Museum Hopping in London
Even if I had decided to spend my yesterday (Sunday, December 14) primarily relaxing in front of a computer, my weekend would’ve been rather productive – a Saturday that saw me finish second in the ParkRun (albeit belting out a slower than desired time – thanks to the rather icy course), join a small but spirited group on Briggate (a major shopping street in the Leeds City Centre) protesting police brutality and end the night by munching on delicious raw food at a potluck.
Instead, a fun weekend wasn’t limited to Saturday or Leeds. As my time in this country is winding down, it dawned on me that despite spending a fair amount of time in the capital recently, I hadn’t made time to play tourist. Furthermore, Sian (whom I met up with in Cambridge one Sunday this January) suggested I come down to London to check out a museum or two. My schedule didn’t allow me to do so until yesterday.
After getting better sleep than normal on the bus ride, my first stop in London wasn’t any museum but “The Bridge.” Stamford Bridge – the home of Chelsea Football Club. In recent weeks, I had already seen the outsides of Upton Park (West Ham United Football Club) and Emirates Stadium (Arsenal Football Club) but since Chelsea is my club in the Premier League, I really wanted to see the outside of Stamford Bridge with my own eyes. For super huge fans of West London’s finest, you can go on a tour of the stadium and visit an on-site museum – which are both ripoffs.
The best thing about Stamford Bridge though is it’s a two-minute walk from the nearest Tube station – compared to the Emirates and Upton Park, which are a little further from their nearest Tube stations. The Bridge is served by Fulham Broadway station, which boasts a shopping centre and is located in a seemingly upscale neighborhood. As for the actual stadium, I saw what I wanted: the exterior, which was flanked by banners featuring images of Chelsea legends and quotes attributed to them. There was no match at the Bridge that day (Chelsea defeated Hull City 2-0 the previous day) but a small group of tourists/Chelsea fans wandered around the stadium to take pictures.
But as the purpose of my day trip wasn’t to bask into the glory of football gods, I headed to the Natural History Museum, which I wanted to visit because it’s a cool place that’s free. The museum I wanted to see the most in the capital is the London Transport Museum. Unfortunately, the entrance to the place costs £15 😦
The Natural History Museum boasts a large collection of items related to geology, the environment, plants and animals. The museum is divided into several zones bearing the name of a color: green, blue and red. At first, I thought the place was awfully kiddie-oriented because upon entering the museum, most of the visitors were parents with their children. At least, their presence dominated the ground floor.
In any case, Sian met up with me in the gift shop of the Natural History Museum (Her train from Camridge was a bit late). As she had forewarned me, she had no voice 😦 Anyway, we spent roughly two hours exploring the place and as the Natural History Museum is really geared toward zoologists and geolists, many of the items on display were models of reptiles, fish, imphibians, minerals, gems and crystals. I won’t bore you (or myself) by providing the information I jotted down in my notes but a lot of it was fascinating – such as only very few of the 370 species of sharks attack people.
Even more fascinating was the above-pictured exhibit devoted to volcanoes and earthquakes. While people in this country don’t have to worry about volcano eruptions – according to information displayed at the museum, a volcano hasn’t erupted in Britain in 55 million years – obviously, a lot of people elsewhere do. Much of the interpretation in that exhibit provided information about the basics, such as what is a volcano, what causes an eruption and what results in the deadliest eruptions.
As for the earthquake section of the exhibit, visitors were treated to touches of Japan. You might know that Kobe was struck by a massive earthquake in 1995. To get a minor sense of what an earthquake is like, visitors can stand in a miniature model of a Kobe supermarket (which looked nothing like a real Japanese supermarket – although cans of Sapporo and Asahi beers were lying on the shelves) and try to hang out for dear lives while the earth is coming out from under them. In addition, four videos of the earthquake/tsunami of March 2011 that struck northeastern Japan were played, each highlighting a different stage of the destruction.
Sian and I could’ve spent all day in the Natural History Museum but the British Museum was calling us, so… after not being able to immediately board the tube at South Kensington station (which is the nearest one to the Natural History Museum), we went on a brief walking tour of Kensington, a really posh section of London, passing the Victoria & Albert Museum and Harrods. We eventually found the Tube and after a relatively short ride to Holburn, we got off and headed for the British Museum.
The inappropriately named British Museum. The place houses artifacts and antiques from cultures across the globe, especially indigenous cultures in Americas and the South Pacific (Among other items, paddles, sleds and canoes used by indigenous peoples in Canada were on display). Not surprisingly, Sian and I spent most of our time in the museum scoping out the Japan section, which housed attire worn by Ainu and geisha, a photobook of the Atomic Bomb Dome and equipment used by samurai. In fact, the Japan section featured galleries highlighting numerous eras of Japanese history, such as ancient Japan, medieval Japan and the Edo period. While the information about the materials was helpful, I really wish it would have appeared in 日本語.
As the museum is huge and a bit difficult to get around (the maps really don’t help in regards to navigating the building), one visit doesn’t do it justice – unless you spend the entire there day there. So there will certainly be another visit to the British Museum, which will include more time in the gift shop. Speaking of which… well, one of the most reknown Japanese paintings is the The Great Wave of Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai (pictured above). I’ve known the image for years despite not knowing its name or creator. Interestingly, The Great Wave was featured prominently in the gift shop – the famous image was plastered on umbrellas, shirts, mugs, shoppings, watches, and… I’m probably missing a few things. If The Great Wave is feaured prominently in the gift shop, the painting has to be somewhere in the museum.
That’s something to search for on my next visit to the British Museum.