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london - saturday

The heat wave continued into Saturday when we were up at a decent hour to continue on our mad spree of museums. The first stop was at the British Museum, which seriously put the Kalamazoo Public Library and Museum and Oxford's Ashmolean to shame in the Egyptian objects department. Amid the mummies, sarcophagi, and huge parts of temples were hordes of people taking photos and videos of every conceivable object.

Here, I'm not entirely sure why this bothers me. Why should I care if they are visiting museums through viewfinders? Except for the small annoyance of always walking through someone's photo (or even worse, video), I have no reason to mind that they're going to have hours and hours of unwatchable video footage when they get home. Who will want to watch it? This, I think, is the source of my frustration.

The other highlight (and really, we were on a highlights-type tour of all of the museums) was the Elgin / Parthenon marbles. [Which are pieces from the Parthenon, not marbles in the children's game or generally round object style.] The sculptures were very concerned with tales of naked people on horseback fighting, and the accompanying text was very excited about explaining the use of perspective. The other interesting part of the curation was the description of how it's really a good thing that old Elgin took them away from Greece. You see, the Greeks were pretty irresponsible with the remaining marble pieces; so had the British not taken them, they might have been lost to the ages or damaged by the horrible pollution in Athens!

Although we were tempted to follow one of the tour guides who used umbrellas to signal to their groups (rather than shell out two pounds for a museum map), we managed instead to wander through a few other exhibits. Particularly the African art section, which featured benches as well as short videos about dancing as rehearsal for spiritual possession and brassworks.

By this point in the trip, we learned the value of taking time during the day not to be doing anything. To this end, we spent the afternoon in Regent's Park with a Tesco picnic. I chose the vegetarian sandwich variety pack for the sheer challenge of eating the three strange styles of sandwich filling -- egg mayonaise, onion and cheese, and 'workman' which seemed normal except for the strange brown pickle mix. I'm not sure which was my favorite, but they were all pretty special.

In the park, we observed some interesting child rearing techniques (such as leave your child far away and hide behind a tree until she comes running, and bounce your stroller violently to calm a crying baby), lots and lost of shirtless pale people, a wedding party, and some nice rose gardens.

After a few hours of lounging, we were ready to hit up some more attractions. Our fellow underground passengers who described the crowded ride to St. Paul's Cathedral as "hotter than Calcutta" and suggested treating it as a "sweat lodge" were pretty much right on the mark. Ah, the joy of the heat wave visit!

We were too late to actually go inside St. Paul's (which my Scottish friend claims is much nicer than Westminster Abbey); but we made our best effort to document its exterior beauty by lying in the street to take pictures of it. The reason for being in that neighborhood was that we were planning a visit to the Tate Modern, which was open late on Saturday.

Crossing the Millennium footbridge, we were treated to views of lots and lots of other bridges, suggesting that Rhiannon could count the trip as a business expense. At the very least, we paused for a few photos. Coupled with the photo of her by the Institute for Civil Engineers, I think she has a decent case.

The Tate Modern was really cool. The space, which used to be occupied by a power plant, is gigantic and only a small fraction is actively occupied by exhibits. Per our custom, we stuck to the free exhibits, which also happened to have nice bench areas with audio content. Other people, however, were extremely obsessed with the Kahlo show. Many stopped in the cafe to buy commemorative sweatshirts and pose for photos with the large picture of Frida.

After the museum, we had dinner at a nearby pizza place. Although it was part of the Pizza Express chain (not Pizza Hut, at least), it had an authentic view. Somehow we stayed late enough, or took to long to walk, and our Tube stop had closed. The sign directed us to go to a different entrance, but we were unable to find it, even with Rhiannon's laminated folding map.

This inability to locate an alternative Underground entrance launched us on a multi-hour adventure trying to navigate the very confusing night bus system. While we had hoped to experience the authentic double-decker bus ride, we had no idea what horrors our immediate future held. Many blocks away, we ran across a bus stop where we learned that we needed to walk quite a way to find the correct station for a bus that would go somewhat in the direction of our beds. Once there, we re-evaluated and waited for about forty minutes while the police chatted up some not-very-dangerous-looking hooligans. By the time the police had finished, our bus arrived and we were off to Victoria Station hoping that a bus would come to take us to Baker Street.

Alas, when we arrived at Victoria, there was no apparent bus to take us home, but one seemed to be going in the general direction such that we'd have a eight block walk from our stop which we assumed to be the end of the line. With that as inspiration, we boarded another bus and started our ride. Along the way, we saw hundreds [thousands?] of shirtless women and a few men wearing pink bras for the playtex moonwalk in support of some sort of breast-related cause [ed: lookup url]. We also saw something that seemed like our stop, but since the bus kept going we assumed that we read the sign incorrectly. As the bus seemed to go on for hours, through different countries, I fell asleep while Rhiannon consulted the maps.

When we passed an outlying Underground Station, she realized that we had indeed missed our stop. Conveniently, there was a Edgeware Road and Edgeware Street stop. We wanted the former and were en route to the latter, in the suburban wastelands. When we disembarked at the next available stop, things were looking pretty grim. And dark. It was nearly two in the morning as we walked to the nearest bus stop, which didn't have any maps or schedules to help us out. Although it would have felt more productive to walk, we decided that it was more practical to just sit and wait until a bus arrived to take us home to our super-uncomfortable beds.

After about fifteen minutes of staring down the street for any sign of a bus, we were amazed to greet one headed for the correct neighborhood. We climbed aboard to the second level and kept a close eye on the map as the vehicle made frightening turns along narrow streets, seeming always on the verge of trampling parked cars below.

When we finally arrived at the dorm it was three in the morning. Looking forward to a few hours of sleep before setting off on the next day's planless adventure, we eagerly returned to our rooms.

Luckily, our night was hardly over. Within a half an hour, the halls were pierced with a confusingly loud alarm. Rather than immediately fleeing the room, I decided to get dressed and collect some of my belongings before trudging down seventeen flights of stairs into the courtyard. No one, including the security personnel, seemed very flustered by the prospect of a burning building. We sat along with our fellow travelers in the cool night air for about fifteen minutes until the sirens stopped. True to form, no one from Marylebone followed any sort of procedure to let us inside. Instead, after a few tentative groups approached the door, we vacated the courtyard and returned to our rooms for a few hours of sleep and a revised wake up time.
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