Thursday, July 2, 2015

London Day 2: Lost and found and some very old sights

England Day 7

London Day 2: On the agenda today was the Magna Carta exhibit at the British Library (930am), the Museum of London, and whatever else struck our fancy.

We left the apartment and made our way to Victoria Station to catch the District Line to King’s Cross for the British Library.  It was rush hour so very crowded and fast moving.  Husband and I approached the turnstile to tag in and looked around for nephew but he was missing.  We immediately stopped and searched for him in the crowds.  He was nowhere to be found.  The station attendants noticed our distress and helped by announcing his name over the loud speakers.  He didn’t respond.  Our cellphones were not enabled for use in London so we couldn’t call or text.  

After a few minutes, I went through and got off at the next station but he wasn’t there (that had been the plan).  I came back to Victoria defeated.  Husband had waited at Victoria and no nephew.  By now I was crying.  I mean, what could be worse than to lose your nephew in London!  The station manager took me inside the office and put out a call to King’s Cross (our end destination) in case he had arrived there.  He had not.  She took his name, description, etc. to have the station attendants keep an eye out for him.  He was wearing a distinctive t-shirt (bright purple, “Geaux Engineering” slogan).  It was now about 30 minutes since we lost him.  Husband and I were about to head back to the apartment to see if he was there.  

As we walked out of the office, here comes nephew with a station attendant!  That purple Geaux Engineering t-shirt had worked!  Nephew said his Oyster Card did not have enough money on it so he veered off to top it up.  Then he didn’t see us.  He heard them calling his name but didn’t understand the direction to speak with a station attendant.  Then he went through and got off at the next station but didn’t see me so came back.  He was on his way to the apartment when the station attendant stopped him.  Whew!  This aunt and uncle were seriously relieved.  We agreed not to tell his mother until he could do so in person—she’d pass out hysterical.  Nephew was impressed that I didn’t fall apart, lol.   This is where I first wished we’d bought him a 7 day Travel Card too, instead of the “top me up all the time” Oyster.  Live and learn.

The station attendant looked at nephew’s Oyster and saw that he had open rides and had been charged the max per day.  He closed out the open rides and, with a healthy balance, we went on our way to the British Museum.   Our lessons learned were threefold: make sure the Oyster has enough money; if lost, stop and speak to a station attendant; know your end destination,  go there and wait if separated.  This was a really rough start to our day.

We arrived at King’s Cross station with no further drama.  We were all calmer by now.  The Magna Carta exhibit was our next object.  I love the Treasures Room at the British Library but it’s not something that really appealed to husband or nephew, so this way my way of getting them there (sneaky, I know).   But we all were interested in learning more about the Magna Carta and its legacy.  The exhibit was well done and very comprehensive.  I think it took a good hour, at least, to get through it all.  We all liked it.  I particularly liked being able to put the history in context of other countries.  It was well worth the time and effort to see.

Afterwards we visited the free and magnificent Treasures Room.  Just FYI, if you visit during the Magna Carta Exhibit you won’t be able to see the Library’s copy of that document without paying.  But there are so many incredible books, music, scribblings, objects in this room that it’s indescribable.  I spent a good while looking at Mozart's, Beethoven's, Handel's and other composers' scores and listening to the music accompanying the display.  I read passages of Persuasion in Jane Austen’s own handwriting (yup, tears.  Even now just writing this I get teary-eyed).  Her precious private little desk was there too.  The illuminated manuscripts.  The bibles.  The maps.  All of it, precious and priceless.  This is a place I want to return to again and again.

We then went out into the lobby area to see the embroidered Magna Carta wikipedia page which was super cool.  That required a lot of patience to complete!  Well done.

We were hungry by now so we just grabbed sandwiches in the café.  Nothing special except for the fact I was eating by the stacks.  At one point, a librarian was shelving a book so had moved stacks out of the way and I could see inside this sanctum.  I told nephew “I could live in there” and he looked at me like I was crazy.  Lol.

I could live in these stacks

We left the Library and walked over to St. Pancras, which is just gorgeous.  I love how its ornate Victorian outside gives no clue that the inside is all modern and new.  Beautiful.  Made me miss the Harry Potter movies.  We didn’t search for Platform 9 ¾ because nephew wasn’t interested and we’d done that last time we were in London.  I teased husband and nephew that we could take the Eurostar to Paris—surprisingly, neither was totally opposed.  Of course we didn’t do it—way too pricy on the spur of the moment (and I’ll get my Paris fix in October).

St. Pancras is so pretty
My poor attempt at a panoramic shot
King’s Cross has trains going everywhere so we decided it was time for the Museum of London and caught the Metropolitan line there.  I was particularly interested in seeing this Museum because I wanted to better understand London’s origins.  It’s free and wasn’t crowded, except for some school groups that were kind of adorable.  

The Museum starts in pre-history then the Romans and onwards.  I loved seeing the maps of the original Roman City and what we have now.  How Londinium has grown!  They had Roman artifacts on display that were not as well preserved or as impressive as those we’ve seen in museums in Rome but significant because they were found in London.  I really enjoyed this section. 

 Also interesting and enjoyable were the displays about London before the great fire of 1666 and the rebuilding afterwards.  The video with people reading letters from the time of the fire over scenes of how the fire started and spread was very well done.  The displays and video about the plagues were gruesomely fascinating.  The Victorian stores and the gardens at Vauxhall were two of my favorite displays.  I like feeling immersed in the period and these two displays did that well.  The timeline of London’s development was fascinating.  We noticed that the Metropolitan tube was the first line in 1863.  I wasn’t as interested (or maybe was just tired at this point) in the more modern London displays.  But toward the end they had a display about the Lord Mayor with his carriage as the major feature.  It was fairytale princess cool!

London timeline

These boots were made for walking!

Lord Mayor's carriage
It's fit for a princess
They were showing Wimbledon in the café so we had coffee and a snack and watched the tennis for a bit.  But I was not about to let the grass grow under our feet and herded husband and nephew to nearby St. Bartholomew the Great, founded in the 1100’s.  It is the oldest church in the London because it survived the Great Fire.  There’s not really much left of the original church (the centuries have a way of doing that) but we took our time reading the provided brochure and Green Guide about its history.  We were all fascinated by the fact that Ben Franklin worked in the Lady Chapel as a journeyman printer.  I wouldn’t go out of my way to stop at St. Barth’s but it was definitely worth a few minutes (and the small fee that helps keep it running).
St. Bartholomew the Great
Entrance to St. Bartholomew the Great

It's very old

All tourist attractions were now closed and husband and nephew breathed a sigh of relief.  Nephew requested more tennis so we asked some nice folks at the Rising Sun where we could find a pub with TV’s.  They sent us to  the Sports Bar and Grill Farringdon but gave vague directions.  We ask a couple of guys who were standing outside of St. Bart’s pub where the Sports Bar was and they sent us in the right direction.  One of the guys had been in New Orleans two weeks before and enjoyed his time there—that’s always nice to hear!

We made it to the Sports Bar and it could have been anywhere in the States.  Lots of TV’s tuned to Wimbledon.  Nephew was happy.  He likes tennis and TV a lot.  I think nephew got a burger and we all shared the chips.  After a while, we headed back to the Barbican tube stop.  As we were passing the Rising Sun, the guys from earlier asked if we’d found the Sports Bar.  We decided to stop there for drinks.  They had wifi so we called the family back home.  We chatted with a grandmother, son and granddaughter who were touring England.  I couldn’t tell who planned their trip but they seemed a bit lost and like they weren’t having a nice time.  Made me sad for them.

Interior of Rising Sun
Eventually we decided to head back to the apartment.  Nephew was full so we left him in the apartment and wandered our “neighborhood.”  Husband noticed Sekara Sri Lankan restaurant on a side street (Lower Grosvenor Place) and we ate there.  It was our first time eating Sri Lankan food and we absolutely loved it.  The server was very helpful with choosing the dishes so we had the chicken biryani and the vegetable spring rolls appetizer.  Delicious!  We planned to return before leaving London.

It was still relatively early so we walked to Buckingham Palace and into the park a little.  We chatted with a few fellow tourists and then went back to the room and had a nice sleep.

Next:  Castle #3, another church, some pubs and Rumbelow’s Ripper

No comments:

Post a Comment