London - bye!August 28, 2015 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C
Leaving London and the UK to start the European part of my trip.
After Bletchley Park I made my way to stay with Diane and Luke - thanks so much for having me! For my last full day in London I decided to cram in the two things I had been meaning to do but hadn't managed yet: Greenwich and the British Museum. As an added bonus I got to hang out with Diane all day as she came along too (solid effort after coming back from Japan yesterday)!
To get to Greenwich we took a tour boat down the Thames (pro tip: 50% off voucher is online), providing a different view and commentary on many of the landmarks I'd seen before. Greenwich itself was a nice little town, and it's only a short walk up the hill to the observatory/museum/vantage point where the meridian line (#2) is drawn. I'm still a little hazy on how places claim to be the first in the new day on the west of that line, given that GMT+12 exists...
The museum/observatory itself was not free(!) and maybe I've been spoiled but it didn't look worth the price.
On to a much bigger and freer museum, the British Museum. Huge museum with tons to see - kind of an odd selection of artefacts collected from around the world. We were a bit limited on time so we just looked at the Egyptian, Greek, and Japanese sections mostly. The Rosetta stone was crowded but there was a replica in another section that you could actually touch and see up close. Lots of other cool Egyptian stuff like Cleopatra's mummy & coffin. The Greek section was mostly broken pieces of the Parthenon, a bit disappointing after the beautiful marble carvings in the V&A. The building itself had a very unique architecture too.
Whew, busy last day!Read more
Went to see the now-famous (once top secret) wartime codebreaking center. There's actually quite a bit to see around the site and I think I spent a bit too long following around the audio guide (of the outdoors) instead of looking at the displays indoors.
Most impressive was the working rebuilt replica Bombe (electro-mechanical-)machine, designed (but not built) by Alan Turing, to break the German enigma codes in WW2. Also interesting were the restored huts in which the codebreakers worked.
I didn't realise until the end that there was a separate National Museum of Computing next door (that is separate because of an ongoing spat between the organisations). They had a separate entry fee and a replica Colossus (the first actual programmable electronic digital computer), also used for codebreaking. Unfortunately by the time I realised this there wasn't time to see it :(
I did stumble upon an interesting little exhibit on radio, including amateur radio station, near the exit. It was inside Bletchley Park so free bonus!Read more
Another rainy day, another museum... only half of London had the same idea (#1). Even though there wasn't anything stopping people getting in besides how packed the front room was, there was a massive line outside. Luckily the rain paused while I was in line!
Right inside, there's an almost-complete stegosaurus fossil (#2), awesome! There was also a huge line inside to get into the dinosaur exhibit (#3). You can also see in that photo that it's quite a beautiful building, too.
And HEAPS of other stuff. (#4 is a whole large room full of different minerals / gemstones, #5 is a ~1500yo giant sequoia with rings labeled for historic events).
Half an hour before closing time I lined up for the dinosaur exhibit, having rushed through some bits and missed other entire sections. Always cool, the dinosaurs did not disappoint (although I thought the earth/volcanoes/earthquakes section was just as good). I particularly like these fossil teeth where you can see serrations on the edge. Unfortunately I didn't make it through the whole exhibit (going was slow because it was super packed) before the museum closed and they ushered everyone out.
All up 4 hours spent and needed more time! I should have woken up earlier!Read more
Seeing as it was raining, I decided to see a museum. This one wasn't even very crowded (in relative London terms).
Great museum, mostly of artistic stuff throughout history. I particularly loved the superbly detailed marble statues (#1. Valor crushing Cowardice, #2. Neptune and Triton, #3. Ceres, goddess of agriculture, oak).
I never knew how large Michelangelo's David was (#4, a plaster cast of the original).
There was also other interesting stuff. #5: a lamp made out of concrete, bronze circuitry, LEDs, and dandelion heads. #6: Edward Snowden's laptop, destroyed after it held the leaked information. Also a section about glassmaking through history.
A huge museum! I spent maybe 5 hours here and had to rush through some bits to see it all (although I still feel like I might've missed some stuff).Read more
Went to Camden Town, a very short tube hop from my hostel. Basically it's a big, busy street market with lots of great crafts and amazing food. The best bit was the free samples from all the food stalls (student instincts in full effect - I sampled everything, some twice). Very cool stuff (although I didn't buy anything because I don't want to carry it for two months).
Then it rained. Time to make an exit.Read more
Glorious sunny up to 30° day (predicted rain for the next week) so, making the most of it, I rode a bike around Hyde Park. Turned out to be an excellent option because there are paved paths and it's almost flat, although you're restricted to just a few paths in the park. Also it's huge.
There were some big crowds in places but they certainly had space to spread out (some places were almost empty too). I always like parks in cities.
Next off to the largest antique market in the world, Portobello markets. This was a long street market (plus shops too) with a focus on antique stuff. I wasn't tempted to buy anything (except food) but it was interesting to see all the weird and old stuff displayed in the stalls.Read more
Did a day trip to Oxford. What a lovely town (full of (mostly) poor students (some, the children of super wealthy families) living in overpriced, but very pretty, accommodation)!
I did a walking tour to learn a bit about the history, and saw a lot of pretty buildings, including the inside of a few colleges (each is almost a self contained university, walled off from the outside). Included the place/story where/how Lewis Carroll came up with Alice in Wonderland, and afterwards I had a pint in the pub where CS Lewis and Tolkien met for their weekly writing club.
There was also the largest single-room book collection and (although I didn't get to see it), there are multiple miles of library tunnels full of books connecting some of the main buildings.Read more
After the walking tour I wandered around and ended up at the National Portrait Gallery. Lots of past royalty and other people I didn't know. Here's:
1: a bust of Edward Elgar (I played some of his music)
3: Elizabeth II, in 1969
4: George V and Queen Mary, huge with super ornate frame
5: skeletal "gift horse", with stock tickers scrolling across the bow (temp art installation just outside), thought it was interesting
6: Canada house, on the corner of Trafalgar Square and Pall Mall, monopoly points!Read more