Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Catacombs of Paris

After breakfast, we hopped on the metro and headed straight for the Catacombs! The Catacombs are a mass gravesite; the skeletons were moved here from the "Saints Innocents" graveyard in Paris when it became full to overflowing in the late 1700s. Some of the remains here date back to the 11th century. The Catacombs are an underground museum, commemorating the bodies, headstones, and inscriptions from the old cemetery. The Catacombs were originally a limestone quarry in the 12th century, but when it began collapsing in on itself in the 1700s, King Louis XVI created a commission to chart Paris's underground. This then proved to be the perfect site for the bodies. 
We waited in line for three and a half hours to get in, so I got myself a French baguette while I waited :)

Pictures of the underground bones, inscriptions, and headstones:

A miner (who must have been bored one day) carved this model of the Port-Mahon Palace (in Minorca, Balearic Islands) by memory. 

6 million people are buried here. 

After the Catacombs, we walked up to the river (it took an hour!) to eat dinner.
The buildings are so cute-just how I imagined them!

The French National Assembly building. 

Park on the Seine River. 

For dinner, I had a delicious 4-cheese penne pasta with French bread in the shadow of the Eiffel tower. For dessert, I hada Nutella crepe! Delicious!

Tomorrow, we are going sight-seeing! I'm so excited!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Days 20 & 21: Solo London and More Traveling

Yesterday (Friday) was a free day in London for the group. (No class or labs, yay!). First, I went with some of the group to Abbey Road (you know, where the Beatles took their iconic photo). 

Our not-so-great attempt at recreating the pose.....

After this, I left the group and went sight-seeing by myself! I started with the Tower of London and London Bridge. I waited in line for a while to buy tickets, but it was so worth it! The Tower of London is a palace built by William the Conqueror, and later expanded by King Edward I and his father, Henry III. It later became an important port and even later, a fortress for important items, like the Crown Jewels. 

Re-created bedchamber of Edward I. 

I also finally got to see the London Bridge!!!

This is the portion of the site built by William the Conqueror in the 10th century. 

The seal of Queen Elizabeth is all over!

I also got to see the Crown Jewels! This was my favorite part of the day. It was a wait, but so, so worth it. I highly recommend it. I don't even know much about English Royalty, nor am I even a citizen of the country, but it was still awe-inspiring and humbling to see them up close and learn about their history. 

The traitor's gate. 

I also visited the Bloody Tower, which was where the two sons of Edward IV, Edward V of England and Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York were allegedly murdered by their uncle, Richard Duke of Gloucester after Edward IV died in order for the uncle to be king. Essentially the Lion King in British Royal form. 

Selfie with the tower!

Next, I visited the British Museum. This place was amazing; there aren't even words to describe it! I could have spent days and days here and not have seen everything. I hit the highlights, like the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian mummies, and Greek sculpture. This place would have been the ultimate World History field trip in the tenth grade...I was straining my brain to remember things from that class!

The oldest chess set in the world. Dates back to early medieval times, possibly in the tenth century. 

The Roman Empire room

Actual mummy cases! I was geeked out by this whole room....Egypt was my favorite empire to learn about as a kid!

The actual mummy of Cleopatra!

Medieval Samurai armour from Japan

Egyptian sculpture

Sculptures and carvings from the Greek Parthenon

The oldest ancestor I could find on the Storms side was born in the tenth century and was a Viking from Scandinavia or the Netherlands. He was called "stormy" for his temperament, and that's where the surname came from. 

Next! I went to the Victoria and Albert Museum. It has more of a cultural/artsy base, whereas the British Museum had a historical/archaeological base. I started in the fashion traced European fashion from 1750-present. Pretty cool!
1940's British women's fashion

Sculpture gallery

Samson slaying a Philistine. 

This is a harpsichord made for the Strozzi family. This one dates to 1574 and is elaborately painted. 

This bed dates to the late 1400s and is literally the biggest bed I've ever seen. To give perspective, it's probably 1.5 times the size of a king bed, at least. It was so famous throughout England that even Shakespeare referred to it in one of his plays!

State of George Frederich Handel. 

A claviorgan, dating to the late 1500s. Apparently, it was a mix of a harpsichord and organ...that would have produced an interesting sound...

Music Room from Norfolk House, St. James's Square, London. This is how a typical upper-class music room would look like in the 1700s. It was mainly used for large group gatherings over playing music. 

After the Victoria & Albert Museum, I walked down the street and into the wealthy neighborhood of Kensington, where I found the house where The Parent Trap was filmed!!!! This is on my top 10 list of favorite movies of all time, so this was quite exciting for me. 

Selfie with the house. 

After dinner, I went to see The Lion King down in the theatre district!!!! It. Was. Awesome. I can't even explain....I had ground floor tickets and my seat was right on the aisle!!! The animals came down the aisle in the opening scene and the hyenas ran down it in "Be Prepared," so I felt like I was in the middle of the action! It was such an amazing show. 

Today, I left for Paris. We mainly traveled all day, but at King's Cross St. Pancras, we had some time to kill before our train left, so I went to Platform 9 3/4, naturally. Forget Paris, I'll go to Hogwarts!

Just kidding, I'm actually sitting in Paris right now! Language has been a bit of a barrier, but I know enough to get me through. Hopefully. Tomorrow we are visiting the Catacombes and walking along the Seine River!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Day 19: Greenwich

Today, after a very long underground ride, I went to Greenwich! There are four royal museums here: Cutty Sark, the Queen's House, the National Maritime Museum, and the Royal Observatory. I went to the latter two. 
Cutty Sark is a clipper ship built in the twentieth century. Clippers were some of the fastest ships on earth!

Greenwich is located in what was once the rough-and-tumble docks and shipyards of industrial London in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It is still to this day the home of the world's leading shipbuilding industries. 
The old dockyards today, from the Royal Observatory. 

The Prime Meridian runs through Greenwich, because this was the center of exploration and shipping since the 1400s. Ships would set their clocks to Greenwich Mean Time, and then be able to calculate their longitude on their journey based on GMT and their position under the sun at noon. 
Me, in both hemispheres at once!

The Time and Society exhibit was very interesting! Insaw how people through history have used time along with the importance of time and efficiency. One exhibit was called "Interval Time," and discussed how different groups of people sometimes measure time differently than hours, minutes, and seconds. Inthought it was very cool that they included musicians in this grouping and displayed a metronome, showing that sometimes musicians need to divide a minute into more (or less) intervals than 60, depending on the tempo and feel of their piece! Nifty. 

I climbed up into the dome of the observatory and viewed this giant: the Great Equatorial Telescope. 

After we had finished at Greenwich, we shopped around the Greenwich Market a little before i returned to my hotel to eat lunch and take what was quite possibly the longest nap in my recent life. I rolled out of bed just in time for dinner with the director of our Honors Program, Phame! He came all the way to London to check up on us and buy us dinner. It was great talking with him about our wonderful experiences from traveling abroad. After dinner, I relaxed until bedtime in preparation for my long free day tomorrow! I have big plans, including the Tower of London, British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, and hopefully a quick stop at Abbey Road and the house where they filmed the Parent Trap!!! Then, after dinner, I have excellent seats to go see The Lion King musical!!