London with Coffee # 3

The British Museum--again?

The British Museum–again?

I am getting better at being a tourist.

That means I wake up, I leave the hotel, I get lost.  And today I was so lost that I didn’t have coffee till noon.

Why would I get lost?  There is no reason to get lost.  I have guidebooks, maps, an A/Z, a computer.

There I was in the hotel room, planning my trip to the Dickens Museum.  There are Dickens walks, but I was far too tired to go on a Dickens walk.  I was in the Dickens mood, though, because I fell asleep last night reading Bleak House.

I started out at 10 a.m.  I had written everything down, but I hit a dead end.  Buildings.  On the other side I suppose the street continued.

I don’t know where I was, but suddenly I recognized a street and knew the British Museum was there.

Later I’ll go to the Dickens Museum, I promised myself.

I wandered briefly among the Greek and Roman exhibits.  I want this diadem and the ball-shaped earrings:

Diadem, decorated in relief with palmette flanked by leaves.


Yes, it is a terrible picture, but I like the idea of wearing a diadem decorated in relief with palmette flanked by leaves.

And I saw two lovely bronze statuettes of Venus loosening her sandals.  My pictures didn’t come out unfortunately.

Okay, then I made it to the Dickens Museum.

Dickens Museum

Dickens Museum, Bloomsbury

At first I walked right past it because the sign was so discreet and I was on the wrong side of the street.  Then Doughty St. turned into John St. (Why is this always happening in London?)  I retraced my footsteps on the OTHER side of the street and found the museum.

All right, I paid what I paid and then I was in the museum.  First, the dining room.  I thought it was a bit corny.  I didn’t need the settings at the table with the names Dickens, Walter Ainsworth, Forster, etc., on the plates.  I liked the mahogany sideboard, though, which I think Dickens bought himself, though I don’t quite remember that part. And what the f- was that soundtrack in the background?  Street sounds?

I thought, Oh God, this doesn’t compare with Willa Cather’s house in Red Cloud, Nebraska.

Well, in a way it doesn’t.  But so many people love Dickens that they want to make it more commercial, I suppose.

I got hooked upstairs in the drawing room and study.  Then I felt the writer “near me.”  In the drawing room I admired the rosewood leather-topped table, and the rare reading desk he had designed and built for his readings and performances.  A podium?  Very exciting, isn’t it?  I would have loved to hear Dickens read.  And there was a tape (a CD? whatever you call it?) of someone reading Dickens aloud.  I’m afraid I don’t know what was being read.

And then in his study there was his desk from Gad’s Hill.  What is it about writers’ desks?

Dickens' desk.

Dickens’ desk.

And there were Dickens’ books in the glass bookshelf:  Shakespeare, Robinson Crusoe, and Specimens of English Sonnets.  Also a page or two of his original manuscript of Oliver Twist.  And then in another bookcase were sets of Dickens’ own books.

The rest of the house was quite nice, too.  Kitchen, bedrooms, etc.  And then I did buy a few books.  Not a Dickens mug, but it was necessary to buy a copy of A Walk Around Dickens’ London.  It’s really a sweet little pamphlet.  I’m unlikely to take the walk, but I like reading it.

I loved the Dickens Museum.  I love Dickens!

COFFEE NOTES.  Today I had to go to Starbucks.  I passed two of them, and honestly I needed my grande. One Starbucks coffee and that’s all you need.   The coffee is so good:  Costa was a little strong for me yesterday.  Will I be able to find an indie coffeehouse tomorrow?  Everybody advertises cappucchinos–but can they make coffee?

London with Coffee # 2

Book shopping, that is.

Book shopping, that is.

I realized while browsing in the Greek and Roman life room at the British Museum that my late mother would have enjoyed the tiny terracotta and bronze figures.  She collected ceramic figures and dolls, so how could she not like these “figurines?”  There were tiny figures of sacrificial animals–a ram (from Syria), a pig (near Rome), and a bull (I think it was Etruscan)–and figures of gods and even comic actors.  I loved a diminutive bronze figure of Mercury, a terracotta woman in a bath, and a bronze figure of a satyr playing double-pipes.

Perhaps they have some adorable Greek and Roman figurines at the museum store.  But these stores are always expensive, and you never like the stuff that much when you get home.  I have many souvenirs of the Chicago Art Institute, all tucked away out of sight.

On the way to the British Museum, the quest for coffee continued.  How could it not?  Starbucks, Costa, Nerro’s…  I’m on my Size Epic two.

It is beautiful here in London.  Though the spring is not far advanced, it is very green and there are some flowers. It is mild, in the 50s here, though at home it is still cold and windy–the wind never stops blowing on the prairie.

I sat outside the British Museum and soaked up the sun. I didn’t have a book in my bag, except a guidebook, so I decided to go to the LRB (er, London Review of Books) Bookshop. It is just south (or possibly east or west; God knows where I was) of the British Museum.

LRB bookshopNow I don’t read the LRB, because I already read the NYTBR, the NYRB, the TLS, and the WSJ (I made that last up:  I don’t read the WSJ), so I can’t really add anything else with initials at this time. But what a good bookstore this is! I considered a book of literary history, not usually my kind of thing, and several novels I’ve never heard of.  The whole Bailey’s Women’s Prize list seemed to be there, but I already have The Goldfinch, and must read that before adding more to my “queue.”   I was looking more for the obscure, for something I couldn’t get in the U.S.

Nothing hardback, I decided.

No problem.  Look at this haul:

IMG_2843I know, I know.  This is my whole budget for books.

Now I must get much more touristy tomorrow.  Seriously, you know how it is when you arrive:  it’s midnight, it’s only 7  at home, so you wait till 2 or 3 to go to bed, then you wake up early and turn off your alarm because you’ve only had a few hours’ sleep.

The secret:  coffee.  I’ve drunk so much coffee today.  Caffeine, caffeine!

Tomorrow:  must find really GOOD non-chain coffee in London. (I already drank all the Pickwick tea in my room.)