May 10, 2009

Athens, Day 39 (posted a week late): “It’s like Jesus stopped halfway through a miracle.”

Hello from London! I was too exhausted the last two nights to post, so I have a lot of catching up…

I woke up at 6:15 Friday morning and left at 6:30. I walked to Syntagma and arrived at 6:45 to wait for the 7 am bus. However, when I got there I was informed that since it was a public holiday (May Day) the buses ran on a Sunday schedule, which meant the first one would be at 9. Reluctantly I took a taxi, bled money through my ears and arrived at the airport much earlier than expected, which meant I had to sit around for a long time. The flight turned out to be 4 hours instead of 3 (and England is two hours behind, not one), so I was very confused for about an hour in the air until I checked the time zones on my iPod. When we landed, I took the express train and then a taxi to Stephen’s house in Belgravia, where I’m staying in the lap of luxury (hot water! flushing toilets! a kitchen that’s not in the bedroom!). I showered and changed into fresh clothes, had some pasta, and then proceeded to the British Museum. I met with the director of physical anthropology and got a tour of the department and saw the new shipments in from Sudan, which he was busy cataloguing. I found out that the BM freezes all new acquisitions for a few days to kill off any moths or fungi that may have come in with them (especially considering the nature of human remains and associated organic materials and the conditions in which they were packaged in Africa…) Afterwards I toured the museum by myself, checked out the anthropology library, and then decided I’d have to make the BM a two-day extravaganza. I went back to the tube and got on, going towards the Victoria and Albert Museum. However, on the train I discovered that my map had a list of museums, and one of these was the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221B Baker Street – the opposite direction. Here I discovered the beauty of traveling alone: I got off the train, went to the other platform, and got on a train going the other way. No problem. The museum was two floors of a late Victorian house, with antique furniture etc. The museum guide was a Dr. Watson re-enactor; I discussed “A Scandal in Bohemia” with him before proceeding to the top floors, which had wax models of various scenes from the stories. Afterwards I did indeed go to the V&A, where I saw a wonderful exhibit on haute couture hats and and another on Baroque furniture, which was a bit more tiring (Baroque art can get repetitive…) Suddenly realizing it was 7 o’clock and I’d been out on my feet for a considerable amount of time, I headed back to the flat, where they had prepared some Marks and Spencer microwave curry for me (which was delicious). I also had a long chat with Sammy, the nanny, who took me for a drive around Hyde Park and Regent’s Park; she also told me all the good cupcakeries.

End of Friday curry count: 2

Saturday morning Sammy drove me up to Primrose Hill with instructions for the day. We first stopped at a cupcake shop where I had a mini chocolate for breakfast before climbing the hill, the top of which gives one an excellent view of the city. I walked down and, after wending my way through the area of town that houses Jude Law, Kate Moss, and Simon Pegg, found Camden Lock, a super-hipster area that had all sorts of vintage stalls and street food; I had a second breakfast of a lamb samosa. I wandered around for a while and ended up buying my first pair of shoes this year (my only pseudo-resolution lasted til May – great!) I also bought two mini cupcakes from a new cupcake start-up; they used excessive fondant, which was actually delicious, and the cakes were pleasantly dry; one was chocolate and the other apple-cinnamon. I wandered around Camden for a bit, then took the train (this station had a sign warning passengers about pickpockets) to Holborn station again to find the Hunterian Museum. After getting lost and taking some nice architectural photos of King’s College, I found the Royal College of Surgeons and with it, the museum, neatly hidden away where nobody would ever think to look. It was full of awesome medical curiosities, skeletal pathologies, and a history of surgery and medical practice. I got to see bones with rickets and syphilis and the digestive tracts of snakes, among many other interesting things. I spent a good two hours there before deciding I was hungry and needed lunch. I wandered around the Seven Dials area, grabbing an excellent panini before going back to the BM, as I had forgotten to see the Rosetta Stone. I couldn’t really get close to it, so I went to the bookstore and bought a bought called “Necropolis: London and Its Dead”, when Georgia, one of my Megiddo friends, texted me saying she and her UCL archaeo friends were going to a pub in Camden. So I hopped on the tube again, back to where I had started. I met a bunch of recently-graduated archaeologists, including Rob, another Megiddo area supervisor I didn’t even know was living in London (working on a second masters). We went to their pub, Lock 17, although they complained that recently it had become infiltrated by hipsters and the quality decreased – indeed, they ran out of limes at 6 and refused to make any drinks that needed limes, which was half their menu. Eventually we left and went to a club one of the guys used to work at, so we got free entrance; I stayed til about 10.30, when I started to get worried about getting home before the tube closed. Everything worked out and I got back just after 11.

Cupcakes eaten so far: 3

Sunday I woke up late(ish), had curry for breakfast, and went all the way across town to Greenwich, where I saw the National Maritime Museum. It was interesting, although not as pirate-filled as I was expecting, considering the book I read by its curator. Afterwards I headed up a beautiful green hill to the Royal Observatory, where I set my watch to the Millennium Clock and took pictures astride the Prime Meridian. I started feeling a bit ill then (perhaps that was a hint of what was to come), so I had quick lunch at a noodle bar and then went home, noticing that on the ride on the DLR (Docklands Light Rail, which runs above ground), I saw many of the places I read about in “London: The Novel”. I had a nice long rest, the family left for the country house, and I decided to take a walk in Hyde Park (the original!) and have dinner in Notting Hill.

Hyde Park is a beautiful park. The dimming light shone through the spring-green trees, Indians played cricket, kids played soccer (football), and it turned out to be much, much bigger than I thought. [“Necropolis” tells me it’s also a giant plague pit, which is why there are no tube stations under it.] It took me an hour to get to Notting Hill gate. A beautiful walk, but a long one. (The most direct route to get back from NHG to HPC on the tube takes eight stops.) I had a nice vindaloo for dinner, then took the tube back on an indirect route in order to see two ghost stations. And indeed, like in “Neverwhere”, they’re only there if you look for them…

Curries eaten: 4

Monday I woke up ridiculously early but tried to deny my wakefulness for a few hours. I eventually decided to have another breakfast curry and then go to Harrod’s, just to look. For the first time all weekend, it was foggy and spitting outside and I needed my Marmot jacket. I spent a while wandering the food halls, buying a “Curiosity Cola” (apparently an old recipe before Coke took over, with a nice hint of natural flavor) and a red velvet cupcake (too moist). I wandered the Hall of Luxury for a while, only because it’s called the Hall of Luxury. Then Dad called to say they arrived early, we had lunch at Mango Tree, and I left for Heathrow; I arrived back at my apartment at half past midnight.

Total cupcakes: 4

Total curries: 5

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