Word of advice: If you see some people milling around outside don't walk through the door, or an old bloke will lambast you for jumping the queue. The Sir John Soane's Museum must be the only museum in London where you have to queue outside for 10 minutes before they even let you through the front door. Lots of people fell foul of that rule whilst I was waiting, but once you get inside you realise why they do it. The house is so small and pokey that they can only fit about 50 people in it. So until some people come out and leave, you can't get in. It's like one of those multi-storey car-parks, where you have to wait for a space to become available before they let your car in.
The first room you go in is the dining room with a big painting of the main man on the wall. It's got a few bookcases and other bits and pieces dotted around, but it's the stuff you see later on that you want to visit. The rooms are tiny. Some of them must be no more than a few feet across, and the walls are covered with shelves and hooks and anything else that can display an ancient piece of tat. This guy was a kleptomaniac. He's picked up bits of concrete from Egypt, Greece, Italy and everywhere else on earth. He's got millions and bazillions of vases, statues, heads, cups, plates and boxes stacked up from floor to ceiling in every room of the house. Imagine if they tried to cram the entire contents of the British Museum into a 3-storey townhouse, and that is what this place is like. If you are a cleaner by trade, trust me when I say you don't want to do the dusting in this house, because you will be there until kingdom come.
A few rooms into the tour and you come to the real treasures -- he's got paintings by Caneletto and Hogarth hanging on the wall. But that's where the building lets him down. He must have thirty-odd paintings crammed into a space no bigger than my shed. He's even got a load of panels folding out of the walls with a load more paintings on, so he can have different ones on show. I couldn't really see the Caneletto because the guide had another panel open that was covering it up. And there's no room to move for a better view either -- there were six people in that room and it was chocablock cheek-to-cheek.
After that you come to a great little room that looks down onto the sarcophigi of Seti I. The balcony around it is crammed with knick-knacks overhanging the edge, so I guess they were cemented into place to stop them falling off. If someone stumbled in that room the whole lot would rain down on the poor buggers below.
When you get down into the Crypt you can see the sarcophigi up close. It doesn't really look like an old Egyptian tomb though, because it's bright white and covered in symbols that you can't see until you get up close. And the whole tomb is entombed in a tight-fitting glass box. The walls are no more than a foot away from your face either, so you can't really stand back for a decent view. And that is the problem with this place -- the closeness of everything is both its charm and its biggest problem. The path around the balcony, for example, is so small and skinny that you have to wait for the people to walk past before you can continue. If you want to stop and look down for a minute then you've got a load of people bunching up behind you to get a view too.
Apart from the paintings and the sarcophigi, the other stuff is pretty so-so. But it's worth a look just to see how he's arranged the place.
[Note: Like a lot of places in London, they don't allow you to take any photos inside. And with a guard in every room, that's no chance to sneak one in either. Why do these places do that? It's a totally dumb rule, because if I could stick some photos on here of the decent things inside, then people might be intrigued enough to go. But I guess you'll just have to use your imagination. Sorry!]