Charles Dickens Museum – excellent. The kitchen and scullery gave a clue about the hard life of those who could not hire someone else to do the work. Although Dickens was considered a champion for working class people and women, he apparently had a double standard when it came to his wife, who bore him ten children and suffered from depression. She became quite heavy in the face (any wonder?) and he divorced her, publicly. He was brilliant, and you can tell in his portraits that he was a bit full of himself. The museum was well organized, tastefully and imaginatively planned, and staffed with people who could tell you something meaningful. We learned a lot by looking and reading the signs, and left with a realistic image of a human being.
The British Museum – humongous! Enormous Egyptian sculptures, a long hallway of Assyrian bas relief, the frieze of the Pantheon, Greek vases, Roman sculptures, ancient Celtic artifacts, clocks, glassware, anything and everything three-dimensional from history was there. Domenic was right; they stole it all! It was too much to see in one day, so we did not try. One of the biggest surprises was the Rosetta Stone. Having lived with a small replica for so many years in the school library, I had no idea how large it really is.
Buckingham Palace and the Mall, from the outside. There is a wonderful statue in honor of Queen Victoria. People climb all over the base of it, straining for a view of the guards at Buckingham Palace who just stand in one place most of the time. I wonder how many people actually look up to see what is really worth looking at?
As we walked down the Mall, it reminded me of Boston’s Fenway, and I was struck by how much the Boston settlers recreated what they were familiar with – London. London is more opulent than Boston: wrought iron fences painted in gold, larger buildings, a lot more “icing.” But the feeling created is similar, so that London feels familiar and comfortable. I had a good laugh talking with a Welsh woman, who told me the Welsh are looking seriously at Boston for architectural ideas as they consider how they are going to develop their towns. They don’t need to go so far away to copy a copy.
Trafalgar Square was a bit of a disappointment because it was all junked up with some event. And I did not prepare well enough for The National Gallery and was overwhelmed. Art History 101 staring me in the face. We ended up going there twice and focusing on different periods each time, but there was so much it was hard to absorb.