Friday, August 5, 2011

Home!

Getting back to the States was more difficult than getting to London in the first place...except for the packing.

If you ever go on a trip somewhere where you will probably buy souvenirs and gifts for the people you like, then I absolutely recommend taking items you know you don't want anymore or can just live without. For example, I took two pairs of shoes that are comfortable to walk in, but I had already replaced. Neither pair made it home, lightening my load and giving me space for other things. Also if you don't mind parting with toiletries that you take with you, like shampoo or toothpaste, that can also help, especially with the weight.

The morning started at 4:30 when the Gatwick Gang (Theresa, Vanessa, Tiffanie and I) met in front of Bedford 15. My left arm still hurts from carrying my suitcase down four flights of stairs. Slow and steady certainly worked in that situation--it kept me from falling on my face. We caught the night bus and arrived at Victoria station by a bit after 5am and purchased our tickets. Unfortunately, we missed the train because the board that's supposed to provide passengers with information flashed "delayed" for a few minutes, and told us the platform number in just enough time for us to see the doors close and the train pull away. One man at the station was quite nice to us when he realized there was a mistake elsewhere that caused us to miss the train and made sure we got on the next one out. At 6:05am we pulled away from the station.

We all hoped this would be our only snafu of the day, but things didn't run exactly smoothly. When I arrived for check-in, the wait for dropping off my checked bag was pretty ridiculous.  There were only two people working the counter, and one of them was having trouble with a few girls who had six bags between them. The girls didn't weigh their cases before getting to the airport and at the counter they were trying to distribute weight among their many bags. Luckily someone finally pulled them aside to give them time to straighten things  out and keep the line moving. I had no problem checking my bag.

I also have to interject here, that (so far) I prefer overseas pat-downs to the ones I get in the states. They don't treat it like they're trying really hard to not molest me, I'm just supposed to understand its part of their job, which I do. If you've never been patted down in the states, they first have to give a speech about why they are doing it, where they are going to touch you, and how they are going to touch you in certain areas. They also wear gloves as if everyone they touch is a leper. When I left London (both to visit Paris and return to the states), they simply asked me to put my arms up and completed the procedure in a lot less time than I've ever had at home.

I met Theresa on the other side of security where we checked in at the gate and boarded the plane. As the plane accelerated for take off I couldn't help but whisper "goodbye London." I was a little surprised when I teared up though. I loved this trip and made some fantastic new friends. Even though I was looking forward to heading home to the people I love, I didn't want to leave the new ones behind.

Because the United States has more stringent security measures than other countries, returning means going through the procedures in your departure country as well as in the US. So along with going through border control, I had to claim my bag, go through customs, re-check my bag (luckily I could just drop it off), and go through security a second time. This process takes at least an hour and a half to complete. Mine and Theresa's layover was just two hours. As we speed walked our way from the international terminal to Terminal A at the Atlanta airport, I was praising the last three weeks as training for such an event. When we arrived at the gate, the ticket agent commented, "We weren't sure you were going to make it."

Note to future travelers: even if Delta (or another airline) offers you an international flight with a two hour layover between connecting flights, it would be wise to choose one with a bit longer of a layover. (Or be smart like Tiffanie and fly Virgin, which goes directly from Orlando to London.)

It's been strange being home. I wasn't gone long enough for much to change or to forget anything about my home so it makes it feel like my trip was a bit of a dream. I'm incredibly glad it wasn't, and that I have this blog. I can't provide a complete list of what I learned on this trip, but I know it expands beyond elements of Web 2.0. I'll discover everything as I go about my daily routine, but I hope beyond hope that I never lose what I learned in London and the people I found there.

One thing I will not miss: all the stairs!!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Theatre!

 As I've seen shows here in London, I've written up my reactions, but I wanted to keep them altogether.  Now that I've seen my final show, here's a post dedicated to the wonderful professional performances I've been lucky enough to attend.


Billy Elliot July 16, 2011

Billy Elliot is about a boy who just wants to dance. He comes across his talent when he is instructed to give the key to the woman who has the studio after his boxing class. This all happens with the UK Miner strike from the 80s in the background. Billy's father is a proud man and hates the idea of his son dancing like some "puff."

For me, dance is enjoyable in context, and there are moments in the show when dance just takes over. I'm not usually a fan of spontaneous moments of dance, but certain parts really moved me. The story line is also very emotional, since Billy's mother dies before the show begins. I have to agree with a fellow traveler, Kalyca, that the most beautiful scene of the show is when young Billy dances with a version of himself that he can become. It is absolutely beautiful. This show was part of our regularly scheduled activities, and I'm very glad that it was.

The 39 Steps July 23, 2011

The 39 Steps is loosely based on the Alfred Hitchcock movie of the same name. I'm familiar with Hitchcock the man, but not his works. Thanks to Cassie some of allusions to Hitchcock were pointed out and made the play a bit more relevant. In the first few minutes of The 39 Steps, Richard Hanney takes home a woman with a secret who gets murdered in his apartment. After discovering her body, he sets off to solve the mystery and finds himself in more trouble than he bargained for.

This play was absolutely hilarious. The entire show was put on by four people; the only actor that remained one character was the lead. The other three actors played everyone else. Shows like this are amazing as they are usually low tech which means the show rests entirely on the shoulders of the actors. The comedy was very slapstick with actors waving their coats and hair when the wind is supposed to blow. Here is where the fourth wall tended to be broken because the third or so time actors had to keep up the ruse the audience was given the "We-shouldn't-have-to-do-this-anymore" look. The cast was fantastic and pulled off every bit of it.  We saw the show on a night when one of the understudies filled in. I'm sure the usual actor is wonderful as well, but I could not imagine seeing this show any other way. 

Seeing this show and having a laugh was Cassie's wonderful idea. I'm very glad we decided to get dolled up and head out on Saturday night. If you need a laugh right now, click the link above to watch the trailer. 



Anne Boleyn July 27, 2011

The image above is of the new Globe Theatre where Anne Boleyn is performed. As a classmate pointed out, the style was that of Shakespeare's time, but the content would have been banned. This is dramedy romance about Henry VIII and his mistress Anne Boleyn. Honestly, I don't know much about this bit of English history, but I'm very much intrigued after seeing the play. (For a description click the link above)

I liked the aspects of the Elizabethan additions including the actors greeting the audience. The stage was also a thrust stage so the actors occasionally used the hallway sized segment to expand out into the audience. They also used stairs on the sides, so again they navigate through the audience to make their entrance. I love when theatrical elements like that are out in the open instead of behind-the-scenes.

The show was also pretty funny. I know she gets her head cut off, but the actor who played King James I was excellent with his fits. The entire cast was wonderful and kept me enthralled, especially since I was previously unaware of Anne's part in the shift in religious affiliation in England. As I said, I need to find out more about this subject.

Les Miserables August 2, 2011

Amazing. That's really the only word that is appropriate for a show like Les Miserables, which is probably why it's been running for 25 years. I was hoping to see Alfie Boe play Jean Valjean, but that just wasn't in the cards tonight. Even so, Jonathan Williams was amazing. You'd have to be made of stone to not cry when he sings "Bring Him Home."

Most people know the story of Les Mis, but they may not understand why its so phenomenal. It is packed full of emotion as people understand how the world changes around them and how things that seems black and white are really full of gray.

Also the elements and story arcs come full circle. It is pure genius to create a character like Javare who is disliked for being staccato and ruthless to  garnering pity when his world collapses around him. And he's just one of the many stories included in the musical.

There is so much for me to say about this show yet so few words to actually express it. The US tour is starting later this year or early next year, but it has been re-imagined without the turntable stage. I'm very lucky to have seen it at it's home in the Queen's Theatre with a stellar cast. It's so good that I already intend to see it  when it comes through Jacksonville. If it's a show you've been planning to see but haven't gotten around to, I highly highly highly (as in I cannot recommend it enough!) recommend that you see this show. Be sure to bring your tissues.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Advice

Those who have traveled often have advice for others who may follow in their footsteps. If anyone ever wants to go to Paris, below are a few things to consider.




Paris Do's and Don'ts Explained

Don't pretend you know French, it just makes you look silly.
Don't sign "petitions"; they typically require some kind of payment for a charity, but there's no telling where the money actually goes. Also can be a scam to distract you for pickpockets.
Don't expect polite behavior: I'm not trying to say the French are rude (some are, some aren't just like Americans), but my experience taught me that the term "excuse me" is limited to certain people's vocabulary.

Do get a museum pass, this gets you into 60 or so sites in Paris. It also gets you to the head of line in some places, too.
Do see the Eiffel Tower at night. My video is a little shaky (I was excited!) and does not do the experience justice. The Trocadero area is best for the full effect.
Do be aware of your surroundings. French is the official language so all signs are in French. Knowing the location of landmarks can help you get around. Also, pickpockets are in many of the crowded tourist areas.
Do climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. All roads lead to the arc and it's a sight to see. Be sure to go up on a clear day to get pictures of the landmarks.

The song used in this glog is "Parisian" by Kevin MacLeod, which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License. Retrived from http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Kevin_MacLeod/Global_Sampler/Parisian

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Court


Hampton Court Palace is one of many former palaces of King Henry VIII. The information is meant to bring guests into the world of the Tudors, including Henry and his many wives. As interesting as this is, I was really interested to visit the Palace because of a series of books that are my guilty pleasure The Faerie Path by Frewin Jones.

Jones's books are the story of Anita Palmer, a sixteen year old girl from London, who discovers she is the lost Princess of Faerie. Hampton Court provides the backdrop for the Faerie Palace as it aligns with the Faerie Realm and is one location where Anita (called Tania in the Faerie world) can safely sidestep between the two worlds.

I call them (yes, them, there are six and I'm holding my breath for a seventh) because they are meant for a much younger audience than 20-somethings. I get a little leeway though since I work with tweens and teens...at least I think I do.  So far whenever I finish a really tough semester the new book has been available and gives me an opportunity to just get lost in the story. They are great books if you like that sort of thing.

Also I recommend visiting Hampton Court Palace. The audio guide was informational (in parts, there is a little radio dramedy to it), and if you're a fan of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and the other ladies in his life, this is the place to visit. If you're lucky, you might catch the eye of Henry. Doing so simply requires a curtsy as he passes by.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Frolicking

Parks and playgrounds are wonderful things. Perhaps not quite as wonderful as Tiggers...actually I may be in the wrong country for that. Anyway, green spaces and imaginative possibilities are wonderful for children and really people of all ages.

Today our group visited Hyde Park/Kensington  Gardens, and Memorials to Princess Diana of Wales. Hyde Park has quite a bit more to offer compared to the many squares and gardens around London. Though there are still wide open spaces for many of the same activities as the other green spaces of London, water is much more prevalent in Hyde Park. Along with a pond near Kensington Palace, there is Lake Serpentine, where park goers can rent pedal-boats and row boats to enjoy the lake and get up close to swans, ducks, and other foul swimming along.

Another piece of water that is significant in this area the Round Pond where, according to J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan sails across and lands each night to play once the Gardens are closed to the public. In that area now stands a statue that was put up over night. Barrie wanted it to appear as if by magic. It's a beautiful statue with Peter at the top and fairies scrambling up to him.

We also visited two memorials to Princess Diana of Wales. The first is also related to Peter Pan in that a pirate ship can be found there. I am, of course, talking about the Princess Diana of Wales Memorial Playground. This playground has typical playground things, like swings, slides, and things to climb on, but it also has a Pirate Ship, teepees, a storytime area, and interactive music stations. I've noticed quite a few moments of interactivity for children in the places I've visited here in London. The Museum of London offered touch screens to play with and hats to try on; at the Architecture museum in Paris, children were invited to try to recreate building structures, put together stained glass windows and create their own characters. At the Victoria and Albert, there were a few interactive sections, one in particular encouraged visitors to try their hand at perspective drawings. Interactivity is important for learning. For instance, if someone just showed me various forms of multi-media I wouldn't learn as much about them as I am by creating multi-media of my own.

What's also phenomenal about the playground is that it is only open to people with children. There is a special hour--from 9 to 10am--where adults without children may visit, but once the playground opens at 10, you will be asked to leave. I was making my way toward the exit when a worker stopped me to be sure that that was exactly what I was doing. This ensures that the kids and parents feel comfortable in the playground and also prevents vandalism. Frolicing

There is a second memorial for Princess Diana which is a memorial fountain, except it's not like any usual fountain. Instead it's more like a really shallow lazy river and is a place for children of all ages to frolic and cool off on a hot summer's day. The fountain is quite beautiful and has a couple of different drop offs to keep it interesting. Children in various forms of dress and undress were enjoying the cool water. While sitting back in the shade, I watched three girls circle four or five times in the twenty or so minutes I was there. I also noticed that some little ones had swimwear that resembles swimwear from the twenties. It was definitely made for water, but it had longer legs, more like shorts, and sleeves. My only guess is that this is because the water was quite cool even though the day was very warm.

The day was topped off with high tea at the Orangery near Kensington Palace. When we arrived our tables were set up with our tea trays, lemon water, and cups awaiting very hot tea. It was a relaxing and enjoyable experience. Brittany was our table's guide to proper tea etiquette--we were sure to start at the bottom with the sanwhiches and work our way to the top for sweets. I'm very glad that I had the opportunity to enjoy high tea in London.

Finally, Mexico is not speaking to me today because I forgot to take him with me. He really wanted to see the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens. Pikachu, on the other hand, was thrilled to not be left home alone again.

Fastpass

Day 2 of my Paris trip was also jam packed with activity, excitement, and even a little flirtation.

While visiting the Louvre on Friday Angela noticed a sign for Museum Passes, which allows access to 60+ Museums and other sights of Paris. The pass cost 35 euro for two days. I referred to as my Disney Fastpass because twice we were able to bypass long ticket lines and go right in. So the pass not only saves money, but time, which is quite valuable on short trips.

Cassie enjoying the interactive features
of the Architecture Museum. She's creating
 her own stained glass window.
A small group of us stuck together throughout the day and visited a few of the lesser known museums of Paris, including De L'Architecture & Du Patrimoine and the Musee National De La Marine (the Architecture and Maritime museums, respectively). The Architecture museum holds many replicas of various popular architectural marvels including Notre Dame Cathedral. As Angela pointed out, it's just as amazing and important to see replicas and reproductions as it is to see the real thing. In some cases it's actually better because you can get closer to the reproduction. It's also pretty outstanding because some of the pieces, like archways, were used in the architecture of the museum building.

Full bodied masthead
The second Museum we flitted off to (and conveniently located right next to the Architecture Museum) was the Maritime Museum. This was awesome because boats and things having to do with boats are awesome. When you first walk in there's a glittering ship having something to do with Napoleon. It's pretty interesting, but I preferred the carved mastheads, including the full-bodied masthead. This statue is quite rare in that it is one the few to survive in excellent condition.

Another piece that caught my eye was the diorama showing how the Obelisk was moved from Egypt to Paris. It seems like it was a difficult undertaking, because before moving the structure they had to "wrap" it in a wooden shell to prevent damage. I intend to find out more about this subject when I get back. There were a few bonuses at the museum too: our cards got us audio guides so we could get more information about certain objects, and many of the placards provided explanations in both French and English.

Close up of the Obelisk Model: The wooden obelisk is the "case."


View from the top of the Arc.
We also made our way to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. This was one entrance where we fastpassed it. There was a rather long line of people waiting to purchase tickets. We walked up to see what we had to do, and someone flashed a museum pass at the guy guarding the door. The rest of us showed our passes and headed up to the top without any waiting. It was 284 steps the top. One the way to the first level I had to pause because apparently it was a race. Luckily there was a perfect spot to rest and make my heart stop pounding. It's also good that I don't mind losing.

Events following dinner were the best part of the day. Cassie and I made our back to the metro to once again visit the Eiffel Tower. Along the way a very cute Lebanese guy with a wonderful smile asked Cassie for directions to the Tower. He'd been wanting to see it since he was six years old. He actually missed his stop because he was chatting with Cassie. Needless to say, this encounter made her quite giddy. When we reached the top of the steps at the Trocadero and the Tower started glittering there was nothing to keep her from jumping up and down. We stuck around and saw it sparkle again at 11pm.

Whoever told Cassie to be sure to see the Eiffel Tower at night is a wonderful human being. It was absolutely beautiful. Seeing it lit up at night made me realize why they sell gold versions of it. If you are ever in Paris for the night, be sure to head over to the Trocadero and watch it glitter.


Sparkling Eiffel Tower

Friday, July 29, 2011

Paris!!

Gallery in the Louvre
Paris on Friday was a bit fast paced, but it was an opportunity to hit the highlights in a day.

We started with a two-hour dash in the Louvre. That may sound like a long time to some, but considering the size and the famous pieces that are in the Louvre, it's not much at all. On this trip I came across the Mona Lisa, The Winged Victory of Samothrace, Venus de Milo, and Liberty Leading the People, just to name a few. Although the Louvre is a huge tourist attraction the only way to really get the history while you're there is to take a guided tour or an audio tour in your native language. I kept trying to check out the placards to get more information on the piece to discover that it was all in French. You might be looking for pictures of these things, and they do exist but they are awfully fuzzy. There are two reasons for this: 1) You're not supposed to use a flash in the Louvre and 2) some were very difficult to get close to.

Once we regrouped, we were off on a tour bus that lets you hop on and hop off at various points around the city. Our destination was the Eiffel Tower, which took about an hour to get to, simply because the route is very circuitous. I was enjoying riding up top taking pictures of the sights. All of a sudden I looked to my left and there was the Eiffel Tower. Even though I was in Paris it was a bit of a surprise, and a reminder that I wasn't in London anymore. Once we stopped it's clear to see how large the structure is. I'm sure the view from the top is amazing, but there was no time on this trip.

Sandcastle along the Siene spotted
during the boat ride.
We hopped back on the bus and headed toward Notre Dame, where we were to catch a boat for a tour along the Siene. This had to have been my favorite part of the day. Riding along in the boat was breezy and there were more opportunities for fantastic pictures. Also, Dr. Everhart and her husband Harry had a surprise for us. They started passing out glasses and Harry popped bottles of Peach Champagne. (We must hunt this down for New Year's next year, it was delicious!). We rode along the Siene listening the tour in three languages and enjoying not trudging around with our full packs.

Following the ride was some free time. I walked around the outdoor stalls with Kalyca and was happy to see that some of them sold maps like one I picked up in Ireland. I didn't have much time to browse before we were due to meet up again for dinner.

Dinner was another best part of the day. We crowded into a restaurant that caters to groups. We each chose a starter, an entree, and a dessert and the wine, soda, or water was as much as we could drink. Wine tastes so much better in France.  All the food was delicious, but this was only the second full group dinner we have had. The first was within the first few days of our arrival. Now that everyone knew each other better, we spent hours eating, drinking and chatting. We were all very sad when Dr. Everhart said it was time for those not staying in Paris to head back.

After finding our hotel, the remaining group conked out for the night. We had all gotten up around 3:30am or so to make our way to Paris by train, which left at 5:25am. The excitement of spending the day in Paris (and the Eiffel Tower keychain salesmen, which I'll talk more about later), were enough to keep us all awake.

It was an extraordinary day in Paris and if I had left Friday, I would have an amazing memory to take with me. Luckily, I stayed so there are more amazing memories to share. There were also a few difficulties during the day. For example, we stopped at a little take-out bakery place to pick up a quick lunch for the bus ride, and when the woman told me my total, I had no idea what she was talking about. They seem to be used that, however, and she just pointed to the register so I would know what to hand over. The other thing is that it is much harder to determine what something really costs (to my American mind) in euros than in pounds, especially since I've been dealing with pounds for the last few weeks.

Viola! The Eiffel Tower


You may be asking yourself, why I've posted pictures of this twice with that title. During our boat ride, the guide explaining various points sent our attention to the Eiffel Tower using that exact phrase. She sounded bored though, as if she had just taken a moment and placed it there merely for our amusement and pleasure.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Library!

Today our group visited Platform 9 3/4 quarters and the British Library!

King's Cross Station is currently undergoing a renovation, so Platform 9 3/4 has (temporarily?) been moved up and out of the station. This assists with construction and the daily commute of many not having to deal with Harry Potter fans flocking to the placard. Hopefully, once King's Cross has been renovated, the platform will be returned to its rightful place.



The British Library, like many other sites of London, has more to offer than one can see in a time-limited capacity. Today our focus was on the Treasures Gallery and the Reading Rooms.  The Treasures Gallery gets its name because it holds many unique books and documents. I had a look at Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, A Gutenberg Bible, Shakespeare quartos, and a copy of the Magna Carta.

Although the library has these priceless pieces as part of its collection, it also has many modern titles in a broad range of categories. For example, when Cassie and I visited the Reading Rooms, one of her selections was The Art of Finding Nemo, and I pulled a book titled Cats in Books. My selection was actually a lot more interesting than I what I thought it would be; it covered the history of cats and where they are found in familiar titles through the ages.

The most interesting aspect of this library is that everything is library-use-only. You request your materials and read them in one of the many reading rooms available. You also have the option of asking them to hold the materials again for your next visit. The procedures for the Reading Rooms was a lot like using The Smather's Library at UF. You can only have the materials you need, like a notebook, laptop, and only a pencil. The difference at the British Library: you show your ID to enter, keep all your materials in a clear plastic bag (which is checked when you exit), and give your seat number to the desk so they know where to find you if the materials don't make it back.

I recognize that the British Library's purpose as a place of research rather than a place for recreation. As much as I enjoyed using my new British Library Card to access the reading rooms and taking a look at some materials from their collection, open libraries are definitely more my speed. I like the idea of individuals entering and browsing to find what happens to suit them at that particular moment in time.

I'll be incommunicado for a few days while I explore PARIS! See you on Monday.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Backtrack

Tonight, I'm going to back up a few days. Monday's blog consisted of information related to my video project, so I didn't relay the information of the day.  Monday's roaming included a trip to the Museum of London and an official inside tour of St. Paul's Cathedral.

Close up of the old leather fire hat.
The Museum of London could also be called the History Museum of London. It follows the city's history from before the Romans to the present. The museum houses artifacts, replicas, and popular culture items in eye catching and interesting displays. I also like that they had hands-on things to do throughout. Many of the informational placards had a (computer) mouse icon, meaning you could head to the nearest computer bank for more information. There were also hats and shoes to try on from Medieval times as well as trying out the old versus new fire helmets. 

Mexico having lunch in the park.
Next was lunch in St. Paul's Churchyard. This was favorite part of the day. After chowing down with my classmates, it was relaxing to stay in the park and people watch. My digital story from today has many of the covert pictures I snagged in the churchyard, including one couple that were enjoying each other more than their lunch.

I think the most interesting aspect of this is that it involves every type of person. There was a man in a suit napping nearby, families enjoying the day, along with various other groups and duos here and there. I imagine the impetus for lunching in the park is the result of the difference between dining in and getting take away at many of the popular lunch spots. For example, Pret A Manger's products cost more if you eat them in the store.

St. Paul's dome.
The last part of the day was visiting St. Paul's Cathedral. The cathedral and its history is incredibly vast and intriguing. Christopher Wren was inspired by the architecture and decoration in Catholic Churches, but was forbidden to include anything remotely Catholic in the cathedral.  Even though Wren never saw it as it looks today, it's been updated with decorations added to fulfill his full vision of the marvelous cathedral. He's buried in the crypt with a very simple stone marking the place. But really, what better monument could he have than St. Paul's?

I'll also mention briefly that I have seen three shows while vising London. They are Billy Elliot, The 39 Steps, and Anne Boleyn. I also have my ticket for Les Miserables next week (so excited!!) I have a post about the four shows in the works. Keep an eye out next week for my London Theatre experiences.

Parks

One of my favorite things about London is the various squares, parks, and churchyards that seem to be on every other corner. I can travel in either direction from my flat and hit a square: Bloomsbury to the left and Russell to the right.  When we visited St. Paul's we stopped and had our lunch in the chuchyard, along with many Londeners on their lunch breaks. Watching them socialize, nap, read or listen to music inspired this project.






The video features photographs from Russell Square, St. Paul's Cathedral Church Yard, and Regent's Park, though there are many others to be found in London.


This digital story features the song "Fun in D Major" composed by Tim Stevens. This song is used in its entirety with permission.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Daytrip

Today our group headed to Stonehenge and Salisbury. We had another Blue Badge Guide named Sean, though not the same Sean from before. He kept us awake with humor and interesting tidbits until we were out of London.

This was a completely different experience from our other tours. For one, we were never really in a rush. Sean gave some information on Stonehenge as we approached, then we were free to meander around the grounds. I grabbed a few shots from different angles, plus the obligatory "I'm-at-Stonehenge!" photo.

On the way to Salisbury, Sean described the three phases of Stonehenge. Stonehenge began as a set of holes that held wooden posts and ditches. At the next phase, there were fewer wooden posts and some of the holes had been used for cremation burial sites. Also, there is evidence of a wooden structure, though no ideas on what it looked like or what it was for are known. Finally, the last phase involves the stones that are still there today.  It's amazing that earlier generations had the ability to create such structures.

After climbing back aboard the coach, we made our way to Salisbury for a visit to Salisbury Cathedral. This tour was also different in that we were able to take pictures inside the cathedral. Other locations wouldn't allow photos at all (Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's), while some allowed photos without the flash (Museum of London and The Wallace Collection). They all have good reasons for their rules, but it was nice to be able to document parts of at least one of these beautiful churches.






When I visited Ireland, I felt that Londonderry was the quintessential Irish town. Salisbury is the English equivalent. Cassie, Angela, Aubrey and I found a nice pub, The Old Ale House, for lunch then found our way to the market (similar to a farmer's market) they hold on Tuesdays and Saturdays. It was a very nice place to pass the afternoon.

An interesting current event at Salisbury Cathedral was an installation of modern statues. It was an odd combination of old and new.  Below was the most interesting one I came across.

Five

We have a photography focus each day (see the Facebook page to keep up!). Today we had to tell a story in five photos. Mexico was hungry when we got back from our outing to Stonehenge and Salisbury. He thought he was being sneaky, but I caught him in the act!







We shared the cookie.  Look for another post this evening about my trip to Stonehenge and Salisbury!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Performers

As I briefly mentioned yesterday, street performers are all over London. Like many other things, London handles this population differently than most other cities (as far as I know). Convent Garden is one of the hottest spots in London for street performers to pedal their personal brand of entertainment. However, to garner a spot, they have to audition and obtain a license to perform.

Below is a video featuring a few of the performers I've happened across during my time in London.





As I said, these are just a sample. Jubilee Gardens (where the London Eye is located), is like a carnival. Along with the dancer at the end of the video, there were people performing as statues and only move when they receive money. There are are also plenty of people in costume. I saw Captain Jack Sparrow, Darth Vader, a man dressed as an iguana, a woman pretending (very convincingly) to be a cat and others.

Below are just a few photos.





Sunday, July 24, 2011

Art

Saint Catherine attributed
 to Onorio Marinari
Art comes in many forms and is all over London. Musicians play in the tube stations, performers gather in Convent Garden, plays and musicals of every caliber and museums abound.

Today, I visited The Wallace Collection. Though a National Museum, this is the smallest museum I have been to. In about an hour or so, I was able to see and enjoy the entire collection. The Wallace Collection is first and foremost an art collection, housing paintings by Rembrandt, Hals, Poussin, Fragonard, and Decamps. According to the website, some artists that can be found in The Wallace Collection cannot be found in higher profile museums. There were many beautiful pieces, but I absolutely fell in love with Fradonard's "The Swing."

The Swing by J. H. Fragonard

Along with paintings, the museum houses ceramics, furniture, sculpture, armor, and other works of art. It was interesting to look at the different armor. It's amazing to see how intricate some weapons were. Also in one room, they had to knights mounted on their noble steeds. It was certainly a sight to see.


Armored Knight                Ceremonial Canon              Cupid & Psyche

The Wallace Collection is made up of five generations--including four Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace--of family collectibles. Lady Wallace, the last of the collectors, bequeathed the entire collection and estate to the British Nation. Her only stipulation was that it was an "as is" deal--nothing may be added or removed. The museum first opened to the public in  June of 1900 and has been open ever since.  This year marks the 111th anniversary. Not one that's typically honored, but this is probably one of the oldest museums I've ever had the privilege to visit.

Getting to museums, however, is definitely not a strength of mine. Like getting to the V&A, Vanessa and I got turned around a few times and took a bit longer than we should have to get there. Once were there though it was nice to walk around, especially when it's possible to see basically everything it has to offer.

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Ceremonial Cannon: Giovanni Mazzarioli
Cupid & Psyche: Flippo della valle

The collection as museum. (n.d.) The Wallace Collection. Retrieved from http://www.wallacecollection.org/thecollection/historyofthecollection/thewallacecollectionasmuseum

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Shopping

London is an expensive city, especially for Americans traveling abroad. Even so, it's possible to find some pretty good deals. This morning I made a solo trip to Portobello Road Market. If you're asking yourself why that seems familiar, here's a hint:





When I heard my classmates talking about the Market,  I knew I had to go. When I was younger, my grandpa and I both loved Bedknobs and Broomsticks and often watched it before bed. We haven't watched in a while, but during my visit to the market today, my grandpa (and the refrain from the song) were in my thoughts the entire time.

It looks nothing like that by the way. I suppose it could have at some point, but not now. Even though it's not shown in this clip, remember the steel drum band in the movie? While walking through I saw two different guys playing this type of music. There were also other street performers and musicians. The blues guy was pretty good.

It reminded me of the flea market and street festivals all rolled into one. As I passed down the street the regular shops were open, but there were also booths lined selling just about anything you can imagine: clothes, bags, jewelry, make up, antiques, fresh produce and so much more. I refrained from buying any jewelry, which is my usual weakness (even though I don't typically wear it). Instead I ended up getting two dresses, for £10 and £5 respectively, and I picked up a watch since I forgot to bring one with me.  I also found an awesome gift for my Love, but it's too good to spoil here.

Photos from Portobello Road Market




Afterward, I headed over to Primark to see what all the fuss is about. Stepping in reminded me of Filene's in Chicago. It also reminded me of the Banana Republic Outlet in St. Augustine--decent stuff at good prices, but torture to navigate. I must have said "sorry" and "excuse me" about a 100 times apiece. I had two interesting experiences in store though. The first was acting like the locals: this means finding a free mirror in the store and trying things on over your clothes. This is a MUST because, as I overheard someone say, "the queue [for the fitting rooms] is like a day and a half long."

The second was explaining the word "plaid." As I was trying my things on, another woman was trying to decide which pajamas pants she should buy. She had a striped pair and a plaid pair and asked for my opinion. I told her that I liked the plaid better. She looked a me a little funny and asked, "What's plaid?" I explained that was the term we use to describe the pattern. "Plaid," she said again, as if she were testing it out.

Other than grocery shopping and picking up a few gifts here and there, I think I'm shopped out. I'm usually good for one day of shopping every few months, so the mood won't strike again until I'm home. Still I consider today to be incredibly successful. I navigated the tube system completely on my own and reached both of the destinations I had in mind.


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This blog posting features a clip from Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Copyright is held by the Walt Disney Company. This clip is available on YouTube by adambarbara64. The video is used under Fair Use Guidelines.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Exploring

Ceiling in the Great Court
Rick Steves acted as my tour guide around the British Museum. Unfortunately, this tour was not in person. Rick has audio tours on his website that anyone can download, put on their preferred device (like an iPod) and traipse the location he's covering.

Ramses II
Today I followed Rick's tour, so I only saw a small portion of what the museum has to offer. I learned about pharaohs and mummies in the  Egyptian portion, thinking of my friend Lia the whole time. Then I moved on into the Syrian section. The panels depiction the Lion Hunts was sad, but there truly is beauty in the artwork.

Up next, were the rooms on Greece, with the beheaded, armless and legless statues saved from the Parthenon. Definitely the most interesting detail of today's visit was walking behind the statues from the pediment. The statues were 40 feet high with their backs to the wall. Though they are not as detailed as the commonly visible portion, they are more detailed than they needed to be for being housed in the pediment.


Statutes fro the pediment
of the Parthenon

This is just a quick rundown of today. I'll definitely be visiting the British Museum again while I'm here, because it's only a five minute walk from the flat. Seriously, five minutes. That even includes the sixty-two stairs I have to go down first.


Syrian Lion Hunt panel close-up

Memorial

During our Coach Tour, Sean mentioned an addition to St. Paul's Cathedral in 1951. It was the American Memorial Chapel, where American military who had been stationed in Britain and lost their lives were honored for their service. I was intrigued by this story and had to know more.  Now I'm presenting you with that information in the form of a podcast.






If you would like to know more, check out my resources below. A transcript is also available.



Resources:
American Memorial Chapel. (n.d.) Welcome to St. Paul's Cathedral, London. Retrieved from http://www.stpauls.co.uk/Cathedral-History/The-Chapels/American-Memorial-Chapel

How St. Paul's Cathedral survived the Blitz. (2010, December 29). BBC - Homepage. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12016916

A letter from the publisher. (1952, December 15). Time.com. Retrieved from http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,820467-1,00.html


Credits:
This podcast features the song "Consort for Brass" by Kevin MacLeod, available under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

This podcast features the sound effect "Marble Church" by club sound, available under a Creative Commons Sampling Plus 1.0 License. 

This podcast also features the sound effect "Air Raid Soundscape" by CGEffex, available under a Creative Commons Sampling Plus 1.0 License. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Literature

Christ Church guide in
front of the tree that is
the Jabberwocky.
Oxford has a rich literary history. Many authors we all know and some we love found Oxford to be an excellent location for inspiration and rumination. A few such authors include Oscar Wilde, J.R.R Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll. Dodgson actually spent much of his life at Christ Church teaching mathematics. It was Dean Liddle's daughters (Alice in particular) who inspired the tale Alice in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking Glass. 

Oxford is also home to the Bodleian Library housed at the University of Oxford. Listening to our guide, I was reminded of a class in my undergrad, Technology of the Book. For this class, I read The Book on the Bookshelf by Henry Petroski.  It includes information I saw examples of today, like books originally being chained to the shelves. In the early days, they were irreplaceable so extreme measures were taken to ensure that they remained in the library. (I wonder if this would work with our DVDs). Petroski's work is fascinating if you're at all interested in the evolution of libraries and, more specifically, books and how they relate to the shelves. I particularly love this passage:
The bookcase without a full complement of books is like a daydreaming student's notebook, its lines half filled with substances and half with space. The half-filled bookshelf is also half empty, of course, with leaning left and right to form M's, N's, V's, and W's to fill the voids between clusters of vertical and not-so-vertical I's. (Petroski).
Another great book on this subject is Library: An Unquiet History by Matthew Battles.

Radcliffe Camera at
Oxford University
Radcliffe Camera is another interesting part of Oxford University Libraries because it was the first round library. Visiting the reading room takes you back in time while remaining in the present. The architecture and the desks are all quite old, yet around the room were all the details of a modern library. Scrap paper for scribbling call numbers, information on databases Oxford has to offer, and fliers posted with need-to-know information. Libraries serve similar functions no matter where they are. While visiting this academic reading room, I was reminded of the first floor of my library at home.

To cap the day, many of us found ourselves at The Eagle and the Child pub, where we relaxed with a pint and hoped to soak up some literary genius. The Eagle and Child was a hangout of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien. I don't know if my writing has gotten any better, but it had an enjoyable atmosphere and delicious cider.



One of the many small doors in the
Christ Church gardens.


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Petroski, H. (2004). The book on the bookshelf. New York, NY: Random House.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Nature



Today reminded me of the above scene from Bambi^.  All around me was the beauty of nature and, in Queen Mary's Garden, more flowers than I can count. I didn't come across any skunks, but there was a sneaky raccoon.

Mexico enjoying the greenery in Queen Mary's Garden.
Today was wonderful because all this was experienced while remaining in Central London. Entering  Regent's Park is like entering another world. London is still right there, but it seems awfully far away. Check out my panorama on Facebook. That was just one corner of Queen Mary's Garden. This park is absolutely gorgeous. Flowers are one of those subjects (like animals and kids) that it's always easy to take too many photos of.  Cassie and I decided that a book and a comfy bench would make a perfect relaxing day. As with many other parts of this blog, I once again feel the need to relate it to home. The only other places that give a similar feel are the Butterfly Rainforest at the Natural History Museum or Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, both in Gainesville, Fl.

Cutest Kite
Both Regent's Park and the adjoining Primrose Hill play a part in Mary Poppins. Regent's Park is the nannies park where Mary takes Jane, Michael, and their younger siblings (in the book. Yes there's a book). Also Primrose Hill is the perfect place for flying a kite. That is, if you have the skills, which it seems I don't. Though it didn't stay in the air long, my kite received quite a few compliments. Someone even said that I would win the "cutest kite" award. The only problem with Primrose Hill is that it is indeed a hill. Not at all like the hills we have in Florida, but a real hill that I was proud of myself for making it all the way up.*

Mexico at Abbey Road Studies. 
Another stop today was at Abbey Road. I'm sure I don't have to tell anyone why that's famous. I did not pose for a Beatlesque picture, but I took a few of my classmates crossing at the right spot. This happened much to the annoyance of the drivers.  Mexico also found time to leave his mark on the wall of Abbey Road Studios, where the Beatles recorded most of their albums.

One of the best parts of today was wandering around and seeing Londoners in their natural habitat, so to speak. As much as I mention the differences, there are some good ones that I will get into soon, and some things that aren't that different at all. We passed many people exercising themselves or their dogs in various parts of the park.  The ones who were especially crazy were running up and down Primrose Hill.  I also saw school children on field trips, other children playing cricket, and families out enjoying the beautiful day.

I left for London a week ago and I'm a bit surprised with how comfortable I feel here. I've traveled abroad previously, but just as I was getting comfortable it was time to head home. I'm looking forward to the next couple weeks and learning more about this wonderful city.

And now for some park pictures:





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^Disney, W. (Producer). Algar, J., Armstrong, S., Hand, D., et al. (Directors). (1942). Bambi. [Motion Picture]. USA: RKO Radio Pictures.  

Walt Disney Studios holds the copyright to Bambi.

*Wentz, M. (2002). Once upon a time in Great Britain: A travel guide to the sights and settings of your favorite children's stories. New York, NY: St. Martin's Press.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sustainability

There's a general consciousness that seems to surround London, relating to lowering carbon emissions, recycling, and other aspects of sustainability. Most of the food labels describe how much recycled material was used to make them, and tells which parts can be recycled and where.

Example from my sandwich carton

This consciousness even extends to the demolition and construction of Olympic Park where the 2012 Summer Games will be held. The site was selected in part because it will benefit London's east end. Sustainability has also been a key factor from the start. According to Sean (our Blue Badge Guide), a promise that 95% of the demolished material would be recycled was part of the contract. In reality, 98% of the materials were recycled for the Olympic Park and other projects.

2012 Olympic Stadium: After the games, everything behind the
white beams will disappear to create a smaller stadium.

Hiring local workers was also part of the agreement. It was agreed that at least 350 local workers would be trained and employed during the construction of the site. At the last count, 408 local workers have been
utilized.
2012 Sculpture, ArcellorMittal Orbit will
 be the tallest structure at the Olympic site.
 Later it will be an East End London Eye.

Working to become part of the community and to better the world does not stop with the end of construction. On site, there is a rain water catch with the intention that rain water be used for the toilets in the park, with any leftover being using to water the greenery. Also, following the games certain structures will be removed altogether or morph into something that can bring events to the community. This a huge part of the legacy of the park.

Going Green in the United States is the in  thing to do, but the way it's done makes it seem more like a passing fad (like the reduce, reuse, recycle of the 90s) rather than something of value. While, these pieces of sustainability are built into what's already being done and work to complete a larger puzzle. This is one aspect of London living that I would like to follow me home.