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: 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. 🙂

Traveling: London

As you may know, especially because of the lack of recent posts, Kurt and I are both enrolled in grad school. While Kurt is focusing on Educational Technology, I’m focusing on History. It’s been a bit crazy at times between teaching high school and taking two graduate classes a semester, but I’ve managed to retain a 4.0. When the opportunity arose for me to go on a study abroad trip to London, Normandy, and Paris this summer, and take two classes in the process, I knew I couldn’t pass it up. Luckily, Kurt was able to come with me and instead of auditing the classes, he decided to get credit for them as well. Thus, we left on a week long adventure in England and France, chock full of history and adventure.

After a long flight and a six hour time difference, our study abroad group landed in London. With barely any sleep on the plane, we were all exhausted, but in order to beat jet lag, our professor thankfully forced us to stay awake. As soon as we got off the plane, we met our guide through Ambrose Tours, Mark, and our awesome Dutch bus driver, Hiei. They would remain with us throughout the rest of our trip.

Our first stop was England’s National Army Museum. Inside, we saw all the major British Campaigns throughout history. One major missing campaign was the American Revolution; we all thought it was funny that they left that one out. We got to see different uniforms, paraphernalia, and even the skeleton of Napoleon’s favorite horse. Though not one of the top things to view in England, it was interesting to see England’s history through it’s wars.

 

Napoleon's Favorite Horse: Marengo

Napoleon’s Favorite Horse: Marengo

 

We then went on a driving tour of London, viewing Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and some other various sights. We stopped to eat at Covent Garden, a little shopping district. Still feeling tired, I didn’t want anything heavy, so I opted for some hummus, goat cheese, olives, and pita bread. Yum yum! Covent Garden looked like a fun place, right on the fringe of West End, with plenty of cool shops, but since we only had a little bit of time there, I didn’t get to experience much. Oh well, something to save for our next London trip, right?

 

Cooking Paella at Covent Garden

Cooking Paella at Covent Garden

 

When we finally made it to the hotel, I forced myself to stay awake as long as possible; however, by 6pm (London time), I could not keep my eyes open. I slept until the next morning, where I was wide awake and free of jet lag.

The next morning was the Queen’s Official Birthday. Our destination was the Churchill War Rooms, which was right next to the horse yard where the Queen’s presentation and such was occurring. We were able to see the grand stands, the royal guards, and the long lines of people, though we didn’t catch a glimpse of any royalty.

 

Queen's Official Birthday

Queen’s Official Birthday: The Closest I’ll Ever Get to British Royalty

 

Churchill’s War Rooms were extremely interesting and well worth it. They were a secret underground headquarters for the British government throughout WWII. We were able to see the maps Churchill used, his bedroom, other official’s bedrooms, and many of Churchill’s personal effects in the Churchill Museum also located there. Extremely cool to see, it is highly recommended, especially if you love WWII or secret, underground headquarters that aren’t *quite* bombproof.

Churchill's War Rooms

Churchill’s War Rooms: Dining Room

Churchill's War Rooms

Churchill’s War Rooms: Conference Room

Churchill's War Rooms

Churchill’s War Rooms: Hitler Graffiti on the Map in the Conference Room

Churchill's War Rooms

Churchill’s War Rooms: Churchill’s Bedroom (he almost never slept there, except for his daily nap)

 

We then went to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Kurt and I had done St. Paul’s when we came to London in 2010, so we didn’t climb the steps or do the catacombs again. Instead, we opted to take a quick tour of the church itself, then head to Westminster Abbey, which we did not go inside last time. As we’re about to enter, we see all these planes flying overhead, which included a Lancaster bomber and Typhoon fighter, and ended with the Red Arrows, leaving a trail of red, white and blue smoke across the sky. They were part of the Queen’s birthday celebrations.

Fly Past in honor of the Queen's Official Birthday

Fly Past in honor of the Queen’s Official Birthday

Fly Past in honor of the Queen's Official Birthday

Fly Past in honor of the Queen’s Official Birthday

 

We then enter the Abbey, final resting place of dozens of monarchs and British nobility. Highlights of the tour included the tombs of Edward Longshanks, Edward the Confessor, Henry V, Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, Margaret Beaufort, Winston Churchill, Charles II, Mary I, and Henry VII, among others. They also had a poets corner which included Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Lord Byron, Charles Dickens, John Keats, Rudyard Kipling, and Oscar Wilde, among others. I very much enjoyed seeing the final resting place of the old monarchs, since I love British history, even if I was not allowed to take pictures of their final resting places. There was even a small museum showcasing some crown jewels, Queen Mary II’s coronation chair, and the oldest surviving altarpiece in England. I would definitely recommend it if you love British monarchs.

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey: Pyx Chamber

Westminster Abbey: Pyx Chamber, one of the oldest parts of the Abbey, built after the Norman Conquest in 1066

Westminster Retable: Oldest Altarpiece in London

Westminster Retable: Oldest Altarpiece in London

 

We finished with the Abbey in just enough time to make our 3pm appointment at Westminster Palace, otherwise known as where the House of Lords and House of Commons presides. Though most of the original palace burned down in 1834, it was still an impressive sight. The Lords and Commons are completely separated, and it’s hard to imagine conducting work in such an exquisitely beautiful complex. Once again, photography was not allowed, so I bought many postcards to remember and scrapbook it. One funny memory is that Kurt was tired of standing, so as we’re listening to the tour guide talk about the House of Lords and we’re standing in the pews the Lords sit in to debate and such, Kurt decides to sit down in the pew and rest. Well, another tour guide saw him and fussed him for sitting where the Lords sit. Not many people can say that they sat down in the House of Lords!

Westminster Palace

Westminster Palace

Westminster Palace

Westminster Palace: It was a very cold and rainy day

 

After a brief jaunt to the hotel to drop off our wares, we then take a stroll around London. We made our way down Fleet Street, even finding a demonic barber, found Twinings, which sells some of the best tea, though it was unfortunately closed, walked across Black Friar’s bridge before eating at Doggett’s on the Thames River, walked to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, walked across the Millennium Bridge (remember Harry Potter?) toward St. Paul’s again, then made an impromptu decision to find Abbey Road. After attempting to invoke the Beatles, we went back to Westminster for some night shots. Since the sun doesn’t set until around 10:30pm, and we are always so tired after long days touring, we had never seen London at night. It was pretty all lit up, I must say. Finally, we headed back to the Regency Hotel for some sleep.

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

Millennium Bridge with St. Paul's Dome

Walking across Millennium Bridge with St. Paul’s dome in the background

Abbey Road

Abbey Road

London Eye at Night

London Eye at Night

 

Tomorrow, we leave London and go to Portsmouth before crossing the Channel on a ferry for Normandy. I can’t wait!

 

 

Traveling: Passed the Pub That Saps Your Body (or Our Last Day in London)

Before I start this entry into our Europe Chronicles, I just want to make you aware I’m doing this mainly from memory. These events may or may not have happened and if they did could be completely out of order. Cristina took lengthy detailed notes everyday in her journal. She does plan on writing for this website, but right now she is putting more emphasis on our wedding website.

As two former geography teachers, we knew the concept. However, it wasn’t until we were in London we completely understood it. In fact, it wasn’t until I went to the bathroom at around 4:30 in the morning that I fully understood the earth’s tilt. The sun, about to rise, was giving off enough light for the day to start. Also, it was well after 9:30 that it was completely dark at night. Having not traveled much, it was a hard concept to get my head around. The sun set mostly after nine pm for most of the trip, which means we didn’t really see much of Europe at night. We were just too tired.

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Traveling: Castles, Stones, and Baths

The morning after our day tour of London, our legs were mad at us. They felt insulted that we had the audacity to try to climb that many steps without their permission. So they decided to get back at us by being extremely sore. We were prepared though. Excedrin was called in to rescue us from our misery. The mixture of aspirin and caffeine is a perfect cocktail for the out of shape traveler. Seriously, if you plan on going to go to Europe use the stair master for about a month or two before embarking.

The next tour Cristina planned for us was a trip to Windsor, Stonehenge and Bath. This is when Cristina lost her jacket. Also, we learned tube escalator etiquette at this time. Let’s face it, we are almost all lazy Americans. When we ride an escalator, at least in my part of the world, we just relax and talk. It doesn’t matter where you stand. Well, don’t do that in Europe. If you just want to enjoy the ride, ride single file on the right hand side. Do not go over into the left hand side. You will be trampled. People who are in a hurry will climb up the escalator on the left to get through it faster. By the way, everyone that did that was very skinny.

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle: Fit for a Queen

Fortune smiled on us again and we had the same tour guide as the day before. It didn’t take long to get to Windsor and was aided by the necessary background knowledge. Usually, I get bored in touring homes, but this one was different. First of all, Windsor is a castle. Second of hall, the rooms had a good flow to them. We also toured the grounds and the St. George’s Chapel. Henry VIII is buried underneath the chapel. Cristina had to have a picture but photography was forbidden. I’m not proud of this, but I distracted the kindly docent, so Cristina got her picture.

No you can't pull a car right up to StonehengeNext was a lovely drive through some of the English country side. Then we arrived at Stonehenge. My first thought: oh great, rocks, yay. Then you notice how they are put together and wonder how did they do that. There is an excellent free audio tour that goes with the walk around Stonehenge. Yet, I found myself just putting the audio device down and just letting my mind form it’s own conclusions.

We then at lunch in the small, well preserved touristy town of Lacock. We ate at the George Inn which we were told was the second oldest pub in England that sells alcohol. The steak pie was very tasty and filling. Cristina ordered the fish and chips but was suffering from a little motion sickness. We explored the town for a couple of minutes after we finished eating seeing a medieval (?) abbey where apparently scenes from Harry Potter were filmed.

Roman Baths

A Lovely Day at the Roman Baths

Finally, we arrived in Bath. We headed straight for the Roman Baths. I really enjoyed this museum. The water, which you can put your hands or feet into, felt really nice. Again, this tour had very good audio guides. On the way out, you can try some water from the spring. There are legends of it having mystical and medicinal properties. Cristina did claim she felt better after drinking it. After the museum we went to a local ice cream parlor. I, being lactose boy, opted for just a PowerAde. On the way out of Bath, Cristina saw the dairy farm from that was used to make her ice cream. When traveling, it’s those little moments that just make your day.

We didn’t do any more all day tours after this day. We chose these two tours to basically not have to work so hard the first two days at least from a planning aspect. I know some people say tours are waste of money, but it was one of the best decisions we made. We learned how to tour quickly, and when you want to see a lot of things you need to learn that. Now, we did get lucky making by having a very good tour guide. We now had the confidence that we could handle this on our own. We knew we could wing it if we needed to which is exactly what we did for the rest of the trip. And that might have been our best decision.