First Day in London- British Museum (Nathan)

Trip Start Sep 03, 2010
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27
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Trip End Oct 27, 2010


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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Thursday, September 23, 2010

Once again, I will try to be brief- I'm still way behind, it's late (again), and I think I took enough pictures that you can piece it together from them.

So, first off, general impressions of London: Well, it's very pedestrian-unfriendly. You can find crossings maybe once every three blocks, you have to wait about five times as long for the light to change as in the United States, and, as Glennica mentioned, they only go halfway across the street, so you have to wait TWICE. And the drivers really want to kill you, if they can possibly get away with it. It didn't help that half the people on the streets, whether native Londoners or tourists, moved at a glacial pace and that the sidewalk was often blocked off by construction. The Underground was usually pretty speedy and efficient, though occasionally too crowded to even get on a car. I couldn't imagine living in London- it's just too many people in too small a space. I didn't even have this problem in New York City when I visited... sure, it was crowded, but nothing like this. The constant, unrelenting press of humanity was stressful.

London is full of lovers. Everywhere we went, they were kissing and cuddling and walking hand in hand. I just didn't see this in New York City or the rest of the UK... nobody in London is single, it seems. It's not really a good thing or a bad thing, just something that was hard not to notice.

London is so layered with history that it becomes commonplace. Walk down any street and you'll find some plaque or ruin or museum commemorating an ancient and often very important part of the city's past. The tours we went on were talking nonstop about every building we passed and even when we were just wandering around looking for a place to eat we'd stumble upon something new (well, old, I guess) and exciting. I found it hard to even imagine all these events happening in one city, but they did... and often they left something tangible behind.

London is full of tourist shops that sell nothing but miniature replicas of Big Ben, Union Jack panties, and "I <3 London" shirts and hoodies.

Okay, enough of that; this isn't turning out all that brief and I have plenty more London entries to go if I think of more impressions I had. Our first day we went to the British Museum. After getting lost a bunch we finally found it (on Coptic Street, of course) and when we arrived at the entrance, I was surprised to find that I'd been here before in a video game! And this time it was a lot more accurate than the almost wholly-fictional representations of the American Museum of Natural History in NYC. It was kind of satisfying to wander around the museum and get this sense of pleasant deja vu here and there as I recognized the large, central cylindrical building housing the reading room or one of the Egyptian statues we looked at.

We tried to get through the main part of the museum, the halls chronicling the Egyptian, Assyrian and Greek civilizations. The Rosetta Stone was probably the most famous and important thing on display, but everything else was absolutely amazing as well- it made all the Egyptian exhibits I'd seen at other museums look like the leftovers, and I'd never seen any Assyrian or Greek artifacts before at all. The only thing that was disappointing was that a lot of the Greek artifacts were incomplete- parts of them were still in Athens! It seems like London and Athens need to do some trading and negotiating if these statues are ever going to get their heads back.

Unfortunately, time just flew by, and the museum was only open for another hour or so when we finished the main section. I wanted to see the reading room before we left, but as we were returning to the main, central area, a woman handed us fliers for some events that were going on that night. It took a few moments of confused questions before we realized this was a one-time event just for that night- we hadn't realized anything was happening at all! Glennica suggested going to the sea shanties event, and I must have been driven temporarily insane by all the knowledge I'd absorbed, because I said "nah". Luckily, she asked if I was sure and I came to my senses. We went to see the guy singing sea shanties.

I've unfortunately lost the paper with the man's name, but he was a retired sailor (I think) and had actually won shanty-singing competitions before (I had no idea they even existed). When we came in he was already singing one I was familiar with, South Australia. It was kind of surreal to see this grizzled old sailor in the middle of the museum's opulent collection, tapping his foot on the floor and singing merrily, surrounded by a semicircle of people listening attentively. We sat and listened and had a great time, but sadly it didn't last as long as I would have wanted- the museum was closing and it was time to go. We left, vowing to return to the museum later and see what we'd missed.

After this our time was spent wandering London kind of randomly. We found Leicester Square, which seemed sort of unremarkable to me, and wandered into Chinatown, which was full of places I'd have loved to eat at and Glennica would've hated. I bought some green and oolong tea, which I had been missed ever since leaving Boulder, and we finished off some sandwiches and salad we'd gotten earlier as we sat under the fountain at Picadilly Circus, which was like a miniature Times Square- all musicals and enormous glowing advertisements.

And then, sleepy and excited about tomorrow, we navigated the Underground and the overland train back to our hostel and went to bed. And speaking of sleepy and excited about tomorrow, I need to get going. Sorry I haven't been responding to comments much- I'll try to do that more once I get caught up. Hope you're enjoying the pictures!
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