London Recap – Day 3
March 24, 2010 § Leave a comment
My third day in London was packed with tons of history, art, and walking, with a little shopping snuck in at the end. Jia and I headed to the British Museum early in the morning, where we didn’t have to pay admission (a trend we noticed at other London museums as well) and were greeted by a wise quote from Tennyson.
Much like how the Louvre in Paris has its three superstars that everyone wants to see – the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and the Winged Victory of Samothrace – the British Museum has its own three primary attractions, the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon, and a colossal bust of Ramses II.
But there’s a huge amount of other items on display that are just as interesting. For example, the first room I walked into had floor to ceiling shelves lined with ancient Greek red figure pottery. And there were very quirky, unique pieces as well. In the same wing, there was a display of the Ain Sakhri lovers figurine, the first sculpture showing a couple making love. It was constructed (very cleverly if I may say) so when looking at the figures from the front, their bodies made a heart and when looking at the figures from the side, the profile made a…well, you can figure that out from the photo.
My favorite piece, though, still had to be the Elgin Marbles. Removed from the Parthenon in Greece from 1801-1812 by the Earl of Elgin under great controversy, they are now featured in a long hall with the west and east pediment pieces on each end in their own rooms, which gives them the large amount of space and light that they deserve.
After a filling lunch of chicken tikka masala and roast beef and yorkshire pudding at Museum Tavern (literally right across the street from the museum), we took the Tube to Charing Cross station and got our fill of art at the National Gallery. As happy as I was to visit the British Museum, I was absolutely over the moon to finally see pieces like Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait, which I have been reading about since high school, Botticelli’s Venus and Mars, Van Gogh’s famous Sunflowers, and a huge number of Turners. Unfortunately and understandably, we weren’t able to take photos inside, but I guess that just means that I’ll have to visit often to see them again and again.
Since the National Gallery is located right by Trafalgar Square, we took our requisite tourist photos and then, fighting fatigue, went to the British Library. There, in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery (no photos again), we got to see an incredible number of monumental documents: the Gutenberg Bible, da Vinci’s notebooks, the original scores of Handel’s “Messiah” (which my dad would have loved) and Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March,” original lyrics of “Yesterday” written by Paul McCartney, Shakespeare’s folios, and of course, the Magna Carta to name a few.
But all this history, art, and writing eventually took its toll on my mind, so I ended the day with a trip to Oxford Circus, one of London’s main shopping districts. At Liberty, the department store with its mock-Tudor facade and history of colorful prints, there was a touching tribute to Alexander McQueen, the famous British fashion designer who recently passed away, and scarves of every size and pattern inside. But despite all the pretty things around me, I was able to hold onto my pounds for another day.