One of the great things about the hotel I stayed in for my trip to London is its central location, near the University College of London on Gower Street. It’s a few blocks from the British Museum, in an interesting neighborhood called Fitzrovia, and within quick walking distance from two different Underground stations.
So for my third full day in London, I chose to spend my time exploring the neighborhood a bit, and I started off with a trip to the British Museum.
The last time I was in England, 26 years ago, I’d set aside a Saturday for the Museum only to find, once I’d gotten there, that a bomb threat had forced its evacuation for the day. Therefore, it fell into the realm of “things I hadn’t seen” in London, and I made it a priority stop.
The line to get in to the Museum seemed long at first glance but moved quickly. In no time at all I was walking through the front door, buying a guide book, and making a plan of attack for my visit. The place is huge, so seeing it all in one trip is nearly impossible, and I decided I wouldn’t try. I opted to pick a few exhibits I was most interested in, and spend the time really exploring those things.
I started off in the rooms that focused on British history, and I stepped into the medieval period. The collection there includes jewelry, coins, and other fine artifacts from the Isles, and I was drawn to a ring that once was worn by Richard I (Lionheart) and to a cache of gold coins. (In fact, I started to think treasure hunting in the United Kingdom could be a viable career, what with all the hordes and caches of coins and jewelry found around the island and displayed there.)
I also viewed the Sutton Hoo helmet, and numerous artifacts from various periods in British history.
I took a break then, and had cream tea. Cream tea is fairly unique to Britain, and it includes tea, a scone, clotted cream, and strawberry jam. The scones at the Museum were plump and bursting with sultanas, and the clotted cream tasted as good as I remembered. It’s something I can’t find in the States, but love when I can get it.
After tea, I headed to Rome and Greece. Well, not literally, but I walked through the rooms with the artifacts that featured Ancient Rome and Greece, past the Egyptian mummies, and up to the fourth level to see the special exhibitions, one on postcards and another on Rembrandt drawings. The exhibitions were in adjoining rooms, and, paired together, made for an interesting juxtaposition of art, class, and social change.
A trip through the shop for samples for future class display, and I headed back out the door to walk through the Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia neighborhoods.
Numerous blue heritage signs dot the front walls of varied residences through the neighborhoods, indicating locations of significant historical interest. My favorite sign along the walk was for a renowned hostess, Lady Ottoline Morrell. I’d never heard of her, specifically, but the idea of a society matron whose life centered around providing a space for literary folk to gather, socialize, and share ideas has great appeal. I looked her up when I got back to my room, to find she’d hosted numerous gatherings of the famous Bloomsbury group, which included Virginia Woolf. I found her designation of “Literary Hostess” truly aspirational.
A wander through the neighborhood shops turned up several interesting bookstores and souvenir places, as well as some tasty-looking menus. I stopped for a delicious dinner at a small Italian restaurant, called Marciello RC, which is housed in a renovated and reclaimed petrol station. Known for its steak, the restaurant features dry-aged beef. I wasn’t interested in anything too heavy, so I opened for the beef-and-spinach stuffed ravioli with house ragu of beef shoulder, and it was utterly delicious.
I headed back to my hotel to get off my feet. When I booked the Ridgemount Hotel, I’d placed my trust in numerous positive reviews online, and I wasn’t disappointed. Everything was impeccably clean, the service stellar, and the location couldn’t be beaten. It even included full English breakfast.
It was perfect for my needs, and I’d stay there again in a heartbeat.
Next stop: Manchester. Day 4 featured a train ride and a catch up with an old friend.