Yup, that’s right. I spent an entire day at the British Library in London. It’s one of those places you can just while away the time in and be completely content.
Located right next to the central transport hub of Kings Cross St Pancras (tube and rail station) the British Library is very easy to get to. Plus, for the more directionally challenged among us, there are signs pointing you every step of the way.
My dad left from London to fly back to the USA this morning after his week long trip. With an open return train ticket back to Plymouth I had the choice whether to go straight home (laundry needs doing, groceries need shopping, research proposals need writing), or take advantage of my last few hours in London and play tourist.
So I had the nifty idea to combine the two and get some of my studying done at my old haunt – the British Library! Combining tourism with homework – genius or depressing? In this instance we’ll go with genius because it was so inspiring to be surrounded by all that ancient literature and knowledge…that I actually made major headway with my own work (and that’s after a week of doing absolutely nothing whilst my dad was visiting).
Luckily, the library has lockers downstairs that I was able to stash my duffel bag in. Only £1 and you get it back when you return the key! I love it when places don’t take me for all my money.
This is definitely worth keeping in mind for future London visits as well, as you could stash your bags here while touring the city!
I had to get my requisite wandering in before settling down to work. The free viewing room in the library is unbelievable. It has some of the most ancient, seminal pieces of writing in every major field: poetry, novels, religion, science, music, natural history, you name it.
I drooled over a handwritten page of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, and a letter from TS Eliot about his struggles writing “The Wasteland” whilst at Margate. There’s also the oracles – or oldest recordings of the Chinese language. Etched on bark or dyed into silk, these came in the form of calendars, sutras, almanacs, and even prescriptions dating back thousands of years BC.
You can’t take photos inside the exhibit but don’t take my word for it – go see for yourself!
And yes, I finally did settle down into a second story booth the write my literature review.
Unfortunately at the British Library, it’s a look don’t touch policy. It is not akin to your typical public or uni library, and says so on its website.
In fact, there’s actually no public area you can go into and check out or peruse books. To do this, you must be a registered Reader. And this in itself is a lengthy process that includes proving you need access to specific manuscripts in the library’s catalogue, and providing two proofs of address. One day I hope I can be a Reader and see behind those doors but that day is a ways off!
Yes, yes, yes. What would one of my blog posts be without food. Well I was using all that brain power I needed to refuel!
Filter coffee, olives, chili crisps, orange/ginger/almond juice, and gluten free orange plum cake.
I actually do adore the café in the British Library, and remembered it from my few visits two years ago. They were out of my favorite chocolate cake, though, so looks like I’ve got to go back soon!
Soon enough it was time to catch the tube back to Paddington where I was getting the train home. Before I left, though, I popped into the library gift shop and treated myself to this collection of short poems that have been featured on the London Underground. I can’t wait to delve into it even more.
And then it was off back to Plymouth for the Monday lying in wait ahead.
I had a great time with my dad visiting this past week and we got up to so much stuff (I’m exhausted). So you can look forward to reading about our adventures here over the next couple weeks. I have three major deadlines coming up and I’m betting you’d rather read about all the things we did during his trip than me…in the library…til 2am…questioning the meaning of life…etc.
So stay tuned, and happy Monday!