My father always said, "Do it right, or go home." This truth could be said of British architecture. Buildings, bridges, ships, and cathedrals that have stood the test of time still beckon you to explore their ancientness. The London Natural History Museum is no exception.
So, as my English summer drew to a close, I gleefully found myself in London for a capstone visit. Just 3 short days to take in more sites, before jaunting off to Paris. Oh, listen to me, "jaunting off to Paris...where is my Baguette and convertible?" 😁 Top of the list-to once again wander the behemoth 250,000 square foot depository of all things natural, the London Natural History Museum.
During an era when "The sun never sat on the British Empire," there was a fascination with the exotic. Thank God explorers had the gumption to bring back, preserve, educate, and inspire the general public with incredible collections. Here, words like Entomology, Petrology, Botany, and Anthropology waft through the air.
My home for 2 nights was a minimal AirBnB in a safe, but older neighborhood. Blocks of 1970's apartment buildings stood near the Thames River, like an uncreative Lego Land. Here, there were 2 Aussie women sharing a room, I had my room, and our feisty South American hostess slept on the sofa. Yummy breakfast sandwiches powered up my day. The apartment was snug, but I didn't mind as I just needed a crash pad. Any hey, it was walking distance to some of my favorite hangouts in London. Still, I racked up over 9 miles a day walking and exploring. That's enough to make any fitness wrist watch spit and fuss.
If you think you're going to dart through this museum in 2 hours, you do yourself a disservice. It would be like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower, which I did years ago,😣 and will correct next week. (Yippy). Here, on my second visit, I equally enjoyed the collections as much as the building. Carvings of plants, fish, birds, and animals catch your attention; like you're being observed by a 1,000 adoring eyes. It's peaceful here with the clicking sounds of shoes striking the stone floors. The Terracotta stonework is an achievement unto itself. Walking up the jaw-dropping grand staircase, you get a sense of how, literally, the hands of time have softened the stones, mellowed the corners, yet remained stout and resilient. Being free to the public, I recommend arriving early. Plus, you really need a full day to tour this remarkable site.
*Over 80,000 million items. Not all on display. Still, enough to keep you busy.
*130,000 specimens-the insects are strangely beautiful.
*Built 1881-the architecture is breathtaking.
Some of my favorite exhibits are in the Mineral Gallery where you can view the 9,381 carat Ostro Stone Blue Topaz, along with a 1,383 carat emerald which you can gawk at in the video link above. There's enormous diamonds, thousands of taxi-dermied animals, birds, insects, and butterflies. When was the last time you stood next to a Blue Whale or a dinosaur skeleton and really felt their massive size? Crane your neck to see a 1,300 year slab of California Sequoia tree which was shipped over in 1893 to permanently rest; also in the video. My absolute favorite was the Terracotta building itself. Thousands of ornaments adorn columns, stair cases, ceilings, floors; like a choir giving applause to a conductor. The crème de la crème were the painted Botanical tiles that line Hintze Hall.
But let's not forget our morning tea and pastry, lunch, and afternoon Creamed Tea. Oh, and a late afternoon cocktail. The café was adorned with stunning painted tiles dripping in tradition; it feels ever so British here. My table manners were on notice.🤣 I ventured outside to the water feature and court yard, where, on the day I visited, children of all ages were splashing around to escape the heat. Heat being 70 degrees. HA! Getting some fresh air will aid you in digesting the cornucopia of exhibits.
Located in South Kensington, this sizable area of London includes such famous sites as Buckingham Palace, Royal Albert Hall, Hyde Park, the V & A museum, Houses of Parliament, and more. Can you see why a 1 week trip to London doesn't even scratch the surface?
On this 3 day stay, I visited the V & A Museum again, toured every nook and cranny of The Tower Bridge, watched the Orient Express chug across the Thames River and partook in mass at the oldest church in London All-Hallows-By-The-Tower (founded 675 AD). Now boys and girls, when was the last time you were in church, let alone, a 1,346 year old church? That's a long time for the "Good Lawd" to wait around for you to get your assets back in church. It was pure happenstance that I stumbled upon this ancient place of worship; exploring back streets off the beaten path. TRAVEL TIP: In the midst of your down-to-the-second planning of a vacation, always leave time for rest, clearing your museum brain, or to wander streets to stumble across things like, really old churches.
Samuel Johnson famously said, "Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life, for there is in London all that life can afford." I say amen to that. When my future knocks with an opportunity to return to London, you can expect to see my Lilly White Bottom on the first flight. After all, London is an itch that I just have to scratch. Have you been to London?