Saturday, March 30, 2013

"Local Adventures" - City of Westminster Vol. II

After our walk around Buckingham Palace and St. James's Park, we headed towards Horse Guards Parade. From there, we walked down Whitehall and passed 10 Downing Street, Westminster Abbey, Palace of Westminster, and the London Eye.

If you want to see my previous post of the City of Westminster, go HERE

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Now back to that weekend in France...

On our second day in Paris, we spent the first half of the day visiting the palace of Versailles. This was another place that I've seen before on my previous trip to Paris, but it was still nice to see the grounds again. The palace is so ornate and ridiculously over the top that you sometimes forget about how people actually lived there. But let me tell you, Louis XIV had some good taste...

^^I'm somewhere in this picture....^^

 ^^Cathedral inside the Palace^^

 ^^Hall of Mirrors^^

 ^^Outside the palace are acres and acres of beautiful gardens, ponds, canals, fountains, meadows, etc.^^

 ^^Petit Trianon and its gardens, which is one of the few mini palaces located within the grounds of Versailles.^^

^^Marie Antoinette^^ 

 ^^Temple of Apollo^^

Since this was my second time here, I didn't take as many pictures as I did before. Plus, I wasn't too concerned with getting pictures of the more famous aspects of Versailles and its gardens. Eventually, I will post some more photos of Versailles from my first visit. 

You can see my first few posts about that weekend in Paris HERE and HERE!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"Local Adventures" - City of Westminster Vol. I

It took my flatmates and I three months to finally find a day to visit all of the touristy places we've been meaning to see. You know, places like Buckingham Palace, Houses of Parliament, etc. All of which are located in the City of Westminster. Just a fifteen minute walk from our flat! We kept telling ourselves that there wasn't any rush to see something just around the corner. We've been waiting for a nice day that wasn't raining, snowing, or constantly blowing cold wind. So we took the opportunity to explore the City of Westminster in full detail on the first sunny day that came by.

We started off at Trafalgar Square, where the National Gallery and the Crypt Cafe in St. Martin in the Fields is located. From here, it is easy to walk either down the Mall towards Buckingham Palace and St. James' Park, or down Whitehall where you can pass the Horse Guards, 10 Downing Street, Palace of Westminster, and Westminster Abbey.

 ^^The National Gallery^^

 ^^Four giant bronze lion statues surround Nelson's Column in the center of the square.^^

 ^^Nelson's Column^^

^^From Trafalgar Square looking down Whitehall. See something familiar in the distance?^^

 ^^Looking down the Mall^^

^^We arrived at Buckingham Palace before the Changing of the Guard ceremony started, so we were able to see some of the preparations by the Welsh Guard, Horse Guard, and Scots Guards.^^

 ^^Queen Victoria Monument^^

^^St. James's Park, another Royal Park here in London^^

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Weekend in Paris

I enjoyed three beautiful and sunny days in Paris. Three! That is more than what I've had in London for two months. It was pure bliss. My flatmates and I spent most of our time walking from one major attraction to the next. I'm talking sixteen hour days on our feet and trying our hardest not to twist our ankles on those cobblestone streets. We were exhausted by the end of the day! But it was so worth all of those painful blisters we had on our feet.

Since a few of my flatmates have never been to Paris, we spent most of our time visiting sites that I've already seen before. It didn't matter, because I absolutely loved it. I mean, can anyone get sick of seeing the Eiffel Tower too many times? Not me! For the limited amount of time we had in this city, I think we did pretty good about covering all of the major stuff.

Stop #1: Notre Dame Cathedral
You will find out soon enough that I LOVE cathedrals, and Europe is cathedral heaven for me. I try to go to as many as I can whenever I travel. So, I may or may not have forced my flatmates to go with me into a few cathedrals against their will. You can't pass Paris without seeing Notre Dame! 

The year 2013 marks the cathedral's 850th birthday! When we went inside, we got to see and hear the evening Mass. The organ was playing, the boy choir was singing, and prayers were chanted in French. It sounded fantastic inside these stone walls! 

Stop #2: Musée du Louvre
The Louvre is one of my favorite museums. It seems like the museum has art and artifacts from nearly every civilization that has walked this earth. Their collection is incredibly extensive. Not to mention, the palace that the museum is housed in is phenomenal. A gorgeous place to keep gorgeous art. Since I study art history and have been through the museum before, I became a temporary tour guide for my flatmates. Even though they only recognized a few artworks, I was at least able to make an impression on them about art history and art criticism. It was short-lived, but at least they got to understand what I study back at school.

Stop #3: Eiffel Tower
During our trip, we actually visited the tower twice. The first time to see the light show, and the second time to go to the top of the tower. The Eiffel Tower is one of those monuments that you just cannot grasp the size of it. It doesn't help that nearly every building in the heart of the city is only a few stories high, so it literally towers everything else. But it is so unique and incredibly gorgeous when lit up at night. The first time I visited Paris, I never got to see the Tower up close at night with all of lights on. This time we had front row seats. We stood in the park a block away and waited for the light show to start. Once it did, you can hear the gasps of surprise from people in all directions.

The second night at the Tower, we rode the elevators up to the top and got to experience the light show from within. I wasn't a big fan of the seizure-inducing strobe lights that flashed for five whole minutes, but it was pretty cool seeing the city's skyline from up there. Every major monument and building was lit up, so we could easily spot all of places that we went to. 

Stop #4: Arc de Triomphe
Another monument that you cannot pass! Much like the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium, this arch was completely covered with names. But this time, it was filled with names of victorious generals and conquered cities during the Napoleonic wars. This was the first time that I got to see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with the eternal flame blazing at night.  

Stop #5: Sacré-Cœur Basilica 
We headed to Montmartre to see the church on the top of the hill, Sacré-Cœur. This beautiful basilica has a fantastic view of the city below. Musicians, street performers, and artists scatter themselves around the hill and try to entertain the tourists admiring the church and the city. 

Inside, my flatmates and I sat in on Mass. Unfortunately photos were not allowed during the service, which is a shame. The interior is gorgeous! You can just take my word for it.

Stop #6: Moulin Rouge 
While in Montmartre, we walked around to find the Moulin Rouge. We didn't see the original Moulin Rouge, but instead it was the modern location. Did we know at the time? No. Did we care? No. It was still an awesome site to see. For as tiny of place it is, the entire street was filled with tourists trying to get a good picture of it. People shoved their way to get a picture directly in front of the building. I was not as crazy as they were, but I did manage to get a few good pics.

***We did make it to Musee d'Orsay, but pictures were not allowed inside. This was a museum that I really wanted to go to because I was unable to last time. We had only an hour to cover the main works of art, so we I didn't get to appreciate it as much as I would have liked. I think my flatmates were getting sick of me an my museum obsession, so they were perfectly fine not seeing the entire collection.  This just means I need to go back to Paris to visit the museum again. I think that is a reasonable excuse.

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