London We spent this very chilly day in intellectual pursuits, which is to say we went to the British Museum and the British Library, along with their attendant gift shops and cafes. One needs to stay well-rounded.
What a beautiful and successful improvement is the central atrium of the British Museum. It creates a space filled with light and air and gives a harmoniously modern feel to this venerable building.
The wonders inside are always thrilling. The Rosetta Stone. The Parthenon Marbles, formerly known as the Elgin Marbles. The Sutton Hoo treasures – familiar to viewers of “The Dig.” Roman mosaics from when they ruled part of England. It’s all here.
And then there’s the relatively new British Library. We often find that ‘modern’ buildings often share one thing in common: one cannot find the entrance or front door. This library was no exception. In our opinion, an exceedingly ugly courtyard ultimately terminates in an entrance, which we figured had to be the door which was not the exit.
I guess they can be forgiven once you get a gander at the treasures this edifice holds. Oh, to own a first folio of Shakespeare, or an original of the Magna Carta. Or so many other goodies that the mind trembles at what the insurance must cost. Pictures were not encouraged, but here are a few snippets. You can’t take pictures of some of the Beatles’ songs in draft form, but that gives an idea of the scope of the collection.
All in all, a satisfactory day, as we have honored the greats of the past and marveled at the talents of those who went long before us. Plus, the gift shops were very satisfactory.
Tomorrow we’re going to visit very dear friends in Highgate, so our day will be spent catching up and setting the world to rights. Might not be much to share or photograph!
Don’s Food Corner
Lunch was at the British Museum. There are two choices of places to eat. A snack bar on ground floor, that features two different sandwiches which you eat on communal picnic tables, or a rather fancy restaurant on the third floor with a more refined menu. We chose the fancy restaurant.
As soon as we were seated a young, earnest, yet clueless young man attempted to serve us. We got nervous when we noted a button he was wearing that said “In Training.” His training thus far apparently did not include the understanding of certain terms, like “water.” But we were patient. And that was a good thing because the whole lunch event took over an hour and a half.
The menu, which included four choices for each course, was written for woke foodies. I had for a starter, for example, “foraged wild mushrooms, braised beluga lentils and black garlic mayo.” Considering how long it took to get served that dish, I guess someone was sent out to forage for those mushrooms as we sat there. Jo chose something more prosaic: Portland crab and Keen’s Cheddar Guinness rarebit with watercress.
Of course, keeping with the tone, the portions were very, very tiny. But, strangely, everything was served on old-timey elaborately decorated dishes. I guess that that was the post-modern dynamic of the otherwise modernist take on things.
My main course was sea bream served on a lemon beurre blanc with a “winter ratatouille,” which consisted of potatoes, turnips, and, I think, parsnips, along with sea lettuce crumbs. The veggies were diced so minutely and perfectly that it is no wonder it took so long to get it served. Jo went with a free-range (of course) chicken breast with parsnip puree and heritage (of course) carrots and chard. Dessert was sticky toffee and black mission fig pudding with spiced rum custard.
Well, OK. It was all very nice and, indeed, refined. Why it took an hour and a half to deliver these dishes, with half-hour pauses between courses, went unexplained. It was noticed, however, that we were left adrift and could only get served after we reminded someone that we were waiting to be served and they did provide us a discount for our growing anxiety.
Later we dropped into Marks and Spencer and picked up some ready-made sandwiches for later. Not so refined, but they do the trick.