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Monday, March 28, 2011

I can hear the people sing, singing the songs of angry men...

Welcome back! Did you get your coffee?

Good, well have a seat, I was just about to go into my second day in London.  It turned out to be interesting, exciting and even a little scary at times...

When I started researching for this trip months ago, I happened upon this tiny little place called the "British Museum." Further investigation prompted my decision that at least half a day would have to be spent exploring it's British depths...and on the second day of my voyage, we set out to see this wonder of history and dust.    I really haven't gotten a feeling for the city itself as I am constantly using the tubes for transport.  Each little spot I visit has a very distinct feeling and character, like little mini-metropolises.

The Piccadilly line took us to the bustling business center of this massive city. It felt very New Yorkish, with huge display screens atop massive buildings both ancient and modern.  There seemed to be a bit of a commotion on the street.  Cars were nowhere to be seen and isolated lines of people marched together down the middle of the square  Most worrying was the sheer number of bobbies surrounding the area, resplendent in their florescent vests and shiny black caps.  There were few on the street itself, but many more in the packed police vans that lined the sidewalks.  They were waiting for something to happen; the stickers on the walls revealed it to be March 26th "The Day of Rage." It was pretty calm at the moment(the few journalists we saw looked pretty bored.) That would change soon.

We scuttled quickly through the square toward the museum. The streets had an incredible character here, each inch of the sidewalk was lined with intriguing shops and pubs.  My favorite was an awesome little comic shop whose only advertisement outside was a giant Batman symbol.
Even the gross alleys had character! Eat your heart out Butte, Montana!

Just down the street was our goal, the British Museum.  The entire walk toward the entrance I was geeking out so badly I could barley walk a straight line.  I'm a huge history nut, and I was about to have a sensory overload.  Cigarette please...




The building itself was just about as impressive as the collections it held.  Each room we entered seemed to be built to tailor to the era and culture it represented.  First was the Egypt exhibit.  I admit that I broke the law...I had to reach out and touch the symbols I had sketched as a child.

From Egypt we moved on to the Assyrian Empire, whom I had just spent some time studying on my own.  Mean bastards they were.  It was their politics of pure terror that made Babylon and Persia go "Oh crap...guess we better take care of this..." It was amazing to see real cuneiform writing up close...

We had already spent an hour and I felt way guilty for going so fast through this treasure trove...Next was our personal favorite, Greece.  We went through Minoan, Mycenaean, and archaic Greece with the biggest grins on our faces. We even met this cool tourist from Greece and discussed the politics of having the Elgin Marbles here instead of in Greece.  He had a very balanced view; he thought that it was good for it to be here because more people will see it, but some should be returned to Greece for the new museum.  Hooray for compromise!!




Next we had a little bit of lunch underneath an obelisk(felt awkward) then spent time in the middle ages exhibits. Sutton Hoo was there, which made me freak, and there was even a lovely viking telling children heartwarming stories of raping and pillaging through the coast of England...


Much more was seen in our 5 hours in the museum but I know It'll take far too long to go through.  If you jump over to my picasa album you'll have full access to the Roman & Buddhist exhibits as well as the King's Library...which may be the coolest library I have ever seen.  I want one.
Heading out of the Museum we wandered back through Piccadilly square to do some shopping and get our bearings for finding the Les Mis theater later that evening.   The Day of Rage was really kicking off.  What was before a few isolated groups of people had become a mob of thousands crowding the square and climbing on the light-poles.


The streets were covered in anarchy signs and splattered paint.  Windows were cracked and some banks had been broken into and their lobbies trashed.  Above us at least two helicopters shone their searchlights down into the square.  The Mcdonalds wasn't treated very nicely either.  I decided to eat elsewhere.


After some mexican food and some wandering through the side streets(even a chinatown!) we ended up back at the square.  We were curious to see what was happening within the now cheering mob.  Then we heard the first gunshots and saw the first gas-bomb go off.  The line of bobbies convinced us to go the other way...

I found it myself chuckling and shaking my head during Les Mis.  We were watching barricades and Protests, singing and marching, as another type of march was going on outside.  A show about the french revolution...If I was a protester I would have been blaring the music and using the lyrics on my signs...
The show itself was incredible.  Not every actor did a great job, though all had fantastic voices.  It was the ensemble(or swing?) players that made it all work so well. Every little part was just as good or better played than then major roles.  Javer was so badass, so cool.  It was incredibly sad though...I'm not sure how they could do this show every night and not be a little bit depressed.

The square outside had quieted down by the time we got out, and the lines back home were busy but not horrible.  Not compared to Sunday anyway...

A very interesting and exciting second day.  I will have to return to the British Museum and Piccadilly square would be interesting to see again sans the violence. 

Our last day in London would bring new friends via crowded subways, long bus rides, lots of tourist traps and some incredible building feats...

Thanks for reading all...check out my photos!!
https://picasaweb.google.com/BBrowitt/326112ndDayInLondon#

4 comments:

milburnak said...

The museum looks a lot like the Natural History museum in Vienna! I'm getting Europe nostalgia from following your blog....

Sherwood said...

Mexican food in London? Really? Though I must ask if it's any different than Mexican food you'd find here in the States. I plan on catching up on your other posts of your excursions, but for now I ask more questions from ignorance. What other sort of food have you found? Have you tried out any native English cuisine? There's a place called The Red Lion here in Tulsa that says they have traditional English food and the lack of seasonings and strong-tasting anything makes me think they're speaking the truth.

Anyway. That museum looks awesome. I am so jealous of you! Yet the thought of going outside the country (or even Tulsa) scares the living crap out of me. I hate the idea that I'm so far from home, so far from places I know and feel comfortable in... I want to go to Europe some day, but I don't know if I ever will. It's just too scary of a thought. Your blog is inspiring and makes me want to go but... Yeah. I'll just be repeating myself if I keep going with that.

eileen said...

Enjoying your blog immensely - makes me want to hop on the next plane and explore the sites myself. This is the first blog I have ever followed and it has opened a whole new world for me. Thanks Brian.

Lizzi said...

Bahh, that's awesome! I'm so jealous of your seeing Les Mis!
But I'm glad you're having a good time and haven't been affected by the angry mobbing.
We miss you Brian! Hope you're going to be able to find time to do all of your cool ish!
~Lizzi