After a quick breakfast at Pret (and, for some of us, running back up the wrong escalator), we arrived at the Museum of London. We started by discussing the distinctions that existed between England, Wales, and Scotland at the time that the Act of Union was passed, effectively joining the three nations into what we now know as Great Britain. Despite having very different cultures, languages, and populations, these three nations were able to unify under the increased popularity of anti-Catholic sentiment, which gave rise to the spread of Protestantism. We then received a tour through the Museum of London by Janet Dickinson, who told us about the destruction of London churches while Britain was transitioning from a Catholic nation to a Protestant one during the English Reformation. In addition to the insecurity that the reformation period created, we learned about factors like exotic tastes (the Great Exhibition, for example), political theatre, and emphasis on maritime exploration that fueled British empire building.
Next, we took the DLR to the Old Royal Naval College, which is (shocker) an old royal naval college! Despite the snow, we made it safely (though not warmly) to the Painted Hall. From there, we donned orange hard hats and reflective vests to climb up the stairs to be three feet away from the ceiling! However, it was not just any ceiling. This was James Thornhill’s work commemorating liberty and peace and celebrating Protestantism. He included images like a falling papal crown, and leaders in scientific discovery, such as Copernicus. The Painted Hall is world famous, and is thought of as Britain’s Sistine Chapel. It has been featured in over 100 films and has been cleaned and conserved many times in its life. You can even sponsor a square foot!
After Claire and Andy’s lovely nautical presentation, we climbed up the massive hill overlooking Greenwich Park and took turns standing on both the Eastern and Western hemispheres! The awe and wonder didn’t last long as we had to rush back down and head to the National Maritime Museum. Unfortunately, our second tour guide and author of one of our readings, John McAleer, couldn’t be with us (but that just meant a three-course meal a few hours later). We had a short chat about the purpose of museums and the benefits and limitations they created before taking on the “Atlantic Worlds” and “Nelson, Navy, Nation” exhibits for ourselves. When we regrouped, we flexed our critical thinking skills by sharing things we liked and disliked about each.
We took a boat ride back to the Tube station so we could get to Piccadilly Circus to walk to dinner. Unfortunately, we almost lost two of our own! Thankfully, Serena and Noah didn’t misread our “two stops” signals as peace signs! The whole group had an amazing three-course meal at Zédel, a classy French restaurant where they could definitely tell we were all Americans. Afterwards, we took a quick 40-minute detour to Buckingham Palace to stand outside, have strangers take our picture, and compare the Queen’s role in government to that of a back-up quarter back. Then, the group split up and, quite literally, raced back to the Stay Club, some by bus and others via the Tube. Since Rachel and I were on the bus, I think it’s fair to say that we were all winners today.
Thanks for reading! -Fara & Rachel