I had a plan all worked out for travel week. I truly did. It came to me in a moment of utter brilliance while I was boiling water for the bath (our hot water – or I should say heat in general – is not working, again). Instead of joining the other students headed to far off places like Spain and Scotland, I would spend my week combining travel with my favorite pastime…reading! A tour of England’s Writer Museums! One day in Bath visiting the Jane Austen Museum, the next spent up North at Bronte Parsonage. Maybe a trip to Portsmouth to see Charles Dickens’s birthplace and a more detailed Sir Arthur Con Doyle display. I would finish each day with a review of the museums I’d visited. A splendid goal.
Unfortunately, as I was noting specific routs and time tables on Sunday, I made a rather important discovery. What I had taken for bus stops on Google maps were actually train stops. And trains happen to be very expensive here. The cheapest trip I could find to Bronte Parsonage was 93 pounds….which is equivalent to roughly 150 dollars. Just to get up there. Other ventures proved to be equally expensive. Soooooo, in conclusion, my brilliant plan was scrapped and I suddenly have found myself with an entire week of free time. What to do?
Armed with an overly pricey tourist map, a camera around my neck in the quintessential tourist look, and a stock of granola bars….I set out to conquer London today. They claim it is a 100 minute bus ride but it feels way longer. It might have helped if I brought a better book along to read. A Brief History of Thought by Luc Ferry is many things…but entertaining it is not. I also strongly disagree with both of the author’s main foundational points, namely that Philosophy and Religion are mutually exclusive and both are trying to give answers to what happens after we die. Perhaps I’m simplifying it a bit, but he certainly simplifies and glides over way too much in making those assumptions. There was also a lady sitting behind me on the bus ride who spoke very loudly with a very thick Slavic accent (I know it was Slavic because she referenced it…many times). She proved her mastery of English vulgar language the entire trip. I did not know the f word could be used so often in one sentence. It made for quite a long, distracting ride.
However, despite the lengthy beginning, the bus arrived in London and I duly paid my respects to that most famous of addresses…
Which technically doesn’t exist. However, I suspended reality for the sake of enjoyment. The Sherlock Holmes museum is a bit of a tourist trap, complete with maids in costume to direct meandering visitors and a “period” uniformed police officer at the door to remind you tickets can be purchased in the bookstore. Narrow staircases lead up in a recreated bordering house with Sherlock Holmes’s bedroom, Dr. Watson’s practicing rooms, and Mrs. Hudson’s private quarter. There is even a china toilet in the attic.
I was a little bummed that there were no red dressing slippers with tobacco tucked inside in the parlor. However, the true “treat” of the museum – and what I am beginning to sense is a very British sense of humor – are the wax-like figures recreating some of the more exciting moments in Holmes’s career.
It truly defies (or perhaps defiles) the vocabulary.
After meandering around the Sherlock Holmes Gift Shop for a while, and wondering why on earth I should pay 35 pounds for a pipe that isn’t even real, I decided my venture would be to the Victoria and Albert Museum. So I looked at my map. And I looked at the little bus guide map. And back at my map. And I thought ‘where the heck am I?’ And I looked back at the bus map. Eventually I realized the V & A museum was located on the other end of the city. Not going to happen. So I figured, why not pick whatever seems closest? Like….
And turns out….it would have been about the same distance to get to the V & A museum. That’s a lot of walking. I got especially confused somewhere around the University of London. HOWEVER…..I did arrive! And I got to see…
Bam! Statues of sitting Sakhmet. And…
And a bunch of Assyrian stuff, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The Rosetta Stone was cool, and all the Egyptian mummies were nice, but the Assyrian statues were my favorite because they were unique.
Plus, how can you not respect the ‘stash?
Always a bummer when a random, animal headed creature stabs you in the back
And you thought the ones in The Mummy were bad….
I call this one ‘Buddha after Thanksgiving Dinner’
Found the Muffin Man.
I emerged from the British Museum at 3 o’clock after a slideshow like experience of everything, completely exhausted. The next ten minutes were subsequently spent in staring at my map. And back at the bus map. And back at my map. And deciding to walk again. I initially played with the idea of trying to make it to Charles Dickens’s London house, but I wasn’t sure I would make it in time. And then I thought ‘wait….I have to catch my bus back to Oxford. And I don’t know if they pick up from Baker Street.’
In fact, the only place I knew for sure they picked up from was the Victoria Cross Station. At the bottom of my map. I was at the top of my map. So I started walking. I figured I could find a bus that would take me the rest of the way. I didn’t. I figured the subway would make sense. I walked instead. I saw a whole lot of London! Crossed Buckingham Palace and the Queen Victoria memorial. Walked down the Mall. Took a random side trip down Birdcage Walk before I realized that was in the opposite direction. I passed The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, and a random bagpiper. It was great…and absolutely exhausting. I arrived at the bus stop closer to 6. London is a lovely city…but you see, I’m rather London-ed out tonight!
Planning to spend tomorrow doing more local things, like visiting Oxford’s own free museum. Apparently it has a dodo bird! I’ll keep you all updated.
Here is a picture of me with our new flatmate….Chris!
And another random picture…. of teatime! I do rather like this tradition.