Day 9: France and England

Then it was our last day in London…for now. We decided to spend the morning in the west side of London. Scott had never been to the Natural History Museum in Kensington. I hadn’t been there in years so we decided to go early before it opened. When we were at the V&A a few days prior, the line was impressive for the Natural History Museum. (And a block away, there was no line to the V&A!). We got there a little after 10 and there was already an enormous line. Thankfully it moved fast but it took about 30 minutes to get into the museum.

We made a beeline for the dinosaurs. That was the purpose of this trip. Plus the staff said it was recommended to go there first since the dinosaurs can also get a queue. It was an interesting exhibit of dinosaur bones. Unlike the Field, you don’t have to go through a lot of set up to get to the bones. You walk into the dinosaur hall and there are bones. Almost immediately, you end up on a bridge that takes you over the entire room. It was very crowded so it was slow going. We could see bones of various dinosaurs, It  was disconcerting to realize that the skeletons were shaking due to the vibrations of the bridge. Where the animals coming alive? Sadly, we discovered that the bones were replicas, not the actual things. So that was reassuring but disappointing. I’m not sure how much of the skeletons were actually real. At the end of the bridge component had you face to face with an animatronic T-rex, which was cool. But it seemed less impressive than Sue’s skeleton.
Dino 2

Suspended dinosaur

Suspended dinosaur

Then we wandered the room under the bridge. It was a little bit more interesting. It talked about the physiological differences between dinosaurs. For instance, it talked about raising of young and making inferences from the eggs. Are the eggs smashed? That might suggest the young stayed in the nest for a while. Are the eggs pristine? That may suggest that the young left the nest early on. And then it ended in a strange display of toys to talk about popular views of dinosaurs in the current age. But it did feel a little contrived because there was a note that some of the toys were available in the gift shop. Boo.
We then wandered into the rest of the museum. We found the Treasures of the Cadogen gallery. There were 22 artifacts that were highlighted due to their significance. For instance, there was a dodo skeleton, impressive considering how humans managed to make them extinct a century or so ago. There were also Charles Darwin’s pigeons that he bred that helped him better understand evolution. There was a book of bird illustrations by John James Audubon that was stunning. These were true treasures of the museum. There were also very informative computer screens next to each item to help you understand why it was important, etc.
 I also started to discover an interesting story/rivalry of Richard Owens and Gideon Mantell who were the first British dinosaur hunters.  I ended up picking up a book from the bookshop called Dinosaur Hunters about their lives and work. It’s quite tragic actually. Gideon Mantell sacrificed everything for his love of prehistoric creatures and assembled an impressive collection of specimens but never got much recognition for his work. Many of his inferences proved the framework for others’ work (namely spiteful and sadistic Richard Owens). Richard Owens thoroughly defeated him while rising in preeminence in London and the world. He’s the one who coined the phrase “dinosaurs.” He also had a special fundraising dinner in the body of a hollow concrete Iguanodon.  Even after Mantell’s death, his deformed spinal cord was procured by Owens to showcase in the museum. It was taken off display when a bomb from WWII destroyed it and the rest of the gallery it was in!
Then it was time to have high tea at Fortnum and Masons with friends who were also in town. It was tremendous fun. I’ve talked about this in previous posts but I love love love the tea at  Fortnum and Masons. Every time I go there, I buy 7 or 8 full boxes of their tea; I have to have a separate bag to carry it.  When friends go to London, I ask them to pick up more. It’s an obsession (and a hatred of shipping fees). I’ve been to tea at Fortnum several times and it is always lovely. It’s classy and charming.
I ordered the regular tea service because I wanted tea sandwiches. I love the amazing combinations that the British have concocted. I eat cucumber sandwiches on a fairly regular basis. I was not disappointed with the selection. I also relished in the warm scones with clotted cream. So happy! Goal 2 of our trip was met. The first was a Nutella crepe on the streets of France and the second was the scone celebration. They also gave us several types of jam so I got to try lemon curd for the first time. Quite tasty. Scott tried all three jams at the same time and said it was wonderful. It was so much food that we couldn’t finish the little sweets they gave us or the cake option. I got this checkerboard cake which was okay. (Nothing beats Walls’ checkerboard cake in Hewlett, NY).
What a lovely tea!
Tomorrow, I’ll talk about the play we say at the Savoy Theater. That’s all!
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