England: Day 9

Kathy’s cousin Heather joined us from Paris, where she runs a personal shopping service, for today’s romp around London. We started with a visit to the amazing British Museum. This museum is a public trust, with one of the foremost antiquities collection in the world, and free admission. The building itself is a very nice contrast to many museums — open and airy, with lots of natural light from skylights, and plenty of space around the pieces. The first thing we saw upon entering and turning into a gallery was the Rosetta Stone in all of its amazing detail. Photos of the stone don’t do justice to the intricacy of the carvings thereon — tiny, and cut with a precision far beyond what I can manage with a pen and paper. We then proceeded through one of the Egypt galleries, with a number of huge sculptures we’d read about in a book for children on the Museum, and some of the Greek & Rome areas, which were likewise overwhelming.

By this point, we were all getting a bit hungry, so we ducked out of the building and grabbed lunch. I found the next entry in my Curious Crisp Hall of Fame: Slow Roasted Lamb & Mint flavor potato chips. The rest of the family enjoyed the peculiarly inconsistent service economy that seems to characterize London’s businesses at Burger King, where the help seemed rather put upon when asked to provide the actual food ordered, and would only grudgingly dole out a single packet of BBQ sauce when asked.

We then did a bit of wandering and shopping, spending a good deal of time in a game shop with a spectacular selection and a similarly varied toy store in Covent Garden Market, where we had our first encounters with buskers, London’s famed street entertainers. There was a human statue who would remain perfectly still until she heard the clink of coins in her dish, at which point she would come to life for long enough to pantomime her gratitude. We also encountered a nondescript looking woman in blue jeans beautifully singing soprano opera arias accompanied by a recorded orchestra on a boom box, and a charismatic string quartet which not only played wonderfully but managed some entertaining choreography as well. (The cellist was exempted from the dancing about, mercifully.)

As we were wandering in the Covent Garden area, we saw the theaters producing a number of the shows that are currently being heavily advertised around London: We Will Rock You, The Producers, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mary Poppins, The Lion King, and more. It surprised me a bit that so few of the current big shows in London’s famed theater district are original — nearly all are derived from other media that have been adapted to the musical stage. As much as I love the movie version of The Producers, it would seem that a stage show would be hard pressed to improve markedly on it, especially without Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder involved. We plan to take in a show before we leave, but will hopefully be able to find something a bit more original than these.

Kathy has now headed off to Paris with Heather until Thursday. [Mom McMains->] should be rejoining the kids and I this evening, and we’ll have the next few days to focus on doing things around and near the city the children will enjoy.