London – The Highlights Reel. Day 72 to 87. Part 2
So the saga continues. Here is the second installation of my London wanderings and the best part about it is that all of these things can be enjoyed for free. When travelling on a budget, you never have to break the bank with these few tourist attractions.
Sir John Soane Museum
This is one of those off the beaten track museums that people like me love to find, and it’s right in the centre of London. Known for his work as an architect, Sir John Soane tore down and rebuilt three houses in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. This is where the museum stands today. The houses showcase the talent Soane had in his field with every room highlighting a different theme and design. The detail within the panelling, layout and even the staircases is all unique and I have never seen a house quite like it. Antique cupboards and furniture line the walls with knick knacks inside, paintings and portraits fill the walls and piles of other intriguing artefacts are spread on the floor. Soane’s collections are everywhere and each as beautifully crafted as the next. Unfortunately you cannot take photos inside the building so it’s hard for me to show you how alluring this museum is, but you’ll just have to see for yourself.
Interesting fact: Sir John Soane, in his later years, was a professor of architecture and would allow his students to visit his collections and house before and after his lectures. As a result of this, he created an act that states the house would remain open for free to students of architecture for their perusal. It is for this reason that the museum remains open today.
Walking in to the Wallace Collection only one word springs to mind. Hoarder. Not one of those crazy cat lady types with clusters of junk sprawled all over the house but a classy, more sophisticated version. It’s utterly incredible. I tag along to one of those free tours I keep telling you about and can’t wait to explore.
This collection is located inside Hertford House on Manchester Square. It is known for being one of the best collections of fine arts including paintings, armoury and furniture and I couldn’t agree more. It has been handed down five generations, each adding their own special pieces until it finally landed in the hands of Sir Richard Wallace.
Although the armoury and furnishings are exquisite, the European oil paintings spread throughout the house are a definite must see. Pay special attention to the paintings highlighted in the guide, especially “The Laughing Cavalier” which was my favourite because when you look closely he is actually not laughing at all.
From the glass dome ceiling to the exceptional range of artefacts, you can’t help but be in complete awe of this museum. Of all of the museums in London this is the one not to be missed. The collection is so large that I visited twice and still didn’t manage to really see it all.
The museum offers an array of different free tours throughout the day that highlight different cultural sections of the museum or you can pick up a map that outlines the must see artefacts. I could go on for hours about the history and the intricate detail in the items at the British museum but you really must see them for yourself. If you are travelling around the globe like we are, then my hint is to focus on the artefacts that are significant to the area you are in or places you have not been. At the British Museum I focused on medieval Europe, Africa, Mexico, Ancient Iraq, China and Japan however ancient Rome and Greece are always fantastic to see. Best advice is to just grab a map and head in the direction your drawn too.
My highlight: seeing the Rosetta Stone and being able to touch the replica.
Slightly off the beaten path in South West London you’ll find this little gem. From the 11th century until it was vacated in the late 20th Century it was home to the Bishops of London who mainly used it as a summer home. The house itself features many different design styles and stands today as a Tudor palace with a Victorian style chapel. Walking through the house you see this style replicated in the features within the rooms and through photos placed throughout the house.
As well as walking through the house you can enjoy some history in the small museum with stories of previous Bishops and how they spent their time here and there is a coffee shop located in the back with some of the best coffee I had in London. If the weather is good (which it was for me) wander through the grounds of Fulham Palace. There are stables and my favourite part, the walled gardens. These gardens are surrounded by a large brick wall and inside you’ll find a glasshouse, vegetables patches and many seats to rest and relax. A perfect day out to wander around and take in some fresh air, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Natural History Museum
I’m not really one for natural history but it’s something Josh is fond of, and with him having a day off I thought I best let him decide where we would go. Although when first walking in to the Natural History Museum I must admit, my jaw dropped a little. Standing in front of us was a replica of the earths core, bright red and orange, with an escalator heading straight into the centre and towards the first exhibit. Ok maybe I got a little excited.
As we wander through the museum we move from the earths beginning to present day, reading about the development of the earth, animals and humans along the way. This museum is completely interactive and perfect for kids and adults who are children at heart, there was even a robotic T. rex that got Josh pretty excited. After you finish the earths journey you can explore the thousands of species throughout the museum, there are sections showcasing mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and everything else you can think of, including a life size replica of a blue whale hanging from the ceiling.
But wait, there’s more!
Jess and Josh