Just some miscellaneous pictures I can’t resist posting!
Tag Archives: Museum
Thursday morning; dropped Patrick off at work, then headed for to our go-to place for a morning mocha and pastry (mochas – me; pastry – Ambi). Amber had high hopes for the peach cream-cheese croissant, but they were out of all croissants! *sob*
The torrential rains started, but we headed for San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park anyway. We were hoping for a sunny day and a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, but yeow – it was more like a tropical downpour.
Instead we went to the de Young museum where they had a display of ancient Olmec statues and stonework from ancient Mesoamerica. I’d seen some giant Olmec stone heads waaaaay back in the late 60’s and couldn’t wait to see them again. They did not disappoint. There were two giant heads displayed so that as you walked around a corner – BAM! one would be staring at you!
The two colossal heads we saw were 5-6’ each. They’re estimated to weigh 25 tons each. Photography was not allowed in the display, but here is a picture someone took anyway, and posted online.
We then wandered around the museum trying to find works by famous painters but really didn’t have much luck. The view from the ninth floor of the viewing tower was obscured by the rain and clouds – but the blowing rain was still pretty impressive.
Cost: $25 each and $7 to park. Let alone all the gas to drive there! Still, a second chance to see the Olmec Colossal Heads was worth it.
The bathrooms in the museum were worth taking a photo of. Amber couldn’t resist saying “Hey, the 60’s just called and they want their green tiles back.”
Lunch? How could we resist. It was back to Specialty’s yet again (this makes five times since I got here!) We tried the self-ordering computers and I quickly just picked a vegetarian sandwich. Egad. When it arrived it was HUGE. I’m tempted to list what was *not* in the sandwich, but here’s what it included anyway:
- Alfalfa sprouts
- Red bell peppers
- Green bell peppers
- Ranch dressing
- Italian vinaigrette
Back home now kicking back, working on this blog and watching the rain.
We’ve spent the last five days walking everywhere – and our feet hurt. The best thing we do each time we get back to the apartment? We take our shoes off!
And you might be wondering where the fourth pair of feet came from?!
While wandering the Natural History Museum the cutest little stegosaurus stuffed animal fell into my backpack! He’s now part of the family. We tried to name him N.H.M. but that morphed in to Nessie, His Majesty. So here, meet Nessie:
Patrick and I started off the day with mochas from the local tube station while Amber went back to bed. The mochas were no thrill so we rousted Amber and headed off for the day.
First stop: the Natural History Museum (we love free things!). This is a museum that appeals to children of all ages and you could sure tell by the number of young children groups that were there. We headed straight off for the dinosaur exhibit and saw an animatronics T-Rex as well as an 85’ skeleton of a Diplodocus. This was among a slew of other dinosaur bones and such. I loved the dinosaurs!
Next we saw the more “normal” animals, including a life size blue whale, elephants and even a stuffed replica of a dodo bird. It was all great stuff but we were under a bit of time crunch so we headed to the rock and mineral exhibit. I was in heaven but Amber was bored. I still got a good long look and took even more pictures than normal.
Finally, we headed for the section of the huge building that was supposed to have an earthquake room – but we could never find it. There was also an escalator that, while going up from the first floor to the second, takes you through the center of the earth. It was a great disappointment. The center of the earth was more or less gold foil with colored lights flashing on it.
I must admit, the building that housed most of the collection was fantastic. It was built in the 1870’s specifically for 50 million specimens. It was built using “revolutionary” Victorian techniques with an iron and steel framework.
Next we jumped back on the tube and headed for Kew Gardens – another World Heritage Site along with the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey.
Kew Gardens has 33,000 different types of plants over its 300 acres. We stayed in the lower 1/3 of the park and visited the Palm House – a giant Victorian greenhouse, the Princess of Wales Conservatory, the WaterLily House, the tall pagoda built in 1762 and finally the Rhizotron and Xstrata Treetop Walkway – a 200 yard long, steel walkway 60 feet above ground in the tree canopy. The Treetop Walkway was a little spooky since it was moving a bit, but we all made it up and down just fine.
The weather cooperated and we wandered everywhere. The giant lily pads were fun to see and I got to see a live cacao plant with pods!
It was a day a bit late (for us) and we were worried about a packed tube, so we headed back to our apartment. I had falafel on pita and enjoyed it a lot. We’re settling in for the night – tomorrow is our last full day in London. Boy – the time has flown!
We started our day on the tube as usual but this time we headed in to London early and survived the commute crush. Egad – how do people do this day after day? We crammed ourselves on to a car and at the last minute Amber got left at the station! We were all messed up then. Patrick and I were on one car – and we both had a set of apartment keys, but Amber was on another totally separate “train” and she was the only one who knew where we were going – and she had the map books showing our routes as well!
Luckily, Patrick figured we’d just get off at the next stop, wait for the “train” behind us and hope to find Amber on it. Thankfully it all worked out just fine. Whew. And I have to admit, the people crammed into the second “train” smelled a lot better than those on the first train. It was standing room only, everyone all smooshed in together for mile after mile.
We arrived at St. Paul’s Cathedral just as the steps to the upper levels opened. This has to be The Best church I’ve ever seen – including Notre Dame and Westminster Abbey. First, the place is huge – 515 feet long and 250 feet wide. Second, it’s tall – the top of the dome is 360 feet high and the only church dome higher is at St. Peter’s in Rome. And third, it’s beautiful. It’s hard to describe the interior. While there *are* stained glass windows – most windows are clear glass that let in a lot of light. The arched ceilings are covered in amazing tile work that looks like tapestries woven with gold threads. Pictures aren’t allowed inside, so I have no pictures of my own to show. No picture will do it justice anyway.
At St. Paul’s the three of us climbed 259 steps up a wooden spiral staircase to the Whispering Gallery. This is a railed section up inside the dome where you can stand, whisper something to the wall, and people on the other side of the dome can hear you. And it worked! Amber and I sat in the Whispering Gallery while Patrick trudged up an additional 119 more steps to the Stone Gallery – which is on the exterior of the dome. Then, ever onward, he walked up another 152 more steps (530 total) to the Golden Gallery that gave him an amazing 360 degree view of London. Patrick took over 100 pictures while up there and we’re hoping for some great panoramic pictures!
St. Paul’s is England’s national church and there has been a church on the same location since 604 AD. There was a great fire in London in 1666 and the church was rebuilt then.
Historically in the 1900’s, St. Paul’s was considered Britain’s symbol of resistance since it withstood 57 nights of bombing by the Nazis. Winston Churchill’s funeral was held here in 1965 and the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diane took place at St. Paul’s in 1981.
We had planned on a quick 30-minute visit (not knowing how fantastic it was going to be) but St. Paul’s was so amazing that we were there for an hour and a half.
After St. Paul’s we walked across the Millennium Bridge made famous in Harry Potter The Half-Blood Prince. This is a pedestrian-only bridge that crossed the Thames.
Even though it wasn’t noon yet, we jumped back on the underground and rode to a stop near our final destination for the day: The British Museum.
The British Museum was established in 1753, has 94 galleries and walkways totaling 2.5 miles. Rick Steves says it’s the “greatest chronicle of civilization… anywhere” and we all think he’s right.
We were there for 2.5 hours and were exhausted. We saw mummies, Chinese jade, great Assyrian art work, historical clocks, coin making, Roman and Greek statues, a statue from Easter Island – and yes, we saw The Rosetta Stone. The oldest object in the museum was a rock hand tool – 1.8 million years old. The Assyrian winged bull statues were among the heaviest things in the museum at 17 tons each. It was an amazing place and we didn’t do it justice. I’d estimate we saw about 10% of the items and actually studied less than 1%.
Throughout this whole day you have to remember that we were walking. Again, things like elevators or escalators seem to be almost non-existent. We walk down to the tube; transferring a couple of times means it’s up and then back down, then up and back down, then finally up to the street level. And the “up and down” can be two or more floors – all on concrete. St. Paul’s Cathedral was a climb up stairs to the Whispering Gallery, a nice walk across the Millennium Bridge, and back, then down underground for another tube ride, and back up. Then all around the British Museum… and finally back down to the tube again and a long ride home.
You can bet that we’re sleeping well at night now that we’ve adjusted to the time change!
Today was our second full day in London and we started off slowly. We decided to wait until about 9:30 in the morning before taking the tube into town because we thought most of the commuters would be at work by then. We took the Picadilly line to the Acton Town station, and then the District line to the Victoria station and got off there. It was interesting on the way because as we got closer and closer to town, the trains got more and more packed with people. By the time we were on our last leg of the morning’s journey, the car was so packed we didn’t even think we be able to get to the doors to get off at our final station. It was also interesting because there was a lady with a stroller and also a young child with her. As near as we can figure there are no handicapped facilities at these tube stations and there are stairs everywhere, and I haven’t seen any elevators and virtually no escalators. When we got to our final station the lady with the stroller and child were also getting off. The poor lady had to try to drag the stroller up two flights of stairs with a child in another hand. Luckily a gentleman helped her and grabbed the front of the stroller and help her carry it up the two flights of stairs. But sadly, at that point the man veered off in a different direction and the lady was left to carry the stroller up the third flight of stairs by herself as no one helped her.
We started the morning planning to see the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace. According to Rick Steve’s we needed to get there about an hour early which meant that we wanted to arrive around 10:30 in the morning. We did just that, and got there in plenty of time to get a nice viewing spot for the whole activity that was to come. It was surprising how many people showed up since it isn’t even tourist season yet. I hate to think what it would be like during the summer months. We waited out in the cold and the wind for an hour for the ceremony to begin and then frankly we were a little disappointed. The guards came in marching from a distance with wonderful red uniforms and gold hats or the tall poofy black hats and they marched into the Buckingham Palace area but they were behind tall black fences and gates. So anything we wanted to watch was behind a wall of people, fences and gates. That might’ve been okay but the ceremony went on and on and on while we were cold and the wind was blowing and it wasn’t very exciting. Finally we walked away after 45 minutes – and the ceremony was even over.
We then hiked down The Mall toward Trafalgar Square (cool lion statues!) where we wanted to see the National Gallery. When we got there we were all tired and hungry so first we found a restaurant named Garfunkle’s and ate there. I got a huge omelet so I could load up on protein. The National Gallery is free (!) and there are a gazillion floors and little rooms everywhere and we basically got lost. We wandered around for quite a while on tired feet and sore knees and pretty soon we were saying “Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s another Renoir… keep moving”.
We did get to see Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing of the Virgin and Child with St. Anne and John the Baptist – which was about 3’ x 4’. I’d kind of pictured it on an 8.5” x 11” piece of paper! Patrick got excited when he saw Seurat’s Bathers at Asnieres – apparently he’d studied that particular painting when in school. I’d recently watched a TV series about impressionists so I thought it was particularly neat to see paintings by Monet, Manet and Cezanne. I’d also recently read a book about the origin of different colors for paints – so it was great to see Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, and see how the yellow color had degraded over time.
Finally, we left the gallery and headed back to the tube. Three lines later we were back at our apartment where I stayed in and Amber and Patrick made a water and chocolate run to the local Tesco Express. Right now Amber and I are using the computers while Patrick is working on his daily intake of Guinness at the pub next door. I think we’ll all sleep well tonight.