I had no idea. Not until I’d resigned myself to unexpectedly spending a quiet evening in the Heathrow Sheraton. I unpacked my stash of overnight supplies, took a much-needed shower and collapsed on the bed. For about five minutes. London. There. Fifteen minutes later, I was inbound on the Piccadilly Line, aiming for Holborn Station and the British Museum – if I hurried, I could still get in about 20 minutes in with the Assyrian murals before they closed.
I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with London. More like a love-fright relationship, really. London is a city where things go wrong for me – looking back I’m trying to remember one time I’ve spent any length of time inside city limits without getting badly lost and soaked in the rain, getting stranded or having my money or heart stolen. Back in my college days, these things used to happen in combinations – you’d think I should know better by now, right? But, no, I keep coming back.
I came barreling up the steps of the British Museum with fifteen minutes to spare, dodging past the Rosetta Stone and Elgin Marbles for my murals. I don’t know why, but there are a handful of pieces of ancient art that just stick with me – the Three Muses in Antalya, the Alexander Sarcophagus in Istanbul, the Boy with Horses in Athens, and the Assyrian Murals at the British Museum. There’s just something that makes them come alive, that their sculptors, as Shelley wrote, “well those passions read, which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things.” Because there is such passion in the stone that they do seem alive. I have to keep going back, to see if they’ve moved. You can see the pride of the horsemen, the power of the horses. You can feel the rage and pain of the lions – I can’t look at them without a wave of pathos.
At 5:30, they kicked everyone out of the museum (politely, in a very civilized way), and I set out wandering the streets in search of dinner. Cue the torrential rain, but I found refuge in the Salisbury Pub, with a Steak and Ale pie and pint of the barkeep’s favorite before I got too wet. Then wandered some more. Covent Gardens, Trafalgar, the Queen’s Walk and yes, I went up on the wheel.
Caught the Piccadilly line back ahead of the rain with money remaining in my pocket and heart intact. Next up: a good night’s sleep and take two of trying to make it to Liberia!