Friday, July 29, 2011


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


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


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.


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


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.


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


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


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.

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

The collection as museum. (n.d.) The Wallace Collection. Retrieved from

Saturday, July 23, 2011


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.

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


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


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.

American Memorial Chapel. (n.d.) Welcome to St. Paul's Cathedral, London. Retrieved from

How St. Paul's Cathedral survived the Blitz. (2010, December 29). BBC - Homepage. Retrieved from

A letter from the publisher. (1952, December 15). Retrieved from,9171,820467-1,00.html

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


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.

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


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:

^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


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
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.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Inside the cloister. The ceilings are quite
high, as the people demonstrate.
My first Monday in London has been a busy one. We started out this morning with a quick stop at the Study Center, then off to Westminster Abbey to meet our Blue Badge Guide Brian. Westminster Abbey is absolutely beautiful. The architecture is stunning. Much of the interior is carved stone. The only disappointment is that no photography is allowed inside the Abbey.This is because it is a working Abbey with daily prayers. While we were inside the Abbey they held their 11am prayer service. As we had been instructed, our group paused and were silent while the prayer was taking place. Once it was completed, we continued with the tour.

Politicians, musicians, scientists, as well as poets and other literary figures are buried or memorialized in the Abbey. These include Charles Darwin, Ben Jonson, Henry Purcell, and Florida State University's own Paul Dirac, who has a memorial beside Isaac Newton. It seems that there are always curiosities and scandals related in the history of buildings that are over 900 years old. For instance, Ben Jonson did not have enough money to be buried in the Abbey in the traditional style, so he was buried standing up. On top of that, his name was spelled wrong, with an 'h' included in his last name, Johnson instead of Jonson.

This fountain is in the College Garden, which is in the
part of the Abbey not open to the public.

Another interesting fact is that Oliver Cromwell was only buried in Westminster Abbey for three years. When Charles II took the throne, his vengeful mother demanded any and all individuals involved in the death of her husband, Charles I should be prosecuted, hung, drawn, and quartered. This included Oliver Cromwell. He was disinterred, hung, drawn and quartered. The body of Cromwell, and the others, were buried under the Tyburn gallows.

The final burial at Westminster Abbey occurred in 1920 and was the body of The Unknown Soldier. The idea behind the inclusion of the unknown solider was to give Brits who had lost loved ones in World War I the opportunity to morn those that did not return and were assumed dead. It gave hope to families to believe that maybe, just maybe, their loved one was buried in Westminster Abbey. This is the only grave in the Abbey that is never walked on. Even during the Royal Wedding this past April and Princess Diana's funeral in 1997, the processionals navigated around the grave.

These statues were used to fill the niches that were formerly
empty. The fifth one from the left is Martin Luther King.

After a picnic lunch in Trafalgar Square, we sat in on a concert in St. Martin's-in-the-Fields. Then we made our way to the London Eye where I took a great shot of parliament along with skyline views of London. Afterward, a group of us made our way to Notting Hill Gate to catch a discounted showing of Harry Potter. The perfect end to another wonderful day in London.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Sean with our group at St. Paul's Cathedral
Today was our Coach (i.e. bus) tour of London. Our tour guide, Sean, was not of the "To your left is this ..." followed by one or two memorized details. Blue Badge Guides are the creme de le creme of tour guides. In order to become a Blue Badge Guide, individuals undergo extensive training and must complete tough examinations in order to achieve the highest honor bestowed upon guides. When our group was first told about the blue badge guides, we were told to show them the same respect that you would show a professor. That is how knowledgeable these guys and gals are. Also, they do wear blue badges while they are out giving tours.  Nothing ostentatious, just an ornament of distinction.

Tour guides are not the only Brits who endure rigorous testing to excel in their profession. Before individuals can become taxi drivers they must take an exam called the Knowledge. This test shows how well they know all parts of Lodon. Both city and suburban drivers must learn the ins and outs of London; suburban drivers must know their sectors just as well. I was actually surprised to learn this, because on the way in, our taxi driver asked us if we had a map to the Study Center. We did not, but the number is pretty visible along Great Russell Street, so we reached our destination. Along with the exam, drivers must meet other requirements, including passing a background check and being medically sound.

Wait staff are also treated  and act in a very different manner in the UK. In America they continually return to the table to ensure customers are placated. Whereas here, wait staff rely on you to let them know if you would like anything else and when you are ready for the check and maybe a take away.  There are two reasons for this: 1) there are no refills, so there is no obligation to return to the table and 2) tips, though appreciated, do not make up the bulk of a servers income because they are paid a decent wage.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

V & A

Our scheduled tour for Saturday was canceled on account of the guide not showing and we were free to explore the city. A small group of us decided to make our way to the museums. Getting to the V&A, The Victoria & Albert Museum, was quite fun. I mean that truthfully and sarcastically. It just so happened that it was also our first taste of rainy London. And it was our first taste of underground delays. The Piccadilly line was basically not running at all, so after going ahead one stop we headed back up top and took quite a long detour to reach a different station where another train would take us to the V&A.

A rainy day in London. On the other side of the bridge is the
London Eye and the tower that houses Big Ben.

The V&A is HUGE. I had an hour and half to roam and explore and I know I saw less than half of what the museum has to offer.  The images below are highlights of things that caught my attention.  The image of the man sketching Jesus is my favorite, even though it's not the best shot.

Needless to say, the five of us had quite an adventure and came back with some bragging points: we found the river, we navigated the underground system successfully (thanks in large part to Elizabeth), no one was splashed by a bus, and we spent the afternoon in a beautiful museum. All in all it was a great day that was capped with Billy Elliot the Musical, which is a pretty great show. Now I just need tickets to Les Miserables with Alfie Boe as Jean Valjean and I'll be a happy(er) camper.

The obligatory "Mind the Gap" photo taken from the tube.

Friday, July 15, 2011


Australian Landscape in London
"Embrace the difference," is the mantra of the Director of the London Study Center, Kathleen Paul.* Having experienced studying abroad for a number of years, her advice is worth taking. 

Even with the differences, I already feel comfortable with the neighborhood. This is due in large part to the tour yesterday and walking back and forth between the Study Center. I stopped in to Boots to get a new adapter, picked up a few groceries at Tesco, and went for a solitary walk and checked out the Australian Landscape at the forecourt of the British Museum. The British Museum, by the way, is just around the corner from my flat.

Every experience here is different, though some only slightly, from my experiences at home. I'm just used to the experiences at home. When I had my "difference of the day" today, I decided it would be a good idea to make a conscious decision to experience differences when given the opportunity. Some may seem small, but those are the things I tend to remember the most.

My difference of the day was enjoying warm custard with my apple pie instead of ice cream. It was a delicious difference. Just as sweet as ice cream, but without turning the pie cold. The whole group enjoyed fish & chips (or a vegetarian substitute), apple pie, and local ale at the Marlborough Arms.

*Previously, this read "experience the difference," but it was brought to my attention that I mistyped. Though I believe the sentiment is very much the same.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Mexico checking out the view
Traveling is exhausting. I know I slept on my overnight flight to London only because I remember waking up, but I'm positive that it was short-lived and fitful.  Even so, arriving in London was great. I got off the plane, stretched my legs, and was allowed to enter the country.

And thanks to Theresa's wise decision to bring directions and to follow them, the two of us made it to the London Study Center without a hitch.

We met a few other classmates, received more paperwork, got a brief tour of the Study Center, and made sure we had the all-important internet access. A while later our keys were handed out and we made our way to Bedford Place, our new home for the next few weeks.  Settling in was good, but being able to take a shower was better. There's nothing like a I've-just-been-on-a-plane-all-night-and-now-I-really-want-a-shower shower. Seriously, NOTHING.

Bedford Place
The hardest part has been staying awake. I hoped my shower would help, but I made the mistake of lying on the bed and before long my eyelids felt incredibly heavy. I took some time to finish a crossword and look things up on Google, which distracted me long enough. After our settling down time, we all met up again at the Study Center to officially meet everyone in our class.  There are 19 of us altogether. A walking tour of the neighborhood sums up my activities for the day.

On the bright side, my flatmates have wonderful personalities, and I'm looking forward to getting to know them better.

Now that I've had some dinner (and completed my daily post), I am definitely ready for bed.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Welcome to the All Night Cafe! Hopefully I'll be able to entertain you with tales of my travels during your visit. As many know already, this is a blog to commemorate and keep track of all the fantastic things I'll do in London (and Paris) during my study abroad.  I've decided to bring along a few friends as well and wanted to be polite and make introductions.

Mexico and Pikachu will be tagging along and will show up in pictures here and there.

Mexico                                       Pikachu

 Just to clear something up though. I'm not really a Pokemon person, and Pikachu primarily gets to tag along because he glows.

So that's all for the introductions.  The next post will be from London!