London – Day Six

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Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four
Day Five

Day Six was all about wrapping up as it was my last day in London.  There were a few places I had left to visit so I was on a mission.  The place I’d been putting off all week – the British Museum, St. Paul’s Cathedral (pictured above), Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and Tate Modern (a stop I made for my mother who is a big fan of modern art).

First up was a visit to the British Museum.  Let me just say this….of all the places I went in London, all the times I exited a tube station, the times I left one location to walk to another….I don’t think there was even one time I didn’t walk at least 100 yards in the complete wrong direction before figuring it out.  Today was no exception.  On the plus side, I think today was my best day as far as planning my stops in regards to their close proximity.  Yay progress!

When I finally got to the museum I decided to stop at a little cafe on a joining street for breakfast.  I ordered a mushroom and cheese breakfast crepe but somehow ended up with ham and cheese.  Communication fail.  It was  still yummy though.

And here we are at the British Museum…

The British Museum was a visit I was really looking forward to.  Unfortunately I didn’t have the time to browse leisurely through the different collections so I purchased an audio tour and followed the highlights option.  Of course the big draw…..the famed Rosetta Stone.   The first stop on the tour but it was virtually impossible to get a good picture.  Every time I was around it there was a big crowd.  Obviously a big draw for the museum.

And here it is folks! 

The rest of the tour was lesser known – to me at least – exhibits.  There were some stone sculptures, ship wreck treasures, mummies…pretty much a little bit of everything.  Let’s see…..I guess my favorite would have been the sculptures I saw at the very first of the tour.

East Pediment statues

These sculptures were particularly amazing to me.  That someone, particularly in ancient times, can inject so much emotion and power into stone is extremely impressive to me.  They look so realistic – almost like they’re in motion.

After the British Museum I moved along to St. Paul’s Cathedral (pictured above).  Again, no pictures allowed inside.  I visited Westminster Abbey back on day three, and here on day six I find myself at the cathedral.  You can’t help but compare the two in your mind.  Westminster Abbey was beautiful in its way with ornate detail work everywhere you looked – the ceilings, the floors, the woodwork of the choir area, the many tombs….there was so much detail in every little thing.

In comparison, St. Paul’s Cathedral was much less ornate, however, it was my most favorite of the two.  It had beautiful mosaic murals on the ceiling, and another painted mural in the ceiling of the dome.  While there I also climbed up to the Whispering Gallery.  Before entering the stairwell leading up to the gallery they have signs posted – you are about to climb 257 steps to get there.  Walking into the stairwell, you are presented with these wide 3-inch high steps and yes, I scoffed at them.  Only 257?  Pshaw.  I got this.  So I begin the climb up the steps…..it’s about step 86 as I’ve wound my way around and around up the steps that I begin to wonder if it will ever end.  The steps are winding around a giant stone column so you never see exactly where you’re going – just the stone column and the stone steps – and I’m telling you, those wide 3-inch high steps that I scoffed at earlier were paying me back big time.

By the time I finally reach the Whispering Gallery I’m panting like a dog and convinced my death is near.  I walk part way around the dome to find a seat by myself – only because I don’t want anyone to hear my embarrassing breathing.  First I stand against the rail looking down upon those awesome mosaic murals, and looking up at the painted ones.  I’m only 5’1″ so standing at the rail that had to be about 4’9″ high, I felt like a 5 year old standing on tip toes peering over with only my eyes visible.

When I’ve almost caught my breath I sit on the stone bench that surrounds the dome.  Suddenly I’m startled by a voice in my ear asking, ‘Can you hear me?’  I flip my head over to see whose lap I almost sat on to see no one.  Oh Dear Lord, I really did die!  The angels are speaking to me, Lord!   It took me a few seconds to realize I was not in fact dead, but a young couple are whispering to each other across the dome.  I should probably be ashamed by that story because I was in the Whispering Gallery.  Duh.  However, the nearest person to me was probably 10 feet away and that voice literally sounded like someone was whispering directly in my ear.  I’m justified, right?  lol

You can of course climb another set of steps to another level but possibly due to my near-death experience, I opted instead to climb back down the stairs and finish up my tour of the cathedral so I could head over to The Globe theatre.  It’s not official without one, so another 100 yard false start I finally get on my way.

This was actually taken on my way back, as you can see St. Paul’s dome in the center there, but let’s pretend, shall we?

A short jaunt across the Millenium Bridge through incredibly strong winds, you practically arrive at the doorstep of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.  If you read my day two entry, you know I’m a fan of Shakespeare’s work so I was naturally excited about touring the remake of his theatre.

Opened in 1997, this is the remake of Shakespeare’s Globe – an exact replica.

I was pretty disappointed I didn’t catch a show there.  I think they perform plays mainly in the summer months and of course my trip was a little early for that.  The tour was interesting though and I’m so glad I went.

Next I went to Tate Modern just next door and oh my, were my eyes opened to modern art.  I walk in to the industrial building on the “second” floor.  I don’t know what it is about art galleries but they bring out the world’s worst cynic in me almost immediately.  So of course walking in the door to discover you must walk down steps to the ground floor in order to get on an escalator that will go directly to the third floor was just what I needed to start my tour out right.  Strange just for the sake of being different.   And here we go!

Heading to the steps I look to my left and there’s a giant box made of what could possibly be train box cars 3 high and 3 wide, on stilts.  It’s a “sculpture”.  If you walk to the opposite end, it is open for you to walk up the ramp into this giant black box.  It is interesting in the way a science experiment is interesting.  It plays with your depth perception.  So not a total wash.

Next I head over to the escalators and ride on up to the third floor.   The gallery begins innocently enough with abstract art.  I saw one of Kandinsky’s paintings – he is one of my favorites – and a few Picasso’s and then one big one by Henry Matisse.  Of course abstract art is pretty relative so there are some that I’m pretty sure I may have drawn in elementary school at some point, but there was also some impressive pieces.  I wind my way around and there’s a room with giant white canvasses painted with red swirlies.  Inside that room is an entrance to another exhibit.

I have a teensy bit of trouble with my attention span so I do a lot of skimming without paying much attention – in one ear and out the other?  Yeah, that’s me.  So I skim the information on this artist and ‘Oh!  I didn’t know Paul McCartney did art too!’ so I enter to see what Mr. Beatle himself has been up to in the art world…..  Short hallway into a viewing room and there’s a video playing….it has three different panels at the same time….Panel 1 is a naked man bouncing around with boxing gloves on…..Panel 2 is a close-up of a blindfolded woman with vomit slowly dripping out of her mouth…..needless to say, I did not make it to Panel 3.  I turn around and exit the exhibit wondering what the hell kind of drugs Paul McCartney has gotten himself into when I get back to the information and realize it’s not Paul McCartney but Paul McCarTHY.  Thank Heavens Mr. Beatle is still Mr. Beatle.

I exit the rooms and I walk across the hall to another room.  This one holds photograph art.  Turn to my right and there is a series of four small, framed pictures.  Picture 1 is a man in a white butcher or doctor’s coat with something dark all over him holding something…an organ of some kind?  Over to Picture 2 and the same man in the same coat with a little less darkness on it and a bigger organ…is that blood?  On to Picture 3 and you realize it was indeed blood….from a fawn’s carcass that is hanging from meat hooks while he mutilates it.  Lovely.  I did not make it to Picture 4.

And so brings an end to the short and tentative relationship between myself and Tate Modern.  The two of us apparently have very different opinions on what qualifies as art and what qualifies as ‘someone-obviously-needs-to-be-committed-to-a-mental-institution-pronto’.  I find my way back to the escalator-that-skips-the-second-floor-for-no-good-reason and ride back down to the ground floor so I can climb the steps back up to the exit.  I do make a stop by the gift shop and buy a book for my mother.  Syonara, Tate Modern.

And so ends Day Six in London…my final day of vacation.  Highlights of today was the British Museum, and my near-death experience in the Whispering Gallery.

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