Exhibition Road – happy place for museum geeks
Our second day in London took us (inevitably) to Exhibition Road where the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum sit alongside each other. Bernie lead us straight to the dinosaurs, which was amazing, but I had to rush through it because the rest of London decided to join us. It’s a well done exhibition with an impressive range of fossils and casts, but it’s incredibly popular and the design, which forces you to travel in one direction more or less single file, can’t handle the volume of people.
The rest of the museum is much more open and pleasant to be in though, with a four colour system that helps you navigate the labyrinth. Throughout the different exhibitions there’s a strong undercurrent of climate change and human accountability. One highlight that appealed to Bernie in his professional capacity is the climate change wall:
Then of course there’s the ‘stuff in jars’ section – a favourite of many a museum nerd, and appropriately freaky! Even the alcohol proof labels are the same on the other side of the world!
The Victoria and Albert Museum is breathtaking in a completely different way to the NHM. Theirs is an entirely humanities collection, and it reminded us a lot of Moira, a colleague of ours at the Otago Museum, who was possibly born and raised in that building. If possible this place was even bigger than the NHM, and grander. Especially the massive collection of religious silver. You really felt a lot of sympathy with the Reformation in that room.
Well, we didn’t think it was possible but we overdosed on museum that day. By closing time we could barely stand we were so exhausted, but it was absolutely worth it. We learned our lesson though, and took it a little bit slower over the rest of the stay. I know that sounds like we’re prematurely ancient, but by the last hour or so at the V & A, we were unable to fully appreciate the incredible place we were because we were shattered and over-saturated. Good excuse to go back though!
The museum joy continued unabated the next day at the Tate Modern, where there were even more impressive interactives for Bernie to get excited about:
There’s nothing that warms the heart like an art historian cum web developer looking at Tate Modern interactives!
Matilda the Musical
As I mentioned in the last post, the plan was free stuff during the day and West End in the evenings. So by the end of the week we’d seen Phantom of the Opera, Wicked and Matilda, having seen Les Mis the previous trip. All astounding, genius productions, flawless at every turn. But head and shoulders above the rest, in our opinion at least, was Matilda. As two geeky children we both grew up loving the book, which is perfectly captured by the comic and musical brilliance of its Australian writer, Tim Minchin. We were a bit wary of a primary school-age cast but they were brilliant and engaging without being precious, and then there was the largely primary school-age audience, whose enthusiasm and extreme cuteness became a part of the production. If you go and see anything on the West End – go and see this, you won’t regret it!
Special Guest Appearances: Shay and the Queen
In part one of my blog about this trip I mentioned we were staying with a good friend Shay. We split our time in London between staying with him and other friends I’ll mention later. To say goodbye for now we arranged to meet near his work in the Westminster area. En route however we were waylaid by road barriers and a crowd of confused people who were expecting to be able to walk in a straight line. It turns out an elderly woman needed help crossing the road. The elderly woman being the Queen of our realm and ‘help’ involving half the police force and a few massive guns on standby. To be fair, she was opening parliament as opposed to going for a stroll. While it was slightly frustrating to have to take an underground in order to move about 50 metres, we did get to see our sovereign leader as she drove past in her carriage, and I feel like if you’re going to live in the UK you should probably see the Queen, right?
Our final West End experience for the week was one I’d really been looking forward to because it meant some quality time with two of my oldest friends. Yani (aka Natalie) and Robyn both live in London these days, after experiencing the same unique educational experience as myself. They’d also both just had birthdays so we took them out to this epic musical. Robyn has seen basically everything, and Wicked is no exception, but being a girl after my own heart she was only too happy to go again. After a Borough Market bought extravaganza for dinner with another Dunedin expat who is making London more awesome by her presence, Harriet, and a slightly stressful walk that was 10% looking at maps and 90% making fun of Sarah, we made it in time by about 1 minute. Wicked most certainly deserves all the hype it gets, green skin may yet become a fashion. Something about hanging out with school friends reminds me to enjoy the good bits about being a grown up, like London shows or drinking plenty of bubbly!
We fit a decent amount into our week in London, but it was much less squished than our initial two day trip, and knowing we are within easy reach meant afford to relax a bit. To finish off I’ll just stick in these highlights that I highly recommend for anyone planning a trip to London who has a very small budget and a willingness to be squished on a tube or two.
There’s Daunt Books – a magical, time-sucking land for book lovers:
Which is only a couple of blocks walk away from 221B Baker Street, where I forced Bernie to embrace the fact that he looks like Benedict Cumberbatch:
Regent’s Park, which is much smaller than Kew but it has paddleboats which is a definite plus:
And this in turn is right beside the famous Lord’s Cricket Club. Just a warning, these two attractions in combination will make you use phrases like “toodle-pip” and “jolly marvellous” for the rest of the day. Don’t panic, it will wear off.
So cheerio and toodle pip for now!