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In honor of Bastille Day, I’m posting some more pictures from my Paris trip. When we visited Versailles on our second full day in France, the unnecessary extravagance and grandeur of the palace gave insight into the frustrations fueling the revolution. We even got a little overwhelmed as we filed through room after gaudy room.




The Hall of Mirrors:

The Queen’s bedroom:

This door was the Queen’s escape when rebels came to overtake the palace:



I See France! (And You Can Too)

From the moment we stepped off the train in Paris, it was obvious: this was unfamiliar territory.

The great thing about London is that all the things that are different from the states are cute, awesome things.  Since England essentially birthed us, London still feels relatively safe and comfortable for Kansans.  I remember feeling like I was cheating a little last spring when I took my first international excursion to study abroad…. in another English-speaking country.  I mean, I had friends going to places like Italy and Costa Rica and China and Ghana.  And this was for weeks at a time.  Off I went to spend a week speaking English and being quite familiar with most of everything (except the street signs and the fact that they really have a place called “Cockfosters” and only the Americans laugh when its stop on the tube is announced).

In Paris, everything was different, and even taking a taxi to the hotel was nerve-racking.  Even though we accomplished that and eventually found a place willing to serve us dinner, the first night there was a rough start.

The rest of our stay, however, was just great.  The sites are amazing and beautiful, the city is interesting, and the food is wonderful.  Here are just a few of the highlights, starting with the first morning’s walk in the Luxembourg Gardens:

Next was the Notre Dame.  We climbed all the way to the top for a beautiful view.

We also saw the Conciergerie and then walked a long ways down the Seine to the L’Orangerie to see Monet’s Water Lilies.  There I realized my camera was missing, and I went into kind of a panic.  But my ever-amazing mom navigated the Metro, got us back to the Conciergerie before it closed, and kept me calm while the kind museum staff helped us–even in spite of the language barrier–to reclaim the camera I’d left there.  Yes, this is one of those moments where I kick myself and then thank God I was so lucky.

We went to Versailles and the Musee de Orsay Saturday, the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower Sunday, and the Louvre and the Saint Chapelle Monday, ending our last night with a scenic sunset boat tour on the Seine.  I tried to write everything down in as much detail as possible before it could slip away, but it still feels like it went by in a whirlwind.

The trip really was the best graduation celebration I could have had, and I’m glad I got to be there with my mom 🙂

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I See London…

Finally, a few pictures from my trip with Mom to London and Paris (starting with Day One).  You may now stop holding your breath.

The first stop was a day in London, and after a full 24 hours of planes and airports (and my poor, lonely suitcase being left behind in Boston), were ready for a packed day in the city.

We went to Buckingham Palace and walked around St. James’s Park, conveniently during an evacuation of a nearby street where the police discovered a “suspicious-looking car.”

We next headed down the street to see a few more City of Westminster sites.

We continued down Whitehall, pretended like the guards on horses were statues we could take pictures with like all the other annoying tourists did, and had fish and chips at the Red Lion (one of my favorite meals ever).

After a bit more walking and site-seeing, we went to Harrods, the most ridiculous department store I’ve ever seen.  Huge, several stories high, each one a maze of room after room of luxury goods.  It got overwhelming pretty quickly, but I do have to say I particularly liked the coffee, tea, pastries, and confectionary rooms.  We didn’t look around too long though because we had a reservation for tea in the Georgian Restaurant on one of the upper floors.  This may have been my favorite part of the whole day.  I had missed not doing a fancy afternoon tea date the last time I was in London, and this restaurant was indeed pretty fancy–and delicious.  We ate enough that it was essentially our dinner.  And we got to watch cute old English people be fancy and English.

We ended the night by rushing to the Queen’s Theater to see Les Miserables, which was absolutely fantastic.  I was excited and ready to see Paris the next day, but if I ever get back to London any time soon, I think I’ll want at least a few more days.  It’s definitely one of my favorite places.


International Travel

In just a few short days, my mom and I will be on our way to Europe.  After a short stay in London we will head to Paris for the bulk of our trip.  Needless to say, I am extremely excited and feel very unprepared.  I don’t exactly speak French… and I’ll be in unfamiliar territory.  Nevertheless, we are looking forward to being on our way!

Even though the focus of our trip is on Paris, the prospect of briefly experiencing London again is bringing back memories from last spring:

Westminster Abbey.  Nearby, interestingly, is a statue of Abraham Lincoln.  They liked him a lot over there.

The Palace of Westminster, a.k.a. the Houses of Parliament.  We waited forever on the busiest day of the year to sit in on a session and watched them debate the highly contested budget bill.  This bill was what spurred the notorious London riots the next couple of days, which I managed to avoid (even though we saw protestors everywhere we went as they walked to their demonstrations).

Trafalgar Square, where we ate lunch after visiting the amazing National Gallery.

St. Paul’s.

I’ll share more soon.  For now it’s a family weekend before the big trip (with lots of planning, too).

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Missing London

I think when I returned from spring break in London everything was a haze, a whirlwind, and I didn’t really know what had happened.  I want to say the week hadn’t seemed real, but I think it was something more than that.  It’s like I couldn’t remember how I felt or what it was like; my observations were inadequate.  I hadn’t paid enough attention.  Who does that?  This was my first time abroad, and when people asked me what my favorite part of the trip was, I couldn’t even answer them.  I’d say it was because I couldn’t pick one thing and loved all of it, but really I just couldn’t remember what had happened.

That sounds terrible; it’s not like I didn’t try.  I just couldn’t separate it all out.  It was a big block of simultaneous familiarity and foreignness.  That doesn’t even seem like the right description now, but it’s the closest I can get.

I went through the motions of telling everyone how amazing it had been–because, really, hadn’t it?  I’d been in one of the most amazing cities in the world and had seen and done fantastic things.  It could be that this was just my mental reaction to something so “unreal.”  I couldn’t even wrap my head around it.

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Egypt After the Revolution, Part II: Photographs by Natalia Sarkissian (via Numéro Cinq)

I WILL go here. The trip is postponed, but it will happen.

I’d originally planned on traveling to Cairo in July, but earlier this year during the revolution, my flight was canceled. Even though it is much safer there now, the state department still wasn’t advocating travel to Egypt at the time when I had to make a decision to reschedule or to wait. Next summer, I hope…

Egypt After the Revolution, Part II: Photographs by Natalia Sarkissian . I’ve just returned from a second trip to Cairo. In the two months since my last visit, the mood of desperation has noticeably lightened. This time, I found no tanks patroll … Read More

via Numéro Cinq