Monday, April 10, 2006: I can't remember where I left off so I'll start with Wednesday. Wednesday we had passes to Madame Tussaud's wax museum. As expected the wax figures were the best I have ever seen. Of course the Tom Cruise was one of the most popular (for me and my sister too!) although I think the most handsome was Colin Ferrel with his natural black hair rather than the streaky bleached hair he had for "Alexander". Mel Gibson's eyes were a very brilliant blue and my sister couldn't resist cuddling up to John Travolta. Their Indiana Jones figure looked much more like Harrison Ford than the sculpture of him in Tussaud's
In the world showcase, I was surprised that the most popular figures tourists were posing with were Adolph Hitler and Fidel Castro!!?? I preferred Admiral Lord Nelson myself! I had hoped to photograph Henry the VIII and Elizabeth but they had been removed temporarily to make room for a photo setup with Queen Elizabeth, Phillip and Prince Charles. The Pope John Paul II figure was very elaborate and a lot of rather silver-haired and somewhat wrinkled women (does that describe me?) were posing with the Beatles.
After leaving Madame Tussaud's we caught the train back to
We pressed on to Westminster Abbey. It was so huge and filled with so many memorials that it took us the rest of the day. I was particularly interested in the tomb effigy of Elizabeth I. The face was sculpted from her actual death mask. I was also surprised to learn that her sister Mary (daughter of Henry and Catherine of Aragon) is interred with her, and is engraved with a very loving inscription written by
Thursday, we went on a guided tour to
We accidentally waited for the tour bus on the wrong side of the Abbey where it let us off and the driver didn't see us so we almost got left. Jane's friend called the office and they had the bus come back for us. Unfortunately it made us late for
Friday, we thought we were going to have a relaxing day over at the
I was also dumbfounded by the size of a jousting lance. Although it was designed with flutes to ensure it would splinter when thrust solidly against another knight's armor and weighed only twenty pounds, I think I would chicken out if I saw someone riding towards me wielding that thing!
There were historical reenactors presenting little vignettes that I photographed and, I found way too many goodies at their gift shop! Jane says she isn't taking me to any more shops featuring "knight" goodies.
Saturday, Jane went back to
I admired the beautiful designs on the red Samian ware on display and was intrigued to learn that the delicate vines and leaves were added to the ware by a bag and nozzle apparatus similar to the ones used by modern day cake decorators. I also liked the ram-headed handles used with the patera displayed there. (Patera are dippers used during ritual proceedings.)
I was also glad to see an early Roman helmet and a funeral pyre-blackened set of chain mail. Of course I love mosaics and there are several spectacular mosaics completely intact discovered at Verulamium including a sea god (a horned Neptune?), a lion dragging a stag, and a number of mosaics featuring floral motifs that are apparently the most numerous patterns found in Roman Britain. I found an excellent book on Mosaics of Roman Britain in the gift shop. I also bought a small replica of the Venus of Verulamium for my office.
I didn't realize that a decorated lead coffin I had seen on a program on PBS is housed at the Verulamium museum along with a sculpture of the reconstructed bust of its inhabitant so seeing it in person was a special treat.
I walked down the street and explored the remains of the Roman theater. I'm afraid the
At , two members of Legio XIII Gemina delivered a lively presentation in full Roman kit. I was a little surprised that the officer said the groin protector was primarily used to hold the legionary's tunic down in windy conditions. (?) He also did a thorough job of explaining the construction and functional attributes of a pilum. I knew the iron shaft would bend on impact but he pointed out that the pyramidal shape on the haft immediately behind the iron portion also served to overbalance the remaining wooden shaft so it could not be flipped around and its pointed end used as a javelin by the enemy. Of course he adeptly demonstrated thrusting techniques with the gladius and various uses of the scutum as a weapon as well as a shield, using the boss and the edges. He also pointed out that the scutum was laminated so it was about four times as strong as a Celtic shield. He was very informative and obviously very enthusiastic about the Roman army and Roman civilization. It is the first time I have ever seen a serious Roman reenactor and it was thrilling!
Today, we celebrated Palm Sunday by attending services in
Afterwards we took the train back to