Home Sweet Home

Here we are... back in the states and I finally was able to upload the last 600 of my pictures (yay!) On my ten hour flight where I couldn't seem to get any sleep I calculated my totals on pictures and I have 4,227 to sift through. There were about 50 that I wanted to share from the last week in England... so excuse the long post!

These were taken at the Natural History Museum. We had fun going around seeing the exhibits, although I'm pretty sure we felt like we were 10.

Stratford Upon Avon. Here's where Shakespeare was born. Jackie's standing in front of the home he was born in.

Yes... they still have the coolest payphones ever.

Never seen so many wild swans. They went from group to group looking for handfuls of bread. We didn't have any.

Buckingham Palace. Apparently the flag means the queen is in. Don't know if that was the case or not.

We went to the gardens at Hyde Park and guess what they had.... ROSES! And other things too. Beautiful!

AND they have this tree that has branches growing upside down. It was like going inside Peter Pan's hideout.

Couldn't take pictures in the National Gallery, but Trafalgar Square was open game! I love the ship in a bottle!

Jackie had saved a voucher for afternoon tea at a rather nice cafe. It was quite fun and I feel very English after having done this. It's official!

We went out and waited for the sun to go down to get some night shots. Oh yeah... night shots make me happy!

London Tower had exhibits on Royal Armor. I love the axe and block... Off with their heads!

This is a mask that gossips were forced to wear as punishment.

We saw several beefeaters, but I liked this one. The strong, silent type.

Millenium Bridge and the Globe theatre. We went to see Henry IV part 1. FABULOUS! You haven't seen Shakespeare until you've seen it in the Globe!

Now that I'm back and working to get some energy back, I know I'll miss Europe. But someday I'll be back! The bug has bitten and it's not going to go away! Be on the lookout for some state-side travels and one day... one day I'll be back Europe! That's a promise!


IT Woes

I'm very sorry to say that my computer has been overworked and has gone on strike for uploading any of my pictures. (Which is one reason I'll be getting a Mac in the fall--shhhh don't tell my PC!) The good news is that since it's at the end of the trip, it's not a problem that my card is very full because I probably won't be taking any plane pictures. The bad news is in this post, you'll only have words. Sorry! I did think it would  be fun to give you a little taste of the pictures you'll be seeing later this weekend after I: 1)get home, 2)get mauled by three hyper, slobering mutts, 3)take a shower and 4) crash for about 20 hours.

Sunday was a pretty chill day. I went to a singles' ward where more than half the members were American abroad students (go figure) and Jackie and I made our way to the Natural History Museum. (Most of their Museums are FREE by the way. Yes... FREE!)

Monday was just about the awesomest day of my life--in fact it was so awesome a real word doesn't suffice in expressing it. In fact, most words won't. For my birthday, Jackie planned a trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon. Ring a bell anyone? Let me give you some hints... pen, parchment, Anne Hathaway (not the actress one), Mary Arden, writing, plays.... Macbeth, Much Ado about Nothing, Romeo and Juliet...

If you didn't get it with that last one go do some reading! Shakespeare people! I was in Shakespeare's home town!!! I have so many stinkin' pictures that are sitting on my camera waiting to be unloaded it's not even funny. I was even able to go to the church under which Shakespeare was buried. AMAZING! I feel the spirit of the Bard is now with me. :)

Tuesday was filled with more sites: Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park and--for a good portion of the day-- the National Gallery. I saw Hogarth people! And Rubens! Poussin and Van Gogh and Morrisot and Manet and Monet (two different people) and if you have no idea who some of these people are get to your google browser and start typing people! We topped off the visit with afternoon tea. It was, to quote Jackie, "very posh". They brought us each out our own three tiered tray, three plates each containing finger sandwiches, scones (which Americans do NOT make right), and other little desserts. I even had my own teapot of fresh mint tea!

Wednesday was  the final full day in London and we definitely made the most of it. We spent the morning in the London Tower. It was like... Disneyland... for history enthusiasts! Fantastic! There was even a conveyor belt you step on to view the crown jewels that reminded me of the Haunted Mansion. After seeing what we could there, we walked down the Thames passing the London Bridge, St. Paul's and making our way over the Millenium Bridge (which thank goodness was safe from Deatheaters while we were there) and over to the Globe Theatre. We got tickets and went back again last night. And if you think you've seen Shakespeare... you haven't. Not until you're sitting on a rock hard bench in the round with people standing (yes standing) all around the stage.

Today I have to take a shower, pack up and try to find Platform 9 3/4 once more before heading off to the airport. Yes... my European travels have come to an end. Now it's time to go through the thousands of pictures and organize them, start my last summer class and go back to real life in general.

Look out for pictures to come and more local traveling later this summer!


France and England

Here we are! The last and final country I'll be getting to experience in Europe! My last few days in France were wonderful. We were able to do some more family pictures for my cousins (this time without the attack of the mosquitos) and they took me to see a few castles.

They really are as fun as they look! I'm definitely sad that I won't be able to see them more often, but I made sure to get the girls' emails and will definitely be keeping in touch.

This is the Devil's Bridge (all of these are a bit out of order today...). There is a legend in their town that the people wanted a bridge and made a deal with the devil that he would build it, but the first person to cross would owe him their soul. So the people made a cat be the first to cross, but still wouldn't cross it for many years after... just in case.

This is the last castle I went to just before being dropped off at the Perpignan airport. It's more Spanish influence (being run by Ferdinand in the 16th century) and had a space for a moat and drawbridges and all!

One area that we went had a large industry of... you guessed it... MUSHROOMS! There are also a lot of Smurfs around. So fun!

The girls were so fun to pose and were quite cute models. This is a fan the youngest was able to buy with some money she'd earned. There was a wooden fan they had back at their apartment that they'd got from Spain. I'd been looking to see if I could find one similar. At the end of my week their, the oldest girl (whose fan it was) came to me with it, telling me she would find another one in Spain the next time they go. It was just the sweetest thing and very handy on these hot summer days!

There was one evening we just went driving around, hitting a couple of the "most beautiful towns in France". They really lived up to their names, being built up on hills in impossible ways. There were also great views down into the valleys. And EVERYWHERE we drove, you could see fields of cherry trees. There are almost as many cherry trees in this area as there are grape vines!

One last trip to the beach for me and another chance for their son to play around in the sand! He loved grabbing handfuls and watching it slid out of his hand as if it was seeping through the center of an hour glass. Luckily, this time it stayed out of his mouth.

The Rosetta stone in the British Museum. As in, the stone that helped scholars learn to translate hieroglyphs--not the computer program based on this idea! They had this one, then in another room they had a copy that you could feel, which I thought was really neat. Somehow, touching the engravings (even the fake ones) makes it so much more real.

Here's the Egyptian artifacts for Mom to justify checking this during class. There were several Sarcophagus, many statues (three of Rameses II) and relief frieze. The cat, by the way, is thought to be the animal image of an Egyptian goddess. Cats were considered messengers to the gods or gods and goddesses in a different form. So there's an even better reason to have a cat! (Not that I'm bias or anything.)

Moving onto Greek pottery! There was so much of it. Personally, I couldn't help but think of the Disney cartoon version of Hercules. I'm not the only one am I?

And let's be honest... I went gaga over the jewelry. I LOVE jewelry. They had jewelry that spanned over 7,000 years. What a collection!

And if there's a dead guy... you just GOTTA get a picture! Really... it's like... law or something.

These are all from Regent Park. AMAZING! In the center is a garden of roses, roses, and more roses. It just doesn't end! There was also a little lake with lots of swans, geese and, yes, little chicks. I really could do a picture book of  "Cute baby animals around Europe".

I'm still looking for Platform 9 3/4, but here's one tube entrance. My friend Jackie has definitely kept us from getting lost, which is less than I can say for me. I've lost all charge over the map after I got us hopelessly lost on the way to the park last night. I gladly reliquished the responsibility.

Since being here I have, of course, had fish and chips as well. It's been so much fun and it's nice to be able to say everything in English and be understood! At the same time, I almost say "grazie" or "merci" each time I mean to say thank you. Interesting how something can become natural so fast! This will give me a good transition, I hope, before I head back home. Keep checking back more for more on England in the meantime!!!