Saturday,  June 16th


Today we arrived in London!  We left Barnsdale Hall early, because Kevin’s fencing seminar at the Wallace Collection started at 10:30.   Getting to London and returning the car was uneventful, and we got a taxi into the city because it was almost cheaper than train tickets for two, and much easier with our luggage (especially because the big bag has gotten very heavy…)

We’re staying in the Astons Apartments, which is an adorable set of buildings in Kensington.  Since we got into London earlier than their check in time, we left the luggage with them and headed for the Underground so Kevin could get to the Wallace collection.  After a bit of confusion, we found the place, and Kevin headed out.  I kept walking, and went for quite the wander around Kensington.  Now, Kevin turned on the international data plan on his phone and I did not, so I didn’t really have a clue where I was, or where I was going.

I found my way to Kensington Park, which is somehow larger than you would expect.  Like, even Central Park in NYC, standing on one side, you can see where the park ends.   Not here.  I’m not sure though, if that says more about the size of the park, or the height of the buildings.  In Kensington Park, there is Kensington Palace, a rather uninspiring brick building, though with nice gardens.  There is also a rather garish memorial to Prince Albert by Queen Victoria.  It’s huge, and very… gold- covered. It stands sort of caddy-whompus to the Royal Albert Hall, a round music hall.  I kept going, and discovered some signage which pointed me towards a clot of museums, including the V&A, the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum and a few other smaller ones, like one with a bunch of maps, and something about music.  Admission to most of the major museums in London is free, so I decided to check out the Museum of Natural History.  (We will be going back to the V&A, but I knew that Kevin wanted to see that stuff too.)

The Royal Albert Hall, across from Kensington Park

The Albert Memorial, put up by Queen Victoria.

The museum has a few different areas, and I managed to enter though the smaller side entrance, into the Earth section.  It was pretty cool, because the entrance hall is a giant three story escalator, through a model of the Earth.  They had a pretty cool exhibit on volcanoes, focusing on the eruption of Pinatubo, and a sort of funny one on earthquakes, focusing on an earthquake in Japan recently, but not the most recent one.  They had an earthquake simulator room, made up to look like a Japanese supermarket, but when it got going, it didn’t really feel much like an earthquake.

This was the entrance to the Geology Wing. It’s newer than the other portions of the museum, and was pretty cool. They had an earthquake simulator! Haven’t been on one of those in ages (though I’m not sure how realistic it was… Heck, not sure how realistic the old one was, either, but I remember it being a lot scarier)

The dinosaur in the main hall of the Natural History Museum. His name is Dippy.

Ok, very hard to get a picture of all of this, but they had a mammal hall, and it was PACKED to the ceiling with all different kinds of mammals, including at least 4 whale skeletons, and a model of a blue whale. Whales are big. That is all.

The main hall, looking from the top gallery. The statue in the middle of the staircase is Charles Darwin.

They also had some very neat rock specimens on display, like pieces of pillow lava, and Pelee’s Hair.  I have to say, some parts of the museum felt a bit outdated, but their specimen collection is AWESOME.  Once I’d finished in the Earth section, I made it out into what is actually the main entrance room.  What a beautiful room!  Brick, and columns and awesome staircases, and a giant dinosaur skeleton in the middle.  I took a quick trip through a few other exhibits, but it was getting close to 3:30, and it was pretty crowded.  Kevin’s seminar thing was over at 4:30, and we’d agreed to meet at our room, so I wanted to get checked in and so on.

This is where I really should have thought through the “how to get home” plan a little more thoroughly before wandering off with a phone that has no data, and a suitcase full of maps and guidebooks back in the hotel reception.  Don’t get me wrong, clearly things turned out fine, and the day was nice enough, if a little (a lot) windy.  I ended up all the way down to Harrod’s in the shopping district before I decided to turn around and find somewhere with free wifi.  Eventually, I found a café with wifi, and got myself sorted out (I was like, 4 blocks from where I needed to be, but going in the wrong direction.  Sheesh…)

Our room is fun!  It’s on the bottom story, so it’s up the outside stairs, then down the inside stairs.  It looks a little bit like Elise’s apartment on the outside, except prettier (sorry, Elise).  We have a kitchen that basically fits into a closet in the room.  When I first walked in I was like, wait a second….  And then I saw that one cabinet has dials on the outside.  There is a door through the bathroom to a little walled space outside, but we haven’t explored that yet.

Our front door! We are in there, down to the bottom, and right at the back

Inside our room! This was the “kitchen”! I am leaning on the bed headboard in this picture. Kevin is standing by our little table, and there is a bathroom with an extremely contrary toilet down a little hall behind the door to the left. It was wee!

We actually have internet in here, too!  It’s not the best internet ever, but it totally works, which is lovely.  When Kevin got home, he was starving, so we headed out to find a bite to eat.  Down the road a bit, we found a great little Irish pub.  The music was fun, the food was great (they had this fancy ketchup stuff, SO GOOD).  We went for a walk back up to Kensington Park after dinner, and then on the way home, we found a grocery store so we have provisions for the morning.  Looking forward to a full day tomorrow!

The pub! Mmm…

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