Day three in London was not so much full, as long. If I thought my legs were sore the day before, they were nothing compared to how they felt after a day spent at the British Museum. We started the day with the intent to return to our neighborhood’s corner bakery for pastries before catching the tube. Unfortunately, this being a Sunday, we found as we reached the corner that the bakery did not open until 11am. As it was an hour or two until 11am, we reformulated our plans. The museum was only a mile or so from our flat, so we decided to walk and find a bakery for pastries along the way. We found ourselves in the theater district before finding a suitable patisserie. We found mouth-watering pastries at Balthazar Bakery.
We walked the rest of the way to the museum after finishing our sweets. The first room in the museum we visited held treasures of Medieval Europe. I could have stayed in this room all day! I found a signant ring that once adorned a finger of Richard I, the Lionheart! And a coronation pin of Richard III’s whyte boar! To be only separated by a sheet of glass from objects worn and used by the monarchs and lords I’ve read about (Thanks to Sharon Kay Penman’s The Sunne in Splendour & Lionheart) was exhilarating! So many of the items were general to the time period, but to see Medieval artifacts traced to a specific person, and recognize the name, and know the background, was exciting!
I learned new things too. Medieval persons used to carry their own spoons with them, therefore spoons could be decorative. At the tower of London I had wondered at the jeweled ceremonial coronation spoon. I now wonder if it perhaps relates to this bit of history? I learned that the game of Chess was for teaching and sharpening the skill of strategy for medieval knights.
After guiding ourselves through the medieval and Roman European history rooms, we selected to next investigate the Greek Parthenon exhibit. My family dispersed throughout the room and I quietly and slowly explored the Parthenon exhibit at my own pace. I felt like a college student again, which was strangely peaceful and calming. I had greatly enjoyed my undergrad Ancient Civilization classes, and especially class trips to museums. Now in the Parthenon exhibit, I sometimes found myself so engrossed in the history on the artifact label, I almost forgot to look up at the carved depiction on the artifact itself. Reading the words “piedmont,” “metope,” and “frieze” brought back memories of vocabulary quizzes. When I stopped a moment to take in the ripples of clothing and clearly defined actions and feelings depicted in the carved stones, I was astounded not only at the history that was before me, but at the artistry. While I contemplated this thought as I stared at the partial statue of a tired, lathered horse head two girls jumped in front of the statue and mimicked it for photographs. I wanted to tell them, “You don’t even understand the culture and history this object represents! One should be staring in awe!” Alas. Also, back in the medieval gallery I had seen a woman take a photo with a flash and the archivist in me wanted to tell her off. As the day wore on my feet hurt more and I grew tired and hungry so I grew more critical of my fellow disrespectful tourists.
Eventually we decided it was time for afternoon tea before continuing to another gallery. After refreshments we found the Egyptian artifacts gallery. Some of the partial statues had plaques that stated other parts of the statue were displayed elsewhere in the museum. I wondered at the curatorial decision for separating statue pieces. It was in the middle of the two Egyptian wings that we found the famous Rosetta Stone, and the largest crowd of tourists yet.
Bested by the museum, physically and mentally, we slowly walked to the Twinings Tea Shop.