November 7, 2014
It’s amazing what you don’t realize is so near to you. I mean, I have thought a lot, over this semester, about balancing travel with adventures in London. But I don’t think it fully registered that those cultural London adventures could happen about a five or ten minute walk away from me. (I already knew that the social ones could happen within that distance.)
On Thursday, I set out to do one thing on my list. I went to the Sir John Soane Museum. This museum had been separately recommended to me by at least four people, one of whom is a professor at Whitman. I was really impressed by the museum even though I heard so much about it before going. It is the house of the architect of the British Museum and it is packed with artifacts. The museum was also surprisingly close to the IES center where I take my classes. It’s in a lovely area facing a quiet little park. I had no real concept that this great place was so close to me. (Maybe I should’ve guessed considering how close the British Museum is.)
Walking through the Soane Museum, you pass through a 1800s drawing room into a room full of marble busts into one with original William Hogarth paintings behind a false wall. And since it’s free, you can pop in just to see a few things or spend hours there investigating. I particularly liked looking at all the old, original books just to see if there were any I recognized.
As I was walking home, I decided to stop by the British Library (again, less then ten minutes away from home). I’ve gone past it so many times without realizing how nice and big its courtyard is. And there’s a great view of the top of St Pancras. I loved seeing the old building peaking over the top of this newer one.
I went to see the British Library Treasures expecting to just stop by. I was shocked by what was there – and how long I took looking at everything. There are documents from the 1100s. There are pages from Leonardo da Vinci’s journals. They have Jane Austen’s writing desk. And they even have a copy of the Magna Carta with an official wax seal. I’m a little embarrassed by how ignorant I was of all that was there. But now that I know, I cannot wait to show other people. I may even go back by myself to see more – or just to stare at Jane Austen’s desk for inspiration.
I guess that I was too caught up in seeing the big London places that I neglected the little ones close by. But, from now on, I will try to be more balanced in my explorations.
And on a side note, I experienced fireworks for Guy Fawkes Day (November 5th) and the lighting of the Christmas lights on Oxford St (November 6th). I was caught off guard by how giant a celebration the latter was. Christmas (and the burning of a Catholic) are big deals here.