Monday, June 13, 2011

Tate Modern and Shakespears Globe

To finish the torturing of my middle child, we ventured out on Sunday to the Tate Modern.  The goal was to finish our romp through Britain's most famous works of art.  We saw a couple Picasso's, a Monet, looked all over for a Dali (never actually found it), and saw a big pile of gravel that had a gallery all to itself.  That had us scratching our heads.  Modern art really is quite different from the classics.  I have to admit that I didn't find it quite as interesting as the masterpieces we saw at the National Gallery. 

After leaving the Tate, a half a block down the street was Shakespear's Globe Theater.  If you know me very well, you know that I am a huge fan of Wills.  I won't pretend to have read every play, but I do have my favorites and I'm quite loyal to them.  Now, this Globe is not the original, it burnt down back in the 1600's after a special effects person fired a cannon out of the attic of the theater during a play.  One of the sparks from the explosion ignited the thatched roof and within 2 hours the theater was gone.  Luckily no one was injured, although one man's trousers did catch on fire.  A fellow theater patron who was partaking in a pint kindly dumped his beer on the man trousers and, all's well that ends well.

The children enjoyed going to The Globe so much that they want to go back and see a play.  We're going to try to make that happen, though time is running short.

It was another rainy day in London, really ready to go home to the sun!


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Michaelangelo, Monet, and Van Gogh Oh My!

Yes, I did it.  I took my kids to the National Gallery and forced culture down their throats! 

I received three very different reactions.  Kimberly was in awe and loved looking around at the artwork.  Evie didn't complain but didn't want to spend a lot of time looking around.  Jack was miserable.  Let me try to explain how miserable he was.  On a recent episode of Dr. Who, The Dr. and Amy Pond travel back in time to visit Vincent Van Gogh.  In this episode, are several of Van Gogh's most famous paintings, three of which are at the National Gallery.  Though Jack is a huge fan of Dr. Who, when we entered the Van Gogh exhibit, he was not impressed.  So, after hitting the highlights, as I like to call it, we had our tea and hit the road.  Needless to say, Jack was less than thrilled when we walked about a half a block and took a left into the National Portrait Gallery. 

Here is where they house the portraits of England's most famous citizens, past and present.  We started off in the Tudor Gallery, my favorite, and then proceeded to the Queen Victoria exhibit, Evie's favorite monarch.  We then found the Pop Culture area to see Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, and Joan Collins (?).  We also ran into a bust of Winston Churchill, Charles Darwin, and a huge painting of Lord Chamberlain.  Jack did not enjoy this either and the fun quickly ran out.  We hopped back on the underground and made our way back to the train station to catch our train back to Basingstoke.  Of course we had poor timing and hit the station at rush hour.  There was not a seat to be had on the train so the 4 of us ended up standing for about 40 minutes of our 60 minute ride. 

Jack's mood continued to deteriorate and my headache began to throb.  The clincher came when we got on the bus and it didn't leave right away.  I tried to tell Jack that these things run on a schedule and the driver couldn't leave the stop until it was time to go.  He saw no reason for this, we were on the bus and the bus needed to go.  When we finally got to our stop, Jack complained to me during the short walk back to the house which seemed to take FOREVER!  He finished by stating that for the next 2 weeks, we were not going anywhere! 

Wonder how he will react when we go to the Tate Museum of Modern Art!


Monday, June 6, 2011

I Went to Oxford

Yes, I did go to Oxford, on a cold and rainy day.  What's that?  Well you did ask if I had gone to Oxford, you didn't specify in what context I went to Oxford!

It is easy to picture in your mind a beautiful old college campus with statues and buildings dating back to the 15th century.  You would be partly right.  Oxford is a collection of colleges.  Each has their own governing board and specialization.  We were only able to visit one,  Christ's Church College. 

Excerpt from their website:  Christ Church is a unique institution, one of the largest colleges in the University of Oxford and the Cathedral Church for the Diocese of Oxford. It has a world famous Cathedral Choir; scholarly collections of books and art; and is enjoyed by many people as visitors or guests at conferences and Summer schools. 

Christ Church has a fascinating history and many distinguished people have studied here including John Locke, Robert Hooke, John Wesley, Robert Peel, William Gladstone, W.H. Auden, David Dimbleby, Rowan Williams, Richard Curtis and Howard Goodall.

The dining hall at Christ's Church was also available to tour.  It was used as the basis for the dining hall in the Harry Potter movies and some of the scenes were actually filmed there.
One of the most famous graduates was Charles Dodgson, also know as Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland.  Alice is based on one of the daughters of the dean of the college.  One of the stained glass windows in the dining hall has pictures form Alice in Wonderland embedded in the corners.

I'd love to go back when the weather is a bit nicer to walk around the town and see more of it's beautiful sites...maybe next time.


Walk Like an Egyptian

We finally made it to the British Museum last week!  It was a great day to spend in a museum, rainy!

We spent over 3 hours inside and only saw a portion of what is there.  I'll just mention the highlights for ya...The descriptions are taken from the British Museum website!

1. The Rosetta Stone - A valuable key to the decipherment of hieroglyphs, the inscription on the Rosetta Stone is a decree passed by a council of priests. It is one of a series that affirm the royal cult of the 13-year-old Ptolemy V on the first anniversary of his coronation.

2.  Mummies - yuck (this description was not taken from the website, it is my own opinion on the process of mummification)

3. Sculptures from the Parthenon - The Parthenon was built as a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena. It was the centrepiece of an ambitious building programme on the Acropolis of Athens. The temple’s great size and lavish use of white marble was intended to show off the city’s power and wealth at the height of its empire.

4. Easter Island Statues - Easter Island is famous for its stone statues of human figures, known as moai.

5. Samauri Armor - From Japan  Momoyama period, late 16th century

At the end of our visit to the museum, we headed over to Trafalgar to meet up with Ken and Pauline who were visiting.  Ken, Pauline, and I headed to the National Gallery and John took the kids to the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum.  Guess who got the better deal on that one?


Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Wale of a Time

On Saturday May 14th we got up at 4:00 AM!, packed up the car, and headed northwest to Wales.  We met up with our friends, the McDermotts, along the way.  It took around 5 hours to make the trip.  We went up to Manchester then headed west to Wales.  The plan for the day was to take a steam train up Snowden Mountain and then back down again.  We arrived at the Snowden Mountain Railway, bought our tickets and had a bite before loading up and making the trip up the mountain.  It took about an hour to get to the top and the scenery was breathtaking.  When we got to the top, we walked out into the mist and couldn't see a thing!  We ended up climbing up to the peak of the mountain with the wind and freezing rain stinging our little faces.  Jack was the first to make it to the top, of course.  He scared the death out of me because with all the fog, I thought maybe he kept on going and walked right off the mountain.  We only stayed on the top for about 30 minutes before heading back down again.  It took about 2.5 hours round trip, and we had a blast!

Once back at the bottom, we loaded up into the cars and headed for our hotel in Criccieth.  It was a lovely little place and our room even had a view of the water and the castle.  We made reservations to have dinner at 6:30 then realized we needed to change it to 7:00.  Dr. Who was coming on at 6:00 and there is no way we were missing that to eat dinner!  After a great meal with an even better dessert, we headed up to bed.

We met downstairs for breakfast at 9:00 and had the best bacon ever!!!!!!  We checked out and headed to our next destination, Caernarfon.  The scenery in Wales is absolutely beautiful and 90% of the sheep in the world must live in Wales.  Every field was stuffed with sheep standing alongside stone walls and grazing.  BEAUTIFUL!  We spent the afternoon storming another castle, had a bite to eat and then turned our cars towards home.

It was a fantastic weekend spent with wonderful friends.  I would certainly do it again any time.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Paris - Part Deux

Since we are having a slow week at Chateau Leveille due to EOG testing, I thought I would finish up the Paris trip.  First I will have to re-read what I have already posted!

OK, now that I am refreshed, let me continue!

On Saturday, we decided to drive to Versailles.  WOW.  What a palace.  The gates are made of gold (and many other things as well)!  We toured around the inside of the palace that was built by Louis the XIV We saw the hall of mirrors, the gardens, and a whole lot of expensive stuff.  Sorry I can't be more descriptive, I'll have to let the pictures do my talking for me.  After, we had lunch at a little Italian cafe and then headed back to the hotel.

We all needed a nap, due to the pace at which we went the day before.

We decided to head back into Paris that evening to see the one monument we had not yet been to, The Arc de Triomphe.  We took the subway, and even though I had done my research and knew we needed to get off at the Charles de Gaule station, I allowed myself to be doubted and John talked me into getting off at a stop further down the line.  We then had to walk about 8 blocks back to the the Arc.  The Champs E'Lysee was crowed with tourists, it was hot, and we wore ourselves out.  When we made it to the Arc, I looked to my right and directly next to it was the subway station we should have gotten off at.  At this point, I just laughed...We sat down on a bench and took a needed rest.  We were all extremely burnt out at this point.  We walked around a bit and tried to find a place to have dinner but all the restaurants were crowded.  We decided to head back to La Defense and have dinner there.

We had a lovely evening just strolling around our own little part of Paris.  I highly recommend staying a little outside the city.  It's less touristy and much quieter. 

Paris is a very busy place.  We had less crowds on Friday so a trip during the week is probably better if you don't like being stuck in lines and walking through lots of people.  If you would rather stay in Paris center, choose a small, family run hotel.  They really do give the best service and are very helpful.  We have stayed in two such hotels, the one in Paris and one in Venice.  They have been the most memorable.  They are usually older buildings that have been converted into hotels and are very charming.  You don't need to know too much of the language, many Parisiens speak some or very good English.  It is helpful to study the subway system before you go, we did not do this and it is more complicated than the one in London or even New York for that matter.

I will be returning to Paris at some point in my life.  I will take things a lot slower next time and soak in the atmosphere by sitting in sidewalk cafes and watching more than doing!

I hope you enjoy the pics
Cheers or should I say Au'revoir!