Danny Yee >> Travelogues >> Oxford Blog >> Travel
spires from Carfax

London: British Museum + Courtauld Gallery

Travel, , — April 2010

In my first trip outside Oxford since I arrived here eight weeks ago, I went into London on Thursday with my sister Jenny.

We walked up to St Clements and caught the Oxford Tube to London. This costs £16 return, takes an hour and 40 minutes, and runs every 20 minutes during the day (every 30 minutes early and late, and once an hour between 3am and 6am). It's very comfortable, and there's even free onboard wireless (though that was a bit flakey when I tried to use my iTouch).

Getting off at Marble Arch, I bought myself an Oyster card and we caught the underground to Tottenham Court then walked from there to the British Museum. Here we started with the most prominent gallery, the downstairs room which holds the largest of the Egyptian and Assyrian sculptural and architectural pieces. Heading to Turkey in a month, I wanted to see the Islamic galleries for some background, but they were closed, so we went upstairs and looked at the galleries of ancient Levant and Mesopotamia - this had some Anatolian material and was also an interesting complement to my recent reading of Israel's History and the History of Israel. We broke our visit with lunch in the Museum restaurant, which is on the posh and expensive side but had excellent food - they were doing West African food specials to go with one of the exhibitions, so I had catfish with couscous crust.

There's plenty more to see in the British Museum, but with the Ashmolean so convenient in Oxford, I think I'll spend more time exploring that first.

After the Museum we walked south to the Courtauld Gallery, past the Opera House and the theatres, stopping for afternoon tea in a little teahouse. The Courtauld had a special exhibition of Michelangelo's drawings on, which was excellent, but I'd never been there before so the permanent galleries were also great - most prominently modern French and Renaissance Italian paintings, but also Iznik tiles, etc. etc.

That pretty much finished off the day, so we caught a bus to Oxford Circus and walked along Oxford St back to Marble Arch, stopping in John Lewis, Jenny's favourite department store.

I managed to get through the day without buying any books! The only bookshop we visited was the one in the Museum.


  1. I used to work around the corner on New Oxford Street and discovered an _amazing_ Korean restaurant at the end of a "Marx's London" walking tour. Bi Won at 24 Coptic Street, Bloomsbury. Be sure to order the Sauced Fried Chicken. Still haven't found its equal here in Sydney, and we got a whole lot more Korean restaurants.

    Comment by Simon Rumble — April 2010
  2. We spent two days in the British Museum, and didn't even see all of the rooms, let alone all the exhibits. Must go back some day.

    Comment by David Morgan-Mar — April 2010
  3. Did you by chance see any of the artifacts plundered from China in the two Opium Wars and the Boxer Uprising? The Elgin Clan ( the same family linked to the notorious Elgin Marble theft) did a very good job in the complete destruction of a huge cluster ( bigger than Sydney's Centennial Park) of palaces in Beijing? Forces of the Eight Allied Nations led by the Anglo-French engaged in a frenzy of burning, looting, killing, raping and plundering of China's treasures in an disproportionate response especially to the Boxer Uprising. What the raiders could carry, they took with them. If the items were too big, they smashed them.


    I am no fan of the Communist Govt, and do not dance to the tune of China's manipulation of nationalism and patriotism, But my eyes still glisten whenever I read of the past pain and humiliation endured by the populace in the 19th and early 20th century.

    I may have my facts mixed up, are there still skeletal remains of Australian Aborigines on display?

    Comment by D L — April 2010
  4. I enjoy your comments on books from time to time and have your site bookmarked. We plan to go back to U.K. again after a trip there in 2008. Spent a week in London and dearly want to reture. I was interested in your comments on Oxford(which we decided not to visit without a tour guide. I would also like to visit the Courtauld. I have read Gombrich`s book on understanding art and I know he was connected with Courtauld for a long time. Also recently finished John Banville`s book The Untouchable which gets tied in with the Courtauld as well. I appreciate your comments and plan to stay in closer touch with your activities. John S PS I live in Portland Oregon which in many ways fits your definition of an ideal sized city. Here you have a nice blend of nature and urban environment.

    Comment by John Stephenson — June 2010

TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Travel << Oxford Blog << Travelogues << Danny Yee