Sunday, December 28, 2008

LDN 4: South Kensington

It was one of the busiest days. Our first destination was South Kensington Station. Architecturally, I believe it is one of the most impressive neighbourhoods in London. I was utterly impressed. Here, they have three museums all located very close to each other, the Natural History Museum, the V&A, and the Science Museum.

Since we got there early we had time to walk around the neighbourhood. We saw the Albert Memorial located in the Kensington Gardens. The Kensington Gardens are on the other side of the museum block. Imperial College is also located in the same neighbourhood. And so is the Royal Albert Hall. I really liked the buildings around the Royal Albert Hall, and the Imperial College. Again there were a lot of red and white brick buildings, and several other old brick buildings. Much to my sister's dismay I kept clicking away my camera. I just loved this part of London. I love the old London architecture.

Our first stop was the Natural History Museum. The building was built in the late 1800s during the Enlightenment Era, when scientists were sent out on sea expeditions to collect specimens so they could be stored and displayed in the museums. The building is also very impressive. I saw these really pretty pink blossoms, when I was waiting in the line to enter the museum. They smelled very refreshing. The museum has an excellent dinosaur collection. I have studied skeletal remains, so it was interesting to look at their skeletal structures and then compare it to those of our own, other amphibians and early primates. The Natural History Museum is definitely an excellent place for young children. They even had a visual stimulation where young middle school-aged students were talking about abortion. I believe, encouraging discussion of this rather controversial topic in schools is a very impressive way to deal with young pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

Our second stop was V&A, which was just down the street. At the risk of sounding "boring", I would not have known this if it wasn't for my British friend, so knowing that all these museums are close to each other saved me a lot of time. At the V&A I was more interested to see the Islamic artefacts. The collection was very small, but it was impressive nonetheless. Most of the artefacts were from Bursa, Turkey and Kazakhstan.

In university, I don't know if it is just the case for Canadian universities, we are all required to take one full year humanities course, regardless of our major. I took Russian and Ottoman history, they were offered as two separate half year courses. So the Islamic collection reminded me of the material I had studied in the class. Even though, my friend and I spent the entire time passing notes, and complaining about the professor, surprisingly enough there were certain pieces of information that have managed to stay in my bird-sized brain. One of the things I really find interesting about Ottoman art is how it is so similar to the medieval art. The Ottomans led several campaigns against Rome, Constantinople, and Russia, and most of them were very successful. But the similarity in their art and that of the Christian Medieval art is something that I have always found very astounding. Although, the Islamic collection at the V&A consisted of potteries and relics, there were a few Ottoman paintings there too.

After the V&A the plan was to go to the Science Museum across the street, but we were all museumed out, and were starving. So the Science Museum is another thing we have left for our last day in London. We ended up at Leicester Square to eat super healthy Hagen Daaz. I had this delicious brownie, chocolate ice cream and raspberry sorbet dessert, and man oh man I can still taste the raspberry.

After we walked through the China Town towards the BT Tower. From there we ended up in the City of Westminster. There were again some really impressive buildings in the area. Also, we saw a couple of Alfa Romeos and some very nice Audis. I also took a picture of a gas station, because I was shocked at the gas prices. Gas is really expensive in London. Almost the twice (if not more) of what we pay in Canada. From there we hopped on a double-decker which took us to the abbey. You know you are a tourist when you quickly climb up to the top floor and dash to sit in the front seat so you can see the city. Again, instead of buying the stupid tours, you can just hop on any of the double-deckers, and enjoy the city's spectacular architecture. We went to the Tower Bridge, and walked by the Thames River. It was a nice walk, but it was freezing, and I have a bad cold and sore throat now :(. My sister and I walked aimlessly discovering new parts of London, we had never been before. We also made it to their financial district to see 30 St Mary Axe.

After spending the night walking about my sister and I were absolutely sore and we had to get up early to pack for our train ride to Paris.

Again, the more I see of London the more I love it. Our initial plan was to go to Stonehenge on our last day but we have decided to spend our last day in the city. I think the reason London is so alluring is because it is historical enough to be foreign, but because of the language it is familiar. We roam around the city without a map, because even when we do get lost, somehow we always end up finding our way. That is what's so amazing about the London's transit system.