Day at THE Museum – London

28th May 2006

Mum and I got up very early the next day and Dad, after cooking us another huge breakfast, took us to Huntingdon Station. We paid 20 quid for a ticket to London that lets you jump on and off all the transport all day. I still thought it was expensive but at least we wouldn’t have the hassle of having to keep fiddling with money all the time. The train ride was a long one and the scenery was not that interesting as it isn’t on most trains in the world, except for Egypt of course.

We arrived at King Cross Station, which is huge and I thought back to my friend Evan arriving here on his own at age 20 having never been out of Australia before and I shuddered for him. There were crowds of people running about everywhere; there were about a thousand signs and passageways leading off in all directions. I had decided that the first place I had wanted to go in London was the British Museum. Now I know that this is going to sound really geeky, but I’ve had dreams of being in the British museum and been really distressed when I’ve woken up at home. We boarded the tube and I heard again “Mind the Gap” which I had a bit of a giggle at. We only had to go a few stops before getting off at Russell Square. Once there neither Mum or I had any idea where to go, so after asking a few Londoners and coming up short we decided to follow these two really geeky looking girls, who did actually lead us straight to the museum. Who says you can’t rely on stereotypes.

We reached the museum which is a huge Neo-Classical Style building that does not look unlike the Parthenon in Greece. It is behind large fences and strangely was exactly like my dreams, even though I had never actually seen a picture of the British Museum before.

Me in the British Museum
An Egyptian coffin in the British Museum

We walked into the museum and went up the huge winding staircase inside to get to the Egyptian exhibit. I really enjoyed seeing most of the exhibits, but again felt that something was lacking and that they should be in Egypt where they belong. I saw the original Papyrus of Ani which was something that I had studied and many famous masks and coffins that I had seen in books. This museum was nothing like the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, unlike Cairo everything was behind glass and pictures were allowed to be taken. I was also a little distressed with the way things were laid out and the way people seemed to operate, ok I’m lying I wasn’t distressed I was disgusted.

I saw mummies in the same cases as artefacts, being treated as objects. I saw the famous natural mummy “Ginger” still in her pit, completely naked being photographed by all in all her naked glory. I saw another woman in a case with just a small piece of linen laid over her groin section again being photographed. These things incensed me, the lack of respect was unbelievable, and it was certainly a stark contrast to the way the royal mummies had been displayed by the Egyptians in the Cairo Museum. Here I was in a so called “civilised country” that looks upon a place like Egypt as untamed and savage, thinking maybe it was the other way around. The final straw though was when I saw that they actually had an entire tomb reconstructed in the museum from Jericho, with the skeletons laid out and even little children were photographing it. It actually said to one of them, quite angrily, “Do you realise these are real people? Don’t you have any respect?”

I actually thankfully left the area of the Egyptian exhibit after that episode, I think I would have smashed someone’s camera if I hadn’t, stupid tourists. I think I’ll take a moment now to explain something to you that you may or may not have already guessed. I do not consider myself a tourist, I am a traveller. I have never been interested in travelling just to take pictures to show my friends back home, I’d rather camp out under the stars with Bedouin Nomads in the desert than stay in the poshest hotel with all the comforts. I am here to experience the culture not to relax and go back and say “Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.”

Anyway, I left the Egyptian Exhibit and went straight onto the Etruscan exhibit, which was something I finally got to appreciate, having never been to Italy. I really enjoyed seeing the Etruscan pottery and some of their frescoes which are displayed on the walls. I then went and had a look at the ever impressive adjoining Roman exhibit, seeing many statues of famous men from the Empire and the Republic, including a wonderful bust of Augustus.

I really enjoyed the Greek exhibit and had a photo taken between two huge Kraters. There were so many Greek urns there it was amazing; Mum had already told me I would see thousands of them. I also managed to see busts of famous Greeks such as Socrates and Plato. I was very thankful at this point that the Greeks cremated their dead and that therefore I would not have to suffer the injustice of seeing their corpses on display and disrespectfully photographed. If this had been the case, I think I would have left the museum then and there. I also went downstairs to view the Parthenon marbles taken from Greece by Lord Elgin. When my Mum saw them, she was completely taken aback by their size and the fact that they were in Britain and not in Greece. I also showed Mum the temple that Elgin had also stolen and wondered myself how he had managed to pull it off. I mean how do you steal a couple of hundred tonnes of marble? You don’t just slip it into your back pocket and walk out of the country with it.

I found two wonderful statues of Amenhotep III which were made of black granite. I went up and touched them and was shocked at how cold they were, in Egypt Amenhotep III’s Colossi of Memnon had been warm and alive, here his statues were cold, lifeless and stared into nothingness.

I wandered around looking at other large exhibits that were too big for other parts of the museum, the most impressive of these was the sphinx gate from the Persian city of Babylon, through which Alexander the Great would have marched when he conquered the city. I also found some more Greek items and I stumbled upon a small votive statue of a Spartan girl exercising. I had wanted to see it as it was something I had remembered learning about with Mr Wright in high school years ago, it was so tiny and I couldn’t believe I was looking at something like this that I truly thought I would never see.

We then left the museum only to find that it had started raining, typical England. We were hungry anyway and stopped at a nearby pub called “The Plough” and had some really nice fish and chips. It was a lovely warm cosy pub and I actually had to pry myself away from it to go and see some more of London.

I decided to let Mum pick the next place as she had wandered around the museum with me for hours and my mother is not someone you would call a lover of museums. Mum chose to go to the famous Covent Garden Market and insisted on walking, even though it was raining. You would think that I would have hated this, but no I was determined that nothing was going to spoil my day in London. In fact, I loved the rain and had never been able to imagine London without it. I skipped through the streets jumping in puddles and taking no care at all not to get wet. I’m sure my boots were in shock after the hot, dry, dusty deserts of Egypt.

The Plough - great fish n chips near the British Museum
The Plough – a lovely London pub

Mum seemed to have gotten lost, but of course being a Londoner herself, wouldn’t admit it. I think we went the super long way, but I didn’t mind as I got to see a lot more of the city, which included going in all the little shops along the way, again spotting alternative clothes and accessories being sold by the side of the road.

Trafalgar Square
In Trafalgar Square

We finally reached Covent Garden Markets which was indoors and thus very crowded because of the rain. I had a quick look around and then we decided that we wanted to leave. We walked away and I decided that I wanted to go to Trafalgar Square, which thank God wasn’t far. It was still raining and both Mum and I were soaked, when we reached Trafalgar Square the only thing we could see were the fountains, the lions and Nelsons Column were covered in scaffolding and being cleaned, how typical. We decided to get out of the rain by going into the National Gallery, which was wonderful, unfortunately everyone in London seemed to have the same idea.

Shakespeare's Globe
Shakespeare’s Globe

I overheard one security guard saying “Gee it’s crowded in here today!” and I couldn’t believe hearing that and walked past and said “It’s raining outside, that’s why!” I saw many famous paintings in the National Gallery including Leonardo da Vinci’s Virgin of the Rocks, which was beautiful. Mum and I also had a sit down to rest our feet and I spent a large amount of time talking to an American Professor who we were sitting next to about my travels, I actually talked to him until the museum closed that day and I was chucked out. Let’s see, I’ve been chucked out of Abduction, Blink, various pubs, my own house, other people’s houses, but never a museum and I was quite amused me at the time.

When we went back outside the rain had stopped and as we had just been into another museum I let Mum pick the next stop. She wanted to visit Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on the other side of the Thames. I was happy she picked this because it would mean walking past Big Ben and the houses of Parliament, which I had never seen up close before. We walked away from Trafalgar Square and towards the giant majestic clock, on the way, we passed Westminster Abbey and I marvelled at its intricate work. When we reached the clock, I just stood and stared at it for ages, it is so big. The top of it is really ornate and the tiles on the top are bluish in colour.

The Millennium Bridge
The Millennium Bridge with St Pauls in the background

We walked over Westminster Bridge, another of London’s monuments covered in scaffolding and I saw Cleopatra’s Needle, one of many Egyptian Obelisks taken from Egyptian shores, this one belonging to Thutmose III whose tomb I had visited only a week before. It looked very out of place and was a sharp contrast against London bleak sky. We reached the other side and contemplated going on the London Eye but decided against it because of the price. We passed the New Tate Gallery and noticed there was an exhibition on Dali, my favourite artist. It was too late to go in and I’m not sure I would have been game enough to ask Mum to go in another museum, so I just had a picture taken with a statue of one of Dali’s famous melting clocks and thought of my little dog, named after the famous artist, back home and missed him terribly.

We kept walking and I realised that this was really a long way, we passed the Millennium Bridge and finally reached the Globe, an old English Thatched, whitewashed building right in the middle of London, it was very quaint. We then headed back and decided to cross the Millennium Bridge, which took us right up to the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral, a scene right from Mary Poppins. I had my photo taken standing on the Bridge with the Cathedral behind me. I could also see Tower Bridge and the Tower of London from the Millennium Bridge and was overcome with how big the city was compared to Sydney, there is no way one could see everything there is to see in London in a day.

Mum and I then decided to get back on the Tube and Mum made me lead the way, thankfully as part of the reason I had wanted to go to London was the fact that I had wanted to learn to navigate a big city before I had to go off to Athens by myself.

We got off the train at Piccadilly Circus and ascended the massive escalator and came up right in front of all the massive colourful signs all lit up. It had just started to get dark and seeing them all lit up was wonderful, it certainly didn’t seem like night here. I had a look at the fountain bearing the statue of Eros and then we walked over the Leicester Square for dinner, which was Burger King, which was actually worse than it is in Australia, it was something about the salt on the chips that made it awful.

I sat in the window with Mum, who by now was completely exhausted and watched all the young people having fun and looked at the bright lights of London’s theatre district and hoped that I would be lucky enough to see a show here one day, Phantom of the Opera or Les Miserables perhaps. I sent all my friends back home an sms at that point to tell them where I was and what a good time I was having and wished they could have been there to enjoy that moment with me, I know many of them would have loved every minute of the day I had just spent in London.

It was now 10:30pm at night and time to leave London, we got back on the tube at Leicester Square Station and there were a load of football hooligans on the train all singing Beatles numbers, Hey Jude and Yellow Submarine and the like, actually they changed it to “Pound of Margarine”, I was having a good laugh and singing along with them until an abusive and rather funny announcement came over the loud speaker: “Would all the hooligans please sit down and stop disrupting the rest of the train!” I continued laughing until someone pulled the emergency handle and the train stopped. Now in Australia if someone pulls the emergency handle on the train nothing happens, but in London the whole train just comes to a screeching halt and red lights come on. Now let’s keep in mind that I was in London not too long after the so called London Terrorist attacks, so I nearly soiled myself when this happened, thank God Mum was there to explain that there was nothing to worry about.

We got off the train at Kings Cross and boarded a country train to Huntingdon, again which was full of football hooligans, who had managed to get on the train with pints of beer. I couldn’t even imagine anyone doing that in Australia and being so brazen and getting away with it.

Piccadilly Circus
Piccadilly Circus

Sure you see the good old Aussie Yobbo sitting on the train on the way home from work hiding his long neck of VB in a paper bag, but never would you see anyone on a train in Australia with a pint glass on a train. Pity though it might actually make the New South Wales train services a little more bearable.

We had a pleasant ride back to Huntingdon and waited around at the station for a taxi as Dad had been at the Market Inn all day. In the end though Dad had to come and get us as it was very cold and there were no taxis and certainly no buses running. We made it back to Uncle Paul’s at Brampton and got into some nice dry warm clothes and sat by the fire and drank good English tea and then went off to bed.

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