Wednesday, October 22, 2014

sharing London, part 2

This week the wonder | wander | women read an interview with travel writer Pico Iyer on Pure Life Experiences, a travel magazine. Pico Iyer lives in Nara, one of the most beautiful cities in Japan, and grew up in Santa Barbara, California, where his mother still lives.

He says:
"When I’m at my desk or traipsing off to the health-club or paying my bills, I often sleepwalk through my life, barely aware of the beauties around me.  
"As soon as a friend visits me in either place, I’m newly attentive to what’s wondrous about my hometowns, and newly excited about them. And the minute I’m in a place I think of as foreign, I start watching everything around me, so that even the smallest details become something curious and fascinating."

In the last London post, our guests were frequent visitors to London who knew the city, wanted to see specific exhibits, and had their favourite haunts. But sometimes we get friends dropping by who want to be surprised. They hear about places like the British Museum or Kew Gardens but they don't know what to expect. This is when we get to rediscover our adopted hometowns, revisit the wonder of being a tourist but with the know-how of a resident.

The British Museum - main facade

The British Museum was the first museum people usually go to see and it has especially fond memories for the London half of wonder | wander | women.

Front court

We've walked through its galleries with many friends from the US, Canada, the Philippines, Japan...and always loved sharing the wonder.

The Nereid Monument
The Pediment statues, part of the controversial Elgin collection

The British curators are absolutely dedicated to respecting and caring for these artifacts, and serving the needs of the visitors who come from all over the world.

Case in point: This swatch shows how the ancient Greeks decorated their temples. On the plaque explaining the colour scheme is a slightly raised copy of the pattern, with textures to indicate colours so visually-impaired visitors can also appreciate the Greek aesthetic. It's a beautiful and elegant solution.

This mythical giant guards the Assyrian section.
A royal hunt in bas-relief, part of the Temple at Niniveh.
Tourists crowd together to hear a docent talk about
the Rosetta Stone.
A collection of amulets that decorated the bodies of mummies.
The large scarab, a symbol of eternal life, usually lays over the heart,
with the wings flanking it.
Moving forward in time we also saw magnificent objects on display which were native to Britain, found in various places on the islands or fashioned by British artisans and inventors.

Helmet from the Sutton Hoo Hoard

After the museum visit we jumped right into the post-modern with the musical The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, adapted from one of our favourite books from Mark Haddon.

The view from the stalls at the Gielgud Theatre

The stage setup was deceptively simple; the production would become more and more complex as the play went on.

Like seeing a familiar city with new eyes, travelling in space may also seem similar to travelling in time. Memory supplies every day with layers of meaning, until revisiting with a friend yields stories that turn a historic landmark into a personal experience.

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