The weather today and yesterday provided the ideal settings for some final sightseeing directly in the city.
Yesterday’s mild temperatures and breezy winds were comfortable and refreshing for a full day outdoors. We spent the morning touring the Tower of London, but my flatmates and I returned for a few more hours in the afternoon after lunch at our favourite pub, Wetherspoon. There is so much to see at the Tower: at various times in history, the site included a military line of defence, prison, palace, moat, torture chambers and dungeons, menagerie, jewel house, and a chapel.
During the first half of the day, the entire group completed a Beefeaters’ tour, which provided substantial insight of the Tower’s history and details of each location. We also saw the Crown Jewels in the Jewel House. While the jewels are magnificent, the video of the Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation was just as intriguing. The torture tools exhibit was not extensive at all; it simply showcased three mechanisms. While the minimalistic nature of the display disappointed many in the group, the descriptions of each were sufficient to grasp the horrific tortures that once took place in the Tower.
After lunch we returned to complete the “wall walk,” which allows visitors to walk along a footpath throughout the entire complex. Since it is connected to almost every tower, the walk was a good way to refer back to the details of the history as we saw the specific spots mentioned in first. The most interesting aspect was the engravings made by prisoners in the walls of the Tower, which included signatures, initials, statements of desperation, and Biblical references. Such personal works are the best way to grasp what really took place in the Tower of London so many years ago.
Since we were so close to the Tower Bridge, Julie and I opted to walk along the Thames and across the bridge since we had only viewed it from afar and in the boat to Greenwich. We also spent time browsing the gardens in Regent’s Park. While we had visited the park earlier in July with our flatmates, using the entrance closest to the tube station rather the one nearest our neighborhood gave us another perspective of the park since it is so expansive. The gardens are gorgeousif I had more time, I would bring a book down to the park for a relaxing afternoon or evening after work.
On our way back to the flat, we stopped at Abbey Road. Since Julie is an avid Beatles fan, Abbey Road was a must-visit location for her. We signed the wall near the studio and even stopped traffic for photos on the crosswalk!
Today was completely different in terms of weather: with rain pouring all day, there is no better place to visit than museums! We spent the late morning and early afternoon browsing the British Museum. I opted to venture on my own so I could view the exhibits on my own pace, and made it to every public exhibit, which spanned six continents.
The Enlightenment exhibit stood out the most to me, mostly because it is designed to reflect King George III’s library. Bookshelf after bookshelf surrounded the walls, and the various books were just as interesting to me as the actual displays! I especially enjoyed perusing the manuscript section, which showed how language was first interpreted through inscriptions on not only tablets and scrolls in the form of writing but also engravings on stones, amulets, rings and other precious artifacts in culture. The displays reflecting discovery of sea shells, rocks and other natural elements brought me back to my geology days, and the various instruments for calculation and measurement were also fascinating.
I particularly enjoyed viewing the Australia room with sketches and drawings throughout its history because it is not a country traditionally reflected on in a historical sense. Most of what is projected about Australia reflects pop culture and stereotypes, so I appreciated a sense of true culture and history displayed through the drawings.
The African exhibit on life and death was by far the most modern of the exhibits. In general, museums focus on the past, rather than the present living social culture. The British Museum did an excellent job blending history with current sociological and political dilemmas with the African exhibit to give a perspective of comparison.
We spent the evening viewing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II. Even though this was my second time seeing the film, I was still ecstatic because with so many intricate details, I knew I would miss things while watching it bleary-eyed at midnight. The second time around was even more fulfilling just for that reason, and seeing the film much closer to the front of the theatre provided a better viewing and audio experience. I’m impressed with the screenwriters’ and producers’ abilities to reflect the book as literally as the film did while infusing so much action and intensity. The series’ integrity was maintained throughout, with the representation of so many key characters allowing the film to provide closure in a clear and comprehensive fashion.
While our time is drawing to a close, I am looking forward to one last excursion beyond LondonStonehenge and Bath! Tomorrow Julie and I will bus to southwest Great Britain for a full day of touring the area, and we are excited to get out of the city and see another part of the country before we depart for the States. The Women’s World Cup final is also tomorrow, and I can’t wait to catch the match when we return. GO USA!