Culture ‘n’ stuff

This post was originally published on my first travel blog on 16 June 2014.

So I tend to only write about foreign trips on this blog which, on reflection, is a bit daft really, as I have plenty of adventures here in the UK…so I’m going to make an effort to write about some of those too.

When I moved to Bedford last year I thought I’d be off to London every weekend as it’s only 40 minutes on the train, but I’ve not been anywhere near that often and I definitely have more exploring to do. I’ve been down there a couple of times recently to do some interesting stuff. My friend A has just bought membership to the British Museum which includes a guest pass, so we decided to go and see some exhibitions.

On our first trip we went to Vikings: life and legend (running until 22nd June so get in quick if you want to see it). Before we went into the exhibition we went to explore the Members’ Lounge, where there’s a lovely little café – perfect place for a coffee before we went in – and a “study area” with some reading tables and books (obviously I geeked out over this bit!). Free Wifi too, another nice perk of membership; this would be great place to come and do some research or writing.

We both enjoyed the exhibition but would have liked to see more on the mythology; the exhibits were very much about everyday life, which is of course also fascinating. My favourite piece was the remains of a longboat which they have laid out towards the end of the exhibition, and I also enjoyed learning about the women who were sorceresses, offering herbal cures and potions; I think I would have been one of those had I lived then! A came away wanting a drinking horn; they had some in the gift shop but they were very expensive and we were unsure whether they’d actually be suitable for drinking out of!

Afterwards we headed to Sade, a Mediterranean restaurant on the corner of Exmouth Market, where I ate far too much food in the form of stuffed vine leaves and the “Sade Special”, a minced lamb kofte in a tortilla with yoghurt and tomato (getting ready for my trip to Greece next month!). Good wine, friendly service and a relaxed atmosphere; would recommend.

Our next trip took place a few weeks later, when we headed back to the British Museum, this time for the Ancient Lives exhibition – mummies! I’ve loved Ancient Egypt, but especially mummies, since I was a kid so I was really looking forward to this one, and it didn’t disappoint. The exhibition contains eight mummies and their stories, or what we think their stories are; some Ancient Egyptian, others not. It was an amazing exhibition and brilliant to get so close; I liked the Egyptian ones of course, but in a way the other mummies, not wrapped up or encased, were more fascinating, as you can see the actual remains of the person. Maybe I’m just a grisly soul, but I couldn’t stop looking at them! This was my favourite of the two exhibitions and I’d definitely recommend going – it’s how extended until 12 July 2015.

Oh, and being a cat lover, I couldn’t resist buying an Ancient Egyptian cat in the gift shop!

We were then off to the New London Theatre on Drury Lane that evening, to see War Horse, a show we’d both wanted to see for ages. A is great at finding bargains and had found a dinner and theatre deal through lovetheatre.com, where we got a two-course dinner at a participating restaurant and our show ticket for £47 each. There’s quite a big choice of restaurants and they offer a set menu for this deal, but they all have the menus online so you can have a look beforehand.

We had a bit of spare time between collecting our theatre tickets and going for dinner, so we popped into The Angel on St Giles High St for a drink, which is a lovely pub. I enjoyed a raspberry beer in the pleasant beer garden with a view.

We’d chosen The Noodle House on Shaftesbury Avenue as it was close to the theatre and had a good variety of food we both fancied on the set menu. We went early – 5pm – and had the place almost to ourselves, with very good service again. I had calamari for my starter and Pad Thai for my main, both delicious, and A went for duck dumplings (I tried some and they were fab – took me back to Chinatown as written about in my previous blog on NYC!) and Singapore Noodles. We both agreed we’d like to go back and try something from the full menu sometime.

Onto the theatre, and we were pleased with our seats – back row of the rear stalls and we had a full view of the stage, so the £47 deal was great. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the show (other than weeping!), having not read the book or seen the film…but I was riveted from the opening scene. I can’t even fathom the amount of rehearsal that must go into operating the horses; the actors were perfectly in sync and the horses seemed real, in the way that they moved, breathed, mooched around in the background. The story was wonderful, and yes, I cried copiously, along with the rest of the theatre I think – there was definitely a near-universal breakdown at one point! I wrote in my previous blog post about seeing a show on Broadway and how appreciative and vocal the American audience was in comparison to the British audiences I’d experienced; during this show it felt much more like the American audience – people clapped and cheered at every appropriate point, no one was playing on their phone or chatting, everyone gasped in unison at one particular tense point right at the end (you may know what I mean if you’ve seen it!), and there was a standing ovation at the curtain call. Highly recommended!

I have more London plans coming up over the summer, but my next trip is not far away; a week by myself in Corfu next month…I can’t wait!

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