Saturday, August 6, 2011

Fresh Eyes

Other than a final project, due on Monday, I have finished my multimedia program in London. On Thursday morning, I said good-by to my new friends, did all my laundry and moved to a hotel near King's Cross.

My older child Teresa flew into London that same day, taking the same route I had taken just three weeks ago. Vancouver to Seattle. Seattle to Reykjavik. Reykjavik to London. Unfortunately she was a bit under the weather already, and the long flight didn't help. I took her to Wagamama for some spicy noodles and broth and then to bed. For the first time in three weeks, I didn't take a single photo.

Yesterday we set out to explore London. She didn't want to do any tours or pay to visit attractions, so we just wandered from the Tower of London, along the Thames to St. Paul's. Teresa is interested in anthropology and archaeology, so we went to the Museum of London, which is free. When there's no admission charge, it's easy to breeze through, look at the most interesting bits, and get on with your day. I was surprised, and pleased, when she took so much time reading the information and getting into the history of London. I mentioned it before, but this is a really excellent museum. I saw things yesterday that I had completely missed when I'd been there before.

Near the Tower of London

Afternoon tea

We had tea and checked out the Animal Kingdom at Harrods. There were no exotic animals there, but they did have our favorites--wiener dogs. The four puppies were wide awake and very playful. It made me miss my own two dachshunds. But I won't be taking one of these home--the price tag for each puppy: £1700 / $2750!

Napping (her) and homework (me) occupied our early evening. Then we set out to explore some more. We had a pizza dinner and then walked all the way to Piccadilly Circus, checking out the tourist shops. I'm sure my son will be relieved to learn that I did not buy him a "My mum went to London..." t-shirt.

Today we hit Portobello Market. This market, famously featured in the movie Notting Hill, is only open on Saturdays. I had done some research, so I knew that we wanted to push past the hoards of people at the top of the street, past the antiques, and even the food vendors, to get to the vintage stuff. Teresa was interested in finding a leather jacket and we found the perfect one.

Our time in London was much too short. Soon it was time to make the long trek back to Heathrow for the next step in our mother/daughter journey: Paris.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Royalty: They're Just Like US

1) They build private villages in order to escape the pressures of their jobs.

2) They allow more than 400,000 guests to visit their homes each summer.

Buckingham Palace

3) Their homes have 775 rooms: including 19 State rooms, 52 royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms.


Today was our last day of activities in London. Most of our group of nineteen students leaves tomorrow. I'm so excited that my 18-year-old daughter is flying from Washington tomorrow. We're going to spend two days in London, two in Paris, and then relax at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland before heading home in time for my commencement and the start of her first year of college.

We wrapped up our visit with a tour of Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately no photos are allowed inside the palace, but you've all seen the highlight (in my opinion) on the television: Kate Middleton's wedding dress is on display in the Ball Room of Buckingham Palace. And it's gorgeous, though not as pretty on a mannequin as it was on her. I particularly liked the giant photos of the "fine British craftsmanship" of the dress. One thing that struck me as funny was the audio tour's pronunciation of applique'. Apparently the British say "a PLEE kay" while I've always said "APP li kay." A replica of the wedding cake was also on display.

While we relaxed in Green Park prior to lunch, our instructor gave out awards. I received the "Person with the Most Permanent Souvenir of London" award. The award was an "I <3 London" keychain, which, ironically, I'm likely to someday misplace.


The multimedia project on Marie Antoinette's Hamlet is my fifth major assignment for my classes. We've already 1) written a paper and enhanced it with a Web 2.0 component, 2) made a podcast, 3) filmed a digital video, and 4) created a digital story. This assignment was multimedia: use at least two forms of media to highlight a topic. I had planned to do something on Beatrix Potter, but I was so enchanted/dismayed by the French queen's Disney-like village that I just had to do that.

Resources used to make the Glogster project:

Byrne, A (Composer). (2010). The Counterfeiters. On Duff: Music for toy piano [Medium of recording: Audio Download]

Coppola, S (Director). (2006). Marie Antoinette [Web]. Available from

The queen's hamlet. (n.d.). Chateau de Versailles. Retrieved August 3, 2011 from

Steves, R. (Producer). France: paris audio walking tours by rick steves [Audio Podcast]. Rick Steves' Europe: Tours, Trip Planning, Travel Guides and Information. Retrieved from

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Paris seemed to be all about Napoleon. The Arc de Triomphe, the restoration of Versailles, and many of the bridges across the Seine, are all attributed to him. So Paris = Napoleon. And, of course, public displays of affection.

England, on the other hand, bows before the ghost of Henry VIII. The separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church was one of the most significant acts in British history. Additionally, the story of his six wives is pretty fascinating.

Today, those of us who were not sick in our flats traveled by bus and train to Hampton Court, the home of Henry VIII.

Back when I was nine, I visited my grandma at her retirement community in Iowa and read a book about Henry VIII from the community's library. Soon, I could name all the wives and their ultimate fates.

"Divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived."
--rhyme to remember the fate of the six wives of Henry VIII

Hampton Court tells the story of Henry with interesting museum displays (including multimedia), an enhanced audio tour, and costumed actors.

Henry VIII in his later years, favoring a leg that just won't heal.

Catherine of Aragon faces off with Thomas Wolsey.

Henry was a man with large appetites. For food: the kitchens at Hampton Court were built to serve 600 people, twice a day. According to the museum website: the annual provision of meat for the Tudor court stood at 1,240 oxen, 8,200 sheep, 2,330 deer, 760 calves, 1,870 pigs and 53 wild boar. This was all washed down with 600,000 gallons of beer. And we've all seen the images of Henry VIII. He's like Fat Elvis: imposing, but not as dead sexy as his younger self.

For women: Sure, he had six wives. But also at least two mistresses. It is possible that Anne Boleyn only became queen because she refused to be Henry's mistress, as her sister had been. The other undisputed mistress actually bore Henry a son, Henry FitzRoy, who died as a teen, while Henry was attempting to change the rules of succession that would have allowed his illegitimate son to be king.

For power: It seems that a lot of the divorcing and beheading (and dying for that matter) was related to this issue of succession. Henry wanted a male heir, a son who could be the next king of England. Even better would have been "an heir and a spare," since Henry knew first hand that sometimes the older son doesn't live to be king. 

What do you know of Henry VIII? Have you seen The Tudors? Is it worth watching?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Princess in the Park

Today we started our day with a run through the Diana, Princess of Wales Playground. This playground is one of several in London that is not open to adults unless they come with children. Fortunately they do open the gates between 9:30 and 10am for unaccompanied adults.

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Price.

The park has a Peter Pan theme. Not pictured: a giant pirate ship.

Flatmate Theresa

Kids and their mums, waiting for the gates to open at 10am.

From there we went to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. This isn't a traditional fountain, but instead is a circular water feature with water flowing in both directions from the top of a hill crest to the bottom. Today was really hot (for London)--about 80 degrees. There were lots of people, especially kids, playing in the water.

I kicked off my sandals and waded too. And then I put my shoes back on and waded some more. Gotta love Keens!

We concluded the day with afternoon tea at the Orangery at Kensington Palace. I'm looking for a nice place to take my daughter for tea. This just might be it.

Le Ch√Ęteau de Versailles / La Tour de Eiffel

Versailles is not in Paris. To get there you take a double decked train from the city and it takes about half an hour. Now imagine it by horse coach. The Versailles of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI was a world away from the poor and hungry mobs in Paris. It's actually pretty easy to see how they could be so very clueless.

Here is where I have to admit that most of what I know about Marie Antoinette I learned from Sofia Coppala's beautiful 2006 film starring Kirsten Dunst. I'm sure the film is ridiculously inaccurate, but the frivolity of court life--the sense that the royalty were grossly out of touch--really is reflected in the palace(es), the gardens, and the estate.


Paintings by Charles Le Brun! and more gold!

 and some of the bazillions of visitors!
Gardens with fountains and music!

Palaces away from the palace. With pink marble! 

Inside the palace, I actually skipped the museum that focused on Napoleon. We'd already spent about six hours there, touring the Grand Trianon and the Hamlet. While I know that Versailles is more than just the crazycakes that was Marie Antoinette, I think that's the best story.


On Sunday, Elizabeth, my London flatmate/Paris roommate (pictured above with the camera), and I headed back to the Eiffel Tower. It took about an hour to get through the line to the ticket counter. Then you can take an elevator up to the second floor (380 ft), wait in another line for another elevator, and ride to the summit (906 ft above Paris). By the time we got back down to the second level, we were ready to be out of the crowd. We walked down 600 stairs to get back to solid ground just to avoid the crush of humanity. London doesn't feel this crowded!

Four of the 2,500,000 rivets.

View from Level Two.

View from the summit.
Paris is a HUGE city.

Happy at the top.

By the way, the French really do make the best pastries ever.
I actually head back to Paris on Saturday night, after my daughter joins me in London. I'm looking forward to touring the Catacombs and seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. I hear it sparkles on the hour.

Fast Train to Paris

We left our flats at 4:30am on Friday to take a quick tour of Paris. With the opening of the Channel Tunnel in 1994, it now takes about two hours to get from London to Paris.

I'd never been to Paris and I wasn't sure what to expect. We started with a visit to the Louvre, where we had just two hours, no guide and no audio tour. I was highly frustrated by not knowing what I was looking at (none of the plaques were translated) and decided about 90 minutes into the visit that a cup of coffee would be the most productive use of my remaining time. But I couldn't find my way out. All the signs led to the same place--a guard who told me that I had to go a different way. I walked through the same sculpture gallery three times before finally going UP a set of stairs that led to the steps DOWN and out. I may or may not have stood in a corner hyperventilating.

Winged Victory of Samotrace, circa 190 B.C.

8.5 million people visit the Louvre each year.
It felt like most of them were there on Friday.

The Mona Lisa is considerably
smaller than I had expected.

St. Mary Magdalene, 1510
Since the Da Vinci Code
Mary M. is more famous than ever.

We didn't have time to ascend the Eiffel Tower, but got to see the structure first-hand. Then we headed to a boat tour of the Seine.

George Clooney billboard. 
I don't think this counts as a celebrity sighting.

While some people headed back to London after the group dinner, I had elected to stay through the weekend. I got some sleep so I'd be ready to start Saturday with a trip to Versailles.

More in the next blog...