I fell right into the arms of Venus de Milo

So Friday was our big day trip to Paris, and it was the most exhausting thing we’ve done since arriving short of the flight over itself. We left the flats around 4:30 am London time to catch a Eurostar trair, but the whole way I was pretty much unable to sleep. When we got there, we got on the Metro, which connects directly through an underground shopping area to the Lovure – which we then only had two hours to tour. Our assignment was to mostly photograph statues, so I first headed in the direction of the sculpture galleries that I hadn’t remembered visiting back in 2004: mainly the Renaissance and Neoclassical galleries, with a later tour into the more famous and familiar Greek and Roman areas, where I got a few pictures of the very famous (and very armless) Venus de Milo, some really wonderful Michaelangelos and Canovas, and the heads of some of the Roman emperors.

I also went back briefly to the gallery that I’d remembered as my favorite from the previous visit, the Dutch paintings, but by then my time was limited and we had to go.

After that, we got lunch and I had a super delicious baguette was a variety of cheeses, and we got on a LONG bus tour, most of which I spent going “hey, I remember that!”, since it mostly was taking us to places we’d visited before.  We of course also had a stopover at the Eiffel Tower as well.

The definite highlight of the day, though, was taking a boat tour down the Seine through the center of Paris, which was totally gorgeous and provided some lovely views in addition to being relaxing. The peach sparkling wine provided by Dr. Everhart also helped me relax.

Eventually, we went to get dinner at a French restaurant, and while there was a mix-up with the menu (since Kalyca and I are vegetarians), we sorted it out, and also enjoyed some Kronenbourg beer, champangne, and white wine with dinner. Plus the entertainment was pretty great!

Then myself, Kalyca, Theresa, and Anne headed back with Dr. and Mr. (?) Everhart to catch our return train, and everyone else went their separate ways. By the time we got home, since I was barely able to sleep on the train either way, we’d been up and running around on in transit for about 20 hours straight, and I was totally exhausted and glad to be returning to a quiet and empty flat.

 

Oh, and I figured out how to embed a slideshow from Photobucket into WordPress, so now I can share all 160+ photos from my trip with you! (Yes, I took that many, not even counting the 60 or so that didn’t come out. Can you really blame me?!)

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Finally “Lib”-ing up to the name

Today our class went just up the street to St. Pancras, home of the King’s Cross/St. Pancras railway complex and the British Library. The goal with going to the train station was to visit the fake “Platform 9 3/4” set up for Harry Potter tourists. However, King’s Cross Station is currently undergoing MAJOR renovations, so rather than being in-between Platforms 9 and 10 like it should be, they set it up in a little photo-op booth on the outside of the station, which in my opinion pretty much ruins the illusion. But, I got my picture taken there anyway.

St Pancras Station & Hotel

Not actually 9 3/4What 9 3/4 REALLY looked like

Afterwards, we FINALLY went to the British Library, which is right next door to St. Pancras, and it was AMAZING – despite the face that due to some computer mixup, I was not able to take out any books. See, the British Library is “closed stacks” – once you have a library card, you have to reserve a book online and have it sent to a reading room, where you can read it, but you can’t take the books out of the room – which given the rarity of so much of their collection, makes a lot of sense. I had thought I’d reserved several books for myself in advance, but when I checked in, my queue was entirely empty.

British Library!British Library sign

The British Library

So instead, I went downstairs to their current exhibit “Out of This World: Science Fiction, But Not As You Know It,” and I took in the whole thing, which traces the entire history of science fiction all the way back to the very first “journey to the moon” stories on up through the present, with interactive exhibits, videos, and LOTS of books on display, from the classic to the obscure and including some fairly unexpected contributors, such as the Brontë sisters, alongside genre greats from H. G. Wells to Arthur C. Clarke to J.G. Ballard (obviously, with a bit more emphasis on Brits than you’d see elsewhere). There was also a talking robot and a TARDIS, and I left with one of my few souvenirs so far, a CD of never-before-released interviews with science fiction writers. So overall I had a pretty great time.

Sleepy RobotTime And Relative Dimension In Space

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Digital Story, featuring Toad

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Five Frames: Toad Gets Kidnapped!

Toad watching sheep

Toad is minding his own business watching sheep in the countryside.

 

 

kidnapping!? Oh no!

But suddenly he's kidnapped by a mysterious villain!

 

Mysterious woman interrogates Toad

"Tell me! What is the secret of the Star Power! You are his ally, tell me everything you know!"

 

 

Toad's reply, while hanging upside down

But no matter what, all Toad said was, "All I know is that the secret is at Stonehenge!"

So that's where she left him, in a very uncomfortable position! Will Toad be able to get back to London and fulfill his mission, without Mario around to help?!

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Not actually the biggest henge in the world

Well it seems that for all his comic genius, Eddie Izzard has his facts wrong. For today, we visited Stonehenge – which is, it turns out, not THE BIGGEST HENGE IN THE WORLD. That’s actually nearby Avebury Henge, which does not have as cool a name. It also turns out that both henges predate the Druids by over a millenium.   It is in fact one of  most complex of the Neolithic British henges, however, with an elaborate design that even today allows it to fucntion as a sort of calendar. And yes,  “henge” basically means ‘giant prehistoric circle of rocks’.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Of course, for all its reputation, I wasn’t about to get any real sort of vibe off of it other than “wow, that’s so old it redefines old” – first built close to 5000  years ago, at the dawn-of-civilization. That alone was really impressive, but unfortunately any sort of vibe was ruined by the fact that the site was really crowded with people.

Toad watching the Stonehenge tourists

After that, we visited Salisbury, a small town notable mainly for its huge Gothic cathedral, and for what is in it. The Chapter House of the cathedral holds the original Magna Carta: the treaty that King John I was forced to sign, acknowledging that his power was limited and that royal subjects had legal rights, laying the foundation for constitutionalism. This was another thing I couldn’t photograph, but I did get a postcard.

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Returning for New Angles (and Old Anglo-Saxons)

Today was in part an exercise in venturing back to places we’ve been before for a fresh look. To start with, we headed back to the City to visit the Museum of London, which is located on a site of special historical significance – namely the ruins of the old Londonium wall, built by the Roman Empire between 190 and 220. Yes, by the Romans – about 200 years after Jesus and around 800 before there was much of an England to speak of at all. This is what makes this museum so interesting – the entire focus is a socio-archeological restructuring of the waves of invasion, settlement, and disaster that formed London over the course of 1800 years.

London Wall 1London Wall 2

We then made an actual return – we went back to St. Paul’s Cathedral for a proper tour, and I got to see the incredibly gorgeous interior for the first time;  last time I was in London was midway through a series of badly-needed renovations and repairs on the church. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to photograph this, but I did get a couple cool exterior shots:

dome tiplion fountain in the churchyardSt. Pauls from Milleunium Bridge

Sky ANgles

In both cases, though I have to admit my mind was at least partly elsewhere, for a number of reasons, namely:

  • I mistakenly brought my laptop to our short class at the Study Centre – meaning that I had to carry it around all day on my back, and thus was totally unable to climb to the top of the St. Paul’s dome.
  • We were finally given a photo assignment that allowed me to break out into my usual artistic style of photography, and go a bit crazy with it: see below.
  • Lastly but nowhere near leastly, my cousin Nic Accettura surprisingly showed up in London last night, and we’d made plans for the evening. I left my camera behind for this, but he should have pictures up from his iPhone next week.
lazertablebronzeblurShadows walkingAncient Britons

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Boris Biking Bloomsbury

 

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