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Monday, 23 September 2013

London to Pompeii and back - in 48 hours!

We've just spent a fantastic weekend in London.  We went specifically to see the Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition at the British Museum which was a treat for finishing my dissertation (have I mentioned my dissertation before?  Once? Twice? Three times maybe? J), and booked ourselves into a hotel for a weekend stay.

The exhibition was excellent, everything that I had hoped it would be.  I was amazed at some of the artefacts that had been brought over from Italy (although it does make you wonder what the people visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum over the summer thought when so much of what they went to see was in London!).  No photography was allowed so I've used images from elsewhere; you can find the sources at the bottom of the pictures.  Some of my favourite relics were on display: 


Photo - http://www.thehistoryblog.com/archives/3967
like this poor dog, probably left behind to guard the house when it's owners fled the eruption of Vesuvius.  Part of the problem was that people didn't realise how devasting it was going to be so they expected to return in a few hours.  It's one of the reasons that so many people were still there; some of the most moving items in the exhibition were a wooden cot which was found with its tiny occupant still inside, wrapped up a in a woollen blanket, and plaster casts of a family who were hiding together under some stairs.  As a Mum myself now, it's heart-breaking to think that those parents thought they were doing their best for their families and yet they all perished.


Photo - www.britishmuseum.org
One thing that the British Museum did very well was to provide a booklet of things for children to look out for.  I also found some excellent lists on Roman Mystery writer Caroline Lawrence's blog of things for children to look out for, and small daughter loved spotting the various artefacts that she would otherwise have sailed past.  The exhibition closes this weekend (29 September) so if you've not been you've not got long to try to see it, but it's well worth the visit.


Photo - www.thedogsofpompeii.com
All too soon, we reached the end of the exhibition and had to make our way out.  I would happily have spent all day in there, but it was time to go and do something else.  We found ourselves gravitating towards the shops at Oxford Street and Carnaby Street so that big daughter could marvel at how much bigger all the same shops were that we have at home.   Naturally, with pocket money burning a hole in her pocket, we had to check out more than one or two of the shops, but it was a fair swap for spending time with me ooh-ing and ahh-ing over ancient artefacts!

We walked for miles!  Small daughter's legs started to hurt on the way home so we jumped into a black cab and hurtled through the streets back to our hotel.  We very rarely use taxis at home so small daughter thought it was quite a treat.  She'd have loved to have gone on one of the big red double decker buses too, but we'll save that for another visit.

My husband had been promising small daughter that he would take her to see Big Ben and let her eat ice cream for breakfast as big daughter had once done many years ago (long story, don't ask!), so on Sunday morning we headed for the tube and Westminster.  We found ourselves caught up in the crowd cheering on the women's Tour of Britain cycle race, which was actually very exciting.  



What I love about this photo is that - you can't see it - but one of the cyclists shouted "Cheese!" as she swept past!  I love that she had the energy to be humorous even after doing goodness knows how many circuits - oh, to be that fit!

So, as promised, we saw Big Ben, which is one of small daughter's favourite buildings.  I don't know why, there's just something about it that she loves.  She said she hadn't realised there was so much gold on it, and I don't think I ever had either.  It's not until you actually stop and look at something that you might see every day on the news or in passing that you really see it.


I had to take this picture of Boudicca's statue, because I definitely think there's a place in the world for feisty women.  What's the saying -"Well behaved women rarely make history?" Just recently, I saw a picture with another saying: "It's not who you are that holds you back, it's who you think you're not", and I couldn't agree more.


We took small daughter to see No 10 Downing Street.  Whatever your political views about the government, it's still somewhere to see as the seat of the country's power.  I told the girls the story of how I went to London for the first time at the age of about six and actually had my photograph taken on the front step of No 10 next to a policeman, because you could do that then.  To be honest, I wasn't sure about standing next to the policeman so my Mum had to be on the photo too so that she could hold my hand, but it just shows you how the times have changed.  The policemen in front of the railings on Sunday were being friendly and helpful enough to the group of school children who were filling out quiz papers, but there were still large railings and policemen with guns which nobody ever questions these days.  It's a bit sad, really.


Then, finally, it was a dash back to collect our bags and get onto the train home.  Everything about our weekend was just perfect which was wonderful as every other trip to London has seemed to involve an argument somewhere along the line.

I'm still happy to be home, though.  The thing that I noticed about London is how busy and noisy it is, all the time.  I'm sure there are some places where you can shut out the background traffic and listen to the birds, but it made me very glad to get back to my little corner of the countryside.  We'll definitely be going back - small daughter has already made a list of the places that we've missed, starting with Pudding Lane because she was learning about the Great Fire of London.  We're very lucky, aren't we, that we can show our children these places of history in our country, and luckier still that places like the British Museum exist so that we can look at other countries' history too.




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