After a really good night’s sleep I woke with a start to the sound of my alarm going off at 6:30AM. Gah! Far too early to be getting up on holidays, so I crawled across the room and shut it off. Simon was already up and about getting ready for work (he’s a service engineer for British Gas). When he logged into work from laptop the system told him he was booked out on annual leave. Having been told at 3PM the previous day there was NO CHANCE of him getting the day off he didn’t believe it so he rang his boss. He couldn’t understand it either so he went to look into it and promised to call him back. Ever the optimist, I was already fist pumping, but Simon was more cautious. He’d been through the roller coaster on this before so he wasn’t taking anything for granted. Getting a day off means longwinded approvals from the planning office and blah, blah, blah. A long, anxious 10 minutes later the phone rang again. It was Simon’s boss. “Go to the window and look up at the sky” he said “Say thank you. I don’t understand how but you’ve got the day off!” Hurrah!! There was much rejoicing.
Yesterday, before getting distracted by burgers and wandering around Oxford St, Simon mentioned he’d like to check out the Vikings exhibition at the British Museum. However, because it is extremely popular it’s best to get there early. Now we had the whole day. Perfect. Off-peak services didn’t start until 9:30AM so we had some time to kill. We made a quick trip to the local M&S so Simon could get a new pair of shorts (did I mention it is glorious summer weather here?) and we stopped at the deli for coffee. Then we headed off to the train station, but parking was restricted until 10:30AM, so we made another detour to a camping shop so I could get a gas canister for my camping stove and pocket knife which filled in the time nicely.
We arrived into St. Pancras about 11:00AM and decided to catch the tube to the Museum. As we walked from the station we past a bunch of London cabbies on strike, and admired the ritzy inner-city hotels and restaurants. I love the British Museum. It is enormous. It is beautiful. It is fascinating. You would need a week to see it all, and even then I reckon it would only be a cursory glance at the exhibits. Now running later than originally planned, we made a beeline for ticket counter. While you can make your way through the exhibition at your own pace, they issue tickets at staggered entry times to manage the crowds. Happily we could get in at 12:40PM which gave us just enough time for a quick lunch.
We found a little Italian cafe across the road, and were drawn in my the promise of burgers and free WiFi. Mmm. Burgers. We were greeted by a friendly German girl (who we later found out was called Fanny). We sat at table, and despite perusing the menu, couldn’t pass up the burgers. Fanny was interested in what we were up to, and where we were from so we explained I was on holiday from Australia, Simon had a surprise day off and we were seeing the Vikings exhibition. It turns out Fanny reckons she’s part Viking since she grew up near the Baltic sea and her descendants would have had a bit to do with the vikings. Simon convinced Fanny to give him an extra patty on his cheeseburger too. We ate our burgers in quick fashion (not nearly as good as yesterday but did the job) and dashed back to the museum.
When we finally got into the exhibition it was packed! You could hardly move, and in a way that is so typically English, everyone was politely lining up behind one another to catch a glimpse of the exhibits. It went something like: shuffle, shuffle, stop, peek at something, wait 5 minutes, repeat. At this rate we would literally be here all day, so we decided to go rogue and wander around freely, jumping in and looking over someone’s should if the opportunity presented itself. There was some amazing stuff. A good deal of it was relics that had been recovered from the British Isles but some of it was from as far away as Ukraine or Uzbekistan. I had no idea the Vikings travelled so far and wide with such profound influence. Most things were from the period 800 AD to 1000 AD but some pieces were as late as 1200 AD. The intricate work on the golden brooches was amazing. The swords were very cool. A replica of the Harald Bluetooth rune stone was impressive. There was a horde recovered from Yorkshire ca. 927 AD with various artefacts that were from all over the place, including a cup from a church, a norse bracelet and arabian coins. The remains of the largest Viking warship ever recovered, the Roskilde 6 were on display, but since very little of it actually survived, they recreated the hull of the ship in a steel structure, an astounding 37 metres long! Unfortunately, no photos were allowed so you’ll just have to take my word for how great it was.
After the vikings we had a quick wander about the museum, past loads of sarcophaguses, Japanese samurai armour & weaponry, and the rosetta stone. However it was time for a coffee. We headed back to Fanny’s cafe where I had earlier spotted a cannoli in the cake display cabinet, and couldn’t get the vision out of my head. We got chatting again and she told us all about her childhood adventures holidaying with her parents every weekend in their VW Kombi camper. I excitedly showed pictures of my very own ’74 Kombi camper, Annie, who is getting a facelift while I am here. In the end it was a really good chat, and I hope we see her again.
The day had gone quickly and it was time to head home for a quick change before the Wednesday night meeting. We arrived there well in time and it was great to see everyone again. It has only been about 18 months, but time flies. The kids have grown up fast and I got to meet Theo, Fabian & Ally’s six month old for the first time. The Davey’s from Launceston were there too loving their time exploring London, so it was a bonus to see them. After the meeting Simon & I dropped Rob off at the train station before making a detour to Maccas for more burgers. Yep. I’ll let that one go.
Tomorrow is goodbye London, hello Paris and an earnest attempt at better food choices!!