Monday, May 25, 2009

Late London


Arriving in London was a lot tougher than I thought it would be. Getting to the airport was no problem, and the flight wasn't too bad. Immigration though was hell. I thought it would be quite easy, being an Australian, to get into the UK. It was not to be. After finding the non-EU line and thinking "great" since there were only two other people using that line, I got questioned for almost half an hour by the two ladies at the desk about everywhere I'd been for the last few years, how much money I had, where I was staying, how long I was staying for, what was I going to do there, when was I leaving, did I have a ticket yet, and more. Russia was eaiser to get into than that.

But get through I did, and then it was a train from Gatwick to Canary Wharf, where I met JP, who was a more than gracious host to me during my stay. I dropped my stuff off at his place and then we went out to dinner at a French restaurant with Caroline, a friend of JP's from WA, and Andrea, JP's girlfriend. It was a nice meal with nice company and a very pleasant evening overall.

On Thursday I took a walking tour in the morning, taking in a few of the royal residences such as Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Westminster and a few other places. After the tour I met up with Caroline at Piccadilly Circus and we walked around West End towards Hyde Park and after that towards the Victoria and Albert (V&A) museum, at which we arrived 15 minutes after it closed. Having lucked out there, we caught the tube back to Trafalgar square and visited the National Portrait Gallery which opened late on Thursdays. The gallery was pretty good, and I liked most of it up until they got to the 20th century. It was here I first made the connection between the start of non-realistic painting styles kind of coincided with the invention of the camera. After the gallery we had a late dinner at an English pub. (an English pub in England? How quaint.)

On Friday I took in a few museums, starting with the science museum, which alternated between gimmicky teach stuff to kids stuff and awesome collections of historic instruments of all sorts. It has the largest collection of slide rules I've come across (and I've seen a few), a great collection of 18th century scientific instruments, a clock collection, and a few historic computers. There was also a cool art thing called the Listening Post that displayed and read out messages taken in real time from forums and bulletin boards all over the web. The "I am ..." and "I like ..." movements were interesting and amusing.

After the science museum I went across the road to the V&A museum which has an interesting and widely varied collection. It has a good oriental collection, a lot of nice statues, some art, a clothing collection, an architecture display and a lot more. The clothing display featured clothes of all sorts from various eras. I'm not sure what to make of the fact that all the people I saw sketching in that room were in front of the underwear display, or the fact that this was the only display in the museum to have tables and chairs in front of it.

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