Sunday, April 1, 2012

DINOSAURS and the Natural History Museum

The weather has continued to be freakishly blue in London, except of course on Saturday because you can't have too much sun in the weekend. The weather here tends to be mostly overcast with a bit of rain and a bit of sun every so often, so ten days of blue skies is pretty much astonishing.

School holidays have just started so there are lots of kids around. Despite this, I decided to go to the Natural History Museum to see dinosaurs, reasoning that the sunny day would make people want to spend the day outside rather than at a museum. There was still a queue to get in (they limit the numbers inside the museum) but it didn't wind around as much as it could have and I was inside before I got bored of staring at the exterior of the building.

The exterior of the building, by the way, looks a lot like a cathedral with huge wings on either side (building wings, not bird wings). The main entrance has a curved arch over it, plain where you'd normally have statues of saints in cathedrals. When you go inside, the main hall looks a lot like the nave of a cathedral, but instead of stone arches across the roof, the arches are made of iron. The roof is beautifully painted, and large panes of glass open to the sky. It's an incredible reflection of the ideas of its time - a cathedral to science, made with the most modern construction methods of the 19th century and filled with specimens from all over the world, the British Empire at the height of its optimism.

I wandered around the main entrance hall, which currently has as its centrepiece a diplodocus skeleton named Dippy that you can make roar if you give a donation. Alcoves to either side hold a range of exhibits, including a stuffed tiger and a moa. Upstairs there's a giant sequoia section taken from a tree that was cut down in the late 1800s at the age of 1300, and a display on human evolution that includes skulls from lots of different hominids and australopithecines.

Back downstairs I found the dinosaur gallery, which was really well done. They have a triceratops and a few allosauruses and lots of other dinosaurs, and at first you go up on a catwalk above everything so you can see eye-to-eye with the skeletons. After a walk past an animatronic T-Rex you're back on the ground and seeing the more in-depth informational displays, but you can still peer around at the fossils and gape at their size. It's a really good use of space, and means you can get lots of stuff in one space without it seeming cramped.

When my feet got too sore from wandering around, I went and found a cafe and sat in the sun with my latte and tarte citron and felt very cultured.

Have a good week!

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