Thursday, October 07, 2004

Don't Know Much About History

British Museum facade

One Saturday morning my youngest told me she wanted to get out of the house and ride the train. My brain quickly went - now where can we go via train that will not cost us much? Hmmm, central London was certainly the obvious choice but where to go there? I don't want to go to the Natural History Museum. It is absolute bedlam there ever since they removed entrance fees. And in my opinion the exhibits has deteriorated because of this. There were just too many people specifically school children who mop their feet on the place. Anyway, where was I? Ah yes where to go - the National Gallery was suggested but I thought the kids will easily get bored with looking at lots of pictures on the wall. So the natural choice is the British Museum. The last time I've been there was 1998 that's more than 6 years ago! I heard that they constructed a big covered courtyard in 2000 so I was eager to see that in person.

So we went to London getting off at Russell Square tube station. By the way, the "tube" is the monicker of the London Underground train system. The London Underground is *not* a subversive organisation. Hehehe! Sorry, lame joke from A Fish Called Wanda.

Picture above is the entrance to the massive museum. It occupies one whole block for goodness sake! We kept walking from Russell Square thinking - oh there's the building we'll be in it in a few minutes. You keep on walking and walking around the block and still you can't find the entrance. Finally after what seems like an eternity and hearing your youngest saying over and over - are we there yet? - you arrive at the Greek temple inspired entrance.

Forgive me, I still have problems aligning and putting spaces in these small pictures - where's my HTML manual?! Click on the images to view a bigger version.

The British Museum has always been free hence the donation boxes at the entrance. I think they got better with the donation thing since these boxes seems to be everywhere. Before they just have one big massive box in the middle of the entrance foyer.

Once inside you just move a few meters ahead and you come to the great covered courtyard that was inagurated by Queen Elizabeth II last Dec 2000. As you can see in the pic above right, it is roofed by this steel and glass lattice that floods the courtyard with natural light. It is magnificent to see especially since you will be coming from the dark gloomy entrance hall to the bright light of the soaring roof and the splendid courtyard graced by the round building in the middle containing the Reading Room. It was superbly designed by Norman Foster, the same man who designed the HongKong Shanghai Bank in HK, the Millenium tower Tokyo, the formerly wobbly Millenium Bridge in London, among others.

There was a great brouhaha regarding the construction of this area. Apparently the construction company who built this was required to use British Portland stone but instead used the cheaper French limestone. Kahit pala dito may nandadaya sa construction (even here builders cheat). I think it was allright the only problem is that the French stone is lighter in colour than the older surrounding Portlands. But despite that I think the outcome as a whole is beautiful.

The round building in the middle is the Reading Room. I think the courtyard itself originally housed the library but they moved all the books now to the British Library. They retained the Reading Room though. It was a good blend of old and new inside. They have these very old leather covered reading tables, some old rickety chairs and lots of books on the shelves. While on the tables are monitors and keyboards and mice that links you to their museum items database.

More view of the window in the Reading Room. The one above right is the dome roof.

We got tired ogling books, we decided to get on with the rest of the museum. And what do you see when you first turn up here? Why see the Egyptian exhibit of course. Above left is the entrance to the Near East gallery which includes Egyptian artifacts. Now the one on the right is I think is Rameses. Sorry I forgot to take note of all the 'who is that statue'. I was so busy breaking up a fight between J1 and J2 squabbling over a mobile phone. One regret was that I also forgot to take a picture of the Rosetta Stone. Ah well maybe on another rainy boring day with nothing to do.

On the left above is a sarcophagus. You can see that part of it has been reconstructed. The one on the right is another Egyptian pharaoh whose name I forgot to take down. I was fascinated by the beauty of the stone and skill of the sculptor. It looked like it was made of polished cast iron but actually was of a very fine evenly coloured black stone - maybe basalt?

These ones are from the Greek gallery. I so wanted to go to the Elgin marbles but before I could try to find it my kids start tugging me out of the building. The Elgin marbles as you know are marble frieze from the Parthenon in Athens that was taken by Lord Elgin and brought to Britain in 1801. The current controversy now is that the Greek government wanted the return or at least to borrow these magnificent sculptures in time for the summer Olympics. Alas the British Museum rebuffed the Greeks in their attempt apparently because this will pave the way for other governments to retrieve other artifacts that was looted by the Brits of time long ago. I personally think they should be returned to Athens. It is there where it came from so it is there it should stay.

We only managed to see about less than 1/4 of the entire museum but my kids were bored and hungry wanted to get out. We left the museum to head for Hamley's in Regent Street to eye up some toys. By 6 o'clock we were on a train home. A tiring day but we saw a lot 'culture' and done at minimal cost.


ladycharlie said...

i haven't been to any of the big art galleries and museums in london. oh, correct that, i've been to the queen's gallery when they had that exhibit on leonardo da vinci's drawings. but i'm amazed how they let you take photos.

anyway, i bet you had fun in hamley's, too! i love it there...i could spend hours and hours there myself. are the giggly toys still there? those ones that when you clap your hands or when you poke them, they start shaking and make those giggles?

Poppycock said...

lucky, lucky you! the museum is beautiful, the art and artefact moreso, i could imagine. if i had a chance to go visit london again, i will go there first thing :)

Matapoor said...

off topic...

hmmm... bakit ngayon ko lang nakita blog na ito? alam ko lang yung food blog mo.

celia kusinera said...

Lady C: Yes they allow pictures in there and in the Nat. History Museum as well but not in the National Gallery. Although they do not allow people touching the artifacts.
Mayamaya: Do visit these great places when you're in town. Btw, I like what you wrote in your blog we're similar in outlook.
AnP: Hi I thought you knew about this blog. I don't advertise this very much kasi shy ako ... ngek! hehehe! Oi, I might write about my daily transport grind for the ezine - puede ba yon?

drstel said...

Ms. CK! Thx for visiting my baby blog, it has got wobbly legs still. BTW, there's an HTML manual??? I don't have to go back to college for that?? I love what you write abt the UK, shh, I'm a closet Anglophile. (Did you see Hugh Grant lurking in the museum? I heard he goes there a lot!) Last & only time I went to London #1 son was only 4 so no museums possible(lagi nagpapakarga pa non). Is this child o'yours fond of choochoos? #2 son ko kasi happy na masakay ko lang sa T, any destination.
It's so funny how our menus coincide too. Parang cosmic connections among foodie bloggers...* cue Rod Serling ni nu ni nu*

celia kusinera said...

hi drstel, yes there is an html tutorial on the web:
It's a treasure trove of tips for tinkering with your website/blog.
My youngest is a girl and mildly interested in trains but my son (eldest) used to be obsessed with anything on trains. You know from model trains, normal trains, high speed trains, steam trains and Thomas the Tank Engine. We went to the Natl Train Museum in York and he spent hours just staring at model trains going round n round. He's 13 now and vehemently denies he still likes trains but sometimes I see his old Thomas Tank books by his bedside. I guess boys will always be boys.