Photo Update

March 18, 2008

I posted the link to photos of Montgomery a couple days ago, but I have recently added many more photos the that album- photos of Meridian, Philadelphia (MS), Oxford (sadly, also MS), Memphis and more!

Check them out HERE.

If you have already seen the Montgomery pictures, just skip over them and see the rest!

Thankfully my camera cord was in my mailbox this morning, so I have been going through my photos. I have several more posts worth of stuff to share, so please check back soon.

Montgomery Photos

March 14, 2008

HERE are some photos of our time in Montgomery, Alabama.

I left my camera cord in the hotel we stayed in last night in Meridian, Mississippi. I called them and they’re mailing it to SMU. If it even makes it to Dallas, I won’t be able to upload any new pictures until maybe Monday. If it makes it…

So that’s not good, but we’ll see. I hate losing things and really hate spending money when I shouldn’t have to, but I guess I might have to. Ugh.

Now, we are spending the night in Oxford, Mississippi, home of Ole Miss. Update soon!

First Album of the Trip

March 13, 2008

My first album of the trip, with some great pictures from New Orleans and Selma. Montgomery is next, I will post that link tomorrow.

HERE

Fin

September 13, 2007

Last Album of the Summer

These are the last pictures of my very first summer abroad. Most of them are from the cruise on the river Isis that we took as a last-minute “surprise”. Now, more than a month and a half later, it seems as if none of it actually happened. The physical memories- memories of sensations- have faded and the memories of emotion are what stick with me.

I can’t remember exactly what the wind felt like walking around the grounds of Blenheim, or how hot it was outside, but I can remember the feeling of pure awe at what I was seeing. Perhaps that is the most important thing, anyway. The fact that I discovered what it was inside of me that had led me to my major, my studies, my interests. Who knew that that was hiding in England this whole time, just waiting for me to come along and experience it and become enlightened and deepened and inspired. Cool!

Good Days

July 30, 2007

I just added some great pictures from a variety of things that I’ve been doing in the last week. These include pictures of our trip to Bath and Stonehenge, as well as some great pictures of exploring Oxford. Only one more week to do that, afterall!

PICTURES OF THE LAST WEEK

Today’s task is writing an essay on why Methodism was able to challenge the established church to dramatically in the 18th century. I also have about a hundred pages of reading from the legends of King Arthur. So, enjoy the pictures!

Our Sunday in Paris

July 24, 2007

So, I finally get to the third and last day of Christina and my adventure in the vast and magnificent city of Paris. It was interesting being in Northern France this weekend and seeing how incredibly different it is from Paris.

PHOTOS OF DAY THREE IN PARIS

It had been quite the night, what with the huge crowds and the adventure getting back home from Bastille Day, so we ended up sleeping a little later than we intended. But after cleaning up, dressing packing, checking out, and grabbing the fruit that we had packed to eat along the way, we were off to the Sacre Cour Basilica for Sunday Mass. It was a beautiful, clear day… but in the mid-90’s. What a change from Oxford, where it hovers around the 60’s and 70’s on the sunniest of days.

It didn’t take us long to get there, and when we did we were a little surprised to realize that in order to actually enter the basilica we had to climb, oh, several hundred steps. The Sacre Cour is on a huge hill that overlooks the whole city of Paris. This is the “hill of the martyr” for which Monmartre is named. At the entrance to the steps, we had to walk past four African men dressed in all black. At first I thought they were guards, but as we walked up to them the blocked our path. One of them actually grabbed my wrist and tried to tie some colorful string onto it. I had to say “Please don’t touch me!” and pull away rather violently. This is after he yelled “Acuda matata, man! No worries, I’m Jamaican!” Yeah, I don’t care who you are, you aren’t tying random strings onto me! I guess the idea was that they would braid them and then expect you to give them money, but they were very intimidating.

We walked up the steps that had been cut into the hillside, and when we got to the top we were rewarded with the most amazing view of Paris. It stretched out around us like a gray and green carpet… and went all the way to the horizon in every direction. And the cathedral itself- words cannot really describe the beauty of it. It is a bright, pure white and it’s style is very different than all of the other cathedrals that we had seen. sacre courOn the (many) steps up there were various buskers, specifically a harpist who drew a rather large crowd. One wonders how he got that huge harp up so many steps. There were also merchants selling fake designer purses off of blankets on the ground. Like I said in a previous post, these people are everywhere.

The service was beautiful, though of course it was in French and Latin- not a good combination if one is wanting to actually understand what is going on. But the music was great and very echoey in such a huge space. Like all the other cathedrals we had visited, the service goes on despite the constant flow of tourists. They simply block off the main floor of the cathedral and set up a couple hundred chairs. I wonder if people actually attend regular mass at the Sacre Cour. I don’t think there are any youth groups or anything like that, so you would kind of be missing out. But what a beautiful start to the day!

We grabbed some amazing Nutella-filled crepes from a stand nearby for breakfast (I had bananas added to mine- heavenly), and I finally got my three-day Metro pass re-printed at the nearest station. It had only been working about half the time all day Saturday, which was a little scary since it was really our only way around and, well, I had paid for it already. Christina and I had heard about this flea market called the “the biggest flea market in Europe”, that was only a few miles north of our hostel. It has ten miles of booths. I pictures antiques and handmade jewelery and all sorts of cool stuff.

In hope of finding all of the above, we set out on the Metro and got off a few blocks from where this flea market was supposed to be. It was a pretty bad part of town: trash everywhere, homeless people everywhere and, worse still men walking about with fake designer wallets and sunglasses approaching everyone in sight. Considering how uncomfortable it makes me when strange people come up to you wanting something, this was not good. But we ignored them all and soldiered on, following the crowd that had gotten off our train. We arrived at something very different than what we had imagined. Mile upon mile of cheap club wear, fake Nike shoes, fake American “ghetto” clothes and stripper outfits. We walked around hopefully for about 30 minutes, but it didn’t get any better. The high point was the owner of a stand selling old records saying “I alvays knew you would come to me! I haf nayver seen a girl like you! Are you staying here vid me? You must stay!” Shucks, I bet he says that to all the American students that stop by his booth.

That was quite enough of that, and Christina and I hopped back on the Metro (we were by then experts) and headed to the Latin Quarter. This was a last-minute addition to our plans, but after the horrid sweatiness of the flea market, we wanted to get somewhere that we knew would have, oh I don’t know…civilization. In our desperation we indulged in delicious frappacinos at Starbuck’s. starbucksWhile relaxing and cooling down we suddenly realized that we had only three hours before we had to get to Gare du Nord and set off for London! AHH! We quickly scanned Lonely Planet for interesting things to see in the Latin Quarter and set off. Luckily, we planned for Sunday to be an open day so that we could cram in anything we wanted to do. Pat on the back for our foresight!

Our first stop was Eglise (Church) St. Germaine, a cathedral built in the 11th century and still in use! Quite amazing actually. All the columns and walls were still painted in bright colors and gold from when the church was originally decorated. I just love old churches- they have an amazing feeling of permanence and solitude about them. Especially the huge ones, you can just imagine God filling up the whole space. The amount of work that went into these places is amazing- much more than goes into the building of a church today, with modern machines and materials. Every stone here was laid by hand, every column individually painted.

Next we stopped in at the Village Voice, a famous little Anglo-American bookshop. It was founded in 1982 as a place for Anglophiles and expats to get the best in English-language literature and media. It has two employees plus the owner. As we went through it I thought to myself, what a life. What a wonderful life to own a small, vibrant bookstore in a beautiful city and have it all to yourself. To live for books! How wonderful.

It was only a short walk to Eglise St. Sulspice, another beautiful church with the distinction of being where the murder scene in the movie The Da Vinci Code was set. The whole thing was lovely, and huge. And there were rose petals on the ground around the door, which makes me wonder how one goes about getting married in such a beautiful place. Oh, wait, one needs to be engaged before one is married…and a boyfriend before that. Oh well, St. Sulspice is going to have to wait until I care about things like that! Haha. This cathedral was home to a cool obelisk that is used as a sundial. It is apparently very accurate, and works because of a small hole in a stained glass window way across the church and 20 yards from the floor. When we were there there was cardboard over the whole, so there is no telling how good of a sundial it really is. But it plays a large role in the book upon which the movie is based, so that was neat.

The next stop on the route that we planned in Starbucks was the Pantheon, France’s great burial place for her most famous and treasured citizens. Its residents include Victor Hugo, Voltaire, and Marie Curie. Sadly, we didn’t make it in time to go inside. Too bad because from the pictures I have seen it is simply breathtaking. On the way there we got sidetracked by Eglise St. Etienne, yet another beautiful cathedral. It’s cool how they are all so different yet all so intricate. The Pantheon was just right across the street, and it was huge! We took a bunch of great pictures (scroll up and click on the link) and then decided it was time for dinner.

For our very last meal in Paris we sat down at a cafe called Le Luxembourg after the lovely Jardin du Luxembourg which is right across the street. In Paris all the cafe chairs are turned the face the street- the street is the theater, the cafe patrons are the audience. dinnerIt’s fantastic because there really are very interesting people walking about in Paris. Christina ordered a panini sandwich and I had a crepe with fried egg and salad. Our meal was tasty and filling, the weather was sunny and crisp- all in all it was a fitting end to what had been a very pleasant and full weekend.

We got back to the hostel as quickly as we could to retrieve our luggage from storage, and set off for Gare du Nord to meet the Eurostar. This time we actually knew how to read our French tickets and got the right seats. It was a long and uneventful ride back. There were actually several other SMU-in-Oxford students on the train. For the ride back to London the Eurostar had 17 cars and two restaurant cars. On the way to Paris it had only had seven cars.

We arrived in London at the Waterloo station, and needed to get to the Paddington station in a hurry to catch the train to Oxford (which we had already paid for). But as soon as we went to buy tickets to Paddington we learned that the whole Bakerloo line (the line we needed) had been canceled! We had no idea what to do: though we had recently mastered the Paris subway system, the London underground seemed vast and confusing. We took a chance and got on another line that we hoped would get us to Paddington in time, but with only two minutes and 5 stops to go we cut our losses and got off at Victoria, where we knew we could catch a bus to Oxford.

The only problem? We were on the underground, not a bus, so we got out at an underground station. Everyone we talked to worked for the underground, not the bus, and so could not tell us where the coach station was exactly. This led to us walking several times around the huge downtown London block in different directions at midnight, carrying what felt like 50 pounds on each shoulder. Everyone we asked pointed a different way. When we finally asked someone who seemed to actually know, we ended up walking several blocks on an abandoned downtown street. It was very frightening- there was no one about and it was very dark. Plus, I had no idea where I was in relation to anywhere else that I had been in London. We were trying to catch what was the very last bus of the night, and as we walked past the underground station and eventually into the coach station, the information counters and ticket stand were being closed and locked up. So there was a very real chance that we could have missed the bus and spent the night in downtown London.

Fortunately, we ran around the coach station fast enough to catch the last coach right before it left. We had to buy tickets right from the bus driver, but were two pounds short of enough money for two tickets. I was that much more bitter because we had already paid for tickets for the train that we missed. A really nice girl on the bus gave us the money we needed and we sat down. It was the most stressed we had been the whole weekend, and it was the very last leg of the whole trip.

I then stayed up several more hours to begin writing a paper that was due at 11am the next day. What an adventure! The weekend went so well (London doesn’t count!) and it was just a great, great experience. This is the last time I detail a day in such a long-winded way, I think! You can see how we really did see so much. Thanks for reading along.

Knowing myself as I do, I knew it would be a huge mistake to pass up a chance to visit numerous war memorials and cemeteries. This is one) because I love graveyards, two) because I love history, and three) because I am endlessly fascinated with the First and Second World Wars. So this weekend was dead on as far as my interests go.

I won’t say much about the details of the trip, mostly because the pictures are rather self-explanatory. I did lots of detailed captions, so please read them. It was a wonderful, wonderful experience and one I wish could have been longer. With that said, it was a rough night trying to get 90 pages of reading done for 8:45am class after getting in at 1am from a 3 hour bus ride.

The Wednesday and Thursday in London were great, too. The best part by far was the National Gallery, home to more famous stuff than you can imagine. And (very importantly) home to the best gift shop I have ever been in. I got some pretty fantastic stuff. A couple friends and I also spent some time goofing off in Trafalgar Square, where the pigeons love people and the people love pigeons. So there are some great pictures of all of those things, as well.

Pictures (and captions!):

London (Wednesday and Thursday) and France/Belgium (Friday and Saturday)

France/Belgium (Sunday)

I took many more pictures but just don’t think that a huge online album is quite the best place to appreciate them. Thank God for my wonderful little camera, and for lifeguarding last summer, which, though sweaty and tiring work, earned me enough to buy it.

Oh, and I just picked up my pre-ordered British version of the latest Harry Potter. Adam, you still need to get the U.S. one, because this one doesn’t match!

Street Art in Paris

July 18, 2007

Paris has lots of great graffiti and street “art”. These are some examples from my three days there. I thought it would be cool to put them all in the same place instead of leaving them scattered around my various online albums. From what I can tell, Paris makes little to no effort to clean up any kind of graffiti, especially in the bad areas of town. I actually like this because nothing I saw was obscene and if you know me you know I am strange and think that graffiti is actually really, really cool. So, enjoy!

1Graffiti on the railing of a freeway over a crowded (and raised) graveyard in Montmartre.

2

On a rotating billboard on the way to the Dali Museum :”Visual Pollution”.

3

Near the Two Windmills

4

Wandering our way back from the Museum. One wonders what this means.

5

Near the square with all the painters, pictured in the post below.

6

The sign above the Dali Museum…is nothing sacred anymore? Haha.

7

Two different pieces on a small side street in Montmartre.

8

Even trucks get decorated- it’s hard to tell what is graffiti and what was supposed to be there.

9

OK, now how did they get up there?

12

This mural/poem is on a building on Rue Descartes near the Pantheon. It’s a poem by Yves Bonnefoy and begins: “Passer-by, look at this big tree…”

13

A public park a block away from the Eiffel Tower, in a not so good part of town. Compare this to parks like Jardin de Tuilleries in the city center. Notice that even the goals of the soccer goal are graffiti-covered. Kind of beautiful, no?

10

Taken while speeding through a Metro station. I appreciate that the artist made sure to match the retro seats. I think this a political satire of the most recent presidential electee?

11

And finally, a shot inside just one of the many Metro tunnels that we rode in this weekend. Every tunnel is decorated from floor to ceiling in graffiti of all sorts. I imagine that some is many, many years old, since they make no attempt to clean it up. Most is in white paint for maximum visibility.

Best Weekend Ever

July 17, 2007

An uninspired post title, but the absolute truth. This last weekend was amazing not only because I was in Paris (!!!) but because Christina and I planned the whole thing ourselves! We did all the research online, made to-do lists, packed well, and basically got everything we wanted to get done done plus even more. I’ll try not to let this post get too out of hand length-wise.

On Friday morning I woke up at 3am, took a shower, threw together a few last things and met Christina in the yard. We took a cab to the Oxford train station, a few miles down the road. We had a train to catch at 4am, but since it was the first train of the day the station was locked up! As we stood there in confusion, three grungy looking guys who were lounging around on a bench invited us to come sit with them. They looked to be a little younger then us, and we went and sat with them. They (Silv, Stuart, and Rory, we later learned) live in Oxfordshire and had missed the midnight train to their homes, so had spent the night in front of the train station. Turns out they and some friends had been drinking in Christ Church Meadow and had been looked in the park at 8:30, when the gates closed.

We talked to them for a while about where we were from and school and stuff, and then Silv mentioned the VATech shooting and some picketers from Westboro Baptist Church (the “God hates f**s” folk) that had been in the news. So then Stuart suddenly asked “So what do you two think of gays?” We awkwardly replied “Um..they’re fine?”, to which he replied “Oh good, because you are surrounded by them.” Gee, good thing he asked.

So that was an odd start to the day, but the guys were actually really nice and gave us good tips about how the trains work. We barely made it on time to the Eurostar- we got there with 5 minutes to spare. And we didn’t know that there were assigned seats, so we sat in the wrong seats the whole way and prayed that no one would oust us. The Eurostar is surprisingly comfortable, with tons of leg room and luggage storage. The food on the restaurant car is not bad, either. We bought some breakfast sandwiches on the way there.

After an uneventful and very tired ride we arrived at the Gare du Nord in Paris. It’s a huge indoor station but with a whole side missing, essentially, because it used to be a real train station (like old school locomotives). So the beautiful, warm, Paris air greeted us as soon as we stepped off the train. It was in the 90’s all weekend, not a drop of rain and very few clouds. What a difference from Oxford, where it rains every other day and is cloudy in between (though I love it all the same).

After some wandering about figuring stuff out we got on the Metro (subway) to Rue du Marcadet, a street kind of near where our hostel supposedly was. We then roamed about streets lined with vegetable and cheap clothing booths for a while before realizing that literally the next stop on the line was across the street from the door of our hostel. veggie boothsOh well! Our room was comfy and very old and creaky. It was right across the hall from the toilet and shower, and we had our own private sink and a bidet/toilet/sink thing that we couldn’t figure out. I tried to convince Christina that it was a foot-washing bowl but she didn’t believe me.

The whole idea of our trip was to make the most possible of the three days we had. That’s why we arrived so early and left so late on Sunday (our Eurostar ride was at 8:40, we got back to Oxford around 1am). Some other people from Oxford went to Paris, but got there around 4pm on Friday and some even left at noon on Sunday. Crazy!! Why waste your time like that?

ALBUM FOR MY FIRST DAY IN PARIS

We went right away to buy three-day Metro passes for about 19E (about $26). So, our first day in Paris began with a subway ride to Rue de Clichy to see the Moulin Rouge. We then decided to walk around and find the Two Windmills Cafe, which is where the amazing movie Amelie is set. Christina brought this amazing little Lonely Planet guide book to Paris, so it was easy enough to walk around, following the various maps, and find stuff that we wanted to see. We used it all weekend long and it was fantastic. It told us about stuff that we definitely wanted to see but would never have thought of otherwise. My advice to anyone traveling anywhere is to get a Lonely Planet for that place.

One great thing that we did was make a to-do list the day before. We jotted down a few things for each day that we definitely wanted to do. We blocked out time for meals and for just exploring. We left most of Sunday free to take care of anything else that we wanted to do. It worked so well…I am just so happy that we were able to do this! For inexperienced travelers it sure turned out amazingly.

So, on Friday’s to-do list was exploring that our hostel was in, Montmartre. Montmartre literally means “Hill of the Martyr” and it is where St. Denis was beheaded for his faith. There is also literally a hill. So we hopped on the subway from the Two Windmills and walked around, seeing many amazing things and taking many amazing pictures. I was able to practice my limited French. My most used phrase on Friday was probably “Parlez-vous anglais?” If not, I would stumble along with French; if so I would say “Great!” and speak English. Contrary to popular (uneducated) American opinion, not a single person that we ran into reacted negatively to our being American. If they could speak English, they did. (This is with the exception of several Metro employees, who I’ll mention later.)

Montmartre is known as the artsy and ethnic area of Paris, and it lives up to it’s rep. Monmartre paintersThere are street musicians all over the Metro stations that are scattered under Montmartre, and whole squares filled with painters and portrait artists. Where our hostel was there were a lot of Arab families- women dressed in “regular” clothes and in full hijab with almost their entire faces covered. I found myself smiling at just such a lady and realized that she was smiling back, though I could not see her mouth or nose at all. You could tell from her eyes, but it made me sad because no one will ever see her smile unless she is at home.

I am not sure that our Friday was a typical “Paris experience”- we didn’t do any big touristy things, but just walked for many miles and took it all in. The album linked to above has a lot of the things we saw- too many to be described adequately here. But it was so beautiful and interesting. One of the coolest things were the apartment buildings that line all the streets here. There are very few streets that do not have some sort of apartment building. Apartments are either above stores or in their own building. In Montmartre, the Latin Quarter, and the city centre (which we visited on Saturday and Sunday) the apartment buildings are all a cream colored stone with decorative windows and carvings all around the building, and with black wrought iron window railings and balconies. These buildings always have the architect and the date of the building near the front door and are all pre- or immediately post-WWII. So you can imagine the history that these buildings have seen! I took a lot of pictures of particularly beautiful apartments.

The next thing on our to-do list was to see the Dali Museum, which was tucked away behind a beautiful cafe. I have not seen much of Dali’s work, but he lived in Montmartre for a while and is (obviously) a big deal, so I was glad to go. As a side note, we spent very little money on actual sightseeing. Most of the things we went to were free and they few that cost money were cheaper than some of the meals we had! Anyway, so the Dali Museum was great- very interesting and strange. dali artWe took a lot of pictures, which is so much fun in a museum. To the right is one of his more famous pieces- the ants represent mortality, the corn is fertility. Towards the back there was a room of some copies of Dali’s work that were for sale. We asked about a 3×3 copy of a painting of the Trojan Horse on silk fabric. It was 950E, including the 13% tax. We could have had it for 826E since foreigners get that tax refunded to them. Crazy! But it was beautiful and reminded me of all my ancient Roman history classes.

Overall it was a long day. By the end of it- heck, by the middle of it- we were experts at the Paris Metro. I’m telling you, I could go back today and show anyone around! It is just that well-organized and the signs and maps are incredibly clear. Paris also has giant maps of every neighborhood inside and outside of the metro stations, at every stop in the station and at random street corners, too. Plus, inside each car above each door is a map of the route. Very well done, Paris.

We went to Abbesses (the Butte of Montmartre) to eat dinner at a lovely little cafe where we talked with a family from Northern France who was in town for Bastille Day. One of the older guys was really funny- when I asked if he was from around Paris, he said “NO!” and pointed to his mouth. “Parisien“, he said, making an exaggerated frowny face. Then: “Moi“, with a huge, silly grin. “Je ne suis pas le Parisien!” We left them saying that we hoped to see them the next night at the Eiffel Tower for the fireworks.

The day wound up with another trip to the Rue de Clichy to see the Moulin Rouge lit up at night. We discovered something that we should have guessed: that the streets around Moulin Rouge are Paris’ small red-light district. Sex shops and strip clubs line the whole Street, above which (of course) are apartments. I guess the rules about what is OK for public streets are looser here: there were photographs of completely naked women in the windows of these shops. Very interesting. But the lights on the Rue de Clichy at night really are something.

After such a long day, we wondered how we would manage the immense amounts of walking the next day, Saturday. But we didn’t go all the way to Paris to sleep late! So we went to sleep around 3am and set the alarm for 9:30am. This post is super long, so I will write another for the second and third days. Meanwhile, make sure you scroll up, click on the link and look at the pictures of my Friday in Paris!

Photo Albums

July 13, 2007

As of right now I am posting all of my photos on Facebook, and occasionally posting links to new albums here. Right now I have five albums. If you have Facebook, go look at them there! If not, click on the links!

Most recent to least:

Cotswold, White Horse Hill, Burford, Stratford-upon-Avon

Day Trip to London on July 6

First Week 3: Oxford Castle, Blenhiem Palace, Windsor cont’d

First Week 2: Around Oxford, Windsor Castle

First Week 1: Around Oxford and Univ

Let me know if there is a problem with these links, and enjoy the pictures!