UK Trip- Day 13: A Tale of Two Tours & Three Museums

April 21:

Once again, I had a morning where I needed to choose what to do. The options I gave myself were: The British Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, or the free walking tour. The V&A wasn’t even on my radar until the other day when my Harry Potter tour guide said it was her favorite museum. One of my roommates in the hostel also said she visited the museum and spent about 5 hours there and only saw half of it. Whoa. In the end, I figured it made more sense to go to a museum with lots of British culture rather than a museum with lots of things stolen from other countries and re-appropriated by Britain. LOL So off to the V&A I went!

I stuck to the older (mostly medieval era) collections. But I also inherited my mother’s love of wrought iron and they had an entire exhibit of doors, candle holders, and more. What amazed me most about the items on display was that there were actual parts of buildings inside museums. A dais from a church, an entire three-story staircase, a balcony, an entire wood-paneled room, etc. all inside. I even acted like a little kid and made a rubbing of a shield/crest at one of the (abandoned) activity stations. It showcased so many parts of architecture and culture that I might not have thought to see–a little bit of everything artistic. Check out the photos below and notice the St. George & the Dragon sculpture. That’ll be relevant later on in this post. There were also some random performing artists in the lobby and hallways, stealing a suitcase from each other.

Gold ship

Narnian horn & pitcher

Knight’s tomb cover


Book, naturally

Candle holders

St. George & the Dragon

Prongs & Padfoot ;-)

Green man in iron

Fingerless risen mitten?

Giant gorgeous staircase

Backgammon game & Highlander-esque chess piece

I bought some gifts at the museum store, which doubled as a cultural textiles & fabrics exhibit. Then I had lunch at the museum restaurant (inside, because it was nippy in the beautiful courtyard). The food wasn’t so great (I like my humus bland), but it was healthy and expensive so I ate it all. LOL

Realizing I still had some time to kill before needing to meet up with my afternoon tour, I went to the Natural History museum next door. I didn’t see very much of it, but I definitely took this elevator ride up! There were lots of shiny rocks and stuffed things (which I didn’t spend much time on, because that makes me sad and somehow I can justify it when they’re Teddy Roosevelt’s and for the Smithsonian). And have I mentioned how much I love the way the Tube advertises on the wall what’s at each stop? So useful! Also, it was nice to see a diricawl in England!

I headed to the Temple tube station a little early and found a few snarfs in the park nearby. I was slightly worried that this tour would be a complete repeat of the walking tour (because that tour guide said it would be the same things all over again), but it was definitely different enough for me to be glad I’d done both.

I got to walk on the Millennium Bridge and pose silly (take a look at the person to the right of me in the photo of me on the bridge!), drive by Number 12 Grimmauld Place, drive down Charring Cross Rd (where the real entrance to Diagon Alley is), and visit Kings Cross Station. And I got to see a few other locations from the other day again for better/different photos of them.

Millennium Bridge

Me on the bridge

Our tour guide on the bridge

On the bus

Whomping Willow-esque trees

Matching up the buildings with shots from the movies

Grimmauld Place

Diagon Alley Entrance

Charing Cross Rd

Way to platforms 9 & 10 at Kings Cross

Heading to Platform 9 3/4

Bookstore in Kings Cross

I brought a biography of JKR to release at Kings Cross Station. I thought it would be super cool to leave it in the basket when I was done with my photo op there. The two things I didn’t count on: 1-So many people taking turns at photos (you pretty much had to selfishly barge in and demand a turn at the trolly) and 2-I was in a TRAIN STATION! You can’t leave a book in a busy train station on CCTV while they’re making announcements on the loudspeakers about abandoned packages. Yeah. Stupid me. But my tour guide saw my book and asked what it was. I told her and gave it to her! I’m sure she will enjoy it and pass it on. But after I gave it to her and was explaining the concept, one of the woman in my tour group came over excitedly–she was a BookCrosser, too! I wish I’d had another book to give her.

We ended the tour near Trafalgar Square, so I walked over and snarfed around the area. There was a celebration going on and it took me a moment to figure out what it was. Turns out it was a St. George’s Day celebration! Which made sense to me later, I realized, because the Kensington Book Festival was happening back home that weekend.

I went into the National Gallery there and suddenly found myself standing in front of some of Van Gogh’s amazing sunflowers. They didn’t allow photography (though I saw a dozen people taking photos) so I’ve got no photos of inside, but I spent an inordinate amount of time in that part of the gallery.

After the gallery closed, I went searching for the London Forbidden Planet. Cinnamon-quill had joked and said that London had one and we actually passed one while on the bus. So I retraced the bus’s route looking for it. I got as far as the theater district and the giant Singing in the Rain sign. But then there were something like, 6 different roads there. I chose the most likely and it didn’t look familiar. Then I tried the next likely and it wasn’t there either. I tried going through my photos to see if I could use that as breadcrumbs, but I didn’t take enough of that part of the drive. Gah. So my dream of three Forbidden Planets on the trip didn’t come to pass. But I did SEE it, and that’s gotta count for something, right?

I popped into a couple bookstores on the street and managed to escape without buying a single book. How frekish is that? I also got a photo of something we passed on the tour on the wrong side of the bus. The photo is at the end of this post.

I came across a little restaurant/cafe and ordered a salad and mushroom something (which I SWEAR had meat in it, though they insisted it didn’t. There were little chunks of something that wasn’t in the ingredient list for it, that’s for sure). I kept worrying about the time, because I wanted to go to the Jack the Ripper tour and this time I wanted to NOT BE LATE. Missing it twice when I thought I’d have time for a dinner as long as I didn’t get lost on the way would have broken my heart. So I hurried and ate and (once again) waited forever to get my check. But I did write some postcards while sitting there and worrying about the food and being late… I don’t think my worry came through in the postcards, but I did give up on them after a little while.

I got to the proper exit of the proper tube station this time expecting to find the tour guide and finding, instead, no one. After a minute or two, I noticed some other people waiting around. We all sort of acknowledged each other and I felt good to know that I was in the right spot this time. The tour guides showed up just when I was starting to get worried again. I paid my couple pounds and stepped aside into the “checked in & paid” group and headed off with the first tour guide–the group was so big they were going to have several (but I definitely got the good one; he rocked).

The RipperVision tour was absolutely worth all the trouble and worry I went through to find it. other tours were going on at the same time; we kept running into them. There was a square where there were five groups at various corners/sides; our tour guide said that on the busiest nights, there can be up to seven there at one time and one group gets stuck in the very center. I’m biased, but I thought the tour I went on was the best. We got the pictures and printouts in the book the tour guide had, and he was very good about presenting the facts, characters, logic, and various theories and letting us decide what to make of them (though he did also give us some of his thoughts, which I was happy to hear). And when it started getting dark, he projected images onto blank walls. So we got to see lots more without crowding around squinting at books. They even used google map images superimposed with crime scene building photos so we could match things up. And, of course, there were some photos of the actual murders. Which were sick and disgusting.

I can’t understand how someone could do this to people/women. So incredibly violent and inhuman. And now I desperately want to read MJ’s newest book even more. I still have no theory as to who Jack the Ripper really was, but it was certainly an entertaining tour.

And for one last tale of the day… while on the bus tour, we passed a street that was apparently supposed to be the JKR’s inspiration for Diagon Alley. And then, while on the Jack the Ripper tour, the tour guide asked if any of us were Harry Potter fans and that the alley we were walking down was JKR’s inspiration for Diagon Alley and that they’d filmed there. Huh. Strange. Especially as I had literally walked down Diagon Alley at the WB tour. Anyway, here are the three, side-by-side, and you can decide for yourself!