It’s like building a 3-D jigsaw puzzle: where to go to see which exhibits at what time, divided into length of trip, subdivided by time of day, minus days of the week venues are closed plus extended hours on certain days, and prioritized by desire.
The size of the venue and depth of the collection figures in – the V&A requires multiple times the visits of the Wallace, the Soanes multiple times the visit than the Foundling Museum. There’s the strategy of visiting obscure museums on the weekends when the major museums are swamped. Sunny days for outdoor walking tours, gardens, and street markets (happily, rain and cold never factor inside the museums). Proximity counts; locations near each other are the first choice to add in if time and stamina allow.
All the factors affect each other. Once all the facts are gathered, intuition and multiple-choice play a part. Here’s how it breaks down.
- List all the places you might want to visit. Cast a wide net
- Plug them into a document with their addresses, days, opening closing times, and websites.
- List in order of desire. Desire is highly idiosyncratic. Maybe you want full immersion in a single museum multiple days in a row, or maybe you’d like multiple venues you’ve never visited before. Follow your bliss.
- Make a bespoke Google map with the addresses.
- Make a trip day-by-day calendar.
- Plug in venues on each day by desire, proximity, and visit time – thats your rough itinerary, a starting point for negotiations if you will.
- Start booking your timed entry slots online (this is new since Covid and I’m finding it a more irksome constraint than I anticipated).
This is where I ran into the first big hitch in my get-along. The first two days I wanted for the V&A were shown as fully booked. Huh. I swapped them for the British Museum.
Then I hit a wall. My AmEx and my Visa were declined by The Courtauld (day booking) and the British Museum (membership). After several frustrating go-rounds, I called Amex. The chipper customer service person assured me my card was valid. I emptied my cache and tried again. Declined. I typed in each number instead of auto-populate. No good. What the what? I know for a fact they accept international credit cards. The customer service rep, equally baffled, tried to book a ticket using her own card and no dice. Her final advice was to email or call the museums, explain the issue and ask for help.
I sent a plaintive, polite email to the British Museum asking for their help resolving this, complete with screenshot of my Visa and AmEx being declined. What on earth could be going on? I have no plausible guess. Maybe there’s some kind of ransomware situation? I can’t even.
Other places – Westminster Cathedral, St Paul’s, The National Gallery – are a week out from releasing tickets for the days I want. I’m going to set this aside until then. Fingers crossed they’ve fixed the glitch by then.