Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Sweatin' with the British Oldies

When you're on vacation in a big city that's rarely hit with high temperatures, where's the first place you think of to take shelter from the soaring mercury? A museum, right? Generally that would be the wisest idea, to wander the halls admiring centuries old paintings in their climate controlled habitat.

However this doesn't apply when the works of art are ancient Greek and Roman statues. That was our "d'oh" moment when we walked into the British Museum and joined the other sweaty masses trying to get a glimpse of the famous Rosetta Stone and the sculptures of the Parthenon. London had record setting temps this past July, and we learned the hard way that the British government has no interest in cooling down stone and marble statues that survived thousands of years out in the harsh Mediterranean sun.

Thankfully the British Museum is free, so we didn't feel bad picking just a few ancient treasures to seek out before heading back outside in search of gelato. The information desk had several kid friendly activities for the boys to choose from, including adventure backpacks (free with a £10 deposit) and a handheld multimedia guide (£3.50 fee for under 12s, reserve online) to take them through one of the world's best museums. The little C&Gs barely had enough energy for carrying around the paper kids guide to the Greek and Roman galleries so we didn't push it and just let them wander, taking lots of breaks for water and just sitting on the cool stone benches. Had the conditions been better I'm sure we all could have happily spent a few hours wandering the galleries and exploring the hands on and kid friendly activities on offer.

Before we braved the crowds at the British Museum, we made a quick stop for lunch at Jamie Oliver's Union Jacks restaurant, conveniently between the Tottenham Court Road tube station and the museum. We slept in that morning thanks to the silly time zone change and totally missed breakfast. I love Jamie Oliver, he's a cheeky bloke who's passionate about good food, and as a dad of four he knows what kids like to eat. His wood fired pizzas were a big hit, especially because we ordered them with a side of mushy peas.

After sweating our trousers off (the boys giggled every time we said "pants", it's British for undies) at the British Museum we had all earned a few scoops of gelato. Just a five minute walk from the museum is Gelateria Danieli, where we were happy to grab a few scoops and sit under some shady trees enjoying the breeze. Even the freezer cases were working overtime in the heatwave and our gelato was melting before it made it to our cones, but it was still delicious.

The British Museum is open every day from 10:00 to 17:30 (5:30pm) and admission is always free. The website has a great section for the kiddos to explore before their visit. Check online for the list of galleries open late on Friday nights. It's a great way to keep your family going if you've just arrived from the US and haven't quite adjusted to the time change. Plus it's less crowded, because Brits like to spend their Friday nights out on the town, not hanging with the mummies.

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