Saturday, July 31, 2010

Arc de Triomphe

We sprinted down the entire length of the Champs-Elysees, (which is not a short distance and is full of people everywhere) so we could get to the top of the Arc before it closed—we made it with only 10 minutes to spare. Coming down from the top of the Eiffel Tower a pushy, rather large woman knocked me down the stairs (just a few) and I think I popped a rib, so this run was not my favorite, but it was well worth it--the Arc was surprisingly impressive for sure.

After the Arc we stopped for some French pastries which were to die for, and then headed home. Do you like my Chlortab in the background there? Thank you Clark for saving me--I am totally allergic to Paris I decided, but fortunately the one boy on the trip has a Mary Poppins bag with allergy medicine to share. ;)
Delicious... now I'm hungry again. I want a crepe. and nutella. and yummy tarts. and gelato. How are French people so dang skinny?

The Eiffel Tower

We stood in line for the Eiffel Tower for a good two to three hours, but it was fun and I made some new friends--it's always nice to get to know more people and move from clique to clique--I've never been much of a clique person myself, so I've got to move around. I'm ADD you know. ;) The Eiffel Tower was surprisingly impressive—we went all the way to the very top, and you could see all of Paris. It was beautiful.
The crazy elevator that took us up:

Beautiful weather--it seems that the sun likes us, it follows us everywhere!

The Arc de Triomphe:

Palace of Versailles

After Chartres we hit the Palace of Versailles, which I confess was not my favorite but definitely cool to say I’ve been there; the entire time I was singing “Tale as old as time…” (the architecture in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast comes from the Rococo Period epitomized by the over-the-top Palace of Versailles). There were so many people, and again, no air conditioning, and only one entrance/exit, so I was feeling pretty shaky by the end. Fortunately we weren’t inside too terribly long, and afterwards Lizzie and Jacqui and I spent the 6 Euro and sprinted through the gardens—it was a literal sprint too, because we only had 45 minutes, and those gardens aren’t exactly secret and small. We didn’t even touch half of the ground there, but it was definitely worth it to try. We came around one particular hedge into a small court, and there just standing in the middle a Bernini sculpture—BERNINI! Insane.

Chartres Cathedral

Up early for a tour of Chartres Cathedral. The giant rose window was covered in scaffolding (I don’t think we’ve been to a single site this whole trip that wasn’t under construction), but the rest of the cathedral was to die for. Our tour guide was this crazy scholar who taught us how to read the stained glass windows and sculptures in the cathedral, which made it that much better of course—each window tells a story; it’s a riddle trying to figure it all out, which is why it’s so much fun.

Reading the sculpture on the facade.

This window tells the story of Adam and Eve:
And this one is my favorite--Noah's Ark:
This is said to be the veil that was worn by the Virgin Mary herself during childbirth--found only her in Chartres Cathedral:

Paris: Day 1

Day 1: We loaded the bus bright and early at 6am and headed out to the ferry—we took a ferry across instead of the Chunnel so that we could see more sites. The Seely’s sang the White Cliffs of Dover as we left the shore—because you know, the white cliffs of Dover are RIGHT THERE, and they really are quite white and striking. The ferry ride itself wasn’t the best—it was like having vertigo at the hospital after surgery all over again, only not nearly as bad, just annoying—but it wasn’t too long before we were back in the coach.

First we stopped at Compiegne to see the place of the November 11, 1918 Armistice , which was pretty cool—especially because it was overcast and cool outside, a very nice change from our 100 degree weather here in London.

Next we visited the trenches at Vimy, which were extremely interesting: there was an eerie but not creepy feeling here, if that makes any sense. They have preserved some of the trenches of the war—sand bags and all—so you can walk through them and get a feel for them. They aren’t at all like I imagine (Hollywood kind of messes with reality); No Man’s Land was only a few feet across, they were almost practically fighting on top of each other, it’s crazy.

When we got to Paris we dumped our things at the hotel and set off to find food. I of course went with the Tate’s and the Seely’s, because after their big lecture on how not to get robbed and/or die in Paris, it just felt safer with them. ;) We went to the Latin Quarter behind Notre Dame (BEAUTIFUL by the way) and got these monstrous and delicious Crepes, then sat in front of the cathedral and watched the sunset—NOTRE DAME! Yeah, we were just chillin’ in front of Notre Dame, no big deal. After the crepes and some French ice cream we took a boat tour on the Seine.

This is the Wishing Bridge: when you go underneath you are supposed to make a wish (so much wishing on this trip--better come true!)--romantic, right? Works better if you're a long lost Russian princess dancing with a kitchen boy, but you take what you can get. ;)
And my first shot of the Eiffel Tower--cool, but not quite what I expected. Turned out to be much more impressive once I actually went there a few days later--then I loved it. It was pretty though. :)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tower of London

The Tower of London: honestly would have been better if I wasn't so tired and it was so hot and the rooms weren't so tiny and there weren't so many tourists! Dad, I'm sorry we made you go to Disneyland all of those years, I'm starting to understand this issue with tourism--I hate tourists! (though I'm glad we always went, and in the rain--that makes things so much better, less stupid people!) But it certainly was interesting, and the crown jewels were cool--totally over the top, but who am I to judge. If they want to have a bejeweled, pure gold punch bowl the size of a baptismal font, so be it. It is fun to tour and see all these cool things for sure. :)

Lady Jane Grey graffiti. Lady Jane Grey was queen for nine days in 1553, imprisoned in the tower by Mary I. This is not carved by Jane, but probably her husband. However, as Dr. Seely pointed out, Jane's husband's mother was also named Jane, so if you take a Freudian view of the story then it changes things. :P
Gold-plated and cased sub-machine gun. Sterling Mk 4 sub-machine gun. I know what I want for Christmas. ;)
Recycled scold's bridle originally used to punish gossips--too bad we don't have those today.
Chopping Block. Yeah...
I did get a kick out of the armory--King Henry VIII's armor is to die for, seriously. Maybe I'm horrible but his suit seriously cracked me up. Everywhere we go there is something of his and it continually makes me laugh. He thought pretty highly of himself. ;)

Stourhead Gardens

Running through Stourhead--literally running, because the girls don't understand being on time--and yes, even worse than me if that's possible. We only had 45 minutes there, which is sad because a whole day there wouldn't even be enough time, but still it was really fun. This is where Jane Austen gets all her nature inspiration from, and actually where they filmed the new Pride and Prejudice--we even went to that little building where Darcy proposes to Elizabeth in the rain. It was a beautiful place--very romantic and peaceful.

That's the Proposal House in the distance.

And here it is--I may not be the biggest Jane Austen fan in the world, but I am a closet romantic, and that scene in the rain is pretty cute. ;)