On Saturday, Alex and I paid a visit to the world famous Harrod’s Department Store. The store is gigantic and carries all sort of designer labels. It is several stories high, and even has a pet store. To compare it to Spain, think of a huge Corte Ingles, except fancier… We shopped around, admiring all of the designs and looked at the puppies and fish in the pet shop. Then we headed to the bottom floor to take a look at Harrod’s Food Hall, which offers selections from all over the world. Any type of food you can think of, it would probably be there. Since I wanted to at least try something, I decided on a spinach and goat cheese flatbread from Mediterranean cuisine, which was, of course, very good. After visiting Harrod’s, we also stopped to shop in Top Shop, then Alex headed back home to work on some things and I headed to the Victoria & Albert Museum of Design.
I really liked the V& A because it had a little bit of everything. There were paintings, clothes & costumes, tapestries, silver & gold, furniture, advertisements, sculptures, and artifacts from churches that basically spanned the last 2,000 years. The variety kept it exciting, since as I moved through the museum, I was constantly confronted with something new and exciting. The museum offers a free highlights tour, which I took, and learned about some of the most famous pieces of art in the museum. The art historian really enjoyed talking to us about a Flemish tapestry from the 14th century which is still remarkably well preserved. I liked seeing the original West End Lion King Costumes, and Early Christian depictions of Christ and the Saints. If the museum didn’t have something, not to worry, they just made a plaster cast of it. No lie, they had a life size plaster cast of the Column of Trajan that I had just seen in Rome the week before. The V & A Museum has one of the largest collections of plaster casts in the whole world. They are very proud of this because art historians come to see their plaster casts, some of which were made 100 years ago, and they compare them to how the church facade or archway looks now. This also happened with the Column of Trajan, since the smog and pollution of Rome is eating away at it, art historians rely on the plaster cast here to see how much damage has been done due to the widespread introduction of cars in the last 100 years.
Following a couple of hours at the V & A, I got completely lost on the underground. I managed to figure everything out and finally reached my stop. My next destination was a place I had read about in Fodor’s guide to London called the Museum of advertisement, Brands & Packaging. This is a tiny little museum, but I was very excited to see it because it basically covers several aspects of marketing in Britain from the early 18th century up until today. As you walk through the museum, you can see the trends of ad campaigns, and how they evolve. Also, you can see the original packaging for products like Cadbury’s chocolate, and observe how much it has changed throughout the years.
After examining all of the old propaganda and products in the Ad Museum, I walked back towards the metro along Portobello Road, in order to get a look at the world famous Portobello Road Market. The market is set up along the street which is lined with antique and vintage shops right next to new boutiques. I browsed but didn’t find anything compelling enough to buy, found the metro with relative ease, and got back to Alex’s place where we had some yummy salmon for dinner. Later, we went over to her friends flat and had amazing blueberry and apple pancakes with caramel creme for dessert! Scrumptious!
On Sunday, I woke up and went to the British Museum. I think this was my least favorite museum of all of the museums I visited in London. I say this because even though it has some great treasures like the Rosetta Stone, the museum is as packed as Disney Land, and is poorly designed with a lot of open spaces with high ceilings which echo a lot. I used the Fodor’s book to take a look at all of the highlights in the museum and snap some photos. I think one of the most interesting things to me was a display of the amount of a pills a British couple consumed during their life time. It is said that the average British citizen will be prescribed at least 14,000 pills during their life time, which is probably similar to Americans. The museum had a display case with all of these pills laid out, and it was huge! It was crazy to fathom how many medications we put into our bodies over the course of our lives.
I went shopping for a bit after the British Museum. They do not sell reusable water bottles in Spain, so I got one of those and I also got a little brace band for my knee since it was quite sore from walking all over Rome & London right after running 26.2 miles. Then, Alex and I did some more shopping at the Covent Gardens Market before heading towards Browns Hotel, where we were going to have afternoon tea. At a health food store along the way, I stocked up on vitamins, oatmeal, raisins, and nutrition bars since they do not eat very healthy here in Spain. Close by Brown’s hotel, we stopped in Tiffany’s to admire jewelry and window shopped at a few other stores. Then it was the moment I had been anticipating all day… Time for afternoon tea!
Tea at Brown’s is quite the affair… first you select which type of tea you would like. I selected Brown’s Afternoon Blend & it was soooo good! I put cream and a dash of sugar in each cup. The first thing we got was little finger sandwiches. I think my favorite variety of those would have to be the cucumber and cream and salmon with a spread. They were so good that I got 2 plates. You have to take into consideration that I had not eaten much all day (on purpose!) and so I was absolutely starved. The second part of tea is scones (more like biscuits). We were served two varieties: plain, which was simple & sweet, and another one with sultanas (raisins). To complement this we had some of the best raspberry jam and a butter spread. This was my absolute favorite part of the tea – the sultana biscuits with just the right amount of jam and spread were sooo delicious. The small and very pretty desserts were a bit of a let down. They did not taste as good as they looked. However, we were offered Victoria Cake, which is like a white cake with a cream and raspberry frosting in the center, and that was also very good. All in all, Alex and I both stuffed our faces, and our stomachs were full for the rest of the day! Unable to move too much, we hung out and relaxed, then I went to bed early since I had to be at the bus stop at 4am to catch my flight back to Madrid.
Monday morning I made it to the city bus and to the airport shuttle in plenty of time. At the airport, security took over an hour (Luton has like 8 gates!) since there were a bunch of early flights. I got to my gate just in time and got home early enough to take a nap before class. I really enjoyed my long weekend in London checking out the museums and the markets and the food, but I’d love to go back to England to see the history outside of the city as well as the other tourist attractions.