Friday, August 5, 2011


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


 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


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

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


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 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


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.


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