For whatever reason I was wide awake at 2am, then slept in until 8:30. My plan was to go back to the V&A followed by the Natural History Museum. Crossing my fingers I’d have enough energy left.
That was the plan. Here’s how it turned out.
I bagged this visit to V&A and went shopping. Don’t judge. I’ve wanted to find sources for baguettes, good tea, and chocolate, plus stock my hotel mini fridge with butter and jam since the day I got here. The place I grabbed milk on day one was a dingy, cramped joint in a tube station that reminded me of a gas station Quik Stop.
After some frisking of Google maps, I realized I’ve been trudging past what I needed every time I walked to and from the British Museum. Somehow I had the impression that Covent Garden was just pricey cafés and tourist trinkets. I am so glad to be so wrong. Don’t get me wrong – it’s still pricey, but it has the goods.
I followed my Google map to the end of the rainbow; Le Pain Quotidien. Fabulous. The baguettes were still warm. I splurged on mini sandwich rolls (chicken/bacon/cheese, roasted vegetables, smoked salmon/ cucumber) and a pear upside-down tart (a sort of spice cake with pears). That was lunch and dinner sorted. Purchased shampoo at a parfumerie, salted caramel chocolates at Hotel Chocolate, and sachets of Earl Grey Imperial at Mariage Frères. YOLO. Picked up butter, sugar, prosciutto, apples, and bananas at a lovely Sainsburys.
Back at the hotel, I ate a sandwich and called Uber. By two o’clock I was making my way into the magnificent building that houses the National History Museum. I meandered around until 5pm, with one break to draw. The pleasure in viewing a wide range of life forms was tempered by the constant reminder of species on the brink of extinction, along with those we have already wiped out.
I’m thinking they can add mirrors and can put humanity on that list, given the damage we are doing to the planet’s ecosystem.
The dinosaur section was more Jurassic Park than Paleontology, thanks to animatronics and moody lighting.
Elsewhere the overhead suspension of immense articulated skeletons is oddly elegant. The building itself is truly glorious. The vast entry hall is a space so grand it accommodates a blue whale skeleton with ease.
Elsewhere, the display of whales, dolphins, and sharks in midair offers a snorkel-eye view of sea creatures.
The amphibians and turtles were well represented. First hairy frog I ever saw.
The mineralogy wing features rows of the original 1881 oak display cabinets and is filled with light and calm. That’s priceless in a museum swarming with excitable tykes and restive school groups. There’s a section of precious gemstones of unusual size, which doesn’t blow my skirt up, but the Martian meteor that glittered like fool’s gold is as close to outer space as I’ll ever be.
I stayed until closing time, called Uber, and was back at the hotel by 6. Put together dinner from the supplies I bought this morning.
Now I’m yawning. Going to stay up until 10:30, then lights out. Tomorrow is the Virtual Veronese tour at the National, and if the weather is fair, a visit to the Lambeth Palace gardens and adjacent garden museum.