Review: Vikings Life and Legend at the British Museum || My first trip to Selfridges

Last Monday week I was up early looking forward to a day in London, with two of the girls from work. And what, you may ask, is good enough to make a sunburnt and exhausted human get up early on her day off? The reason behind this crazy behaviour was the British Museum’s BP exhibition, Vikings Life and Legend. Desperate to put a bit of history back in my life, when Sam suuggested I go with her and Lottie back in March, I jumped at the opportunity. So I jumped on my train that morning to meet the girls in London for our Viking day out.

Me modelling one-day old sunburn, with my much needed Waitrose fruit tea and backpack (a day out’s best friend).
Essentials by David L. Edwards. Definitely worth a read to find out more about Christian thought and culture.

The journey up was about two hours so I made sure that boredom would not be an option. As I’ve recently applied to be a church assistant in London, I took the chance to brush up on my knowledge about different Christian thoughts while listening to my Alternative/Punk genre playlist. Yes, I do indulge in a bit of Plain White T’s, Switchfoot, and 3 Doors Down. As a result, the journey went pretty quickly and before I knew it I was on the underground.

Music, tea, Twitter and reading… what more could a girl need?

Once I was on the underground, I headed to meet Sam and Lottie… only to wait for fifteen minutes as they went the wrong way to begin with. Once we were together, we set off in the direction of the British Museum straight away. We did have one stop to snap the blue plaque on the house of Millicent Garret Fawcett. An inspiration to all people, she is less well known than her more aggressive counterpart, Emmeline Pankhurst. Millicent was the founder and leader of the Suffragists, who were a more peaceful group working towards female suffrage. (For more information, see here.)

Our first tourist moment of the day. Millicent Garrett Fawcett was an inspiration to all people.

From here, it was a hop, skip and a jump to the museum. So by 1.25pm we were sat, ready and waiting to enter Vikings Life and Legend. The exhibition was AMAZING in how it changed the perception of Vikings, from being vicious raiders to skilled craftsmen and sailors. We also had a good laugh over how jewellery has barely changed. It would seem that Norse women also loved their big, chunky collars and necklaces. That is, when we could see the various artifacts as the rooms were rather crowded due to the exhibition’s popularity. Fortunately, the walls were covered in pictures and quotes from contemporary sources about the Vikings. Admittedly, these quotes did propagate the idea that Vikings were slightly less civilised than their Arabic and Byzantium counterparts. But that did not make them any less fun to read.

This one made us laugh. Had to take a photo for the guys who sell alcohol in the shop at work.

After these big rooms that emphasised the global aspect of the Vikings, we entered what was effectively a large,windy corridor lined with artifacts and quotes. The artifacts varied from combs to drinking vessels, even game pieces. The quotes, taken from Norse kennings most of the time, brought the artifacts to life and placed them in their correct context. I came away feeling that I understood much more about the Vikings, beyond their mythology.

The focal point of the exhibition: Roskilde 6 placed within a metal model frame of the original ship.

The focal point of the exhibition was Roskilde 6, a ship found in the Roskilde Fjord in Denmark. From the 20% of the ship timbers that survive, they have dated the ship to around 1025AD. This places it around the time of Cnut the Great, who ruled England, Denmark, Norway and parts of Sweden. The display was done fantastically, tasteful yet informative and engaging even for the Viking novice. Sam went gooey-eyed over the skeletons that were on display- typical archaeology graduate- while I absorbed everything I could on Viking beliefs and their relationship to Christianity. (I guess my interest in religious history hasn’t sunk far beneath the surface).

Once we finished looking round the exhibition, we had a look round the shop and all bought our souvenirs. I chose a souvenir spoon as I started collecting them when I was 9 years old, and haven’t stopped yet. Lottie and Sam, as retail stewards, took photos of the displays and made various comments about stealing ideas for work.

From there, we headed to Munchkins restaurant for a very late lunch at 4.30pm. I was definitely happy about the two course breakfast I had as it saw me through from half nine till then. Unsurprisingly, by this point all three of us were hungry so we ordered some good comfort food. For myself, a jacket potato with chilli con carne and cheese soon turned up, washed down with cider. And all for under £15, so it was a bargain on top of more than adequately filling a hole.

Three posers outside the British Museum. Guess who started the camera timer!

After lunch we headed back to the museum for a few photos and a nosey around some of the free exhibits. Cue my snap-happy trigger finger getting some exercise. It probably helped that I was the only one with a proper camera (i.e. not a phone).

One of my favourite places in London… the British Museum in all its classical glory!

Studying Classical Civilisation left me with a love for any architecture that looked vaguely greek.

And one of London’s infamous residents. I think we have the better deal at work with rooks and jackdaws.

Anglo-Saxon cauldron. Imagine cooking in that!

Once our snap-happy excitement faded a small bit, we headed back inside to check out more exhibitions. We headed for the Anglo-Saxon exhibit first, which included artifacts from the Sutton Hoo hoard. Once again. I was amazed by the global impact of the Anglo-Saxons beyond Germany and England. It just shows how British-centric my historical education has actually been. 

While leaving we also walked through a room featuring some Tudor artifacts. As Henry VIII was my special subject during my last year of university, I insisted on slowing down and reading the information. I also snapped a picture of Henry VIII in all his post-Holbein ‘manliness’ alongside Elizabeth I, his youngest daughter and most famous heir.

My favourite monarch, Henry VIII, and his famous daughter, Elizabeth I.
As the museum closed around 6pm and our return journeys were around 7pm, we headed to Selfridges for frozen yogurt. Now I have a confession… I had never been in Selfridges before! Having now walked through quickly towards the food court, I can tell you that I will be returning for a better look around. However, the frozen yogurt was worth ignoring the gorgeous display of Mulberry. For my tub, I chose the passiofruit yogurt as I love something with a sharp, clean kick. For toppings I got carried away with strawberries, caramel shavings, chopped hazelnuts, crushed amaretti and caramel sauce. Lovely!
Mmmmm, over-indulged in the toppings for my frozen yogurt.

With our frozen yogurts finished, we returned to the underground and parted ways. Lottie and I went to catch our trains while Sam headed to her coach. And that was how we ended our Viking day in London.

Have you been to the British Museum recently? Which exhibits did you see and enjoy?

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