Art, Museums, Travel, UK

Museums of London

August 28, 2017

Museums of London

There are probably more than one hundred museums in London. It can be hard to see them all in a short visit and I didn’t see them all in the month I was there. So how do you choose which ones to visit? For me, it all depends on my interests. Here are the ones I saw and who I recommend each one for.

The British Museum

Museums of London

The British Museum is likely the most famous museum in the world. The museum holds artifacts from around the world, so the name is slightly deceiving. Its most famous artifact is the Rosetta Stone. However, it isn’t all artifacts, there is usually a special exhibition on. When I was there, the special exhibition was The Great Wave by Hokusai. If you enjoy world history or there is a special exhibition you want to see, I recommend a visit. However, it can be very crowded even on week days. Admission: Free except for special exhibitions

The Victoria and Albert Museum

Museums of London

The next most famous museum in London. I visited the V&A in high school with my Mom and we both remember it being our favorite place in London, so I just had to go back. This museum is an eclectic mix of art, fashion, architecture and decorative arts.  Since they collect in so many areas, there may be several special exhibitions going on at the same time. Anyone who enjoys fashion, architecture or design will enjoy this museum. It can be crowded in some sections of the museum and some were completely empty! Admission: Free except for special exhibitions

Textile and Fashion Museum

Museums of London

A friend recommended the Textile and Fashion Museum to me because of my interest in fashion. What I didn’t realize is they don’t have a permanent collection, so you only see one exhibition. When I was there, the exhibit was about fashion designer Anna Sui. So my advice is to check out the current exhibition before you go. This museum is probably only for the die hard fashion fan. Admission: £9.90 with gift aid

The Geffrye Museum

Museums of London

The Geffrye Museum is billed as the museum of the home. I have always been curious as to the home lives of people of the past and this peaked my interest. Given the size of the museum, I expected more of a mock up of each period. However, each mock up was just the formal living room of each period. While still impressive, I was slightly disappointed. The museum also runs along a long narrow hallway, so it can be difficult to pass people in the museum. I recommend going around the back of the museum to the gardens. I only recommend this museum if you are a very interested in historic homes. Admission: Free

The National Gallery

Museums of London

I managed to make it to the National Gallery on my last full day in London and it did not disappoint! It is full of historic masterpieces including, Monet, Van Gogh and Da Vinci. What I was really glad about is that each section was based on a time period and the highlights were listed on the map. Anyone who loves art or has an interest in a specific artist should visit the National Gallery. Admission: Free

Cutty Sark

Museums of London

Some may not call this a museum, but the Cutty Sark is a part of the Royal Museums Greenwich and is a separate entrance fee. I love boats and to be able to visit a historic clipper ship, I had to go! If you are a boat or maritime fan, then this is a must see for you. Keep in mind that you have to climb up stairs to enter and get around the Cutty Sark. Admission: £13.50

The Queens Gallery

Museums of London

Right next door to the entrance to Buckingham Palace is the Queen’s Gallery. This museum offers rotating exhibitions throughout the year, which are sourced from the Royal Collection. This is another place that you will need to check the current exhibition to see if it is something you are interested in, but I recommend it if you have an interest in art. Due to it being the Queen’s Gallery, I recommend you get advance tickets otherwise you may have to wait some time to get in. Admission: £11

Royal Academy of Arts

Museums of London

The draw of the Royal Academy of Art for me was the Summer Exhibition. This exhibit takes place annually and displays current artist’s work. This exhibit was huge and inspiring. There were all kinds of art on display. There was also another exhibition taking place. Each exhibition is a separate admission. This museum is an art lover’s dream museum. Admission: Varies

The Charterhouse

Museums of London

I actually saw a brochure for The Charterhouse in a pub! So those flyers in hotels and bars do work. The Charterhouse brochure caught my eye because it has been living the nation’s history since 1348! As a history lover, I had to go check it out. The Charterhouse is a working almshouse still today. The members have to be over 60 and in financial need. They help out in the museum and give tours. The members have kept excellent records over the years and they have a small museum. Tours are offered on a reservation basis. The Charterhouse just opened its doors to the public in January 2017, so it is a hidden gem. Admission: Free, tours are a fee

The London Wall

Museums of London

While technically this is not a museum, I am including The London Wall as I think it is a must see while in London. The London Wall is located just outside the Museum of London and that is how I ended up finding it. I never made it to the Museum of London. The wall was built by the Romans around 200 AD and is about two miles long. You can walk most of it, but the day I was there the gate at one of the towers was locked so I only saw a small portion. I could have walked around to the other side but it was getting dark and I thought I would get lost. Any history buff or Roman history expert will love this ruin. Admission: Free

The Tate Modern

Tate Modern

The Tate Modern was my first museum stop in London and I wrote a whole blog post about it here. I am not usually a fan of modern art, but I wanted to see the building. The art was excellent and I really enjoyed my time there. I recommend it for all art enthusiasts even if modern art isn’t your thing. Admission: Free except for special exhibitions

The Postal Museum

I had heard about the Postal Museum and wanted to visit. Unfortunately, it doesn’t open until September 4th! The museum is about mail delivery via subway trains in London. You will even be able to ride the mail train, which is what I really wanted to do. So if you get to London, go do this for me, please! Admission: Entry and Mail Rail ride £16, includes donation, entry only £11

What museums in London are your favorites?

Photography, Travel

Airbnb Experiences: Photographing London

August 21, 2017

Airbnb Experiences

A few weeks ago, I was looking for a place to stay for the next leg of my trip on Airbnb. Some of this was done on the Airbnb app so when I opened it up, it showed me their new “Experiences” first and they were all London based since that is where I am currently. My interest was peaked by a photography tour and I saved a few to a wish list but didn’t book right away.

Then last week, I was in Brighton and realized I had one more week in London without much planned. I decided to book one of the photography workshops for the next evening. While I think I do okay with my photography skills, I know it never hurts to learn more and get someone else’s perspective. Plus, I figured he would have some great photography locations.

Booking the Experience

Once you find the experience you want to do, you click see dates. Like booking an apartment, some experiences are only certain dates. For many experience hosts, this is a way to supplement their income, so they aren’t available every day. For that reason, you may need to find a few so you can figure out which ones fit your dates. You can add guests if it is more than just you.

Airbnb Experiences

Some tips when booking are to make sure your experience is being offered in a language you understand. Make sure you meet the terms. One I looked at says you must be able to walk six miles. Some experiences do not allow children. Keep in mind that for now, the experiences are only available in 15 cities. Once you have checked all that you are ready to book your experience.

The Experience

Eventually, I chose the Photographing London experience with Tim. Our meeting point was a chain called Pret a Manger, so I arrived a few minutes early to make sure I had the right spot and to grab a bottle of water. Soon Tim arrived and then slowly the other participants arrived. After brief introductions, Tim went over each of our cameras with us and some tips for shooting in manual. Then we were off!

Tim had a route planned for the evening and said we may not make it all the way depending on how long we stopped on the way. I don’t want to giveaway Tim’s route, but you can guess some of it by the shots. It was great to be with a bunch of other photography lovers and to have people to compare shots with. Tim gave tips all throughout and looked at everyone’s photos and gave suggestions.

I really loved the experience. Not only because I got some amazing shots, but this was the kind of tour I liked. There were about six of us plus Tim. I was not charged a single supplement and we were all from different places around the world! Some people were living in London but others were visiting. I would say the experiences are a great thing for the solo traveler. You get to do something at the normal cost and meet new people!

The Results

Here are just a few of the photos I came away with from the experience. I highly recommend doing Tim’s Photographing London if you are in town.

Airbnb Experiences

Airbnb Experiences

Airbnb Experiences

Airbnb Experiences

Airbnb Experiences

Airbnb Experiences

Have you done any Airbnb Experiences yet?

 

Travel, UK

A Day Trip to Bath

August 14, 2017

A Day Trip to Bath

Even though Bath is quite a ways away from London for a day trip, I decided I was going to make it one. My main motivation for going to Bath was to see the Roman Baths. The quickest way to Bath from London was by train. To avoid the commuter crowds at the train station, I took a late morning train that arrived in Bath just before noon. Bath is very much a walking town so no need for a taxi or bus upon arrival.

Roman Baths

The Roman Baths are a short walk from the train station. Normally, I would have booked my tickets for an attraction like this in advance, but I had decided to take a chance and not do this for the Roman Baths. My gamble paid off as it was raining and I only had to wait in line for about ten minutes. Granted a few of those minutes were in the rain, so make sure you have your umbrella.

Being a self-proclaimed museum critic, I was pleasantly surprised with the layout of the museum. You being by looking out onto the main bath from above. Along the way, there are codes to punch into the audio guide that is included in your ticket. I recommend getting the audio guide as it was more informative than the labels around the exhibition.

A Day Trip to Bath

You make your way around the exhibition learning about the history and discovery of the Roman Baths eventually ending up outside next to the main bath area. You can still see the steam rising from the natural hot spring that the baths were built around.

A Day Trip to Bath

Once on this level, you can explore more of the actual baths including the smaller bath areas and changing rooms. Given that the spring is still active you could, in theory, still use this as a spa today. Although they discourage you jumping in for a bath!

A Day Trip to Bath

The Roman Baths can get quite crowded as it is not a large space inside, but it is definitely worth seeing. Somehow they have survived all these years and remain in great condition.

A Day Trip to Bath

Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House

Rarely can I say I have combined my love of history with my meal, but this was the case at Sally Lunn’s restaurant. It is located inside one of oldest houses in Bath. The lowest floor dates to 1150, but they have found evidence of Roman occupation in the cellar.

A Day Trip to Bath

I knew I had picked a good place when there was a line for a table! I wasn’t even really sure what kind of food they served, but I was willing to take a chance. Soon I learned I was in for the treat that is the Sally Lunn Bun!

The bun is not like a hamburger bun. It is lighter and bigger and slightly sweet. You can get it with a sweet or savory topping. Since I was there for lunch, I opted for savory. I also decided to get the three-course meal since this might be my only visit to Bath!

A Day Trip to Bath

The three-course meal included a soup, a bun and apple cake. The soup offerings were pea and mint or vegetable. Not being English, I opted for the vegetable. It is quite possibly the best vegetable soup I have ever had! I ordered the Smoked Salmon with cream cheese and lemon. The combination was perfect. The bun is light and airy with a hint of sweet that enhanced the flavor the outstanding Scottish salmon. After that, I was expecting an amazing apple cake but was disappointed as it was dry and not very flavourful. However, I still recommend going, just get dessert somewhere else!

Victoria Art Gallery

The Victoria Art Gallery might be small but it has some amazing pieces inside. There is a wonderful portrait of King Henry VIII. Entrance is free into the art gallery as well. It won’t take you more than thirty minutes to walk through it unless you read every label.

A Day Trip to Bath

Shopping

While I am not much of a shopper especially while on vacation, it was hard to not want to walk up and down the main shopping street. It was mostly cars free. There were all the usual shops with a few unique ones as well. What was really nice was all the flowers and umbrellas decorating the streets!

A Day Trip to Bath

A Day Trip to Bath

Bath was a great day trip and if the weather is nice, there are lots more outdoor things to explore there. What is your favorite thing to do in Bath?

Travel, UK

Walking Among the Stones, A Visit to Stonehenge

August 7, 2017

Stonehenge

For many of us, Stonehenge is a place we have heard about since we were in elementary school and due to the mystery its origins we are drawn to it. This is the case for me as well. Once I knew I was going to the UK for a month, I knew had to make time to visit.

Stonehenge

The downfall of the popularity of visiting Stonehenge is that it gets very crowded and you can no longer walk among the stones on a regular ticket. I really wanted to be able to walk among the stones and have no people in my pictures, so I opted for a tour. In order to have no one in the shots, we were picked up in Central London at 5:00 AM! Crazy early but as will see below, absolutely worth the early start.

Stonehenge

The History

I won’t go into too much of the background of Stonehenge because there is so much online and I am not an archaeologist. Stonehenge was a first just earthwork, wood posts and small stones. Then the large stones were added several hundred years later. Obviously building the structure probably took many years. The stones likely come from two areas, one about 20 miles away and the others came from Wales. Which is just astounding considering they had to move them without the assistances of machinery. The archaeologists have many theories on how they were transported.

Stonehenge

The stones at Stonehenge are partially buried in order to allow for them to be standing. The stones were shaped to fit together and you can see evidence of these holes on some of the ones that have fallen down. I also wonder if some of the holes were used in the transport and raising of the stones.

Stonehenge

There are many theories on what the stones were used for from a burial ground, a temple and a calendar. Each theory has merit and we, of course, can never be completely sure what they were ultimately used for.

Stonehenge

Visiting

If you want to walk among the stones, I highly recommend a tour. It is the only way that I can tell. Each tour company seems to be allotted a day of the week to take their guests into the stones. Some companies will leave from London and some from Salisbury. My tour continued to Oxford and Windsor Castle. While I enjoyed seeing those places as well it was a long and hurried day. I wish I had just done Stonehenge and one other thing because I was exhausted at the end of the day. I couldn’t find a tour that did just Stonehenge.

Stonehenge

When you arrive, if you are on a tour, you won’t have to go to the tickets booth. Your tour guide will take you to the shuttle bus that takes you to Stonehenge. If you are on your own, you will have to show your tickets or buy them at the visitor’s center. Then you can get on the shuttle bus or walk. The walk is long though.

If not on a tour, you can walk the outside circle of Stonehenge. If you are not on a tour, I recommend getting an audio tour as there is little informational signage. The site also offers some amazing views of the English countryside.

Stonehenge

Getting close to Stonehenge is one of those things I will never forget and ranks up there with my visit to the Pyramids and Petra! Have you been to Stonehenge?

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