Monday, August 30, 2010

In Which We Go to England: Part 7

We're now starting our final week here! This past weekend was our last, and I have started bidding things farewell as we leave them. Things are winding up, and as such, we have been busily cramming in all that we can before leaving. It will be nice on our next trip here (whenever that is) to not have our sightseeing time limited by a work schedule, but heck, we can't complain. We saw so many things this week! I will describe them to you now with words and pictures and maybe an emoticon or two.
  • We went, at last, to the British Library. Despite its modern facade, there were many impressive old things inside that, naturally, one cannot take pictures of. But we did see many original manuscripts of things like Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Alice in Wonderland and Jane Eyre. We also saw Jane Austen's writing desk, Handel's Messiah and the Magna Carta. All of these things reaffirmed my belief that most penmanship these days is pretty wretched.
  • On Wednesday we made our final foray into the theatre district to see Starlight Express. Unfortunately we were about 8 years late so we saw Wicked instead. There was a brief kerfuffle at the ticket pickup when the (always)* crabby attendant refused to accept Mr. Graham's signature as genuine, despite the fact that he has one of the most consistent signatures I've ever seen. Apparently she just wanted to make extra sure it was really Mr. Graham and not his Wicked-loving evil twin. No, really. That was the reason. ANYway, so we went to the show and it was all spectacular and the cast was good. The show itself has too many girls and too many belty girl songs for me and my ears, but Mr. Graham had a great time. It did make the effects of Phantom and Les Mis look even more dated by comparison.
  • On Thursday all three of us travelers went to the British Museum. Caity hadn't been yet, and it was a much more pleasant experience this time for us. No crowds, no sweltering heat, huzzah! This time we went upstairs and saw the rest of the Egyptian collection as well as the Anglo-Saxon things. We saw the Mildenhall Treasure, which I was pretty excited about since I recently read about it in Roald Dahl's The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More.** I was also excited to see the Sutton Hoo objects. I'm pretty sure I wrote a paper about Sutton Hoo, but for the life of me I cannot remember what it was about. I definitely remember writing a paper about this though: It was a pretty bad paper, but it was also my last and I just wanted to graduate (sorry, Dr. Finlayson, that you had to read it).
  • Friday we made another trip to the National Gallery because it was one of the few places that I really, really wanted to see again. We stayed for a few hours and I bought more postcards. When we got home we watched the last two episodes of the latest IT Crowd season, and one episode was like XD and the other was like o.O
  • Saturday started with a run and the progressed into running about from one place to another. We went to see the Marble Arch at Hyde Park, along with the giant horsehead, before going for lunch at the Orangery. Mr. Graham got the Ploughman, which we understood to be a sandwich, but we were a little bewildered as to how it all went together. We must have been feeling extravagant because we got dessert too. I got the lemon crunch cake because I was imagining candied lemon peel and some delectable frosting. Alas, it was simply pound cake with a sugar sort of topping. Mr. Graham had better luck with the Orangery cake.
  • After the Orangery, we went to Hampstead Heath, which is basically a large, wild sort of park. We tromped up and down hills and wandered through many little woodlands and felt pleasantly isolated. On the way home we stopped at Wagamama for dinner, but both agreed it was overpriced and not particularly amazing. What WAS amazing though was the most recent episode of Project Runway which we watched later. It was possibly the greatest runway judging I have seen on that show.
  • Our Sunday plans were up in the air for a long while because we couldn't decide on going to Yorkshire or not. In the end we decided not to go because the amount of train time and cost required were pretty high for the amount of time we'd be able to spend there. Next time, York, next time. Instead we hit three museums: the science museum, the natural history museum and the Tate Britain. The Science Museum was mostly a snooze, but we did check out the IMAX Deep Sea movie. I was hoping it would be a domed IMAX screen because those are the best, but it was just a bit curved. I told Mr. Graham that we will go to the St. Louis Science Center over Christmas and he will see just how cool a science museum can be (so cool)! We did have fun in the veterinary history exhibit, which was the size of a small bedroom and probably hasn't changed in 15 years.
  • The natural history museum was much more entertaining with its collections of dead creatures. The real winner of the day was the Tate Britain. It was much smaller than the National Gallery, but it was a pleasant smallness. They had a great collection that included some really lovely Pre-Raphaelite paintings, among them one of my least favorite paintings in the world, The Awakening Conscience: Blargh.
And that was our week. It was much more hustle and bustle than usual, but it was very satisfying to cross off so many things on our to-do list. This week will involve packing and sorting, but it will also include standing for Shakespeare in the Globe Theatre and more ice cream. Huzzah!

*I can say always because we have encountered her several times, and she is always sulky and unhelpful (not to mention suspicious of signatures).
**I love to recommend a few stories in this book, though there are several that I am ho-hum about and one that kind of makes me recoil. The non-fiction ones are the best: Lucky Break, A Piece of Cake and The Mildenhall Treasure. Even
(or maybe especially) if you don't like Roald Dahl, you should read those because they're quite fascinating.


  1. Sorry about your lemon crunch cake! That did sound very yummy. Pound cake doesn't mix with crunchy I think. And, yes! Definitely go to the Science Center at Christmas! It is ever so fun. Maybe they will still have the Pirates exhibit then. I hear it is very cool.

  2. What a lot we did this week! And yes, I loved Wicked, much to even my surprise. I thought the lemon crunch cake was tasty enough, but it's true it's not what we expected.

    Just a few more days!

    Your posts make me laugh out loud (that's LOL to the kids on the streets these days).

    "Snooze"... That is such a weird word.

  3. ALSO, that lady totally IS rude. Good thing I didn't really send my twin as planned, that would have been a huge problem after all.

  4. You guys are certainly using all your spare time wisely! But we are excited for you guys to come home as well, so we can hang out and hear of your tales. See you soon! Sorry to hear about the lemon cake. What a disappointment.

  5. I love your umbrella!!!!!!!!!

    And I'm very impressed that you crammed so much in this week. I do believe you're becoming almost completely British. Do you have an accent yet?

  6. I would also be disappointed about that cake. I will make you a true Lemon Crunch Cake whenever I see you next.

    I can't believe your time there is coming to an end! I don't think you'll have any regrets with all you've done.

  7. Oh, I was also going to say I love your umbrella! I forgot to add that in my first comment. It rained here yesterday and I had a blah black umbrella and your cool umbrella kept coming to my mind.

  8. You guys did so much this week! I would have been so excited to go to that library too. We are excited to see you at home though!

  9. Dahl's stories for adults are markedly different from his work for children. "Beware of the Dog" was my first introduction to his adult work; I don't think it appears in Henry Sugar.

    Did you notice that the Natural History Museum has chocolate on the ceiling?

    We spent (not enough) time in the Victoria & Albert, which has some amazing objects (particularly if you are any kind of a book geek... lots of illuminated manuscripts in the medieval section).

  10. Original TESS! BAH!!! That's awesome. GLAD you went to the Orangery, and I'm sad I was vomiting and did NOT enjoy even the orange cake, which I took one bite of. Sad. there was one more thing i was going to say but I forgot. Hmph. Oh well. Good times!

  11. Oh yes, it was PROJECT RUNWAY!! Oh MAN it was awesome. I told Jake all about it and almost made him WATCH it. OH, I love when Gretchen is made a fool of.

  12. You all are getting the very most out of your time there. Whew. You will have to rest from your trip when you get home.