08 January 2009

Art and Culture in London

So believe it or not, our vacation in London was not entirely spent filming each other act alternately embarrassing (see: Mark's NYE dance moves), rude (see: my blatant disregard of the handicap notice on the tube and self-righteous "dickhead" comment to Mark) or obnoxious (see: video of us running parallel to the rest of the Jack the Ripper tour in an effort to get ascloseaspossible to our tour guide; note that this occurred at ALL stops along tour, and not only the stop showed).

In fact, we spent most of our time walking the city and enjoying our location in Zone 1 of the tube for its proximity to museums and must-see locales. We visited the Tate Modern, and paid the fee to see a (crowded) Mark Rothko exhibit of his Seagram murals and many of his other late works. We spent several hours at the Tate, exploring its permanent collection as well, but it was absolutely crazy-crowded - and a marked difference from my last visit several years ago, when I was able to wander the near-empty museum. I hope that we get an opportunity to return in a few months and view the works in a less hectic atmosphere.
We also visited the British museum, which is known best for an ongoing battle with the Greek government concerning the rightful ownership of a number of murals chiseled off the Parthenon. Have to say I sort of agree with the Greeks, though the museum has some printed propaganda to the effect that the Brits saved the murals from irreparable harm after the Turks turned the Parthenon into a storage site for live ammo...

The museum is also famous for its stunning courtyard, and I have to agree - while the museum looks pretty nondescript (though large) from the street, the courtyard took my breath away. What else is this museum known for... ah, yes - the Rosetta Stone. We saw it...(or, at least, a part of it)

Have I mentioned that the museums were really crowded over the holidays? Craziness, and I have to think it was a bit worse this year, with the weak pound making it more affordable for people from all over Europe to come into the city.

We also walked around the city, visiting Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, St. James Park... A picture of Trafalgar is below:
Big Ben:
We also visited the British library near King's Cross, and though I don't have any good photos of the inside of the library, it was stunning. It was bustling with students performing research and citizens enjoying the amazing collection of works spanning centuries of literature in England and beyond - we saw the Magna Carta, 1st editions of Shakespeare's plays, illustrated bibles produced in monasteries in 800AD, scrolls from ancient China, and the list goes on. The library itself is a modern building built around a center tower for the stacks of books, with floors built like platforms around the tower with kiosks and tables for people. There's also an entire section of the library devoted to the repair and recovery of old works, and we were able to learn about how the curators repair ripped pages, reinforce disintegrated, acidic pages and hand-sew destroyed bindings.

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