Saturday, May 6, 2017

London Vacacay, Outing 7: Afternoon Tea and the British Museum!

The theme of the day was to be as British as possible. To that end, we had a home-cooked breakfast that included tea and crumpets.

Strawberry jam on toasted crumpets with Irish butter and tea (and scrambled eggs, if you must know)
I'll tell you more about the place we stayed in another post, I promise. Suffice to say we felt British going out the door, and knew that the day would provide more opportunities to enhance that feeling.

We only had two touristy things on our agenda today: Afternoon Tea, and the British Museum. Before we got to either, however, I have to mention that we stopped in a local bookshop. I had planned to look for a travel bookshop in Notting Hill, but settled for an English Literature bookshop near the British Museum instead. This was, indeed, a proper book shop, as most of the books were in the $500 US range. In fact, the door was closed and locked. We wouldn't have made it inside at all if we hadn't been loitering there when another couple actually knocked, pointed at a book in the window, and managed to convince the cashier that they wanted to buy it, which forced him to open the door.

No, I didn't find a book that I felt was worth the price. Quite the opposite, in fact. Most of the books looked like ratty old college textbooks from the early 20th century that universities were trying to get rid of. Now, somehow, they're rare and collectible. I'll stick with the Internet for now, thank you.

Afternoon Tea

A block past the bookshop was our Afternoon Tea appointment at Tea and Tattle. Yes, you have to make reservations for Afternoon Tea. At least, that was the case at our venue. Typically, Afternoon Tea starts around 4:00 p.m. We decided to have it earlier, serving as a light lunch.

The tea consisted of several components. First was the setting itself, which wasn't as cheery as I'd hoped, and was in the room leading directly to the kitchen. The other room was connected to the bathrooms, so there was no ideal seating. We were hoping for a garden seating, but this venue doesn't have a garden at all. I didn't let it bother me.

The second was the tea set, which was made of a lovely bone china.

When in doubt, pinky out!
Third is the tea. I had a nice Earl Grey, and Tanya enjoyed a Jasmine Green. I assure you they were proper English leaves (or at least British... or at least former British Empire...).

Fourth is the food, traditionally including a sandwich and scones. Optionally, a pudding is included, and those of you that know me can guess whether or not I opted in. ;) My sandwich was a banana/walnut/honey affair, while Tanya had a slightly more traditional salmon and cucumber. Scones and clotted cream and jam were had, and a flakey dessert finished the experience.

Despite the picture above, my upper lip was SO STIFF by the time we left that I felt like I needed to prefix everything I said with "Oh, I say..."

British Museum

We entered the British Museum with great anticipation and some slight trepidation. Remember how I said the weather was good? Well, it was even better on this day.

Don't let that hoodie fool you. It was 80F.
You don't see the crowds, do you? Well, look over Tanya's shoulder here.

Time for a selfie!
That is the barest hint of the crowds we saw that day. Westminster was smaller, so it probably seemed more crowded, but I suspect there were FAR more people here than there.

The British Museum is vast, like the Tate Modern, except filled to overflowing with interesting exhibits from all over the world. We signed up for the guided tour (of course) and, after waiting for a few minutes, were underway.

As with the other guided tours, this one was quite long (more than 90 minutes), and yet only covered a relatively small fraction of everything at the museum. I'll show a few highlights, with links to more information.

The Lewis Chessmen
I've always liked chess, even though I'm not very good at it. I've also been intrigued about its origin and migration from the far east to western Europe. Our guide told us the story, but I'll let you look it up for yourself. :-)

The David Vases
No one knew how to make porcelain like the Chinese. Theirs was durable and beautiful. For example, the ones pictured here are approximately 750 years old, and the only bits that have broken off them are the handles (which were re-attached). These vases are some of the most famous blue and whites in the world.

Younger Memnon
There's a large collection of Egyptian relics in the museum. By the way, don't let the perspective of this picture fool you.

It's actually COLOSSAL!
In the most remote section of the museum, a fine collection of Japanese artifacts is on display. I couldn't not look at them, even though they weren't on the tour.

"Instructions on how to become a Samurai: 1) be born a bad-ass..." I stopped reading after that.
The most famous relic in the museum is probably the Rosetta Stone, of which we weren't able to get a good picture. There was a constant crowd of people around it. The tour took us by an exact replica that they've made so that people can touch it and get close-up looks at it. It's really interesting to consider that so much of what we know today about our past is pure luck, that if things had gone differently here or there we might never be able to understand about Uruk or the Pharaohs...

This was the last of our adventures for the day, and I must say that I felt like we'd accomplished the British Feeling goal in spades. Tomorrow's plan was pretty laid back, but included three (potentially) cool stops: Borough Market, Sky Garden, and Hyde Park. Stay tuned to see if the good times continued to roll!

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