– London, England –

Today was our first real day in London, and we will not be here for long. Mark has to work today, as I mentioned yesterday, so for a good portion of the day, I was on my own.

We don’t usually have room to bring running things on international trips, but we’ve managed it this time, and I couldn’t be more excited. I think Mark secretly thinks you aren’t supposed to exercise on vacation, but he’s wrong. So there.

At any rate, we ended up running along a towpath beside a canal that leads out to the Thames River. Boathouses line the side. It’s interesting, in a way. We don’t see areas like that much at home.

Vegetarian English breakfast at the hotel
Vegetarian English breakfast at the hotel

Something else interesting too- you may drive on the left side here, but it seems pedestrian traffic is a bit more confusing. We’ve been trying to keep left, assuming that the people would move the same way as the cars. We aren’t entirely wrong, but it seems like it is more up to the person doing it than any general rule.

In the U.S. and Canada, you always keep right. It is an unspoken rule, and people will not be very happy with you if you violate it. Here, the rules seems a bit murkier. It’s almost like everyone is just making it up as they go along. It makes it more challenging not to get run over by bicyclists.

We were back at the hotel by about 7:45am, where we showered and dressed and hustled down to breakfast before the rush at 8:30. The staff actually warned us about the breakfast rush, although we have been here before, so we sort of remembered. Breakfast only lasts from 7-9am, so many of the people staying here wait until the last minute to go down for breakfast.

Russell Square Park
Russell Square Park

Thankfully, our hotel offers 3 breakfast options, and two of them are vegetarian. They offer a regular English breakfast, a vegetarian English breakfast, and a continental breakfast (which includes yogurt and cereal).

Since we’re in England, it is important to do as the English do (at least the vegetarian ones), so we had our English breakfast today. If you don’t know what that is, the traditional full English breakfast includes fried eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, baked beans, sausage, bacon, and toast. That’s the general formula, though you will see some variation.

Our breakfast didn’t include bacon, obviously, but it did have a soy sausage, which was really odd-tasting. I didn’t eat any more after the first bite. It’s also served with tea or coffee. Full English breakfast is a really big deal here. Many of the touristy areas offer it in every other shop, all day. From what I gather, people that actually live here only eat it occasionally, like we do with our heavier breakfast options.

Outside the British Museum
Outside the British Museum

After breakfast, I actually wrote yesterday’s post, which shouldn’t surprise you, if you read it. I was much to tired to write it last night. Mark went on to his meetings at about 9am.

I left the hotel at around 12, with my blog post finished and my camera all ready. I stopped by a Pret first for a sandwich and some chips. One of the interesting things about eating here is that all water is served sparkling (or fizzy, as I always say) unless you specifically ask for ‘still.’ I had to be careful to buy still water with my lunch. Fizzy water ruins my day.

The museum I planned for today didn’t open until 1pm, so I was still a little early. I ate my lunch in the Cartwright Gardens with the pigeons and a very large number of construction workers. The whole street beside it is quite torn up.

A brain coral in the Grant Museum of Zoology
A brain coral in the Grant Museum of Zoology

Fom there, I still had about another half hour to kill, so I walked down to Russell Square to look around the little park there, then stopped by the British Museum. It wasn’t my plan today, so I did not go inside, but I think I will go tomorrow. I had to get my bag searched just to make it onto the lawn, which I do not remember happening the last time we were here in 2011.

By the time I’d finished up in that area, it was after 1, and I headed for my real destination for the day: The Grant Museum of Zoology. It’s a free museum on the University College London campus that houses a large collection of zoological specimens. I’m not sure everyone would find it interesting, but I certainly did.

The whole museum is relatively small, pyhysically, but it houses over 67,000 specimens, according to their website. I must say that I saw enough to make me believe it.

Kristy's reflection in the Micrarium
Kristy’s reflection in the Micrarium

The walls of the museum are lined with cabinets all the way up, and the cabinets are full-to-bursting with skeletons, formaldehyde-filled jars, and other random odds and ends. There’s so much that it can be difficult to tell what you are even looking at.

The museum has a list of its top ten specimens, and several of them are really something special. I didn’t get a photograph, but one of them is an ice-age deer skull with antlers still attached. The deer would’ve been about 2 meters tall, but the antlers were 3.6 meters across. They were even more impressive than moose antlers.

Thylacine (extinct Tasmanian Tiger) skeleton
Thylacine (extinct Tasmanian Tiger) skeleton

Have you ever heard of the Thylacine? I know not everyone has, but it’s one of those recently extinct animals that people tend to find fascinating. The thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, was an Australian predator that filled the wolf-niche that we have back home. They were marsupials, though, as most of the mammals in Australia are.

The last Thylacine died in a zoo in Hobart in the 1930s, as far as we can tell. People still claim to see them to this day, and as recently as this week, someone released a video claiming to have spotted one on mainland Australia.

Regardless of whether or not they still exist, they are considered extinct, and the skeletons in the museum are interesting. If you can see the black and white photograph on the museum case in my photo above, you’ll see a picture of the last known Thylacine. Check out how widely his mouth opens! From what I understand, that’s the widest gape of any mammal. It’s quite creepy, honestly.

A quagga skeleton- one of only 7
A quagga skeleton- one of only 7

This skeleton is of a quagga, which was once a type of zebra. The last of these died out in 1883. Only 7 quagga skeletons exist today! The museum had this skeleton for a long time before they even realized it was a quagga and not a normal zebra.

Mark’s favorite photo of my adventure was from the Micrarium, which is a small room in the Grant Museum filled with around 20,000 slides of the smaller inhabitants of our planet. It was fun to pick out things that I remembered studying in Microbiology and such back in college.

They have a few other things that make their top ten list: a brain collection, bones of the extinct dodo bird, exquisite glass models of invertebrates, and others. I doubt that Mark would have enjoyed it as much as I did, but I am glad that I went.

Skeletons on the railing of the Grant Museum of Zoology
Skeletons on the railing of the Grant Museum of Zoology

I came back to the hotel after I’d finished at the museum, then waited for Mark for dinner. We had dinner with his library colleagues at a local pub, which was pretty loud and crowded. We had quite a time stuffing everyone into our tiny corner of the place.

They only really had two vegetarian dishes that were not salads, and since I was starving from all of my walking around, I picked one and Mark picked the other. Mine, in particular, was a mistake. It was vegetarian bangers and mash, which is basically sausage and potatoes. I’m already not much of a fan of fake meat, and this was no exception. Mark had a veggie burger with Brie, which I’m also not a fan of, so I didn’t have many options. (I’m starting to sound picky, but mostly I’m not, I swear.)

Oh boy. Veggie bangers and mash.
Oh boy. Veggie bangers and mash.

Once we were out of the pub, we were quite grateful to be moving around again. We walked over to King’s Cross, which is really close to our hotel, in search of ginger beer and candy that we don’t have back home.

We ended up discovering that since we’ve last visited, they’ve reopened the portion of the station that they were renovating, and the new area includes a Harry Potter shop called Platform 9 3/4. There was a line of people outside the shop waiting to take photographs that made it look like they were running through the wall between platforms 9 and 10, as the characters do in the books. A man was in charge of making it look like the person’s scarf was fluttering out behind them in the breeze.

People taking a picture at Platform 9 3/4 in King's Cross
People taking a picture at Platform 9 3/4 in King’s Cross

The little shop was full of toys, clothes, and books. They had an entire wall of wands for the various characters from the stories. We didn’t buy anything, as my obsession does not run that deep, but it was all quite fun to look at.

I couldn’t believe how many people were there considering it was after 9pm on a Monday. Tourists, right?

A wall of wands at the Harry Potter shop in King's Cross
A wall of wands at the Harry Potter shop in King’s Cross

We stopped by a miniature version of a local grocery chain in the station and found candy and drinks, though not the ginger beers we were dreaming of.

My soda was sparkling apple juice, basically, and Mark’s was rhubarb. He’s always been the braver one. His didn’t turn out that great, which may explain why I always play it safe and get the one that I think will actually be good. We didn’t choose our candy well, either. Maybe next time.

Sparkling apple soda
Sparkling apple soda

Tomorrow Mark has meetings from 9-5, and I am going back to the British Museum. We don’t have dinner plans yet, so we will see where we end up.

I know we get to go running again, which sounds like a great start to the day to me. After today, we are picking up our rental car and heading up towards Scotland to take in some scenery. I can’t wait.

– Trip Total : 4,801 miles

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