, which I read about in my high school Environmental Science class.
I guess I’ll just have to go back!