I’m starting to do that thing where I’m falling so far behind on updates, it’s getting overwhelming. Or maybe it’s because I don’t feel quite ready to wrap up an incredible year abroad.
During the year that I was in London, I accrued a fairly long and random bucket list of places to see and things to do. Before I knew it, I only had two weeks left! And by then, it was time to graduate, and pack up, and close bank accounts, and do a final trip around Switzerland…. so I didn’t get to cross everything off the list. All the more reason to go back at the first opportunity!
LONDON BUCKET LIST
Imperial War Museum
St. Christopher Street
Sir John Soane Museum
Camden Lock & Camden Market
Columbia Road Flower Market
Hampstead & Hampstead Heath
Greenwich & Royal Observatory
White Cliffs of Dover
Oxford and/or Cambridge
The Imperial War Museum
The Imperial War Museum was completely overwhelming, from the moment you walk in to the weight that lingers on your mind long after you leave. There is just so much stuff housed here–and it’s all so heavy. Weapons, uniforms, propaganda posters, ration cards, civilian artefacts. The Holocaust exhibit was especially harrowing, and I ran out of time before I could see the genocide exhibit. Truth be told though, it probably would have been too much to handle in one day.
To my surprise, I really enjoyed my visit to the Tate Modern. I’ve passed by it so many times, and even been inside the building several times, without visiting the free exhibits. You see, my experience of modern art has been less than positive because a lot of the time I don’t understand it, and it’s often curated without enough explanation. I attribute it to a certain snobbery–you’re either in the know, or you’re out. And so especially when it costs $20 for a visit to the MoMA in NYC, you don’t want to pay up just to feel small.
But the Tate was great; there’s a permanent free exhibit, and it’s very obviously curated for the general public, perhaps especially students. The lengthy descriptions of each piece that explain the work, the artist, the context in which he/she worked… all very helpful. In short, the Tate made modern art feel accessible for the first time, and I really appreciated the experience.
I guess this is an uplifting way to remind people to count their blessings? Or maybe slightly judgmental, depending on how you read it.
And after consuming a little art, it was also of course necessary to consume tea and scones at the Tate Cafe!
St. Christopher’s Place
St. Christopher’s Place is a teeny tiny little alleyway that I often passed by while taking the bus down Oxford St. From the main street, you can barely even see what you’ll find after you wedge through the narrow entrance between the buildings. I was always so curious!
It’s a revived area, through a recent redevelopment project, to bring boutique shopping and dining to a once-dead street practically hidden from view.
Now it bustles and brims with color and activity. Well done.
The British Museum
Check out that cloudy haze behind the building. ALL OF JULY WAS LIKE THIS IN LONDON. Ugh.
I love London’s free national museums. It does mean that the museums are incredibly crowded, but making art and history accessible to the public is a tradition that I really admire. I won’t get all political about you know how all the artifacts in this museum came to be here…
The Rosetta Stone. On the right, pieces of an enormous marble statue with a disproportionately powerful fist. Cuz that’s how pharaohs roll.
Cuneiform! And Assyrian carvings depicting a royal lion hunt. They’re so dynamic, the arrows look like they’re really in flight.
Olympic gold! Oo la laa..
Touristy Things with Mom
These weren’t on the bucket list, but I went back to these places with Mom while she was visiting in London:
St. James’ Park
Tower of London / Tower Bridge
We also went to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square–twice! The place is so massive, and so many masters all in a row. I love Impressionism especially, so I spent a good long while with Monet, Degas, Renoir, Pissarro, Manet… and on to Van Gogh, Toulouse-Latrec…. dreamy. I should have stopped by here at least once a week… or, truly, at least once a month. Regret!!! Someday, I’ll be back.
Public art in Trafalgar Square (and everywhere)
If I’d had more time, I would have done a photo series on the fun public art that popped up all around London in preparation for the Olympics. Especially popular were the souped up phone booth creations in wacky shapes, colors and forms. Here in Trafalgar Square is one that looks like Big Ben, and one that looks like the hideous Olympic mascot.
The London Eye
I’ve seen it many times, but only ridden it once! Hello, London.
A splash of color tucked deep in a hidden alleyway. Love this place.
Well well, lots of goings-on in Greenwich. A graduation was taking place at the Old Royal Naval College, so we just barely got a glimpse of the Painted Hall (above left). But the saddest part of this trip was that, because they were building the gymnastics stadiums out here, we couldn’t go to the Royal Observatory! Major fail. I totally wanted to go and straddle the Prime Meridian Line!
From an exhibit on British trade at the Maritime Museum. This interactive display had textiles and patterns from Britain (left) and Asia (right). A little placard asks which you prefer. To which all I have to say is, thank goodness for trade with Asia! Or the British would just be wearing the dullest clothing ever.
Horatio Nelson everywhere. Above left, at the Maritime Museum, the carefully preserved uniform he was wearing when he died. Above right, his statue in front of the Trafalgar Tavern.
Well, so the fancy part at the Royal Observatory is closed, but we still got to see the Prime Meridian. Though the irony of how GB decided to dictate world time but doesn’t itself adhere to it kind of cracks me up. Imagine living in that house on the corner? Every time you cross the line, you’d have to switch time zones. Whack!
A fine way to say bon voyage to England, and set off on my journey back home.
Goodbye, London! I’ll be back before you know it–still got more than half my bucket list to attend to!