I believe I left you all halfway through my first day in London (I was solo the first day; KMN joined me after that). So after my trip into London on the Underground, breakfast, a free cappuccino, the London Canal Museum, and Platform 9 ¾ (read about all of this in First Impressions Count – aka Loving London)…it was still only lunchtime. That’s what you get when your flight lands at 6 AM!
By 2 PM, I was able to check into our hotel to settle my luggage, grab some WiFi to check in with family, and enjoy my lunch – then head off gloriously empty-handed for a few hours at the British Museum.
On our previous visit to London, KMN and I were particularly excited to visit this museum – in fact, it was the only museum we made time for. We were both amused, and a little smug, that we’d (inadvertently) planned a trip through Europe that started with the sites of ancient civilizations (Greece, Rome), and ended with visits to large repositories of artifacts that were given/stolen/purchased from the sites of those ancient civilizations (Pergamon Museum in Berlin, British Museum in London). However, on that trip, we only had about half a day to tour the British Museum. This is approximately 2.5% of what is required to properly see even just some of everything on display.
So on this trip, we chose a hotel near the British Museum, so that we could pop in and out at our leisure. Entry is free, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed in there, so a few shorter visits seemed to make sense. Wednesday afternoon was my Visit #1. First thing I saw when I passed through the gates?
I took a few deep breaths of coffee smell, and passed on the actual liquid, though. I had pieces of the Acropolis to see!
How did the Acropolis end up in London? Well, I’m not going to get into lots of detail here, but essentially, when British explorers happened upon the ancient ruins of Greece and Italy, many wanted to take back parts (like, statues, and columns, and carvings, and…well, as much as their ships would hold) as souvenirs, trophies, and/or gifts. Their rationales ranged from “We like it, we want it, we’re taking it!” to “Well, if you aren’t using it, why shouldn’t we be allowed to take it?” to “We’ll pay you X amount for it.” There remains quite a bit of controversy between the Greeks (or Italians) and the British about who rightfully owns these items, and how they are best displayed and shared with the public.
[*Note: Some of what is on the actual Acropolis site today is a reproduction – particularly of the friezes and some of the statues. The originals are protected indoors, on display at either at the Acropolis Museum in Athens or British Museum in London. Feel free to read about our trip to Greece and visits to the Acropolis (Athens Day #1) and Acropolis Museum (Museum + Food, What Could Be Better?).]
I’ll admit that seeing parts of the Acropolis (and especially the Parthenon) in Greece, and others in Britain, as components of two different, but both really impressive, displays, made me wonder: What if it was ALL displayed together?? How impressive would THAT be? And then quickly: But this way is still impressive, and more people can see them! So I’m not sure what the “right” answer is. But, here’s a photo from the Parthenon hall at the British Museum:
I spent a solid 30 minutes in this room, recalling our trip to Athens, reliving our visits to the Acropolis site, and pondering the sophistication and complexity of ancient civilizations. Standing inside such a huge and famous piece of history is incredibly powerful (to me, apparently). But in my opinion (since it’s my blog):
Acropolis Museum (Athens) >>> Acropolis display in the British Museum (London)
Eventually, I roused myself out of ancient civilizations, and checked out the Enlightenment Rooms. The displays in these rooms pay tribute to a time in history when physical exploration of the world was bringing all kinds of new knowledge, items, and experiences to Europe. The rooms are filled with drawings, models, and artifacts that were used to share new discoveries in the geographic, anthropological, and natural world. For example: There was a replica of a stuffed platypus that one explorer sent back to a royal friend, to convince him that such an animal existed. Although you and I may never have questioned the existence of a platypus, the skepticism makes sense – after all, a platypus is a rather unusual animal, wouldn’t you say? So I spent some time looking around, and thinking about how people learn about and process information about the natural world.
When the museum closed at 5:30, I was looking for a lighter topic. So I got changed and took a quick exploratory run around Regent’s Park. We were staying about a mile from the park – and it was an annoying mile to run, as I tangled with pedestrians, street crossings, and construction works. But Regent’s Park was quite nice, and I cruised the 3 mile Outer Loop, enjoying the cool evening and setting sun. When I got back, I finally – FINALLY – took a much needed shower, then headed out to gbk (Gourmet Burger Kitchen) for a falafel burger, fries, and a hard cider.KMN arrived a few hours later, and after a good night’s sleep, we set out for further exploration of London. Of course, we started with…FOOD! So come back tomorrow, to see what we did and ate!
Have you ever doubted the existence of a platypus? Or considered a world where the existence of such a creature was in doubt? Oh, my goodness: Is the Loch Ness monster the modern day platypus?
[KIDDING, on that last one folks. KIDDING.]
Ever traveled solo? Do you enjoy it? Where did you go?
I love traveling with KMN, but actually didn’t mind spending the day alone, either.