Day Eight

August 15th

We went to the British Museum, the repository of years of concerted British collection of other countries' artifacts. It was started in 1749 as a royal physician's “cabinet of curiosities,” and over the years it has accumulated many treasures from all over the world as the British Empire reached new parts of the globe. The best part about the British Museum is that there's no admission charge. What a huge museum! We saw: the Rosetta Stone, the Lost Museum of Henry Wellcome, the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon, Aztec turquoise masks, Egyptian statues and a couple of sarcophagi, Assyrian, Greek, and Roman art, and so much more! There was a large exhibit on the Sutton Hoo, a Viking ship from the Middle Ages, and how it was discovered and unearthed. In the Ancient Far East section of the museum, we saw a group of Buddhist monks with yellow hats. We wondered what they thought of it all. We particularly appreciated a recent addition to the museum's architecture, the inner Great Court with its expansive glass-and-steel ceiling and central island with an outer spiral staircase, designed by Norman Foster in late 2000.

For a change of pace, we wandered through Selfridge's, a huge department store selling every conceivable ware. According to our guide book, “It's what Harrods was before it became a self-parody.” It was full of funky, expensive stuff. We had Haagen-Daz sundaes and window-shopped. Russell couldn't take the Perfume/Cosmetics floor, so we left and walked to Hyde Park.

We wandered through Hyde Park and enjoyed the Serpentine in the afternoon. Hyde Park is the largest open space in the city of London. Henry VIII seized it from the Church in 1536, turning it into a hunting ground and a location for “duels, executions, and other noble hobbies,” in the words of our guide book. The Great Exhibition of 1851 was held there, and crops were grown in Hyde Park during WWII. We saw the Marble Arch from a distance, and then we sat on the brown crispy grass to rest in the breeze. We also walked past Kensington Gardens and Rotten Row.