[South Ken tube station as you arrive to visit the various museums in the area]
I would imagine that having the title 'national treasure' conferred upon you is something of a burden - just one small outburst or late night out in the wrong company or whiff of something less than cuddly and teddy-bearish about your previous life, and whoosh, you're out of favour. Alan Bennett, Judi Dench, the Queen, David Attenborough, Stephen Fry, Cliff Richard must all sometimes wish the press would scrap this 'honour'.
Especially when we have some real national treasures, the sort that sit quietly in galleries and museums, waiting to be discovered. The blockbuster exhibitions are all well and good - I revisited the Royal Academy's heaving Hockney exhibition with Phoebe at the weekend ( Hockney is a National Treasure who refuses to play the game and fires off pro-smoking letters to The Guardian on what seems like a weekly basis) - but sometimes the best treasures are in smaller exhibitions and collections, sometimes on show all the time, and mostly without attracting fanfare or fuss.
Like the jewels in the V&A. I'd never been in this gallery until last week and was astounded by the collection which includes spectacular tiaras and emeralds, beautiful modern necklaces, and gorgeous grapevine earrings. (Free)
Or the incredible Ceramic Staircase, and the Ceramic Galleries which house the V&A's collection of silver. (Free)
Or the small but beautifully selected exhibition of post-1945 British photography. (Free)
[Natural History Museum]
Then there's the exterior of the Natural History Museum, and the stuffed animals and dinosaur skeletons inside. (Free). There is also currently a Scott exhibition which is full of things like sleeping bags and tins of pemmican and the specially designed expedition cutlery. (They had different sets for the men and the officers - the officers had fish knives but the men didn't. In the Antarctic.) It's very much aimed at children and isn't free.
But the exhibition at the Scott Polar Research Station in Cambridge is absolutely free. It has much of what the NHS has (pemmican, sleeping bags, sledges, boots) but is less grand and more heart-breaking (some paper party hats they took for celebrations are in there); it's hard to look at the sketchbooks and diaries and last letters written in pencil without feeling directly connected to the events and the men who wrote them.
And in Edinburgh, the newly restored Scottish National Portrait Gallery contains many treasures including some wonderful black & white C20 photography. But the best thing of all is the short film made by some teachers in the early 1950s of young girls singing and skipping their way round the streets of Edinburgh. The cinematography has echoes of Henri Cartier-Bresson, and it's hard to believe the film isn't better known. Also free. (You can see it here.)
[South Ken station as you leave, culturally full]