Day 29: London Part 2 (British Museum & London Zoo)

Zeke woke up very excited this morning because he was going to get to go to the London Zoo. He told us it was Red Dragon’s birthday today (Red Dragon is his favorite stuffed animal).

After breakfast, we got on the bus and left Oxford around 9:00.

Zeke enjoyed sitting next to Aunt Shelley on the way into London.

Excitement quickly turned back into tiredness.

  

We finally made it to the museum around 11:00 AM.

The British Museum

There was no line (on weekends the line can extend around the block), so we walked right in.

The great courtyard in the middle was originally open-air, but was later enclosed. Now it’s a gift shop.

We headed straight for the Ancient Near Eastern collection and James taught class. Below is a winged guardian creature from ancient Assyria. This could be what a biblical cherub looked like in the minds of ancient Hebrew writers.

James talked to the students about different kinds of supernatural hybrid animals in the bible and why they may not look like we tend to imagine them.

Below is the “Black Obelisk” erected by Shalmaneser III, which has the only known depiction of a person from the Bible.

James taught the students about the obelisk and who it depicts and why it’s important for the bible.

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Below is a close-up of what James was pointing at in the picture above: Jehu, king of Israel, bowing down to Shalmaneser III, becoming his vassal.

We also saw some hunting scenes from the king of Assyria’s palace. These reliefs depict the king as an amazing huntsman who can strangle lions with his bare hands!

Next we headed to the room with the Lachish relief, a full-room relief depicting Sennacherib’s campaign against Judah during the reign of king Hezekiah, ca. 701 BCE. It particularly depicts the king’s siege of the heavily fortified city of Lachish. Below in the top center you can see a bunch of heads piled up which are the heads of Judahite warriors. Below them you can see Assyrian soldiers (right) and Judahite slaves being taken into exile (left).

And here are some other pictures of it. Below you can see Assyrian archers.

We found more winged creatures from the Assyrian palace in Khorsabad.

And because we were so close, we popped into the room with the Elgin Marbles, which are the decorative marble reliefs and sculptures originally at the Parthenon.

And even more winged creatures from Assyria.

Below is the Taylor Prism, which details Sennacherib’s campaign against the Kingdom of Judah, an itemized list of the tribute he received from Hezekiah, and how Sennacherib “shut up [Hezekiah] like a bird in a cage.” It does not explain why Sennacherub did not also take Jerusalem. The Biblical story has an angel killing tens of thousands of men overnight and thus forcing Sennacherib to withdraw.

They also had a stonework lion relief/painting from Babylon. Unfortunately for us, the Ishtar Gate is at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

We also found an Assyrian tablet that detailed a story about a guy who built a boat to survive a world-wide flood.

 

There was also an extensive Egyptian collection. Below is just one item from that: Pharaoh, shortly after death, has his heart weighed against a feather. If it weighs less than a feather, he was a good pharaoh and goes on to his reward. If it’s heavier than a feather, he goes to the bad place. Doing justice and making prosperity for his people makes his heart light while ignoring justice and selfishly hoarding prosperity to himself makes his heart heavy. This is the context of the Exodus where the pharaoh “hardens his heart” which could better be translated as “made his heart heavy.” In other words, by ignoring God’s demands and bringing further calamity on his people and land, he was ignoring his God-given task of ruling his people with justice and mercy.

We also had to see the Rosetta Stone, even though it’s post-biblical. It’s just too important, so we had to see it.

 

Thus ended our group tour of the British Museum. After teaching class for 2 hours, James let the students go at 1:00 PM.

Lunch and Regent’s Park

We headed off to the London Zoo, but first we needed to grab lunch and walk through Regent’s Park to get there. We grabbed coffee at Starbucks and then lunch at Pret A Manger (a chain here with pretty good food that’s ready to grab and walk out with).

Regent’s Park was really quite beautiful. It reminded me of Central Park in NYC.

Outside the zoo, Zeke saw an animatronic T-Rex. He got really excited, but sadly the dinosaur exhibit was not open until later this month.

London Zoo

Zeke finally go to go to the zoo! We saw lions first.

The students really love the kids.

Here’s Zeke with a llama in the background.

And the tiger exhibit was great.

    

We even got to see a tiger up close as one was lying right next to the glass!

While we were standing there, a guy with a huge professional camera came up to us and asked if he could take a picture of Micah looking at the tiger. He said he worked for the zoo in the marketing department and asked if he could use the pictures of Micah in promotional material. So hey – Micah might be famous.

Did I mention that the students really love the kids?

Next we saw the giraffes.

I got the students together for a picture.

We saw lots of other animals too.

Around 4:00 we headed back to the front to go through the gift shop, then about 4:20 we left the zoo and started our walk back to the British Museum. It was quite a hike (2 miles) and we walked as fast as we could. We stopped at Pret A Manger (pretty sure it’s a French name) again to get dinner because the kids wouldn’t make it on the 2 hour bus ride back without food.

We hopped on the bus at about 5:00 PM and headed back to Oxford. When we got back we took a group photo in front of the house. It’s probably the last time all of us will be together in one place since the trip officially ends on Wednesday afternoon. We fly back to DFW on Thursday.

Our last trip to London was a great success. Teaching class in the British Museum was definitely a highlight for James. Going to the zoo was definitely a highlight for Zeke.

Did I mention that the students really love the kids? They had a group hug at the end of the day. 🙂

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Day 22: London Part 1 (London Science Museum + Sightseeing)

After all the scary terrorist attacks in London and Manchester, we were unsure if we would be able to visit London during this study abroad trip. Things calmed down enough that we felt safe taking the students in for a day. So we got up early and headed to the train station.

We waited at the train station for our train to London. We had to take the 9:01 train because we had super-saver group tickets that cannot be used during peak hours (and peak hours in the morning end at 9:00).

On the train we sat near each other and this kept the kids reasonably entertained.

Holly looks happy. I think I caught Gideon off-guard.

Zeke and Micah enjoyed looking out the window.

And the occasional snuggles.

Micah also enjoyed playing peek-a-boo with John.

  

The kids got hungry, but luckily, Aunt Shelley bought some muffins at the train station.

Micah devoured hers.

We arrived at Paddington Station and transferred to the Underground.

We got onto the Underground and took the yellow Circle Line to South Kensington.

Along the way, some street performers got onto the tube with us.

London Science Museum

Our destination was the London Science Museum. When we got there, we immediately went to the floor with mathematics and computing. The first thing we saw was perhaps the best: Babbage’s Difference Engine. It was the world’s first computer. It could perform basic calculations and was not a general purpose computer (like what we all use today). However, Babbage ran out of money and never completed it, but this is a recreation to prove that it worked (and it did). Notice the printer to output the results of the calculations.

We went ahead and got a group shot in front of it.

My colleague, Dr. Homer, teaching class:

They also had an Enigma Machine, the machine that encoded Nazi messages, which the Allies were able to break thanks to Alan Turing and many others.

Here’s the description from the plaque:

We saw many other famous early computers. Below is the Pilot ACE, a computer designed by Alan Turing and built later.

Below is a panel about early pioneers, like Turing.

They also had some of the first personal computers, like this Apple Macintosh. My family had one of these and it was amazing in its time.

Lunch and Transit to Churchill War Rooms

After we finished our time at the London Science Museum, we broke up into smaller groups and headed out to see what we wanted to see. Everyone had their train tickets, so as long as you were in a group, you could go anywhere you wanted in London and meet back in Oxford later that night. We had 11 students come with us to see Churchill’s War Room.

So we headed back to the Underground.

Micah was already very tired.

We got in the tube and headed out.

Walking along the streets of London, we found a cafe and got lunch. We ate as we walked.

We passed by Westminster Abbey, but didn’t have time to go inside.

The line to go into the Churchill War Rooms was very long and it rained steadily while we waited outside, but we were prepared.

Erin and Micah chilling out in line. (Erin has the Ergobaby baby carrier on underneath that jacket)

Getting closer…

Almost there…

Churchill War Rooms

The war rooms were cramped and spartan. Below is a recreation of the meeting room as it would have looked during some of the final meetings of the war. Churchill’s wooden chair is in back in the middle.

We walked around a looked at the rooms and heard the stories of the people who worked there (through audio guides).

Here, Brighton contemplates the man himself (left) and a recreation of Churchill in his secret telephone room talking to President Roosevelt (right).

Below you can see the kinds of living quarters the officers had.

And here’s the map room:

We waited in one of the hallways while Erin changed Micah’s diaper and Shelley took Zeke to the potty.

Below is a panoramic of the room used by officers who collected the day’s intelligence reports and combined them into one report on that day’s happenings for Churchill, due every day by 9:00 AM. This room is almost completely untouched and exactly as it was when the war ended. When it was over they got up, turned off the lights, and walked out, leaving everything.

The threat of invasion was immanent for quite some time, so there were rifles in the hallways, ready to be used in case the complex was stormed.

Churchill’s own private bedroom was considerably nicer than all the others, though still rather spartan considering his aristocratic background.

After the war room, we decided to walk to get a group photo in front of Big Ben.

Big Ben

Just down the street from Her Majesty’s Treasury (where the War Rooms are located) is the Horse Guards Parade and the Royal Cavalry Museum. I took a panorama of it.

We went through the gate to the street on the other side and continued on our way.

We saw some cool buildings along the way.

We stood in front of Big Ben for a group photo. This is James with 11 of his students that decided to come along.

Shelley also kindly took a photo of Erin and I in front of it.

And then we got the kids in their strollers (sorry, “push chairs” as the Brits call them).

Four students in our group decided to go see Buckingham Palace, so we bid them farewell and we continued onward to our next stop.

Platform 9 3/4

We then jumped back into the tube and headed to King’s Cross Station to find the Harry Potter store and the place where you can take your picture like you’re headed to Platform 9 3/4, just like in the movie.

In one of our legs on the journey, the wind was quite crazy on the tube car. Here’s Jessica being silly as the wind blows her hair every which direction.

Once we arrived, we waited in a rather long line.

And we got our pictures taken as well.

Erin looks particularly beautiful in this photo:

Finally, it was time to head home. So we got some dinner.

Dinner and Heading Back to Oxford

We walked out of King’s Cross Station and saw this:

We looked for a place to eat and hard a hard time. We walked around in the rain until we found this little cafe. It was okay, but we were starving. The kids were hungry and cranky.

Since it was already 7:00, we decided to head back to Oxford, rather than trying to see more things. We were exhausted. So we took the Underground back to Paddington Station and then took the National Railway back to Oxford.

Here’s our group of students at the end of the day:

Micah fell asleep again, but it didn’t last too long. She woke up rather cranky.

We made it back to Oxford and collapsed in our beds. All in all, we walked almost 7.5 miles.

It was a long, exhausting, but very good day.

Departure

Today, June 5, we are flying to London. We’ve spent the past year looking forward to this trip, trying to get students excited enough about it to come along, and then carefully planning our courses and each excursion. Now the day is finally upon us and we’re excited! See you on the other side of the pond!