Cultural Sophistication Through Travel: The British Museum, London

In “Annie Hall,” Woody Allen dismisses L.A. as “a city where the only cultural advantage is that you can make a right turn on a red light.” SoCal residents are used to these snide pronouncements, which are as inaccurate as they are predictable (and frequently made by a visitor who has never tasted decent Mexican food). Besides, cultural sophistication isn’t a matter of where you live. It requires travel, ideally through space and time. This month, you can visit the court of King Henry VIII or lose yourself among the spoils of empire. For both journeys we place ourselves in the hands of the British, the consummate collectors of historical chronicles, ancient artifacts, and cultural touchstones.

The British Museum, London

ramsesBritain, the empire on which the sun never set, was at the height of its influence during the golden age of archeology. Since 1753, British Museum has been benefitted from that fortunate convergence, and its 8 million objects include innumerable UNESCO-worthy artifacts: the Rosetta Stone, a cuneiform tabvikinglet from the epic of Gilgamesh, a 7-ton statue of Ramses II hewn from a single piece of granite in 1250 BC. If you’re thrilled by the ancient, if you would stand slack-jawed before a sharpened stone shaped by an actual person more than a million-and-a-half years ago, then spend a leisurely week. Admission is free. We recommend the elegant-yet-unfussy Bloomsbury Hotel as home base. Rooms at the boutique hotel begin at $390, and it’s a short walk to the museum: admire the Elgin Marbles after breakfast, return to the Bloomsbury for afternoon tea, and dip back into the museum to gawk at honest-to-goodness Viking hoards. Visit and for more information.

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