Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lovely London

Tuesday I headed to somewhere I'd been past several times, the National Gallery. This is another site that takes a full day to get close to taking in everything. It has a very nice collection, although not as vast as some other places I've been to. Highlights included Holbein's The Ambassadors, with space off to the right to properly view the skull that's there just because Holbein wanted to show off, a few da Vincis and Raphaels, and a bunch of other stuff that obviously wasn't that memorable to me.

Wednesday, continuing the art theme, I went to the Tate Modern, which I did not enjoy anywhere near as much as the National Gallery. The items collected at the Tate did not appeal to me as much. A few of them were interesting concepts, but don't really stand out as art. One example of this was a room containing two tables with bits and pieces on and around the tables, much as if the artists had brought in the tables from their garage. Only on overhearing a staff member telling some other visitors did I learn the whole thing was moulded plastic and painted. Certainly a lot of technical skill went into it, but it hardly inspires the soul.

I left the Tate about 1ish, and walked along the Thames towards the Tower of London. Along the way I stopped at Wagamama for lunch, and had some excellent chicken raman (the best I've had outside of Japan). Continuing along the river I stopped in for a quick look at Southwark Cathedral (I've been informed the o and the w are silent), and opposite the tower came across the HMS Belfast, a light Cruiser that saw service in WWII, the Korean War, and around the world in peace time. Wandering through it was quite interesting, although at times confusing as they were in the process of changing the tour route and in places the signs and rooms did not match where the audio guide was saying to go. I timed my finish of the tour well, as I was heading through the last sections as they started closing for the day. While on the aft deck preparing to leave, I got to see the Tower Bridge raised to let a boat pass underneath. At the souvenir shop I bought a WWII ship spotters deck of cards and a tot of naval rum (interesting fact: a daily allowance of rum was standard aboard Royal Navy ships until the 31st of July 1970). I then crossed the Tower Bridge and walked along the Thames back to Canary Wharf, which took around an hour and a half.

On Thursday I again caught the tube to Southwark station near the Tate, but this time I crossed the river to meet up with David from Monday night who had kindly offered to let me use one of his company's passes to visit St Paul's Cathedral. With the pass I walked a few blocks to the cathedral and spent a few hours exploring it. I couldn't go all the way to the top of the dome as that was closed, but I did get a nice view of London from as far up as I could go. There were a lot of famous people buried in the catacombs beneath, including Admiral Nelson, The Duke of Wellington, Christopher Wren (the architect of the current incarnation of St Paul's) and numerous memorials to fallen soldiers in plenty of wars.

After I finished at the cathedral, I tried to return the pass to David to save having to return to this section of town again, but could not get in touch with David before my phone's battery died. After a late lunch I found the Bank of England museum and explore it for a while. It was alright, but aimed at a younger audience (specifically one unfamiliar with the concept of inflation).

Dinner that evening was at a fancy restaurant that because it lost its Michellin star had decided to offer up five course meals for 20 pounds, although the courses weren't really big. About eight of us went, and it was a pleasant evening. Definitely the first time I've had a five course meal.

On Friday I returned to the district around St Paul's to return the pass to David. After that I visited Samuel Johnson's house, which was interesting but I shouldn't have paid extra to take photos. After that I made a short visit to the Museum of London, which covers London's history from the days when mammoths and lions roamed the area to today. After going through the ancient history and Great Fire sections, I went on a guided tour which had a health and medicine theme. The most interesting item this tour showed off was a prehistoric skull which had had a hole scraped into it and the person then went on to live for several years after the procedure.

I left town early that afternoon as I had to pack for the weekends adventures.

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