Robin grew up in London and I've been there a few times before, but we made a deliberate choice to live in a small village this year, not the city. However we've had a terrific time on our first three trips to London, and hope to make many more. We are very appreciative of any recommendations for sights, restaurants, and activities from anyone who has visited recently!
On a rainy Wednesday last week we met Jim and Eileen for an Italian dinner and a play in the West End (similar to Broadway for shows in New York, though nothing matches the glitz of Times Square!). We chose "Dr. Semmelweis." It's about the Hungarian doctor who first realized that hand-washing in hospitals could prevent deadly infections (mid-1800's). It was special to see the noted actor Mark Rylance star in the show. Frankly though I'm more a fan of musicals! Will catch a few more shows while here.
On Saturday Jim and Robin went to a Premier League Football game. Robin grew up as a Fulham supporter, and enjoyed seeing his home team, albeit away at Crystal Palace. The teams played to an exciting 0-0 draw (I'm being ironic, but Robin and Jim assured me it was a superb game!)
Meanwhile Eileen and I took a long walk through London's Hyde Park and then around the upscale Carnaby Street shopping area, complete with a traverse of the 7-story toy emporium, Hamleys. (According to publicity, "Hamleys is the oldest and largest toy shop in the world and has been an icon of Regent Street since it opened in 1881.") Along the way we enjoyed seeing a few monuments plus the boats on the enormous urban lake known as "The Serpentine" in the park.
On Monday we dropped off Jim and Eileen at Victoria Station for their train to Gatwick and flight home to Boston. As luck would have it, more friends from Boston were in London, and we made our way to the British Museum for an afternoon with Larry and Cheryl. (Yes sharp readers, the one and same Edinburgh Cheryl!!)
I'm NOT a museum person, but a couple of you have suggested hiring a guide to enhance the sightseeing experience. We decided to give it a try. Dr. Lawrence Owens is an archaeologist who enlightened and entertained us for a whole afternoon. He's a great story-teller as well as an expert in ancient civilizations.
The British Museum contains artifacts from around the world and describes its purpose as: "to document the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present." It contains 8.5 million items, and according to Wikipedia, "the right to ownership of some of its most well-known acquisitions, notably the Greek Elgin Marbles and the Egyptian Rosetta Stone, is subject to long-term disputes and repatriation claims."
Now Dr. Owens: we were so wrapped up in your stories of how the artifacts related to ancient cultures, that we totally forgot to see either of the above!
A year or two ago we watched a movie called "The Dig" starring Ralph Fiennes as a British archaeologist. In this true story, Basil Brown made an amazing discovery of 18 royal burial grounds dating from the 7th century at a site called Sutton Hoo. The graves were rich with treasure, and the most amazing burial was in a great ship. All its artifacts are now at the British Museum. We highly recommend this movie and hope to visit Sutton Hoo this year. Meanwhile it was cool to see the treasures recovered from the site.