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Travel Journal


If we couldn't go to the National Archaeological Museum in Athens...

"At least we got to go to the British Museum.

Yesterday got off to quite an inauspicious start -- I was awakened by a terrific thunderclap at 3 am, and didn't really manage to get back to sleep before it was time to get up at 4:30. We managed to get to the bus stop during a bit of a lull in the storm, so we didn't get all that wet. For the first time in my life, I wore a daypack across the front and a backpack on my back, in an attempt to keep my daypack as dry as possible - it was still damp from the downpour two days earlier. It was actually a lot less uncomfortable than I had always imagined it would be!

There was a bus waiting when we got there, so things were definitely looking up. Once we got on the plane, there was something really reassuring and homelike about the entire British Airways experience. They even served an English breakfast and gave us an English newspaper.

Once we arrived at Heathrow, we took the ridiculously expensive Heathrow Express train into the city. I would ordinarily have taken the subway, but since we had so little time, we'd booked a hotel near Paddington Station and planned our visit around taking the express train into the city.

There was some minor confusion at the hotel, but we were able to leave our bags and head off into the city by about 11:00am. We took a stroll through Hyde Park, and had lunch at yet another Pret A Manger outlet. I wish we had a chain like that at home!

We next spent a couple of hours in the British Museum, where we spent a lot of time looking at Greek artifacts. The extent of the British Museum's collection never ceases to amaze me. Perhaps the exhibit I most enjoyed was a collection of small bronze figures, both of animal and people, that are presumed to have been used in a religious context. The snake and one of the mice were especially cool. We also spent quite some time in the money exhibit, since I've recently become a whole lot more interested in ancient coinage. The most amazing thing we saw, though, was a gold "cloak" from over 3500 years ago (found somewhere in Britain, I forget where). We don't remember seeing it before, and it was apparently restored more fully last year. It's designed to cover the shoulders and upper arms of the wearer, and is embossed with many rows of intricate geometric patterns. It is thought that it was worn for ceremonial occasions.

After the British Museum, we walked along a street with all sorts of stereo shops, and happened upon a theater (the Odeon) that was showing a sneak preview of the new Harry Potter film. They had a sign on the door saying that the 5:45 show was sold out -- which suggested to us that the 9:00 might not be. Naturally, we decided to check it out, and walked out with tickets for the 9:00 show.

We still had about 4 1/2 hours before the movie, so we headed over to the Millenium Bridge to walk across it -- last time we were in London, it was closed because it was thought to sway too much in the wind. This took us past the remains of the Mayor's day parade near St. Paul's Cathedral, and a group of rollerbladers performing some dangerous stunts without any identifiable safetly gear. (I really thought one of them had injured himself when he lay on the ground quite still after falling down...)

Our next stop was the hotel to check into our room, where we discovered that the manager was greek. He arranged to have us upgraded to a nicer room after we talked about our travels in Greece for a few minutes. :-)

Dinner was at an unremarkable pizza joint, where the couple next to us couldn't seem to grasp that if only one of them ordered the buffet, the other couldn't eat from the buffet plate...

We still had a little while before the movie, so we headed in that general direction and hoped to find a bookstore. We happened upon a street with several bookstores, and decided to check out what Border's is like in London. I was quite surprised that the fittings are basically the same; other than the books themselves, it was just like being in a Border's at home. They didn't have some of the books we might have gotten (some Sue Townsend, or a nice edition of some of Dorothy Sayers' books), but I did walk out with a couple of Roald Dahl books.

We showed up at the theater around 8:20, and were among the first in line for the film -- there were only about 10 people ahead of us. We got great seats, and enjoyed the film very much. It was quite true to the book, though naturally couldn't include everything. Kenneth Branaugh was very good as Gilderoy Lockhart, though he didn't really suit my physical notion of what Lockhart ought to look like -- I think of him as being much more beautiful.

We got back to the hotel around 12:30, and that was the end of our big day in London. I wish we had several more -- London is such a terrific city, and there's so much to do here!"


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