Traveling: The Science Museum

During our study abroad in Scotland and Ireland, we had a free weekend.  We had three things we wanted to visit: Hampton Court Palace, The London Comic Con, and the Science Museum.

Being a computer science teacher, the Science Museum was definitely a must see for me.  We only really had an hour to visit the museum but that was enough to see what I wanted.

The museum is located in South Kensington in London and the entrance is free.  Some of the items that are there are the first jet engine and a reconstruction of the Francis Crick’s and James Watson’s model of DNA. We took some time during the first floor and toured the Power exhibit which helps tell the story of the Industrial Revolution in Britain.  We also looked as some of the space and flight exhibits.

However, most of our time was spent in the computing section.  There they have examples of Napier’s Bones and other computing devices.  I was in awe when I came across Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine.  The science also has the coolest odd exhibit I’ve ever seen in that they have Charles Babbage’s brain on display.

Here are some pictures of our trip to the Science Museum:

 

It was truly great to see some of the items, such as Babbage’s Machines fully built after years of reading about them and teaching about them.  If you want to learn more I highly recommend The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Sydney Padua.

Many of the great museums of London are publically funded which means they are free to go.  They do accept donations which we gladly gave.  If you plan a trip to London, plan a museum visit.  And we highly recommend the Science Museum.

Traveling – Hampton Court Palace

During a free weekend during our Scotland-Ireland study abroad, we took the opportunity to go to London.  There was a huge comic con going on that we wanted to attend, plus we would also have time for the Science Museum and Hampton Court Palace.

On our first day in London, we headed to Hampton Court Palace which is upstream on the Thames from London. We thought about taking a boat ride but logistically we couldn’t make it work.  The palace belonged to Cardinal Wosely, Henry VIII seized it when Wosely’s star fell. Only St. James’s Palace in London and Hampton Court survive from Henry VIII’s time.  Hampton is a huge estate and one that, even though we spent most of the day there, we only half explored.

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Traveling: Beautiful Belfast

Nola Nerd Couple went on two study abroad during our grad school days. We are going to try writing about those days even though our memories aren’t that fresh. Luckily, we have pictures and those are the best parts about travel blogs anyway! This particular study abroad was to Scotland and Ireland in 2014. The previous blog in this series is located here.

 

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Greetings at the Belfast Train Station

 

My first impressions of Belfast were formed by movies particularly, In the Name of the Father and The Boxer. In those movies, Belfast was a violent town.  It could erupt in a rage in seconds.  It seemed super industrial and cold.  A place the sun might visit but wouldn’t stay.  However, the city, even in this fictional but based on a true story terms, fascinated me. It was a city torn apart by civil war in a developed country.  A city, and a region, which was still fighting over Protestant and Catholicism in my lifetime when everywhere else both of those faiths were fighting just to survive.  When our study abroad to Ireland and Scotland had Belfast on the itinerary, we were both excited.

Most of the group we traveled with came of age after the Good Friday Agreement.  I remember seeing Belfast being war torn on the news.  I remember the IRA being presented as a terrorist group by the media in America (which it was, if you take the idea that one group’s terrorist is another groups patriot).

To say, I was apprehensive about going to Belfast is an understatement.

Time changes things.

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Traveling: The Royal Mile and a Walk to the Firth

A view of the Royal Mile

A view of the Royal Mile

Our first full day in Edinburgh was a walk around day.  In fact, if my Fitbit was to be believed, it was over 9 miles.   The day served as a precursor to what we would do in Edinburgh.  The more we reflect on our trip the more we realized how much we missed.  This happens when you travel. If you enjoy the parts you did explore, and trust me we did, then you cannot worry about what you missed.

We walked down Pleasance Street toward the Royal Mile.  Along the way we passed the Holyrood 9A, which would be come one of our favorite restaurants, but more importantly we passed a bagpipe shop.  Once you pass a bagpipe shop, you know you are in Scotland.

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Traveling: Arriving in Edinburgh is Comedy of Errors

At the Edinburgh Airport while we still have energy

At the Edinburgh Airport while we still have energy

We arrived in Edinburgh at the wonderful hour of 6 am on a Saturday morning.  We waited in the airport for a little bit before taking the bus to the city center.  The three of us, Cristina, our classmate Cody, and myself, walked to the Royal Mile.  This was a unique site for us.  The Royal Mile is probably the most famous street in Edinburgh and is usually full of activity.  At this time, it was not.  It was pretty empty.  We knew it was too early to check into our dorm so we did some window shopping. Whisky and kilts lined the windows of most shops.

We eventually made our way to the place to find out where our dorm was in a futile attempt to store our luggage with them.  They had no lockers or anything. We asked the guy at the desk where to get a good meal.  He pointed us to the City Restaurant.  I ordered the Midi breakfast which consisted of thick bacon, a fried egg, 2 sausages, beans, toast, and haggis.  This was my first trying of haggis on the trip.  It reminded me of rice dressing without the rice.  It was not served in a stomach but just in a small patty. It was an easy introduction to haggis, and I, for one, enjoyed it.  After breakfast, we went to large book store across the street and took a nap.

Cristina's first Scottish Breakfast

Cristina’s first Scottish Breakfast

My first Scottish Breakfast. The patty is haggis.

My first Scottish Breakfast. The patty is haggis.

Queen approved Tabasco

Queen approved Tabasco

Around noon, two hours before we were supposed to be allowed to check in, wewent try the dorm place again.  Other members of our trip, who were on different flights, were there right before us.  The guy was giving them the keys so we got ours as well.

Then, he drew on a map the precise location of our dorm.  He forgot to tell us he failed geography.

The place where he marked our room as being was three blocks away from our actually dorm.  Cody and Cristina took over and eventually solved the problem after plenty of walking with all of our luggage, which for Cristina and I was a slightly overfilled backpack.  We finally figured out the building by using the key code to get into it’s courtyard.

Then we found another problem.  The numbers on the keys only corresponded to the number of keys they were and not to the building or flat. We just had to try keys  in every building.  Once we gained access to a building then we had to try for flat.  In the states that would probably get us shot.  Once in the flat, we had to try the keys for every room before finding ours.  By luck of the draw Cristina had the largest room.  Cristina and Cody had the best view with the Salisbury Crags right outside.  I got the room by the bathrooms with a view of another dorm.

The Crags outside of our dorm

The Crags outside of our dorm

Our two other flatmates arrived later in the afternoon while the three of us were to take naps. The entire group later convened in the courtyard where our professors met us and told us the basics of the trip.  I have no idea if we ate in for supper, our flat had a kitchen, or if we went out.  I just know that we took some Benedryl early and went sleep around 7 that evening.

Traveling: Scotland and Ireland 2014

The view from Cristina's room in Edinburgh

The view from Cristina’s room in Edinburgh

I thought last summer would be a peaceful summer at home. Whenever anyone asked where we were going, I would answer maybe a few weekend trips.

I should have known better.

Southeastern was offering their study abroad to Scotland and Ireland in the summer of 2014. The first time Cristina talked about it, I knew we were going even though she hadn’t said she wanted to go. We would be earning six history credits while we were there. That makes it worth it. Also, the trip would be three weeks.
I’m glad we did go. The trip wasn’t a big, scheduled tour like our Normandy trip (which Cristina will finish writing about). We would have some lectures in the morning by our professors as well as some from scholars from Scotland and Ireland. Most afternoons we were free to do what we wanted.
The trip’s home base was Edinburgh. We fell in love with that city and it’s people instantly. We took a trip to Ireland for 4 days. We stayed in Dublin and made a day trip to Belfast. The day trip to Belfast was a selling point for us. On one of our first free weekend, we went to London to take a day trip to Hampton Court Palace, the Science Museum, and the London Comic Con. We also took an overnight trip to Inverness and did a cruise on Loch Ness. We took another day trip, thankfully on a Sunday, to St. Andrews to see the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. We went to Stirling and labored up the William Wallace Monument.

I will be writing a day-to-day blog of the trip. I will with a novice and outsiders point of view discuss Scottish politics at the time since this was the summer before the failed vote for Scottish independence. I will discuss some of the record stores we visited, of course. I will try to do my best to describe some of the people that we met. Since it was a college trip, we shared our dorm and our experiences with other people, and thankfully it was a really great group.

We have travelled a lot. Edinburgh feels to us the way New Orleans does. It is that special kind of city. We know that we only experienced maybe 20% of what it has to offer. That’s what return trips are for.

Traveling: Portsmouth aka Peace and Safety

Our time in London, one of my favorite cities, draws to a close as the next leg on our adventure begins. Today we departed for Portsmouth to set sail across the English Channel on a ferry for Normandy. But first, we stopped at the Southwick House near Portsmouth. The Southwick House is the country house where, on 5 June 1944, General Dwight D. Eisenhower made the historic and risky decision to launch the  D-Day invasion. What makes the Southwick House awesome is that not only do you need a special appointment to even visit it, since it’s located on a Royal Military Police base, but it also still has the maps that Eisenhower used to plan the D-Day invasion.

Southwick House: Eisenhower's D-Day Headquarters

Southwick House: Eisenhower’s D-Day Headquarters

Southwick House: Eisenhower's Original Map

Southwick House: Eisenhower’s Original Map

Southwick House: Eisenhower's Original Map

Southwick House: Eisenhower’s Original Map and I’m standing right by the Normandy beaches, the planned invasion spot

Now here’s a cool story about the map. Eisenhower and his men needed a giant wall map of England and the French coast in order to plan the invasion. They needed something durable enough to withstand constantly moving pieces as they changed and replanned the invasion. They decided to use the type of material from which companies make games boards, so they hired two gamemakers into their service. In order to keep the details of the invasion a secret, the gamemakers had to make a giant map of all of Europe. Eisenhower kept the pieces he needed and discarded the rest, and the gamemakers were basically quarantined so they couldn’t talk. Talk about making a risky game…the decision to launch D-Day was extremely risky, and Eisenhower had no idea if it was the right decision…but thankfully, it all paid off in the end.

We then headed to Portsmouth. After eating lunch at The Ship Anson, which was just pub food, we went to the D-Day Museum with the Overlord Embroidery. The short film was well worth it, and the Embroidery of D-Day was awe-inspiring. Think of a modern day Bayeux Tapestry. Some of the panels were truly beautiful. The museum was more of the same as we’ve seen, not much different then our National World War II Museum in New Orleans. One big highlight was that there was a veteran in the museum, and we all sat down and listened to his first-hand story. He joined the war effort a bit later, around 1944 since that is when he turned 16, and worked as an electrician in the Navy. He was hilarious, completely flirting with the girls and giving them big hugs. He asked Kurt where we were from, and we said New Orleans where the food is good, and he pointed to my chest and said,”I can see!” and just laughed. These girls aren’t just from the food, but thanks for the compliment, I guess…?

D-Day Museum at Portsmouth

Everyone listening to the WWII veteran at the D-Day Museum at Portsmouth

D-Day Museum at Portsmouth

The WWII veteran at the D-Day Museum at Portsmouth. Unfortunately, I did not catch his name. He was a hoot, however. He made me retake his picture because he said he didn’t look good in the first one and his medals weren’t being shown off enough. 🙂

View of the water behind the D-Day Museum at Portsmouth

View of the water behind the D-Day Museum at Portsmouth

We then went to the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and went aboard the HMS Victory, a 250 year old ship, famous for, among other things, where Admiral Lord Nelson fell and died in 1805. It was very impressive to see the guts of the ship like that. I was surprised at how small some of the doorways/roofs were; Kurt even hit his head coming down the stairs! If ships or naval history entices you, then you cannot pass up the chance to go aboard this fabulous old ship.

HMS Victory at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

HMS Victory at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

HMS Victory at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

Inside the HMS Victory at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

Tribute to Admiral Lord Nelson in the HMS Victory at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

Tribute to Admiral Lord Nelson in the HMS Victory at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

HMS Victory at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

HMS Victory at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

After sneaking a kiss to King Henry VIII, and wishing we could have went to the new Mary Rose Museum since it houses many Tudor artifacts, we ventured to Gunwharf Quays, which was like an outdoor mall. It was nearing closing time, so we didn’t shop, though I did get the most delicious and cheap chocolate strawberries ever. The lot of us decided to go back to The Ship Anson to drink/have dinner. I chose an Aspall Cyder, which was delicious, though not as delicious as this apple juice tasting thing some others shared. I could not taste the alcohol…very dangerous for an ex-lush like me. Luckily, the Aspall was enough, and I paired it with Pancakes and Ice Cream…super yummy. Kurt ate a Steak and Ale Pie, which looked good as well, but was too heavy for me to eat. He also drank a Greene King IPA, which he enjoyed very much, but I don’t really care for IPAs.

King Henry VIII at Portsmouth Dockyard

Gazing lovingly at my favorite tyrant, King Henry VIII at Portsmouth Dockyard

Steak and Ale Pie at The Ship Anson

Steak and Ale Pie at The Ship Anson

Aspall Cyder

Extremely tasty Aspall Cyder

We then boarded the ferry, which was definitely more like a cruise ship. I don’t know what I was expecting, I guess along the lines of an overnight train, but this was way bigger and fancier. After exploring a bit, Kurt and I were pooped, so we hit the sheets early. Tomorrow begins our two days in Normandy, something I am looking very much forward to! Until then, peace and safety, everyone.

Ferry from Portsmouth, England to Normandy, France

Our “ferry” aka cruise ship from Portsmouth, England to Normandy, France

Ferry from Portsmouth, England to Normandy, France

Aboard the ferry from Portsmouth, England to Normandy, France…goodbye, England! Until we meet again. 🙂