Tag: UK Travel

An Italian Riviera Village… in Wales

An Italian Riviera Village… in Wales

Do you ever feel as though a vacation on the Italian Riviera is just an impossible dream? Well, if you live in the UK, the experience may be a lot easier than you think. Just go to Portmeirion, the Italian Riviera village located in Wales.

Portmeirion wales
The village of Portmeirion in Gwynedd, Wales

Sir Clough Williams-Ellis designed and built the village of Portmeirion in Gwynedd, Wales, between 1925 and 1975.  He was an architect and environmentalist who wanted to create a functional and attractive private village.  His purpose: to demonstrate how a naturally beautiful place could be developed without spoiling it. As a result, Portmeirion has the perfect combination of natural beauty and stunning architecture.

At Portmeirion, Williams-Ellis paid tribute to the atmosphere of the Mediterranean. While he repeatedly denied claims that Portmeirion was based on the Italian Riviera town of Portofino, he also said, “How should I not have fallen for Portofino? Indeed its image remained with me as an almost perfect example of the man-made adornment and use of an exquisite site.”

Portmeirion wales portofino italy comparison

The Village

At first glace, the village of Portmeirion seems larger than it really is. This effect is achieved by architectural designs that include arches, slopes and varying window sizes. Strolling through the area, you can admire the statues and other whimsical details that fill every nook with interest.

portmeirion wales battery square
Battery Square, Portmeirion

Battery Square contains guest accommodations, an aromatherapy spa and a café with outdoor tables on the cobbles – a great spot to grab a coffee, Mediterranean-style.

The  Hotel Portmeirion is the hub of the village’s quayside.

portmeirion hotel wales
Hotel Portmeirion, Quayside

In June 1981, fire gutted the hotel. It took nearly seven years to restore the hotel to its former glory.  Fortunately, however, the work was so well done that it received a Good Hotel Guide award for “Brilliant restoration of a great hotel.”  In the past, the Hotel has hosted notable people such as H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell, and Noël Coward.

Nearby

Outside the main village but within the Portmeirion estate, there is a striking mansion known as Castell Deudraeth.

portmeirion castell deudraeth
Castell Deudraeth

The mansion has a stone façade, tall crenellations and Gothic flourishes.  But don’t let its exterior fool you.  Inside, you will find a hotel with 11 modernized guest rooms and suites.

So, if you fancy a taste of the Italian Riviera without actually going to Italy, maybe you should consider Portmeirion. Admission for a day visit costs £10-12.  Alternatively, you could stay overnight in the Hotel Portmeirion, Castell Deudraeth, or numerous self-catering cottages within the village.

For more information:

Flamborough Head, Yorkshire

Flamborough Head, Yorkshire

On our recent trip to England, I had a list of lesser attractions for us to see. They weren’t big enough to drive out of our way for, but they were interesting or scenic enough to add into our itinerary if we found ourselves with a little bit of extra time and happened to be in the area.

Flamborough Head was one such place.  I had seen pictures of white cliffs and a big lighthouse and thought, “Well, that will be a nice place to take a few pictures.”  I had no idea there was so much history attached to it.  As a result, I was pretty pleased that we had gone to check it out.

flamborough head old lighthouse chalk tower

We passed this chalk tower as we approached the Flamborough Head lighthouse.  Sir John Clayton built the tower in 1669 with the permission of King Charles II. It stands over 78 feet tall and would have had a coal or brushwood fire burning at the top. However, most historians agree that it was never actually lit. Perhaps the voluntary dues from passing sailors were insufficient to provide funding for it. The chalk tower is most likely the oldest surviving lighthouse in England.

When we arrived at the current lighthouse, Hubs took a moment to read the signs, and we got a little insight into the historical significance of the site:

In the middle of the American Revolution, on September 23, 1779, the Battle of Flamborough Head took place. The battle was a conflict between an American Navy squadron led by none other than John Paul Jones on the Bonhomme Richard, and two British escort vessels, the HMS Serapis and the Countess of Scarborough, which were protecting a large merchant convoy.

Battle of Flamborough Head

Jones’ initiated the conflict by engaging the Serapis in a violent gun battle. It seemed that a British victory would be inevitable because the Serapis was more heavily armed.

At one point in the battle, John Paul Jones’ ship collided with the Serapis, rendering both ships temporarily immobile. The British captain, a man by the name of Pearson, taunted Jones by asking if his ship had struck.  (This was a play on the word strike, which is also the term for lowering a ship’s flag as a sign of surrender – “striking the colors.”)

John Paul Jones’ response?  The famous quote, “I have not yet begun to fight!”

In the end, Jones claimed the victory, although he lost his ship in the process. Countless expeditions have looked for the wreckage of the Bonhomme Richard but none have met with success to date.

Samuel Wyatt, a noted architect, designed the current lighthouse at Flamborough Head.  Built in 1806, it held an oil lamp, which rotated by means of a clockwork motor.  The light was reportedly visible for 20 miles.  In 1925 authorities raised the lighthouse to its current height of 85 feet, which puts it 250 feet above the waves.

Flamborough Head Lighthouse

In addition to the impressive lighthouse, the view there was really beautiful.  Water lapped at the edges of the white cliffs and the North Sea stretched out in front of us as far as we could see.  It was the kind of place that you want to just stand and take it all in. So if you’re in the area and have a half hour or so to spare, stop by to soak up the history and the salt air.

Flamborough Head Cliffs

You can reach the Flamborough Head Lighthouse by way of Lighthouse Road (B1259) in Flamborough, Yorkshire, postcode YO15 1AR.

Travel Trivia

Travel Trivia

I often joke that I can remember a fact that I learned in fifth grade, yet I can’t remember why I walked into another room.  It’s not quite that bad, thankfully, but I do have a knack for holding on to useless knowledge.  So I thought I would share some of my favorite bits of travel trivia.  I hope you find them as interesting as I do!

  • One state in the US has more national parks than the other 4 – California is home to nine national parks. (Alaska is a close second with eight.)
  • The largest active volcano on earth is Mauna Loa, in Hawaii. Its last eruption was in 1984.
  • The Philippines has the only national flag flown differently depending on whether it is at war. The blue portion is on top in times of peace and the red portion is on top during war time.

philippines-flag travel trivia

  • At 5772 miles long, the Trans-Siberian Railway is the longest railway in the world. It crosses 3901 bridges.
  • The Republic of Nauru, an island nation in Micronesia, has no capital.
  • South Africa, by contrast, has three capital cities:  one administrative/executive, one legislative, and one judicial.  Fourteen other countries have two capitals.
  • Three countries in the world are completely surrounded by only one other country:  Lesotho, San Marino, and Vatican City. Lesotho lies within the country of South Africa, whereas San Marino and Vatican City are within Italy.
  • In the list of Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, only one still stands today – the Great Pyramid of Giza.

great_pyramid_of_giza travel trivia

  • Many people have heard that the city of Venice Italy is slowly sinking. However, it may surprise them to learn that Mexico City is also sinking – at 10 cm per year, a rate that is ten times faster than that of Venice.
  • The world’s oldest subway is London’s Underground. At its opening in 1863, it measured four miles long. Today, it is approximately 250 miles long.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these bits of travel trivia! If you have a fun fact to share, please comment below.

Same Language, Still Foreign: How to be a good traveler in the UK

Same Language, Still Foreign: How to be a good traveler in the UK

Over the years, I’ve made three (soon to be four) trips to the UK. There is a great degree of comfort in going there, because even though it’s a foreign country, there is no language barrier.  Going to the UK is easier than going to say, Germany, or China.

However.

It is not wise to get lulled into a false sense of security. Just because we speak the same language does not mean that we use the same names for everything. Nor does it mean that there won’t be cultural differences. Through doing some preparatory research before I traveled and making some mistakes, I learned that there are a few things one shouldn’t do in the UK if one wants to stay in the good graces of the natives.

  1. If you choose to wear one, do not refer to your waist pack as a “fanny pack.” On this side of the Atlantic, fanny is a rather adorable word for butt. On that side of the Atlantic, it’s a crude name for female genitalia.
    guide to uk travel fanny pack
  2. Likewise, do not gasp when you hear someone in the UK mention “fags” or “faggots.” They could be talking about a cigarette, a bundle of sticks, or even a meal.
  3. A zebra crossing in the UK would be called a crosswalk here. Hopefully you won’t actually see a herd of zebras crossing the street in London.
  4. If someone is spelling a word for you and they say zed, it’s a Z.
  5. Do not ask someone where the rest room or bathroom is. Instead, use the British term toilet or lavatory.
  6. When making a V or peace sign with your index finger and middle finger, take care to ensure that your palm is facing out, not toward yourself. If you make this gesture with the back of your hand facing out, it is the American equivalent of giving someone the finger. Particularly when combined with a flicking motion. Hubs made a motion for someone to pass us on the road in this fashion and the other driver was quite insulted. Former President George HW Bush made a similar error when visiting Australia in 1992.
    guide to uk travel peace sign
  7. Don’t tell a Brit that you love their accent if you are both standing on British soil. If you’re both on British soil, you are the one with the accent. Come to think of it, it’s probably not the greatest thing to say on American soil, either.
  8. Be aware of the geography. The UK consists of Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England. The latter three, sharing the same land mass, can also be referred to as Great Britain. Do not refer to someone who is from Scotland, Northern Ireland, or Wales as English. Only people from England are English.
    guide to uk travel united kingdom great britain england
  9. While I hate to make generalizations, I think most people would agree that Brits are much more reserved than Americans. In British culture, you are likely to raise eyebrows if you do any of the following: shouting, kissing, laughing loudly, shaking hands outside of a business setting, talking loudly on a cell phone, and talking about the value of your possessions.
    guide to uk travel cell phone use
  10. Because Brits drive on the left side of the road, you should look right-left-right before crossing a two-way street. This is the exact opposite of what we typically do here, and it’s hard to break that habit. Bigger cities such as London actually have instructions/reminders about which way to look painted on the ground, so that helps. But it less densely populated areas, you’ll need to concentrate on which way to look before stepping off the curb.

By observing these subtle but important differences between our country and the Brits’, you won’t have to worry about committing a faux pas when you are traveling in the UK.

Coventry Cathedral: A Monument to Reconciliation

Coventry Cathedral: A Monument to Reconciliation

I am a huge history geek.  (I’m sure you didn’t notice! hahaha)  Sometimes I will read about a place that has such a phenomenal history behind it, I want to go there.  Coventry Cathedral is one of those places.

Coventry Cathedral Then

On the night of November 14, 1940, a German Luftwaffe bombing devastated the city of Coventry in Warwickshire, England. In the aftermath of that attack, many of the city’s buildings burned, reduced to piles of smoldering rubble.  The 14th century cathedral in Coventry was one of the most badly damaged buildings.

coventry cathedral ruins after bombing

Shortly after the destruction, the cathedral stonemason, Jock Forbes, noticed that two of the charred medieval roof timbers had fallen in the shape of a cross. They were later placed on an altar of rubble with the moving words ‘Father Forgive’ inscribed on the Sanctuary wall.

Coventry_Cathedral_burnt_cross

A local priest fashioned another cross from three medieval nails. In the years that followed, Lutheran churches in Kiel, Dresden, Berlin and other cities destroyed by Allied bombings receieved a replica of the original Cross of Nails as a symbol of peace and forgiveness. It was through these churches that trust and partnerships between England and Germany grew and former enemies became friends. Thus, the Cross of Nails became a powerful, inspirational symbol of forgiveness and reconciliation throughout the world.

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Coventry Cathedral Now

When it came time to rebuild, Basil Spence designed the new cathedral building. Spence insisted that the ruins of the old cathedral remain as a garden of remembrance with a new cathedral next to them.  His intention was for the two buildings – old and new, medieval ruins and modern architecture – to form one church. His work on the cathedral was so notable that he received a knighthood for it.

Coventry Cathedral

The new church building is very modern and as such, it’s quite a contrast to its medieval predecessor. The baptismal font is carved from a boulder that came to the church from Bethlehem.  The stained glass windows form a screen depicting saints and angels.

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Outside the new cathedral there is a striking statue of the archangel Michael fighting off the Devil. I love that the Devil is on his back, in chains, with Michael’s foot effectively on his head.  I also love that Michael is holding a spear.  Angels can be fierce.

Coventry Cathedral Angel

If you’ve seen the English Christmas movie “Nativity!,” you may recognize the ruins of the old Coventry Cathedral as the site of the performance. (If you haven’t seen “Nativity!,” you should. It’s a great movie featuring Martin Freeman of Sherlock fame. If you haven’t seen Sherlock… well, I may just have to do a BBC intervention for you.)

Coventry Cathedral’s address is Priory St, Coventry CV1 5FB, United Kingdom.  Hours for the new building are Monday – Saturday 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and noon to 4:00 pm on Sundays.  The ruins are open 9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily.  There is a small fee for admission for adults.  Minors and students from UK universities enter free. The free Coventry Cathedral app is recommended to enhance your visit.

Bucket List: Hever Castle in Kent, England

Bucket List: Hever Castle in Kent, England

My very favorite time and place in the entirety of world history is Tudor England. My favorite people from that time period are king Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. It may surprise you to learn that, despite the fact that I have been to England three times (soon to be four), I have never visited Hever Castle, the home in which Anne Boleyn spent her childhood.

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Anne lived at this castle when she caught the eye of the king (who was still married to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon). He would stay at the nearby Bolebroke Castle while courting young Anne and pursuing his favorite pastime of hunting.

Anne did not spend much of her pre-Henry VIII life at Hever Castle, however, which is why it’s referred to as her childhood home.  She was at the French royal court from approximately age 13 to age 20.  Upon returning to the English court, she became a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine of Aragon.  Her striking looks and polished manners drew the attraction of not just the King, but also many male courtiers.

Today, Hever Castle is a lovely specimen of Tudor life, although many additions have been made over the years.  Here are a few of the rooms I look forward to seeing in person some day.

First, the dining room.  In the fifteenth century this room was the Great Hall and was originally open to the roof rafters. The linenfold paneling, the ceiling and the fireplace surmounted by the Boleyn coat of arms were designed by sculptor William Silver Frith (1850–1924). Nathaniel Hitch, another notable sculptor carved the Minstrels’ Gallery in 1905.

Hever Castle Dining Room
Dining Room

The Inner Hall was the Great Kitchen in the Tudor period. The Italian walnut paneling and columns were designed in 1905 by William Silver Frith as part of the restoration of Hever Castle. The gallery above the hall was inspired by the rood screen at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. The ceiling is in the Elizabethan style and incorporates the Tudor rose emblem.

Hever Castle Inner Hall
Inner Hall

The Morning Room was a private retiring room in the Tudor period. The paneling and fireplace date to the seventeenth century. In the stone of the fireplace surround are carved the initials H.W. representing Henry Waldegrave whose family owned Hever Castle between 1557 and 1715.

Hever Castle Morning Room
Morning Room

And finally, the Long Gallery was constructed in the sixteenth century and extends across the entire width of the Castle. It was used for entertaining guests, taking exercise, and displaying art collections. The paneling dates from the sixteenth century. The ceiling is an early twentieth-century reconstruction in the Tudor style created by Nathaniel Hitch.

Hever Castle Long Gallery
Long Gallery

The castle offers tourists a look at three floors containing antique furniture, Anne Boleyn’s prayer books, instruments of torture, and a large collection of Tudor paintings. There is also a museum of the Kent Yeomanry. The remains of the original country house timbers can still be seen within the stone walls of the fortification.  The the gatehouse is the only original part of the castle, and it has the oldest working original portcullis in England.

In addition to those historic attractions, Hever Castle has an annual events program that includes jousting tournaments and archery displays in the summer months and an annual patchwork and quilting exhibition in September.

The grounds of the castle include a yew maze, planted in 1904. There is also a water maze, opened in 1999, the object of which is to get to the folly at the center without getting wet. A special children’s adventure playground also has a tower maze.

Hever Castle is located at Hever Rd, Hever, Edenbridge TN8 7NG.  Telephone +44 1732 865224.  Hours vary by season; check the website or call when planning your visit.

What Big Ben Is… and Isn’t

What Big Ben Is… and Isn’t

I’ll give you the bottom line first. Big Ben is a bell, not a building or even a clock. You cannot see Big Ben in this photograph:

Big Ben

And sadly, unless you are a resident of the UK, you never will see Big Ben. The interior of the tower is not open to overseas visitors, although United Kingdom residents are able to arrange tours (well in advance) through their Member of Parliament. But there is no lift, only 300+ stairs, so maybe it’s just as well.

However, that will be changing. Next year, a three year long major renovation is due to take place. In addition to essential maintenance on the clock mechanism, a lift will be installed in the tower. The clock will be stopped for several months during the maintenance, and there will be no chimes. Striking and tolling will, however, be maintained for important events. Tours will also be suspended at the end of this year until the work on the Tower and Clock is complete.

The tower in which Big Ben resides was renamed the Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to honor the queen for her Diamond Jubilee. In times past, it has also been known as the Clock Tower or St. Stephens Tower.

The clock is famous for its accurate timekeeping abilities. Each face of the clock bears a Latin inscription at the bottom which means O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First. 

On top of the clock’s pendulum is a small stack of old penny coins; these are to adjust the speed of the clock. Adding or removing a penny will change the clock’s speed by 0.4 seconds per day. In August of last year, the clock was discovered to be running 7 seconds fast. Coins were removed from its pendulum to correct the error, which caused it to run slow for a time.

Big Ben is the largest bell inside the Elizabeth Tower, and it is formally known as the Great Bell (there are four smaller bells known as quarter bells). It is 7 feet 6 inches tall and 9 feet in diameter.

Big Ben Bell London

 

Big Ben was cast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, who also made the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. The Whitechapel Bell Foundry was established as a business in 1570 and is still operating today. The Foundry can be toured, but tour availability is limited and must be booked well in advance. For more information, check the Foundry website.

Back to Big Ben. How it came to be called that is a matter of opinion. Some believe it was named after Sir Benjamin Hall, who oversaw the installation of the Great Bell. Others believe it was named after English heavyweight champion Benjamin Caunt.

Most people nowadays use the name to refer to the clock, the tower and the bell collectively, although sticklers like me cringe upon hearing it.

So, to review:

  • the bell is Big Ben or the Great Bell
  • the tower is the Elizabeth Tower

Any questions?

 

 

Places You Can’t Go… Because They Don’t Exist

Places You Can’t Go… Because They Don’t Exist

Yesterday I extolled the virtues of Pinterest as a travel planning tool. Today we’ll examine the flip side of that coin.

Every now and then a place will pop up on Pinterest that looks so amazing, so beautiful, so awe-inspiring, that you wonder why you haven’t heard of or seen it before. The answer is simple: you haven’t heard of it because it doesn’t exist, and what you’re looking at is probably a heavily photoshopped image.

For instance, take “The Forgotten Temple of Lysistrata”

forgotten temple of Lysistrata

This is a beautifully done blend of two photos.  One is of a beach cave in Portugal, and the other is of the Roman Pantheon.

Do you like castles?  This one is supposedly in Dublin, Ireland.

Castle-House-Island-Dublin-Ireland

Again, there are two separate places photoshopped into this one fake place.  The rock is Koh Tapu in Thailand and the castle is in Lichtenstein.

Stunningly similar is this figure carved in the side of a rock, called the Ngyen khag taktsang monastery in Bhutan:

Ngyen khag taktsang monastery in Bhutan.jpg

And then there’s this one from Kjeragbolten Norway:

Kjeragbolten Norway

There is a rock wedged between two cliffs in Norway, but it is just a rock, not part of a building.

Fairy pools in Scotland sound rather magical, don’t they?  Especially when they are supposed to look like this:

Fairy_pools.jpg

Honestly, if there were such a thing as magenta colored trees, don’t you think you would have seen them in more than just this one picture? The picture, by the way, is of a river in New Zealand, not Scotland, and the leaves are actually green.

Then there is the star and moon island:

moon-and-star-island

The crescent moon shaped island is real and in Hawaii. The star island is the invention of someone who knows their way around Photoshop.

And finally, my favorite, the underwater subway in Venice.

underwater-train-in-venice.jpg

Oh my goodness, where do I start?  For starters, the name on the front of the train is Danish, not Italian.  And the tunnel/water is from an aquarium photo.

So, again, it pays to do your research. Don’t plan your trip around a must-see place that doesn’t actually exist in the real world.

The good news is that there are so many places that are every bit as exciting and exotic as these. Here are a few of my favorite real places:

Beachy Head in England:

White Cliffs at Beachy Head

The Swallow’s Nest Castle in Crimea:

Swallows Nest Castle

The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland:

giant-causeway

The appropriately named Heart Lake at Olympia National Park in Washington State:

rsz_heart_lake_olympic_national_park

The Palm Islands of Dubai:

the-palm-islands-of-dubai

and the Salar de Uyuni salt flats of Bolivia:

Salar-de-Uyuni-21

So go out there and explore – there are plenty of natural and man-made wonders for you to enjoy without anyone having to fabricate them on their computer.

The Wonderful Worlds of Epcot Center

The Wonderful Worlds of Epcot Center

I have often said that when my children are grown and gone, I want to spend a week in Disney World with my Hubs and do nothing but hang out in Epcot’s World Showcase. That’s how much I love it.

Maybe it’s just because I’m a travel addict, or maybe it’s because I have come to realize that I will never have enough time or money to go all of the places I would like to go, but I think Epcot’s World Showcase is, as the old commercial used to say, the next best thing to being there. Here is what I enjoyed at each of the pavilions in the World Showcase. Your mileage may vary.

I’ve been to England a handful of times and the United Kingdom pavilion seemed like the real deal (except for the Florida heat). The Rose & Crown restaurant serves great food and is also a nice spot for watching the IllumiNations fireworks show.

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We found this display in a barely noticed corner of the France pavilion. Just another example of how much attention to detail the folks at WDW use.

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The Torii was a prominent feature of the Japan pavilion:

Japan Pavilion at Epcot World Showcase DisneyWorld

However, our favorite thing in Japan was the department store. We chose oysters and got to keep the pearls that they had made. The Japan pavilion also has a koi pond that contains a Hidden Mickey.

I loved looking at all the Venetian Carnivale masks and blown glass in Italy. The outdoor piazza there was beautiful too.

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Germany had a wonderful train garden, and a store full of cuckoo clocks, steins, and nutcrackers.

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The one that felt the most exotic was Morocco.  I just loved all of the brightly colored tile.

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The Norway pavilion had a fun little ride called Maelstrom in which you encountered a troll, but sadly, it is gone now. They are replacing it with a new attraction built around the movie Frozen. We had the princess character meal at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in the Norway pavilion. The princesses were wonderful and my daughter was thrilled despite the fact that she didn’t like much of the food.

We wanted to dine at Le Cellier Steakhouse in the Canada Pavilion, but discovered that it books as far in advance as some of the most highly sought after character meals.

We barely gave the China pavilion a second glance. I don’t know why; perhaps because we ran out of time. I am bumping that up to the list of places to check out on our next trip there.

The other pavilion we barely visited was the USA. We attempted to see The American Adventure show there but missed it due to getting there late and the last show had already started.

We enjoy the Mexico pavilion as well. The Gran Fiesta Tour is a fun and relaxing little boat ride through the  pavilion. The Plaza de Los Amigos is a souvenir shop that has many colorful trinkets and sombreros for sale. Eating at the Mexico pavilion is on my short list of things to do on our next trip.

All in all, the World Showcase is a great place to spend time. There are plenty of things to do and see, but it doesn’t seem as overwhelming as some of the other parts of DisneyWorld. This is a great place to relax and enjoy a good meal after walking all over the other parks for days on end.

Epcot Center is located at 200 Epcot Center Dr, Orlando, FL 32821. Telephone 407-824-4321. Park hours vary by day and season.

The British Museum, London

The British Museum, London

I visited the British Museum in London on an afternoon when I only had about two hours to go through it before closing. I most emphatically do not recommend touring the museum that way, as there are some amazing relics and things of beauty to see there.

Because I was limited on time, I had only two must-see items. In order to maximize my chance of seeing them successfully, I looked up their location online. Items on display at the British Museum are located in rooms that are numbered. I also made sure I had a map of the building so I could see where the rooms were located. This saved me a lot of time, which meant I had more time for actually looking at the displays.

My first must-see item was the Rosetta Stone because… well, for goodness’ sake, it’s The Rosetta Stone.

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The other was a bit more obscure. I really wanted to see the Lewis Chessmen because earlier that year I had completed a fabulous Bible study by Beth Moore titled Esther:  It’s Tough Being a Woman. The cover featured these very expressive chess pieces.

BethMoore_Esther.gif

I had no idea they were artifacts. But as it turns out, the Lewis Chessmen are kind of a big deal. Carved from ivory walrus tusks, they were discovered in 1831 on the Isle of Lewis (Outer Hebrides of Scotland). They date from the 12th century and are believed to be Norwegian in origin. I snapped a picture of the queen to share with the ladies in my study group.

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After I’d seen the two things that I most wanted to see, I was free to do a little exploration. I headed to the two areas of museums that always draw my attention: jewelry and majolica.

First the jewelry. Check out this exquisite livery collar.

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I believe that’s Saint George slaying the dragon, and I think there are diamonds on his sword, armor, and horse. Fancy!

Also, there was this “Royal Gold Cup” which dates from the 14th century.

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But the item I saw that almost made me laugh out loud about was this plate, dated 1544:

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The sign describes it as follows: “Dish, Coriolanus implored by his mother not to attack Rome.”  Look closely at what his mama is doing to implore him. Weird!

I could have easily spent an entire day at the Museum, maybe two. There are statues from the Parthenon in Greece (Elgin Marbles) that date from nearly 500 BC, which I am sad to say I breezed right past in order to get to the rooms in which my treasures were located. The Museum’s collection of ancient artwork – not just from Greece, but also Rome and Assyria – is unparalleled. There are things of beauty and things so old you will wonder how they have survived the ravages of time. If you have even a slight appreciation for art or history, the British Museum should be high on your list of places to visit in London. Just make sure you allow more than two hours for it.

TIP:  If you’re into virtual exploration, you can walk through the Museum (without any crowds) by using Google Street View – Explore the British Museum. It’s pretty fun once you get the hang of the movement controls.

The British Museum is located on Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG. Telephone +44 (0)20 7323 8299. The nearest Tube stations are Tottenham Court and Holborn, both about a ten minute walk away. The Museum is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm, and on Fridays until 8:30 pm. Admission is free.