Sunday, June 22, 2008

Thursday: Our final night in London ....

Some Really Big Guardians ...

And Some ...


(Lots of Lions.)

We have had quite a busy day, and we are off to our last destination, The British Museum. I had intended that we would go over more than once during this trip, as there is just too much to see there. I thought we would go over for a couple of hours here and there -- but this did not happen. Rather, we made it there at about five in the afternoon on Thursday afternoon, on our last day in the city. I guess we will just have to come back.

We walk out of the Temple Church and go around the front of the building. Just a shot that I liked of the outside of the church, where the two parts meet.

The contrast in the shape of each from the outside is just as interesting as it is on the inside.

And this is across the way from the church. Yes. That Dr. Johnson, I think.

This is the entrance with the Norman door and the wheel window above it.

As we round the building and begin our walk back to Fleet Street, we note these in the courtyard around the side and back of the building. I think they are graves?

What you don't see in this picture are the people sitting on them, eating.

A nice alleyway.

And the view through the arched doorway toward Fleet Street.

As we walk to the bus stop, we see this rather creepy and 1984ish sign. Just another sign that we are in a foreign country. That would have lasted about three seconds at home -- even the rapidly-converting-to-socialism California.

A shot of the bus stop.

Again, it feels funny to read this. I understand the need for security, but ... yeesh.

And the bus ride. This is a shot from the top level of the double-decker bus, front seat.

We get off and walk through the park that is near the British Museum.

And up the street toward the museum. What you don't see is the line of buses, filled with tourists with cameras.

And a lion!

We get inside the Great Rotunda, and find out that we just missed seeing The Terracotta Army on loan. Had we but known, we would have come to see it today. This is a good reminder to always, always do your research beforehand. What you are seeing are warriors that British schoolchildren have made out of clay.

It is almost as good as the real thing.

I like this shot. Wry was practically prone on the floor, getting just the right angle on these fine warriors. In an interesting coincidence, the Army is trotting out to our neck of the woods and we will be able to see them here in Southern California. Odd, no?

So we begin to wander through the museum. I go over to the information desk and they helpfully provide a map with the areas that will stay open late highlighted.

A lovely hunt scene.

"The city and palace at Khorsabad (in modern northern Iraq), was built for the Assyrian King Sargon II (721-705 BC). The palace entrances were originally dominated by pairs of colossal human-headed winged bulls, which were intended as guardians, accompanied by protective spirits with magical powers."

Wry getting a sense of perspective.

A king in repose.

I forget what Prince this was. I liked the image of the horse and rider. The British Museum is just amazing. Ancient Turkey, Iran, Mesopotamia. They have stuff from the Caananites, for crying in the sink.

Going on a lion hunt.

I thought that this was interesting, because it is carved to look like a rug.

A row of soldiers marching to battle.

And of course, lovely Greek and Roman statues.

And the Parthenon.

A little more detail.

What a fine, handsome horse.

I loved the detail and drape of the cloth.

More figures from the Parthenon.

Wry getting film of the Greek statues.

A crouching lion. (But I am pretty sure it is a hunting dog.)

I thought that these carvings of the battle between the Lapiths and Centaurs were wonderful. The lion skin across his arm is something else.

A centaur carrying off a captive. His face is oddly blank.

And two figures, locked in battle.

And, of course, ancient Egypt.

A lion-headed figure.

It is hard to conceive of the age of these panels.

A massive Pharaoh's head.

I liked this full figure of an Egyptian. I think it is a dagger in his waistband.

This was an interesting stone panel. It was carved to look like a door. It dates back to 2400 BC. It memorializes the marriage of a king to his queen.

A small sphinx from the 12th century.

I included this picture, not because it is very good, because it isn't. I included it because it gives a nice sense of the space. And you can see the twilit night sky.

This lion was sitting next to the sphinxes.

I think that this was one of my favorite lions. He is vibrating with menace, mouth wide open. He is just grand.

"This gigantic standing lion, roaring angrily, formed one of a pair carved half in the round which once flanked the entrance of a small temple dedicated to the goddess Ishtar, adjoining the palace of King Ashurnasirpal II (reigned 883-859 BC). "

I really liked this carving. It shows the chief god of Nimrud, winged and holding thunderbolts battling with a monster.

A little better shot of the monster. It is like a winged lion. The panel dates back to about 900 years before Christ.

A majestic figure.

"This colossal lion weighs some six tons. Made from one piece of marble, it was mounted on a base crowning a funerary monument. The monument itself was square with a circular interior chamber and a stepped-pyramid roof. It is a type of funerary monument inspired by the greater tomb of Maussollos, built about 350 BC at Halikarnassos, less than a day's sail from Knidos."

From the 5th century -- a panel that symbolizes the triumph of good over evil. At first it was to depict Bellerophon and Pegasus killing the chimera. Later it was seen to symbolize the triumph of Christ over the devil.

We wander from ancient Egypt to Greece to Early Britain.

Some Celtic brooches.

An early depiction of the Alpha and Omega.

This is actually a plate. A Great Dish, in fact. It is from about the fourth century. It is a Roman dish made in Britain and "much of the decoration relates to the mythology and worship of Bacchus, the god of wine, a theme that was very popular on silver tableware throughout the Roman period." That is Bacchus in the middle.

Some horse figurines from prehistoric Britain. Apparently you just plow a field and find archaeological treasures.

And early Viking glass work.

An Iron Age shield. Extraordinary. This is the Battersea Shield, and was found in the Thames. "The highly polished bronze and glinting red glass would have made for a great spectacle. It was finally thrown or placed in the River Thames, where many weapons were offered as sacrifices in the Bronze Age and Iron Age."

Celtic torcs.

And an astonishing gold cape. It dates to about 1800 years before Christ.

"Workmen quarrying for stone in an ancient burial mound in 1833 found this stunning gold object which remains unparalleled to this day. The mound lay in a field named Bryn yr Ellyllon (the Fairies' or Goblins' Hill). At the centre was a stone-lined grave with the crushed gold cape around the fragmentary remains of a skeleton. Strips of bronze and quantities of amber beads were also recovered, but only one of the beads ever reached the British Museum."

"The cape would have been unsuitable for everyday wear because it would have severely restricted upper arm movement. Instead it would have served ceremonial roles, and may have denoted religious authority."

"The cape is one of the finest examples of prehistoric sheet-gold working and is quite unique in form and design."

At this point. I just sat down for a while. Honestly. You could dig up the entire state of California, and what would you find? Nothing. Not really.

At this point, I have completely lost Wry. I am in Roman Britain, but who knows where he is. I have to back track a little. When we were leaving California and Wry realized that he did not have a battery for his little camera (he realized this while were on the way to the airport), we stopped real quick at a Radio Shack to look for the battery. He emerged, sans battery, but triumphant. In his hand he held little tiny walkie-talkies. Good wife that I am, I rolled my eyes. In fact, I think that everyone in the car rolled their eyes. The walkie talkies were a bit of a pain in the tush, because they got us held up in the security line at the airport.

However, undaunted, Wry tucked one into my bag at the beginning of the day. It turned out to be completely worth every penny, because we lost each other in the British Museum and were able to find each other by whispering into them.

So, I am saying here, on the Interweb ... You were right and I was wrong and the walkie talkies were a fabulous idea.

So I got to sit for a moment, easing my shoe off my throbbing foot, considering the history that surrounded me. I missed Rowan, because I knew that she would really love this part of the museum.

I waited until I contacted Wry and set off to find him. I take the long way around.

On the way back, I took these.

A lion attacking a bull.

The detail is remarkable. This is from Persepholis, Iran.

Finally, I wend my way back to the Great Rotunda. Still no Wry, so I have a cup of tremendously over-priced coffee and a brownie. I wrap up half of it for Wry for later. When I was paying for my snack, I got stuck behind about a hundred giggling little French schoolgirls and I have the impulse to kick my way through them. I feel marginally better after my coffee and getting off of my sore foot.

Wry says that he is here. I don't see him.

I finally spy my husband.

There he is!

I am having a fit of the giggles. I am giggling because my husband is a gem. He is pretty much deathly afraid of heights, but he is forcing himself to get framed for a good picture. I really appreciate it. He comes out slowly and then goes back.

We are both laughing. We are pretty much done. It is late and we are hungry and have to schlep back to the hotel and then pack and then get to bed.

A nice shot from the steps of the museum. I have to smile, because I remember taking the exact same shot, with poor Rowan freezing while I tried to get the best possible shot. Wry gets a really good shot.

Me freezing on the street corner, waiting for Wry to get the picture.

And at the gates, looking back at the museum.

And on the bus going back to the Jesmond Dene. I feel a bit like the Thought Police are out in full force. Maybe just a bit too much official tsk tsking for my taste. Do you really need a national campaign to tell people to be courteous? And if people are not going to be basically decent, will a sign on the bus make them so?

We get off of the bus and have a nice bowl of hot noodle soup at the Chop Chop Noodle House for a final cheap dinner. We get back to the hotel and bustle around, getting everything charged and organized for the morning trip. We will be getting up really early to get on the Tube to Heathrow, flying to Edinburgh.

Whoo hoo!


Blogfly said...


Am back online, to find this gem of a post! So nice to see the British Museum again, and all the wonderful pics. I am trying to decide which is my favourite. I think it might be the horse's head.

Yep...people do find stuff here. I know someone who thought they had found a Viking shield boss on a beach in Caithness. He took it to Inverness, where the museum staff had it sent to Dounreay, the nuclear power station, to have it analysed in the metal equivalent of electrocarbon dating. I had told the finder it looked like a tractor hubcap. He knew heaps about ancient history, and disagreed. A tractor hubcap is just what it turned out to be. albeit a very old and roosty one. (I am only giggling just a little.)

Metal detectors used to be really popular, with some people unearthing really nice things. Most people found ring-pulls. I had a metal detector which I bought at a car boot sale. I didn't find anything, and people looked at me a little askance while using it. They have a sort of geeky reputation, but not maybe geeky is the wrong word. Anoraky. Yep, that's it. I don't know if you have that expression chez vous. A term for peeps who wear anoraks, and do things like train-spotting and bus-spotting, and tow caravans on the motorways very very slowly. I gave my metal detector away, although it might have helped in the great key-finding scrabble, before they were eventually hung around my neck.

I am so chuffed you loved London, and made so much of your visit. yer readers salute you!

Rowan said...

The inner Boudica in me is coveting that gorgeous Iron Age shield. Really, really badly. I have a nice space on my livingroom wall for it, and could just arm and go, if I ever again get sucked into the battle to interest young folks in the Brontes.

The final museum shot rox. And the Alpha and Omega. Amd thr golden cape. You two are a lesson to the photographically impatient seekers of the chocolate pharoah. I have really enjoyed the detailed pics and write-up!

A mom in the 'burbs said...

Hey! Lovely post and pic. I feel so stinkin' uncultured as I don't know much about European history. (In my defense, they have, like, a zillion more years then America does, so how's a girl to keep up?)

I had to laugh at Rowan's post--I had the EXACT same thought about the shield. I gasped a little and immediately wanted to put it in my living room....sigh.

Dr. Bob said...

Yes, the shield is gorgeous, is it not? And it was thrown into the river! I loved the cape, but thought it would catch in my hair and snatch me bald.

Dr. Bob said...

(and I loved the tractor hubcap story)