Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Natural History Museum/Hyde Park/Cleopatra's Needle

So, after class today, I headed out to do some exploring with a girl I met yesterday, Megan.  First, we went to meet a girl from my study abroad group at the Natural History Museum.  When we couldn't find her, we just decided to head in on our own.  Let me just say, that museum is absolutely gorgeous!

It looks like an old cathedral, but apparently it isn't, which makes sense when you go inside.  The inside is huge, and right there is a dinosaur skeleton.

Apparently the museum is well known for its dinosaur exhibit.  I was a little disappointed, only because the t-rex skeleton was getting some work done on it, so it wasn't on display for a few more days (I'll just have to go back to see it).  The skeletons and everything was amazing.  They have a massive gem collection, including one of the largest emeralds ever, which was pretty cool to see.

Megan and I also explored the mammals exhibit, which was huge.  The museum is trying to get away from taxidermy animals, so they don't look as real, but I can live with that.  They had a massive collection, including a platypus, an echinda, several types of shrews, a sloth, several elephants, etc.  They also have a saber tooth tiger skeleton (that was really cool to see) and a life size replica of a blue whale.

Now, there's no way for you to understand just how huge a blue whale is until you stand next to one and feel so incredibly small.

After exploring the museum, Megan and I headed over to Hyde Park.  Now this is definitely a place everyone should go when they go to London, there's so much to do, and we only saw one small corner of it today, but what a corner it was!  First, we went to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain.

As the name implies, this is a wonderful fountain built in memory of Princess Diana.  Kids could walk around in the water, which went around in this huge loop, and there were people everywhere since it was such a gorgeous day (barely a cloud in sight!).  I thought it was incredibly sweet that there were even flowers left at the gate of the fountain in memory of Princess Diana.

After some venturing around the pond, we found some equally amazing sites.  First, we came across the famous statue of Peter Pan, donated by the author of the beloved book, J.M. Barrie.

I just learned the story behind this story today from a guy in my study abroad group.  As the story goes, Hyde Park was the park Peter was in with his parents as a baby when his parents lost him and he was taken away to Neverland.  I think that that's an absolutely adorable story, and it makes me love the statue even more now.

Just past the Peter Pan  Statue is another wonderful place to visit, the Italian Fountains.  These fountains were built by Prince Albert to show his love to his beloved wife, Queen Victoria.  Talk about one heck of a gift!  Now, a woman's lucky if her husband gets her flowers!

You can walk around the fountains, and there's also a beautiful view of one of the ponds in the park.  There's also a statue of the founder of the smallpox vaccine, who was born nearby I believe.

Megan and I also saw the memorial to Prince Albert, built by Queen Victoria after her husband's death.  It's a beautiful memorial with so much symbolism wrapped up in it.  On each corner directly around the memorial are four key parts of England's Victorian industrial arts: manufacturers, engineering, agriculture and commerce.  Then, a little farther out, at the bottom of the steps, there are four huge sculptures representing Africa, Asia, Europe and Asia.





 It's a really tall memorial that has a Gothic look to it with lots of mosaic.  It's rather impressive really, with all the details and symbolism tied up into it.  To top it all off, it's right across from the Royal Albert Hall.  The memorial is 174 feet tall, and if it was built today would cost around 10,000,000 pounds, or just over $15.7 million.

Well, after all this walking, Megan and I decided to walk even farther to see the home of everyone's favorite new royal couple, Will and Kate, at leas their home when they're in London, Kensington Palace.  It's a fairly small palace, but when you think about where they'll eventually live, it's not that bad at all.  There's a huge statue of Queen Victoria out front too.

You really wouldn't know what it was unless someone told you.  I mean, it's beautiful and everything, but it's not as well-known as Buckingham Palace.  You can get tours of it too, we just got there late in the evening, so it was too late for us.

After such a long day, all I could think about was getting on the Tube and going home.  Unfortunately, it wasn't that simple.  Apparently there was a fire on the tracks like 2 stops up from mine, and that line was the only line to get directly to my flat.  So, I had the genius idea of walking home from Piccadily Circus, I've done it before, and you get to see so many cool sites.  Well, I kinda forgot how absolutely exhausted I was, and it was a VERY long walk, at least after all the walking I did earlier.  On my walk, I passed by the Texas Embassy.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Back when Texas was an independent country (for a very short time), it had an embassy right here in London about half a block or so from Trafalgar Square.  You can still go there, although now it's a restaurant appropriately named "the Texas Embassy."

 There was one good side to this awfully long walk home (besides the fact that the weather was gorgeous, it could have been raining, and then I would be REALLY mad).  I got to see Cleopatra's Needle.

This obelisk was "given" to England by Egypt.  Ironically, it has nothing to do with Cleopatra.  A obelisk was meant to symbolize a ray of the sun coming down to earth, which was crucial since the sun was a god, especially during Egypt's religious reformation by King Tut's father.  This obelisk sits right on the Thames River.  There is another one in Central Park back home, so if you're going up that way, be sure to check it out.  What's interesting is there are more obelisks in Rome than in Egypt, they were tall taken there during the Roman Empire and never given back (there's a shocker).

Tomorrow it's supposed to rain, so I have no idea what I'm going to do.  Something exciting, I definitely know that much, although the rest remains a mystery.

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