Thursday we were entirely free to roam, so Mom and I started off by heading to the British Museum. We had printed off a map at home and marked the exhibits we wanted to see, so we didn't spend any time wandering! Some might be horrified by the thought, but with SO many things to see in London, you have to cut corners somewhere... The first of the wonders we saw:
The Rosetta Stone. It was so incredible to be able to see this in real life!! Of course everyone else thought so too, hence the tourist in our picture.... ;-)
The Colossal Bust of Ramesses the Great
Assyrian statue (and exuberant Asian tourist)
The Parthenon sculpture room- we didn't realize until we got the picture back how many people were staring at us here! Slightly disconcerting....
An Easter Island statue (!) Apparently we were most impressed with the large stone sculptures...
Our next stop: 48 Doughty Street, former home of Charles Dickens and currently the Dickens House Museum
The drawing room
After exploring the museum, we started on this Dickens walking tour. First up:
Staple Inn, dating back to 1576.
From the side, so quaint!
Just on the other side of Staple Inn, a beautiful and peaceful garden. As you can tell in the previous pictures, Staple Inn is on a very busy road, but once you are in the garden you can't hear a thing! I could have stayed here all day!
Our walking tour lead us around London's Inns of Court, stopping to note places Dickens included in his books, particularly Bleak House and Great Expectations. Our directions described the beautiful gardens behind Staple Inn as "secret niches". A very good description as if you're not actively looking for the passageways to them, you could pass by 100 times and never know! We were told there would be a sign dating from Victorian London just inside the gateway that would read "The Porter Has Orders to Prevent Old Clothes Men and Others From Calling "Articles for Sale" Also Rude Children Playing and No Horses Allowed Within This Inn.", but all we saw was an empty space for it. :-( I can only hope that it was just down for repainting... On our way to Lincoln's Inn (the Inn of Court featured in BH), we passed by:
No. 15- "Mr. Snagsby's" House (Bleak House)
Inside Lincoln's Inn all was peace and quiet (and green!!).
It still houses offices for lawyers and they still have their names painted on signs like these.
The Court of Chancery!!! We were actually there!! :-D (I'm afraid only Bleak House enthusiasts will be able to understand... See Kathryn, now you need to read/watch it so you know what I'm talking about! ;-) )
After lingering about Lincoln's Inn, we ventured into the busy, noisy streets and made our way to Sir John Soane's Museum, just a block away. Sir John was an architect (he designed the Dulwich Picture Gallery) and also an avid collector. His home is fascinating (in a bizarre way) as he wanted to showcase his impressive collection of ancient stone sculptures, while using as much natural light as possible. The result is a conglomeration of skylights above, narrow hallways, and sections open to the lower level (to get natural light in there). I don't think I was a fan of the house. Kind of just looked a museum... He did have some fun stuff, though! He had a room filled with Hogarth paintings and a sarcophagus downstairs covered in hieroglyphics. The British Museum refused to pay £2000 for it, so Sir John decided to add it to his collection!
Just around the corner and past "Mr. Tulkinghorn's" House (from BH), we saw this:
While it's not the real one (and I hated the book!), we were right there, so we had to take a picture... :-)
The fountain in the Middle Temple courtyard. Dickens wrote about this courtyard in "Martin Chuzzlewhit".
Dr. Johnson's House. We aren't huge fans of his, but after reading "Cranford", we decided to walk past as it was close by. The ironic thing is that his 300th birthday was the day after we went! They were going to have free admission AND birthday cake! *sigh* Oh well, we were pretty museumed-out by then anyway...
To get to our next destination, we hopped on the tube to Southwark. While in London, we found the tube very easy to navigate (as opposed to the buses!) and relatively clean. Our first couple of trips were made using the uppermost level, but when we took the Central line, we realized why it's called that: it's practically in the center of the earth! To get to the "deep down" lines, we had to take a staircase, an escalator, more stairs, and then a huge escalator. Makes me glad I'm not claustrophobic!! Also, the farther in you go, the gustier it gets when it comes in! In the movie "Prince Caspian" I thought they were just being overly dramatic when the children got blown away to Narnia because of the incoming subway. Well, now I know that they were exaggerating, but not nearly as much as I thought!
*We were actually headed in the wrong direction when we saw these street signs, but in the name of artistic license, I think you can let it slide...
St. George the Martyr Church, and...
Our destination: the Marshalsea Prison! Lest you think we're nuts (well, more than you already do...), the Marshalsea was a debtors' prison and John Dickens (Charles' father) was imprisoned here for a short time. It is also a primary location in the book "Little Dorrit", which we both read and watched this year. Mom described this part of our day as "a sort of pilgrimage". So yeah, we enjoy traveling thousands of miles to visit prisons. What's weird about that?!?
After the walking tour, we obliged our sad feet by going back to the hotel to rest and have bread and cheese (and scones and clotted cream!) for supper. That evening we went to St. Martin in the Field's for an "Elgar's Serenade for Strings" concert, which was a lovely way to end our delightful stay in London!
Inside St. Martin's. We got this picture of the lovely interior before we realized that photography wasn't allowed. Lest you think this is a regular occurrence, it really only happened twice!!
Next up: Jane Austen's House!