Y’all know I like to book things on YPlan. I was sitting at my desk at work, head buried in a spreadsheet, when I felt an itching desire to be hit in the head with something cultural. So to YPlan I turned and booked a play called the Six Wives of Henry VIII for the following night.
Now don’t get me wrong, I wanted some culture but was not in the mood for anything serious. I hear you shout “if you don’t want serious, why go for Tudor play!?”. Well, because the Six Wives of Henry VIII is a two man show but has a cast list of at least seven, with that set up you just know that hilarity will ensue.
And by all that is royal it was funny. Two men, one who looks strikingly like Henry Tudor and the other who looks great in a dress, took us through a 56 year reign in a couple of hours.
We got to know the intimate details of the kings bedroom activities, what his family actually thought of Mr Henry and what he thought of his wives. I don’t doubt that the play was 100% historically accurate – they portrayed the phone call between Henry and the pope to discuss the prospect of divorce to absolute perfection.
The play was funny, down to earth and actually taught me a lot about a period of history I thought I knew something about. Think of it as horrible histories for adults.
The show is touring throughout November so catch it if you can!
As a Kiwi I have a certain fascination with grand old buildings. I mean, all we have is the Auckland Museum and that was opened in 1929, compare that to the Panthéon in Paris which was finished in 1790 and there is really no comparison.
The Panthéon in Paris was originally intended as a Church to honour St. Genevieve, but these days it is most commonly visited as a mausoleum for heaps of famous French dudes and dudettes.
Unlike some of the other visitors, for me it was just a tourist curiosity for me rather than a pilgrimage to see a hero (Marie Curie, Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau are all entombed there). I was actually just all about the building and seeing the very French style to some of the sculptures there.
In this type of building in Rome you get sculptures of heros and mythological tales, in England you will get Kings and Queens with the occasional lion or unicorn, but in France? You get some very well dressed gentlemen arguing a philosophical point.
I loved this building and (particularly since it is free with the Paris Museum Pass) I think it is well worth a look.
The centrepiece exhibitions at the British Museum tend to be the hottest ticket in town. True to form Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum was sold out months before the first patron had even walked through the door. Hence why it took me till August to take a look for myself, but as soon as I walked through the door I got what all the hype was about.
I studied Pompeii at school (first in History and later in Classics), I’ve read the books, I’ve been to the exhibition at Te Papa and hell, I’ve actually been to Pompeii itself. So, I know my shit*. So I wasn’t actually looking for the historical facts, I was more curious about how the British Museum was going to do something different.
Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum was neatly divided into two parts – life and death. Surprise surprise life was my favourite. They had recreated the layout of a typical Roman villa in the exhibition, that way they could display all the preserved food in the dining room and so on. It gave it a completely natural and logical flow as well as bringing all those boring villa layouts I learned in school to life.
Death was a somber affair, going into more details about specific people/assumptions about their situations. Being the magpie that I am, the jewellery section really grabbed my attention. The rings, necklaces and bracelets were grouped based on who they were found next to. It was incredible to be able to see the things that were so important/meaningful/valuable that they were grabbed when the world was turning to hell.
My only gripe was pretty much the same I have at all London exhibitions, the crowds. The amount of people just made me want to speed through and get out of there, but I guess with a popular exhibition there is not really much they can do.
*Just don’t ask me to actually recall any information…I may have confused a lot of it with that Doctor Who episode where the Titans almost take over the world.
I had put off going to the Museum of London Docklands for quite some time because of the terrible terrible time I had the its sister site, the Museum of London, where they tried to cover too much and couldn’t capture my interest with anything. But since I had a couple of hours to kill and happened to be in the area, I thought I would give it a go.
The Museum just covers the history of the London docklands area – from Roman settlements through WWII and right up to todays fancy apartment redevelopments. I think because it was limited to just one area it could cover this considerable timespan without spreading itself too thin.
It also helped that it is a new museum. The entire thing is in one of the old warehouses and is very on theme with wooden floors and exposed beams. Starting on the top floor you walk through the museum in chronological order, by doing this they manage to cram in all the major historical themes and keep it interesting. They also had a couple of sections that were set up like historical streets- the kids went nuts for them!
My first highlight had to be learning about the sea fortresses designed during world war two which I think were based on the 1995 critically acclaimed film Water World. And the final highlight was the rum bar next door – its not alcoholism, its history.
I was lucky enough to be invited down to Bath to try the Mad Max full day tour of Stonehenge, Avebury Stone Circles, Castle Combe & Lacock village. So on a grey and cloudy Saturday morning, I found myself staring at some big rocks in the rain.
Stonehenge is a bit of a strange duck really. There is so much mythical mystery attached to this stone circle that you expect something more when you visit. Its a bit like going to see the Mona Lisa – you walk into the Louvre and there are just too many other tourists and its smaller than you thought it would be.
At Stonehenge you have to walk on a set path around the stones (the photo below is about as close as you can get). I think if you were able to get up close you would appreciate the magic, or sheer human bloody mindedness, a lot more. It would also have helped if the sun was shining…when you are focused on running between rain-drops you aren’t exactly focussing on historical conspiracy theories!
But despite the vague sense of disappointment, akin to finding out the Easter Bunny is actually Dad, it is still well worth the trip. If you don’t go and see Stonehenge for yourself there will always be that box on your bucket list left un-ticked.
Conclusion? I wouldn’t bother to make the trip to Stonehenge by itself, but as one part of a day tour it is a good thing to tick off the list.
Oh, and remember to take your umbrella….
Runawaykiwi was a guest of Mad Max Tours but all views expressed are my own.