Most of the time I’m in London, I’m working; I got out walking in the evening, but usually don’t go into museums or other major tourist attractions. This weekend, though, I got to go to Westminster Abbey and the British Museum, both for the first time.

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Westminster is really amazing. (Though photography isn’t allowed.) You could teach the entire political history of Britain, along with a lot of ecclesiastical and a fair amount of literary history, in the abbey. You could also probably use the relative size of the memorials in different centuries to teach about finite resources: the last resting places of people in the 1500s and 1600s can be amazingly big; a hundred years later, things were getting crowded and people were starting to be interred in the floor; and 20th-century figures are lucky to get plaques on the wall.

We also found another James Cook memorial; toward the end of our visit I went hunting for Darwin’s memorial, and found him near the recent prime ministers. And who else was in that corner? Jesse Jackson. He and his entourage were getting a private tour. He looked over at me and nodded in a “Hi, I know you recognize me” sort of way. I nodded back.

It was cool, but to be honest, I was more excited to have found Darwin.

From Westminster, we made our way up to the British Museum. The first thing I did was head for the Great Court, the Norman Foster-designed largest enclosed courtyard in Europe. I’d read great things about it, and it didn’t disappoint.

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The space, in fact, is both inviting and awe-inspiring. It’s constantly busy, full of tourists and schoolchildren, and there are gift shops on three sides, but it’s still a grand space.

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If anything, it’s even more impressive than the reviews say.

Today we went back to the Museum, and went to the exhibit on Elizabethan views of the New World. It was very well-done, though having read a Bernard Smith and Anthony Grafton about European (and particularly European artists’ and scientists’) views of new lands, I’m a tough critic. We also made a quick stop at the Rosetta Stone.

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Then, rather than fly through the entire museum, we decided to concentrate on the Elgin Marbles, which are well worth it. They’re beautifully staged, and very impressive.

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