It’s hard to believe that the best week of my life so far is almost over! It seems like only yesterday that I was on my way to the airport with my parents- bags packed and all set for adventure. Our final day here was both interesting and laid back. We hit the road around nine this morning after getting a good night’s sleep and a yummy breakfast. On today’s agenda was a bus tour of various buildings throughout the city, a tour of the palace at Versailles, Notre Dame Cathedral, and then free time. Versailles was probably my favorite stop on this entire trip. Before the French Revolution in 1749, the most recent monarchs lived in this palace. It was richly decorated and absolutely breathtaking around every corner. Following is my day in picture form!
Above is a picture of the burial place of Napoleon Bonaparte. In order to see his tomb, you either have to look up from underneath or look down to him as if you were bowing-one final reminder of his power.
This was one of my favorite things about the city of Paris. It is one of the three lock bridges. People come here with their special someone and lock a lock on the bridge and toss the keys in the Siene River. This symbolizes the strength and commitment of their love.
This is the picture of the Hercules room. It is the first main room in the palace of Versailles and is in a room where the French monarchs used to host elaborate parties.
Sculpture of King Louis XV
The two pictures above are of the Hall of Mirrors. It was a beautiful room to see on the way for people of the past visiting their king. The mirrors also helped create the illusion that the room was bigger than it actually was.
Gardens of the palace.
The bedchamber of the final three queens of France including Marie Antoinette. This is the very bed where all the royal children of those three queens were born.
This is the tunnel where Princess Diana was killed. The following pictures are all of the majestically beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral. I hope you enjoy them!
Finally, you can’t go to Paris without trying snails. A few of us were brave enough. The taste was delicious, but the texture was very rubbery.
I’m sorry this is a little late. We didn’t get back until very late, and I fell asleep at soon as I hit the pillow. Yesterday was one of the longest and most exciting days of my life. We had a very early start of five a.m. to ensure we caught the Eurostar train on time. This train differed very much from the trains in Philly. It moved faster than any land vehicle any of us have been on previously. It’s speed was 180 miles per hour. Because of this, it only took us about two and a half hours to get all the way to Europe. This included a twenty minute period of going underwater through a huge, dark tunnel. Paris is another hour ahead of London, which makes a grand total of six hours ahead of our time. Therefore, we arrived around eleven thirty in the morning, and then, the real fun began.
From the moment we all stepped off of the train, a whole new world surrounded us. We were no longer in a country of our own language-that was quite obvious. Most of the buildings are made of white stone, and the entire city is very easy on the eyes. We took a bus to the Ibis Hotel, quickly put our bags in a safe room, and were off to make the most of our first day in Paris. Everyone around here commutes using the Metropolitan- equivalent to our Septa buses. Now, our guide, Tim, told us the the Metropolitan waited for no one and everyone needed to be quick boarding. That was an understatement. People literally had to run through the doors to avoid getting caught. Needless to say, some of us got caught or didn’t make it.
After the excitement of that was over, we headed into the Louvre Museum. This is a museum filled with history and artifacts from many different places and areas of life. I loved looking at everything, but unfortunately, all of the information about each piece was in French- a language that is not English and therefore, one which I do not understand. It also houses the famous Mona Lisa painting. Here are a few shots of my favorite pieces.
After the museum, we all went to a restaurant called Lodies and enjoyed a dinner of duck. I chose not to try it, but it was described to me to be salty and chicken like in taste. Following that, we finally got to my favorite part- the Eiffel Tower. It was even more astounding than I had originally imagined. The first time we saw it, it was lit up and shimmering in the Parisian twilight. We didn’t go up the tower because the final even of our night was a cruise on the river of Paris. This was a fantastic way to see the night life here. It’s always been said that Paris is the city of lights, and now, I fully understand and appreciate why. Every building was lit up to be shown off to the public. It truly was a night I will never forget.
I hope everyone had a fantastic start to their new year. I was lucky enough to spend it with a group of amazing people. I haven’t known most of them for long, but the memories that were made will forever be etched in my mind. The group I was with chose to spend our evening in Piccadilly Circus- a place full of people, lights, and excitement. We didn’t get home until after four in the morning. Let me just tell you, you have never seen crowded until you try to catch the tube after a New Year’s Eve in the city of London. We all had a free day today before meeting at the Centre Page for dinner together. I must admit, because of my late night I took advantage of sleeping in today. However, I have a lot of great pictures to share along with a very fun fact I learned. Enjoy!
The picture above is a statue of King Charles the first. During the revolution, Oliver Cromwell led an army to overthrow the monarchy. During this time, every single statue of King Charles was melted down. This one was taken and hidden in order to preserve it. The interesting fact about this statue is the bottom of the tail on the horse serves as the point where all distances from London are measured.
The London Eye
Pictured above is a fun loving group imitating the Beatles famous picture. They are walking along the very road the picture was taken called Abbey Road.
First up! Here is a quick message from our Dean of the Arts and Sciences-Lisa McGarry! She wanted me to post this picture as an idea of how to spread art all over our Gwynedd campus.
Today, after breakfast, we began our tours of the day. These included the Tower of London and The British Museum. For this blog entry, I will be posting pictures and explanations will follow each one. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did since today was full of more facts than every volume of a history text book I ever learned from in my past ten years of school.
This is a full shot of the Tower of London. Ionically, the building is not just a tower. It consists of a whole castle which housed many royal members over the years. It is important to remember that this was home to certain monarchs even if it is mainly known for the executions that took place here-especially various wives of King Henry VIII.
The picture above is one of Tower Bridge even though most people confuse it with London Bridge. However, London Bridge is much plainer and simpler in form unlike this beautiful piece of architecture here.
The two devices above were used for a short period of time in London when torture was thought to be an acceptable form of punishment.
The picture above shows the ravens who reside at the Tower of London. Their wings are clipped and they are cared for by the Raven Master. Legend has it that as long as six ravens remain here, Both the Tower of London and the city, will remain peaceful and strong.
This picture of a glass cushion took the place of the recreated scaffolds (the place where be headings took place). The cushion symbolizes a place of eternal rest for the lives lost here.
The following pictures are of various exhibits from the British Museum.
Lucky us. Today it was sunny for about one hour. Unlucky us. It was the coldest day so far, and we spent 99% of our time outside. Today, our adventure began early. Around 8:30 am, we sat down for breakfast. Here in England, people generally eat a much simpler breakfast than we do. It usually consists of a type of pastry and a cup of tea or coffee. Since this is a tourist hotel, you can pay a little bit extra and eat a breakfast more normally seen at home such as bacon, eggs, and hash browns. Fortunately, no one has been very cranky, and everyone has gotten up to enjoy a breakfast all together.
We boarded the bus for a two hour ride to Stonehenge. It was a fantastic opportunity to go back to sleep–something of which most of us took advantage. After what seemed like a short time, we arrived. To the untrained eye, Stonehenge looks like a pile of old rocks just sitting on top of one another. Although no one knows what the ancient people used them for, we do know that they dragged these gigantic, heavy rocks for miles to get them to where they are today. During the solstices of the year, people are able to stand near the rocks to watch the sun. This is a big deal because not many people are allowed near them anymore in order to prevent vandalism and further damage to these precious artifacts. When you look at the pictures below, you will notice that I included pictures of sheep. I did this because there were many sheep roaming in the fields near the rocks. Also, I learned that sheep out number the people in England, which I found quite amusing. Even though I was freezing, I really enjoyed going to Stonehenge. I may not know all the answers about the rocks, but they serve as a reminder of the mystery of history all countries possess.
After an hour or so, we got back onto our bus for another hour’s drive to the beautiful city of Bath. I must say I love my home and my neighborhood, but if I were given the chance to live anywhere else, it would be here. We started out by getting lunch at a pasty shop. This is a typical ethnic food that has a flaky crust with hot food inside. These were created to allow workers a hot meal without having to heat anything up or carry food which would cool off too quickly. While walking through the ancient Roman bath house, we all got to see where these people turned an everyday ritual into a social event. We couldn’t touch the water since it was rather dirty, but the steam gave a perfect image of how hot the water actually was. These baths were created in honor of Minerva, the goddess who ancient people worshiped. Besides the baths, many ancient artifacts have been found throughout the ages. Things like jewelry, statues, and even a human skeleton have been put on display for everyone to see. After all of our sightseeing and souvenir shopping was done, we reluctantly left the city which had captured our hearts.
As of today, I’ve decided I would like to live in a castle. After visiting Windsor Castle, I think I’ve decided it is definitely one of the most beautiful places I have ever been in my entire life. Windsor Palace houses the royal family although none of them own it–it is a castle which belongs to the people. Wile touring the grounds we first saw St. George’s chapel. It was beautiful inside and it also contains one of the only stained glass windows at survived the Protestant Reformation. This is the chapel where knights receive their title from the queen, and it is also the place where King Henry VIII is buried. All current knights still meet in the back section of this chapel. They are known as the knights of the garter because of the garment that attached leg armor to the body armor. After this, we toured the royal apartments. If anything on this trip amazed me, these rooms sure did the trick. Grand objects and jewels and weapons filled each room. It was hard to tear my eyes away from each glittering masterpiece. After touring the castle and doing a little souvenir shopping, we took a bus tour which included a few photo stops. This was definitely convenient since the weather was quite rainy and cold today. We also got the chance to take a picture out front of Buckingham Palace. My favorite part of that was the statue of Queen Victoria. On either side of here were two statues. One held the sword of justice while the other held the mirror of truth.
Lights are a big part of Christmas decorations at home as we all well know. However, the lights at Piccadilly Circle and in Covent Garden were absolutely breath taking. They covered almost every street with dazzling colors. This is where we got off our bus and were left to find dinner. The group I was with stopped at a small pub called the Essex Serpent and ordered sausage and mash for our meal. It was delicious but definitely something to adjust to. After a bit more shopping, we finally were able to sit down to enjoy the play–The Woman in Black. It was a scary play which left everyone chilled. The coolest thing about it was it only had two actors in it playing all the parts. As expected,everyone is exhausted. It’s time to get some sleep before traveling to Bath and Stonehenge tomorrow!
Well day number one is finally coming to an end. I must say it has been one of the longest, most exhausting days of my life so far. Most of us barely got any sleep on the plane, so you can probably figure out how we felt about our first tour–a walking tour all over London I might add. Although we were all super tired, the excitement was still difficult to repress. We couldn’t wait to step off the plane and onto the land of a different country. We saw so many different things today including London’s Main Street, river, and of course its famous buildings.
Arriving at the airport never ceases to amaze me. It’s a place filled with so many different people–some who are beginning their adventure, some who are making a stop on their way to a final destination, and some who are arriving home after traveling. Even though everything still basically looked like we were in America, it was all new and exciting to me. We all got onto our bus that would take us to the Premier Inn in Wembley and finally settled into a peaceful car ride tour (although it was funny to see people driving on the opposite sides of the road). We took the tube to the center of the city, and we stopped for lunch on one of London’s main streets before continuing on our walking tour.
I learned many different things on this tour that I had never known before. There is way too much information to remember, but certain fun facts are still stuck in my mind. Pictured below is the Eye of London. It resembles a Ferris wheel. When tourists go on this half an hour ride on a clear day, almost everything London has to offer can be seen. Even though I’m terrified of heights, a lot of fellow travelers plan to ride this during some of our free time. Originally, London wanted to remove the Eye and tear it down. However, it makes so much money, they decided to keep it. Westminster Abbey was also one of our stops. It houses Parliament and also has the churches of St. Peter and St. Paul within it. These churches are very gothic in style, and that can be seen in its pointed structures. Also, the church of St. Peter is where the most recent royal wedding took place–that of Prince William and Kate Middleton. One of the most ironic things I saw today was a statue of Abraham Lincoln. It turns out that there is a place called Parliament Square right behind the famous Big Ben. There are multiple statues here of well-known world leaders. It really shows that England is very open to acknowledging other rulers of our huge world.
Unfortunately for you guys, sleep is calling my name. Keep on reading for more on our adventures in our Letters from London!
Well tonight is finally here!!! I can’t believe I’ve been waiting an entire year to be sitting at this air port. Everyone began arriving around 5:30 pm for our flight which is scheduled to take off in about three hours. It’s hard to imagine that in only a few short hours we will all be cruising through the air across the Atlantic Ocean on our way to Europe! The journey should take about six to seven hours. Hopefully, we will all be able to control our excitement throughout the ride–enough that we can all get some sleep (but I doubt it). By the time we wake up, we will be on an entirely different continent in a country filled with its own culture and ethnicity. I’m sure jolly old England and a romantic France will be filled with wonders we have yet to experience with our our own eyes.
The wait to get on the plane is slightly boring. Everyone is just sitting at gate A17 until take off time in three hours. These last few hours will surely be slow and torturous to these adventurous travels. Fellow tourist Kaity Irving (pictured below) had this to say: “I’m really really excited since I’ve never left, and I hope to pick up a British accent while I’m there. I’m determined to meet Prince Harry so I never have to come back!” Personally, this sounds like a great idea to me. Ashlei Miller (also pictured below) is another student all set for our adventure. As she said, “My excitement reached a whole new level the day I bought my first fanny pack.” Looks like she will be very well prepared!No one knows for sure just what these next nine days will bring, but it is definitely going to be new, fun, and exciting for all of us!!!
As some of you may not know yet, I have been asked to keep a blog of Gwynedd-Mercy College’s mini study abroad trip to London and Paris this Christmas break from December 27th until January 4th. Before I get into the details of this blog, I’d like to tell you a little bit about myself. My name is Annie Monsalve. I am 19 years old, and I study English/Secondary Education at Gwynedd-Mercy College. I feel very privileged to have been given the chance to share my own experience of this trip through my words. I am very excited to keep this blog, and I hope everyone will enjoy reading it.
Today, as I sit here, I can barely control my excitement. A long time ago, I made it a personal goal of mine to visit all seven of the continents within my lifetime. So far, I have made it to South America–not bad for a 19 year old. In only three short weeks, another continent can be brossed off of my list–Europe. It seems like only yesterday that I found out about the trip in the first place. A classmate of mine mentioned it while we were casually chatting before the start of Spanish class last semester. I decided to look into it just for fun, but I quickly fell in love with the idea of London and Paris–I just had to find a way to go. After begging my parents for days, I finally got them to agree to split the cost of the trip with me. It wasn’t going to be cheap, but if I budgeted my money very carefully, I would be able to afford it.
Soon after the announcement of the trip, a meeting was held to hand out general information about it. Although not much detail was given at this meeting, one thing stuck in my head. Dr. Hoffman and Dr. McGarry told us about an essay contest the school was hosting. Whoever could write the best essay on a certain topic would have the school pay for this trip. Being an english major, I knew without a doubt this was something in which I must participate because then, my money troubles would be over. The topic was, “If you could work any place in the world, where would that place be and why?” It seemed easy enough, but once I sat down, the possibilities seemed endless. I finally decided to write about teaching in my father’s native country of Venezuela (the reason I have been to South America). I can honestly say that I did not think I was going to win. With many participants, I wasn’t sure that mine would stand out against the others. So, when I received the phone call that I had won from Dr. Owens herself, I was in shock. My heart skipped two beats, and I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time.
This is going to be such a wonderful experience for everyone going on this trip. I can’t wait to share it with many of my friends and even some people I do not know yet. Although Christmas break will come to an end on January 11th, the memories of this trip will stay in our hearts and minds forever.