Thursday, 12 February 2015

Mug #8 - London, England

A rather obvious place to start?
For me it was the only place to start. I've lived in London for over 5 years and yet there are so many things to do and see that for one reason or another (mainly laziness) I haven't gotten around to. So back in November I decided to have a staycation.

A staycation is "a period in which an individual or family stays home and participates in leisure activities within driving distance, sleeping in their own beds at night. They might make day trips to local tourist sites, swimming venues, or engage in fun activities such as horseback riding, paintball, hiking or visiting museums."

It was also the week of my 31st birthday and so I wanted to do something to celebrate the fact that I would no longer be thirty but would now be a thirty something. So a little holiday in London, where I would take the opportunity to see and do some of the things I have always been meaning to and of course buy myself a London mug:

The week started with a trip to the Imperial War Museum with my good friend Ash who was with me for one of my first firsts: Jellied Eels.

Here is the Imperial War Museum:

Here I am in front of the IWM (can you spot me being all half turned and nonchalant):

The Imperial War Museum is a really great place. I don't know why I haven't been there before? There was so much to see. As well as a huge collection of war artefacts including real life planes, tanks, guns and missiles. They have a whole room full of war medals including more Victoria Crosses than you could shake a rifle at. There is a huge exhibition dedicated to the holocaust but very cleverly we went on a Saturday afternoon - good thinking Batman - and so there was a bit of a queue and as I have been to Auschwitz - although one of the most moving and fascinating places I have ever been to - I was happy to give that a miss. There was also an exhibition on WWI or the Great War but the queue was insane and so I hope to go back on a Thursday afternoon at some point to see that one. There was also a brilliant exhibition of war paintings which I found completely fascinating. I particularly loved the paintings by an artist named CRW Nevinson.

If you haven't been to the Imperial War Museum I would highly recommend it. Although very much a man of peace, of all of London's many, many wonderful museums the Imperial War Museum is now firmly one of my favourites.

To celebrate my birthday, a couple of days later I took myself off to - one of my other favourite museums - the National History Museum to see the exhibition of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award. Something I have been meaning to see every single year since moving to London but have never done so. Actually I did see some of the photographs one year by accident on the beach front in Brighton. But I have never seen the exhibition at the National History Museum before.

I knew I was going to love the exhibition. I love photography and I love animals and nature and so this exhibition was just perfect for me. I didn't however know just how much I would love it. I was there for a couple of hours, in complete awe of how amazing all the photographs were the whole time I was there. All of the photographs were amazing but there was one picture, a picture of a cheetah taken by a nine year old that just blew me away. Not least because here in front of me was a photograph taken by someone who was 9 years of age, that was ten thousand times better than any photograph I will ever take. The exhibition kept me completely captivated for two hours and I could have easily spend another two hours going back around, looking at them all over again.

The exhibition coast £12.50 and I have to admit that my initial thoughts were that it was slightly steep. However, by the time I exited the exhibition I was in no doubt that it was worth every penny. It was one of, it not the best exhibition I have ever seen! I will definitely be going back again next year (and the year after that and the year after that etc).

Next I went to see the London Wall:

I discovered the existence of the London Wall by accident. I was walking from Farringdon to Liverpool Street one day when I saw a sign for the London Wall. Up until then I'm ashamed to say that I'd never heard of it before and so I did what I always do whenever I hear of something or someone for the first time; I typed it into google.

Having Chester as our nearest City when I was growing up - which has a strong Roman history and an extremely well preserved Roman Wall - I find Roman History to be of particular interest. So I decided to go and have a look. A well preserved section of the wall - sadly not very much of the wall still exists - stands just yards from Tower Hill station:

This section of the London Wall is also just over the road from the Tower of London. Therefore, while I was there I thought I would kill two birds with one stone and go and see the 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red'. If you're not from Britain and/or you have been living in a cave, 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red' was an art installation placed in the moat of the Tower of London to commemorate the start of the First World War:

On it's own 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red' is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. It was truly breathtaking. However, it is only when you consider that every one of the 888,246 hand made ceramic poppies represents the life of a British or Colonial serviceman lost during the War, that you can genuinely start to appreciate the true beauty of what you are seeing.

The week then ended with a trip to Highgate Cemetery with my friends Sophia and Cristina - who I am very excited to be holidaying with this Easter. Flights are already booked! - somewhere I have wanted to go for quite sometime now.

The big draw for a lot visitors to Highgate Cemetery is the grave of Karl Marx:

And for me too! I was also "excited" to see Malcolm McClaren's resting place:

But for me the highlight of the trip and the main reason for me wanting to go to Highgate Cemetery, was to see the grave of one of my all time heroes,
Douglas Adams:

Here I am leaving a pen in his honour:

It was such a beautiful afternoon. I would definitely recommend it if you're stuck for something to do one weekend. It's cheap at only £4 - and although there is something a little strange about treating a cemetery as a tourist attraction  - it's a lovely little walk and there are some really nice little places close by where you can eat lunch afterwards.

There were of course lots of other things that I hoped to fit in, like taking the opportunity to fly the London Eye or taking a trip to Richmond Park to see the deer that unfortunately I wasn't able to fit in. However, all in all I managed to cram quite a bit into my staycation. Not only did I manage to do all of the above but I also managed to spend some time with my friends, go climbing, go to a poetry event - something I really don't do all that often anymore - and go to my first ever Venezuelan restaurant with my friend Gigi.

It really was a great week and although I'm still flirting with the idea of living somewhere else for a short while - another country most likely - and I've always assumed I would retire somewhere warmer. This past week has only reaffirmed how much I love living in London!

So why not go out and see more of your local area?
I bet there's lots to see and do that for one reason or another you have never gotten around to (no matter how long you're lived there).