You have one day in London. What do you do? For us, it was simple – we hadn’t had a chance to see Buckingham Palace or the British Museum. Alex was more interested in Buckingham Palace, while I was more interested in the British Museum.
I think this may have been the smallest hotel room I’ve stayed in – basically a bed and a tiny bathroom. But it was cheap, and the location was reasonable.
I enjoyed the palace and grounds more than I expected. It was threatening rain the whole time, but the ground were verdant, populated with diverse waterfowl. There were cool statues, the guards, and the roads were walkable. Alex mentioned a rumor that the Queen (a former ambulance driver in WWII!) wasn’t allowed to drive in England, but was permitted to on the grounds of Buckingham Palace. I could easily imagine her careening around corners and zooming between ancient trees, trying to avoid mowing down tourists.
The area near Buckingham Palace has lots of government buildings, and we nearly visited the Churchill bunker. Maybe next time. We got another good audio tour courtesy of Rick Steves. We detoured a little to see Denmark Street, another famous musical location (Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Sex Pistols, Elton John), before arriving at the British Museum.
I knew little about the museum, beyond the fact that they had mummies. So it certainly exceeded expectations. You walk in (no admission!), turn a corner, and BAM – Rosetta Stone. Since it was a rainy Sunday, it was more like BAM – crowds – BAM – Rosetta Stone. But still, pretty cool.
For me the highlight of the museum were the Assyrian reliefs, including an extensive set of panels from Ninevah. I’ve always felt Assyria and Sumeria are underappreciated and under-represented. Egypt gets all the glory. But I enjoy Assyrian artwork more, and it feels like a much more dynamic area with more diverse cultures.
Objectively speaking, however, I think the highlight of the museum is the Elgin Marbles, basically the reliefs from around the top of the Parthenon. They probably shouldn’t be in Britain, but we took advantage of it while we were there. All in all, I think the British Museum compares favorably to the Met in NYC – at least, in terms of what I’m interested in seeing (more historic than artistic stuff).
Leaving the museum, we only had a limited amount of time until we caught our flight. We picked up various gifts, cramming them into our bags, and were soon on our way back to the airport – and then a return to NYC.