Shakespeare and the Room Safe

Today was my day for visiting the British Museum, which is always a treat. They have a great permanent collection, of course, and many special exhibitions. I had a ticket for one these, Shakespeare: Staging The World. As usual, the exhibition is in the upper floor of the circular, domed structure, The Reading Room, which is in the middle of the museum's interior courtyard.

The curators basically wanted to show Shakespeare's works and life in the context of the events going on around him, and they did a very good job of it. For example, there were interesting timelines of the production of his plays plotted against political and historical events. I was also reminded that he cleverly presented situations, and put words into the mouths of ancient Roman and more contemporary Venetian characters, on stage, that would have been deemed treasonous if presented and said by any real person in England at the time. Yes, there's another tie-in with Venice! During Shakespeare's time, Venice was apparently mythologized by the English as a kind of Las Vegas, i.e. Sin City, and setting plays there allowed the audience to enjoy the licentiousness vicariously.

Of course, the exhibition included artifacts, documents, and other related physical “stuff”, and also numerous videos of well-known modern actors reading various speeches from the plays. All in all, it was well done, and a very entertaining and illuminating exhibition.

I also visited two pubs in the area (The Museum Tavern and The Plough) and got to enjoy some cask ales that I'd not had before. You know, the staff at these pubs are just downright nice. It's really a pleasant experience to go there (and not just because of the alcohol). England is experiencing a real loss of traditional pubs – up to 25 per week are closing – and it's a shame. Oddly enough, I was told that the traditional ale that I like is actually outselling the Stella and other lagers that appeal more to the youth market these days.

Now here's an interesting travel topic: the in-room safe. During this trip, I've stayed at one hotel with a very secure and securely installed safe (Munich), one hotel with no safe at all (Venice), one hotel with a safe that was not bolted down in any way (Paris), and one with a bolted down safe that was plastered with “Hotel accepts no responsibility” stickers. Now, I've never had the misfortune of having anything stolen from my room (knock on wood) but I am security conscious. The safe that wasn't bolted down seem pretty silly; I mean, why bother?

When faced with no safe or a silly safe, I just put things in my luggage and lock it. Sure, a thief could just slit the luggage, but I suppose it's at least “out of sight, out of mind”.

Who comes in your room any way? Well… there's the maid, of course, and on this trip, at one hotel that was being renovated, two “electricians” with a master door key card showed up while I was in my room (they knocked), and here in the Hilton, workmen came by during the day and replaced several pictures on the wall (I saw their cart and room list – with my room at the top – in the hall as I left), so it's not “nobody”. I do wonder that a hotel that provides a safe can then go on to say they have no responsibility!? So what do they think is the purpose of the safe they paid good money for – is it just a central place to collect your valuables in order to make it more convenient for a thief? Sure, customers travelling with the Hope Diamond should not trust the room safe; but what about me and my iPhone, iPad, and $200? It's just one of those little travel conundrums, I guess.

Well, time for some sleep now. Tomorrow we visit the Borough Market, located under the south end of London Bridge. Do join me!

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