Monday, October 4, 2010

Paris, tu me manques

My advice to anyone going to Paris, based on my favorite memories (clearly, lots of my memories are food related):

Go to mass at Notre Dame

Give some spare change to a Metro musician.

Recreate famous works of art for photographs. The guards at the Louvre will laugh at you, but really, they're probably kind of bored anyway.

Watch an organized protest. They're surprisingly easy to find.

(For the bibliophiles) Go to Shakespeare and Company. Find a likely looking book, sit, and read for hours. Or maybe play the random piano on the top floor of the store.

Eat hot pain au chocolate from the boulangerie around the corner from the institute building.

Even if your French isn't very good, go to a play. It's amazing how much you'll understand.

Buy boots.

Have your mind boggled by the modern architecture and sculpture at La Defense. Do a thumbs up in front of Le Pouce.

Eat gelato at Amorino.

Go to Saint Chapelle, sit down, and watch the changing light come through the stained glass.

Wear all black at least once (especially if it's winter).

Eat lamb, duck, rabbit, and escargot. You won't regret it.

Play tag on the metro.

Eat at Breakfast in America if you miss ranch dressing or American mustard as much as I did, but ONLY if you're in Paris for more than six weeks!

Window shop on the Rue de la Paix and pretend that you have the money to buy Mikimoto pearls or this necklace.

Go to the Musée D'Orsay and the Musée de l'Orangerie, my two favorite art museums. Also visit Monet's house and gardens at Giverny, then tell me about it, since I never got a chance to go.

Have a kebab (pronounced "kay-bob," not "kuh-bob") and frites for lunch. Then have a nutella crêpe.

Buy lots and lots of scarves. I brought four back for one of my friends alone.

Go to Père Lachaise Cemetery. This might seem like a weird tourist location, but you'll be amazed to see whose graves you can find. Make sure you pack in some lipstick so that you can kiss Oscar Wilde's grave.

Visit the Eiffel Tower in the evening. Ride to the top at sunset, then get down in time to see it sparkle on the hour.

There are so many more, but these are a few of my favorites! Paris, tu me manques.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Walking Among the Scholars: Bloomsbury/St. Pancras

I actually did this walks several weeks ago before the program even began, but I was too lazy to put it up on time. First up on the walks was the University College of London. Yes, the University College of London. I can’t tell you why it hasn’t decided to be either a college or a university, but it definitely is bugging me. I headed into the South Cloister to find the “auto-icon” of economist Jeremy Bentham. You may not believe me, but his skeleton is actually sitting, fully clothed inside of a box at the university. Apparently his mummified head kept falling off, so it’s in the college vaults. I guess that’s one way to be buried. My picture came out super blurry, and I felt a little weird taking a picture of the mummy man anyway, so here’s a shot from the internet:

I made my way to Travistock Square, where Charles Dickens lived for a while. The park there has a statue of Gandhi and a plaque to pacifists.

Next up was the British Library, which is a dream come true for any bibliophile. I looked around a little on the day of the walk, but I came back last week with Natalie, Chelsea, and Kathryn and found all kinds of treasures. This place has the original manuscript of Jane Eyre, the Magna Carta, a Gutenberg Bible, the papers that the Beatles first wrote their lyrics on, and the earliest known copy of Beowulf. It’s incredible.

Right around the corner from the library stands St. Pancras and Kings Cross Station. I’ve come through St. Pancras for the Eurostar a few times now, so I’ve had a chance to check out its crazy Gothic Revival architecture. You would never guess it’s a train station by looking at it. King’s Cross is the more famous of the two stations, though, thanks to Harry Potter. I finally made it to platform 9 ¾ on Wednesday, so pictures will be coming soon.

The walk led me to the Coram Foundling Museum next. Thomas Coram was a sea captain who created a home for deserted children in the 18th century. He gained the support of George Frederick Handel, whose original scores and keyboard are now stored at the museum.

I still had a little time left, so I found Dickens’ house (after passing it about 4 times), and went through. The home doesn’t have as much original furniture as I might have liked, but it definitely taught me a lot about the author’s life. It also had a lot of portraits of the Dickens family and many early printings of Charles’s works. Definitely worth the visit.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Walking the Walls of Londinium

After a morning at the Tower of London, what’s the best way to spend the afternoon? A walk, of course! In this case, a walk along the walls of Londinium, the city the Romans raised on the site of modern London. We were supposed to be walking along its walls, but to be honest, we never actually figured out when we were looking at the wall.

The gate to St. Olave’s Church, where Mother Goose is buried - apparently she’s a real person.

Christ’s Church, a beautiful building created by Nicolas Hawksmoor, one of Christopher Wren’s students.

Chelsea browsing in Spitalfields Market. There wasn’t much to see since we were there on a weekday. For years the market selling fruit and vegetables, but in 1991 the produce market was moved to Stratford. Today vendors mostly sell clothing, jewelry, and craft items.

Playing wizards chess with Kathryn in Exchange Place a little oasis in the middle of the city. Too bad the photo couldn’t quite capture our magical skills.

The Broad Venus, a five-ton statue in Exchange Place that is part of the entire Broad Family collection of statues. Ummm…I really don’t have much else to say about it.

Busy Liverpool Station in the late afternoon. As you can see it’s a shopping place as well as a station.

Headstones in Postman’s Park next to the Guild and Ward Church of St. Botolph-without-Aldersgate (quite the church name). I’m really curious about why the headstones are all stacked up together, but the walks book failed to enlighten me.

Plaques in Postman’s Park honoring people who died heroically.

Friday, May 14, 2010

South Kensington Museums Walk

I feel like South Kensington is one of my homes away from home. During my eleven days between programs, I wasn’t too keen on exploring the city alone, so I spent a lot of time in the Kensington area investigating its amazing museums. Today I headed out with Tiffany, Jenny, and Whitney to do a designated walk, but I’ll include info here about my earlier adventures as well.Hyde Park chapel, where I spent my first three Sundays in London, looks something like a temple and houses a family history center. The young adults who attend Brittania ward there are super welcoming, and I came away from my first few activities there with plenty of new facebook friends (I always say you can’t be real friends until you’re facebook friends ☺). I learned from the walks book that when the chapel was built (on a site that had been bombed out during the blitz), zoning laws prevented it from using the term “gym,” so the architects coined the term “cultural hall” for the overflow area. Sound familiar, LDS friends?
Our next stop was a very different kind of church, the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, a beautiful Roman Catholic Baroque building. The altars were gorgeous (sorry, no pictures allowed), but I was surprised by how dark the church was. It only had a few small, high windows, which seemed very different from every other church I’ve been in during my time in Europe. Near the church (not a cathedral, since it’s not the seat of a bishop – thanks for the clarification, professors), stands a statue of Cardinal Newman, who wrote “Lead Kindly Light," one of my very favorite hymns. I’d say the cardinal looked like a pretty kindly man, himself.The Victoria and Albert Museum, which was next up on our walk, is one of my favorites, mostly because it currently has a Grace Kelly exhibit on display. It gave me a chance to see her dresses from High Society, Rear Window, Academy Awards ceremonies (plus her Oscar), and her life as princess of Monaco. Seeing this exhibit was absolutely one of my favorite things I’ve done since coming to Europe. Oh, and the rest of the museum is all right, I suppose (note my use of understatement, which we learned in a lecture is a typical British form of humor – I hope you enjoyed it). I was especially interested in the pock marks in the outer wall of the museum caused by World War II bombing. The Science and Natural History Museums are also worth a visit, especially the latter if you like rocks, bugs, dinosaurs, or animals.
We took a quick picture of Lord Baden-Powell’s statue outside the unofficial world Boy Scout headquarters, and then headed on toward the Imperial college of London, which even has a Royal College of Organists, and Royal Albert Hall, where I’m really hoping to see Swan Lake before the program ends.Our last stop was Hyde Park Gate, a little cul-de-sac where people like Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill, and Virginia Woolf lived. I can’t get over how people still live in these homes today. Seriously, can you imagine being able to say, “Jane Austen’s old place” when people ask you where you live?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Westminster Abbey, Churchill Museum, and Cabinet War Rooms

Good golly, I love this city. And I love this program. There’s so much to do, all the time! This morning the entire group (all 41 of us) met up at Westminster Abbey to take a tour. I was lucky enough to go through Westminster this winter with my friends from the Paris program, but it’s definitely worth a second visit (or a third, fourth, or seventh), since it touches on three of my greatest loves: history, politics, and literature. Unfortunately, pictures aren’t allowed in the main cathedral, but I was in a dream wandering among the tombs of Elizabeth I, William Wilberforce, and Charles Dickens. I was especially happy to see that, although she’s not buried there, Jane Austen is also memorialized in the Poet’s Corner.I stepped into a pub (I promise we’re allowed in them) with Natalie, Chelsea, Stephanie, and Katherine for a traditional British Lunch, and we finished up just in time to join the group again at the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms. How have I never heard of this place before? It was a history major’s dream come true. Apparently Churchill and his entire staff built secure offices and apartments under ground so that they couldn’t be blown up in the blitz, but they just closed everything up when the war ended. They left their maps, paperwork, furniture, and just about anything else as it was, locked the door, and didn’t go back again. When curators were setting up the museum they even found an envelope of sugar rations that one of the officers had hoarded away. It was so cool! Churchill is definitely making my list of favorite people.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Hyde Park Walk

Since I had a lot of time to kill in between programs, I pretty much lived in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens for a week and a half, mostly because I’m nutty about squirrels. I love them! My second day here I bought a huge bag of peanuts, so I spent all kinds of time reading in the park and making squirrel friends. They actually come and eat right out of my hand! I need to figure out some way to capture one and take it home with me. I’m sure smuggling a squirrel into the U.S. won’t be a customs violation.Okay, end of squirrel tangent, back to the walk. In my excitement to feed the squirrels, I forgot my camera, but I’ll try to add some photos from earlier visits and other people’s cameras. I was glad to do this walk, since I didn’t really know anything about the park’s history before. It was first opened to the public by Charles I and has been popular ever since. In the 19th Century, Prince Albert had the Crystal Palace built there to house the first World’s Fair (the Palace was dismantled during World War II).
A big group of us started out at the famous Speaker’s Corner, where anyone can get up to share their thoughts on Sunday mornings. Since it was a Monday, nobody was up ranting, but I’ll have to come back some weekend. We did see the rather undressed statue to the Duke of Wellington, however, and took a picture of ourselves looking properly scandalized (I’ll figure out who has those pictures eventually) before going to Wellington Arch, which is topped by a statue of the Duke on Horseback. Earlier that day, most of us had also explored the Wellington’s home, Apsley House, so I’m feeling particularly knowledgeable about him right now. Ask me a question; I might just be able to answer it (might being the operative word).
Next up was the ironically flower lined Rotten Row, which brought us to the edge of the Serpentine. We stopped along the water’s edge to see the swans, geese, and ducks, who are just starting to bring out their babies. Fuzzy little ducklings can almost compete with squirrels for cuteness. Too bad they don’t like peanuts.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Theatre Walk

Yup, walk time has come again! It didn’t take much consideration to figure out where I wanted to take my first walk of the semester – the theatre district. Honestly, half of the reason I came to London was to see as many plays as possible.
A group of us started out along the Thames after dinner Thursday evening and walked along the river until we came to Cleopatra’s Needle, another obelisk that I suspect the Egyptian government would like back (there seem to be quite a few of those around Europe). Mohammed Ali gave it to Britain in the early 19th century. I forgot my camera, but somebody got a picture of me with the sphinx next to the obelisk, so I’ll try to add it and some others later.
We couldn’t go through Victoria Embankment Gardens since it was closed for the night, so we headed up to the Strand for a bit before stopping for pictures in the courtyard of Somerset House, which rulers like Elizabeth I, James I, Charles I, and Charles II (my great-great-great-great-great- granddad, or something like that) have called home. Today it houses Impressionist art, so I’m going to have to come back to get my Monet fix. The courtyard was beautiful, especially all lit up for the night.
Continuing up the road, we saw the official church of the Royal Air Force, some of my favorite people in WWII history, as well as a couple of theatres. On a side note, I headed back with Chelsea and Stephanie on Friday to see Legally Blonde, which was SO much fun. I’ll try to blog about it soon.
After passing by the home of the BBC and the London School of Economics, we turned onto the muffin man’s street (a.k.a. Drury Lane). This was exciting to me for two reasons: first, it really is the beginning of the heart of theatreland, and, second, it was once home to Nell Gwyn, Charles II’s mistress and my great-great-great-great-great-grandma, or something like that. Here's what she looked like:We headed home at that point since it was getting pretty late, but we started up the second half of the walk this morning at Covent Garden, one of my favorite places in the world. Every time I’m there I get a picture with the “noble architecture of these columns” at St. Paul’s church so that I can be a disgrace to them like Audrey Hepburn was in My Fair Lady. We split up for a bit to get breakfast and then came back to explore the church itself (where I made a cat friend and saw Vivien Leigh’s plaque), talk to a friendly bobby, and take pictures with the cherry blossoms.
Next up was Leicester Square, where I got a glimpse of the Valentine’s Day premiere this February and where the famous TKTS booth sells discount theatre tickets. We then worked our way out towards St. Martin’s in the Fields, which inspired the design of most 19th century American churches, and Trafalgar square. As you can see, the weather was gorgeous!

We eventually worked our way passed the Golden horses of Helios and into Piccadilly Circus, the London Times Square, and tonight I’m planning on heading back with Chelsea and Stephanie to see 39 Steps there. Yay for the theatre! We then walked through China town and headed home. What a walk!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Walk 1: Paris in Layers

Who would have thought that one little walk would take nearly three months to complete? Especially a walk that includes Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle. I don’t know what is was, but for some reason I just couldn’t seem to get this walk done until today.

I started this walk way back in February with Chelsea and Rebecca. Paris was still blissfully tourist-free at that point, but also ridiculously cold. We began at what is now a very familiar site – the Hôtel de Ville, which is just a block away from the building where we have school and church. The home of Parisian government, the Hôtel de Ville has been around in other forms since François I’s time, although the current building was built after the revolution. It’s definitely a beautiful place, especially when it’s all lit up at night. I think I even miss the ice-skating rink that stood in front of it all winter.

We then crossed the Seine and worked our way through the freezing cold to Notre Dame (I’m pretty sure that day was the coldest one I experienced in Paris – ick). We opted to save the tower for another day, but the Cathedral itself was spectacular. And you know what? It ought to be spectacular, since it took more than 100 years to build. The inside was beautiful, especially seeing the faint light streaming through the rose window, but I think I liked the outside best of all. You just can’t beat gargoyles and flying buttresses.

Next up was the Crypte du Parvis, where we could see the centuries-old foundations of Paris. It’s crazy to think that the streets I’ve been walking on cover up hundreds of years of history. We even saw the base of Nicolas Flamel’s house. I wonder if he discovered the secrets of the sorcerer’s stone when he lived there.

The final items on the agenda were St. Chapelle and the Conciergerie, but they were closing by the time we reached them. I was disappointed, but my numb fingers and toes certainly weren’t.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. Rebecca and I brought out our magical art student cards and got free tickets into the Conciergerie and St. Chapelle. The corner of the Conciergerie holds the oldest clock in Paris (built in 1370). More importantly, the building was home to the royal family in the middle ages and then became a prison during the revolution. I made sure to check out the re-creation of Marie Antoinette’s prison cell and chapel, but the wax people were a little creepy.

Poor Rebecca. She’s so patient with me when I’m a whiner (which is basically always). When we went over to St. Chapelle, we realized that it was closed for its annoying afternoon break. We could have waited in line for an hour before things even started going again, but I vetoed that.

This afternoon I finally finished the walk with Chelsea. After a lovely stop at Shakespeare and Company, the most wonderful bookstore in the entire world, we went to St. Chapelle, waited in line for 40 minutes, got a little lost, and put up with a rather snippy cashier lady before going in (I told you I’m a whiner). It was totally worth it. I’ve seen a lot of stained glass windows over the last few months, but these full-length ones took my breath away. Chelsea and I just sat down and stared at them for about fifteen minutes before taking pictures. It’s fascinating to watch the colors change as the sunlight shifts. The pictures definitely can’t do the experience justice.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Walk 21: Get Lost!

After a long day of studying and muddling through homework, Courtney and I were ready for an adventure, so we set off to get lost near the Eiffel Tower. We of course needed sustenance first, so we wandered down the Rue Clair for a bit. This fun little street is perfect for window-shopping, with all kinds of family-owned businesses. There’s even one store that holds only honey products. We compared prices at some chocolate shops before getting some tasty Chinese food and eating outside. Even though we were pretty full, we knew we had room for Angelina’s gelato, especially since it was probably our last chance to go there!

After moseying along the Rue Clair for a bit, we made our way to the park in front of the Eiffel Tower to take pictures before getting in line. Unfortunately, by the time we made it to the ticket window, it was so windy that the top floor was closed, but we still went up to the second floor. We made it just in time for a beautiful sunset, which reminded me of Monet’s Impression, Sunrise. Seeing a 360-degree view of the city made me realize just how sad I’ll be to leave Paris next week. I love it this city, and I feel like I’ve only just begun to experience life here.

When we’d had our fill of photo-ops, Courtney and I went down the stairs (which is almost as cool as being on top of the tower), and then headed over to the Place du Trocadéro. I’ve done a little research about that spot and found out that it was built in 1937 to be an example of modern architecture at that year’s exposition.

Everything was closed for the night, but the buildings house several museums that would be great to visit someday. There is also an aquarium nearby. We had come over to Trocadéro for one reason only, though: the view. Every hour the Eiffel Tower sparkles for a few minutes, and we arrived just in time for the 9:00 light show.

We really did get a little lost on our way back to the metro, but that just meant we had a chance to find this monument to the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. I’m not sure what the meaning of this little boy’s newspaper hat is supposed to be, but I liked it.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Cultural Activity: Easter Mass at Notre Dame

Easter Sunday this year happened to fall during Conference weekend, which meant that we didn’t have any normal church meetings, so Rebecca, Rich, Haley, and I went to 11:00 mass at Notre Dame. As we arrived at the Cathedral, I definitely felt a little overwhelmed, since the square in front of the church was swarming with tourists. They had formed a crazy criss-crossing line up to the doors, so we just picked a spot that seemed like it might be the end and jumped in. Apparently it wasn’t, because the American lady in front of us informed us that we needed to go to the real end of the line and pointed in another direction. Silly American lady. She must not have ever experienced the French tendency to ignore lines and just rush toward the entrance when doors open.

Lucky for us, the place where she sent us was actually closer to the doors, so we got in without too much trouble. This also meant that we were right along the path of the priests as they wove through the crowd with their incense. At least I think it’s incense, but I don’t really know much about Catholicism. The place was absolutely packed, leaving us with only standing room on the edges, but we were able to watch the service on TV screens. The service itself was nice, and I actually understood quite a bit of the sermon, which was given by the archbishop of Paris. My favorite part of the service was when we were told to give the sign of peace and then shook hands with the people around us. Sometimes I feel a little isolated among all these reserved French people, so it was nice to experience that moment of acceptance and good will.

I had gone with Ariel to communion at Saint Paul’s in London the week before, and I was struck by how similar the two services were, despite the fact the differences between the Anglican and Catholic churches. The music and structure were very similar, although the Catholic sermon seemed a bit more formal. I kept remembering how one of my old history professors used to refer to the Anglican Church as “Catholic Light.” Maybe it’s truer than I imagined.

Sorry I don’t have any pictures – I forgot my camera!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Walk 4: Of Art, War, and World's Fairs: Invalides, Musée Rodin, and Tour Eiffel

This was one of those walks that ended up spreading across several days due to intense laziness and incredibly poor timing. When I set out with Rebecca and Hanna on a windy morning, none of us were really in the mood for a walk, but we did get some pretty amazing pictures as we crossed Pont Alexandre III, a bridge symbolizing the friendship of France and Russia.

We got a little lost along the way, but eventually found Invalides (Hanna had already been to the Musée Rodin, so Rebecca and I saved it for another day). Unfortunately, it was about to close. End of walk attempt #1.

Rebecca and I went the next Tuesday with Courtney to the Musée Rodin, which was pretty incredible, given that it was a 300 year old Rococo home where Rodin actually lived in the early 1900s. This was the first time I had a chance to see Rodin’s work in person, and I was fascinated by the way his bronzes captured people in complicated poses.

The Musée also gave us an opportunity to see “The Kiss” and to take a classic pose in front of “The Thinker.”

Thinking we would be able to finish the walk, we headed to Invalides, only to discover that it was closed for a special event. End of walk attempt # 2.

Walk attempt #3: Rebecca and I were determined to get the walk done, so we spent a lovely morning that same weekend heading yet again to Invalides. Lucky for us, it was actually open (and not just to VIPs), and we even got in free with our magical art passes. Although we saw Napoleon’s tomb, which was just a little extravagant, and the armor of various French kings, my favorite part of the museum was definitely the WWI and WWII exhibits. It was a 20th century history major’s dream come true. I loved seeing the dummies paratroopers dropped to distract German troops on D-day and the uniforms of soldiers from around the world, and I was particularly moved to see the clothing, uniforms, and personal belongings of Holocaust victims. I must have been really caught up in this part of the museum, because I didn’t actually take any pictures.

Since the weather was gorgeous, we finished up the walk at the Eiffel Tower. Confession: I lived in Paris for more two months before actually going to the Eiffel Tower. Even though I had seen it from a distance, seeing it up close was a whole new experience. It’s huge! I was tempted to go to the top, but I think I’ll save it for one of my last days in Paris.