Ode to my feet…
Today was a long one. Longest one yet, aside from the one that had 25 hours in it (time-zone jokes, har har).
This morning, we visited the British Library. Its only a few blocks from where we’re staying, so we walked. We toured the facility, but we couldn’t see any of the books. The books are all kept in a vault underneath the library. Only certain employees are permitted to handle the books in the vault, since part of the hiring process is a fitness test. In case of an emergency, you have to be able to get out of the building in under 5 minutes. Not an easy task if you have a hard time with stairs.
The library is a Legal Deposit library, which means that a copy of every book published in the United Kingdom is sent to be stored in the British Library. It is also structured differently than most libraries. Because most of the books are stored in a vault underneath, prospective readers must request books be brought above ground by a member of staff. The library has a system of conveyor belts that bring the books to the surface, preventing people from running up and down stairs all day. The books are then brought to a reading room specified on the ticket where they can be perused. Unfortunately, this system prevents people from perusing the shelves themselves.
This was a lot of walking, and my feet were already sore. Its about 1 o’clock now.
After walking around the library, we ventured to the British Museum. This museum is far larger than I anticipated, and I saw less than 10% of the displays in my 3 hours there. I went through part of the China exhibit, where I found a fantastic temple model.
I also went through some of the Southeast Asia exhibit, and went on a tour through the Egypt one. I saw one of the Enlightenment rooms, and found an interesting exhibit on life and death. The centerpiece of that exhibit was a mesh that had every pill and supplement that the average British person takes over the course of their life. There was one for both a man and woman.
The last exhibit I had a chance to look at was the Parthenon and Ancient Greek exhibit. I remember in high school discussing the fight between the Museum of Athens and the British Museum of who should get the statues from the Parthenon. It looks like they may have compromised and allowed each to have just a few fragments of the statues. I never found the Rosetta Stone, unfortunately. I never found the exit we were supposed to meet at either, for that matter. I ended up finding a few others in my group and following them to the exit.
Now my feet hurt. This has already been a long day, and its only about 4:30.
After the Museum, we took the subway system over to the Globe Theater, where we were able to sit (finally!) through a “Setting the Stage” speech. The orator spoke about the economics of Merchant of Venice, the play we were about to see. He gave a synopsis of the plot without giving away the ending. He also discussed what he believed to be the reasonings of why the various characters acted the way they did. Most of us struggled to stay awake. It was warm in the room, most of us were hungry, and all of us were tired from walking.
After grabbing a bite to eat at the local Starbucks (where I nearly bought a sparkling water instead of a still water by mistake), I experienced a little bit of what it was like for the peasants of the 17th century to see Shakespeare’s plays at the Globe Theater. We had yard tickets, which meant we stood in front of the stage, under the stars (or clouds, in today’s case).
The play was well-performed. It was also a great piece of work, as I absolutely loathed all the characters (except for Shylock, of course!). I mean it, too–this is one of the few plays that actually brought out an emotional response from me. I take to be a highly successful play. Either that, or I was upset that my feet hurt so much from standing. It is by far more difficult to stand for hours than to walk around for hours. Thus, I didn’t appreciate the awesomeness of the performance until hours later, when my feet finally felt like normal feet again.
After the play, a few of us split off to have another bite to eat, as we had only been eating small portions over the day. After much debate (note, it was a consensus from the beginning), we decide to look for a pizza shop. We found an underground station and took it to a random stop—as luck would have it, we found desired pizza shop–that was still open, mind you, just around the corner of the station.
I dunno what it is about Europeans being unable to split checks.