Thursday, January 31, 2013

Paris: Misc.

Within the three wings of the Louvre is the Arc du Carrousel, another arch to celebrate Napoleon's victories.  Outside of it are the Tuileries Gardens and the Place de la Concorde.  The obelisk is from Eygpt, and the fountains are based on naval themes.  This area is a pleasant way to recharge your batteries after the exhaustion of the Louvre.

Paris sites

The Arc de Triomphe is the largest in the world, and where Victor Hugo is buried.  It is surrounded by 8 rings of which traffic flows in and out to the 8 directions.  I never want to be driving in that mess.

The Opera House inspired The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux.  Nearby is the lavish department store Galeries Lafayette, where all the fashions are overpriced and there is no such thing as a sale.

Paris: The Louvre

The Louvre (Louv-ra) is the largest European museum, and it feels it.  This place would take days to cover, and after only a few hours I was hot, tired, hungry, and sore.  But I'd do it again.  It's best to hit the highlights, such as the Italian and French paintings, and other famous works.  Of course, the Mona Lisa is the most well-known artwork here.  But be prepared, although the work is speechless, the surrondings are not.  It is in a large room with a giganitc painting opposite it, and it is small and behind glass.  Hundreds of tourists stand in front of it, seemingly unable to move to let short and polite folks like me get near it.  The Coronation of Napolean is a neoclassical work that portrays this big-headed tyrant being crowned emporer.  The Romantic paintings contains one of my favorites:  Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People.  The boy in the painting was Victor Hugo's inspiration for Gavroche in Les Miserables.  Favorite statues include Winged Victory of Samothrace and Venus de Milo.

Notre-Dame Cathedral

This Neo-Gothic, 700 year old church is dedicated to Our Lady (Notre-Dame).  This church is most notable for its flying buttresses.  In the facade of the church, Mary is holding Jesus, flanked by Adam and Eve.  Below them are the 28 Kings of Judah, of which were temporarity decapited during the revolution.  Gigantic but gorgeous rose windows cover three sides of the church. 

Paris: Views from the Tower

Paris: the City of Light, Eiffel Tower

Although Paris has the rudest citizens I have met in Europe, I have to say it is the most beautiful city, inside and out.  It takes one's breath away, mere words cannot fully describe it.  I will try my humblest best through my pictures.  One must take a river cruise on the Seine at dusk.  There are so many buildings lit up it is like Christmas all over. 
The Eiffel (e-full) Tower was built in 1889 for the Centennial World's Fair by Gustave Eiffel.  It is 1000 feet tall, has 7000 tons of metal, and 50 tons of paint.  You can take an elevator or steps to the three levels.  People usually go to the 2nd for it is not so windy and sites are more easily recognizable.  It is overwheming standing under it, I kept imagining it crashing down on me.  But as you can see, it is graceful, yet powerful.

London: Misc.

The Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms are a fascinating journey into the life of Churchill and the fight for Britain in WWII.  The underground bunker is recreated to look exactly as it did during the war, while the museum is an exhaustive look into the Renaissance man that Churchill was.  He was not only the Prime Minister, but also a writer and a painter.  Throughout his life he suffered with depression and a speech impediment.  Churchill also foresaw the threat of Nazism and Communism. 

Trafalgar Square, London 2 - Jun 2009.jpg
Trafalgar Square is surrounded by museums.  Within is Admiral  Lord Nelson, who died after he won the battle of Trafalgar.  Most notable are the pigeons, which swarm about you and eat of your hand.  But now the pigeon population has been decreased through various means since they were considered a public nuisance. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

London: The Tower and Shakespeare

This is a fun, family-oriented museum that is also historically informative and easy to access.  Beefeaters abound, medieval costumed actors roam the tower, and history surrounds you with stories to tell and artifacts to display.  Even the public can participate in the merriment.  The Crown Jewels are displayed here, where you can drool over the jewels and wonder what its like to have that heavy crown on your head.  Instruments of torture churn your stomach, and the living quarters can give you a chill.  This was not a friendly place.  But great fun for us! 

Shakespeare's Globe is a reproduction of the original Globe since it was demolished in 1644. Original Shakespearean plays occur during the summer, and tours are allowed during closed season.  A small museum has props and costumes from famous plays, including Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth.

London: National Gallery

This fabulous and free museum is an introduction to European art.  It is a breezy yet informative collection of works from famous artists such as Van Eyck, Da Vinci, Monet, and Van Gogh.  They also have a delicious tea shop where you can taste the best tea and scones in the city. 

Van Eyck
Van Gogh

Da Vinci

London: Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's

The Abbey's western fa├žadeEngland's kings and queens have been crowned and buried at the Abbey since 1066. Queen Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots are buried here side by side, and the Coronation Chair is amazingly intact after 1000 years. Other famous Englishmen are buried here, as well as a section known as Poet's Corner, which has burial sites for classic English writers. In the museum are effigies and clothes that the royals wore years ago. Finally is the tomb of the Unknown Warrior. 

St. Paul's Cathedral was designed by Sir Christopher Wren.  It is most notable for Princess Diana and Princess Katherine's weddings.  Since this fine church is in the heart of the city, where it was born during the Roman  times, the German army bombarded it during WWII relentlessly for two months every night.  The brave fire watch were able to keep it from destruction.  It has the second-largest dome in the world.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The British Museum Part 2

The Assyrian section houses the Nimrud Galleries, these human-headed winged lions, and other colossal lion sculptures. 

Finally, the Greek section houses the Elgin Marbles, taken from the Parthenon in Athens, Greece.


The British Museum part 1

This museum is the largest collection of world history anywhere.  It is so huge it would take days to cover it.  Only a few hours canvassing its many halls leaves a tourist, exhausted, hungry, and hot.  The Egyptian section starts with the Rosetta Stone, which helped modern linguists decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs.  It also houses a collection of mummies, of which I find gruesome.  Yet the cat mummies don't bother me.  There are huge heads of Egyptian pharaohs the overwhelm the puny human.  Such as Amenhotep III, who united the two Nile kingdoms, and Ramses II. 

"A large dark grey-coloured slab of stone with text that uses Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, demotic and Greek script in three separate horizontal registers"


Buckingham Palace is the Queen's residence. The Victoria Memorial is located in front of the palace and is where tourists swarm to get a glimpse of royalty.

Hyde Park is London's Central Park, complete with lakes to row on, trails to hike, and flowers to smell. Within its walls is the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain which is a large ring-shaped river with mini-waterfalls, valleys, and islands. A very relaxing oasis in the middle of such a bustling city. The Royal Albert Hall is a memorial to Prince Albert.


There are many ways to get around London, my favorite being the subway, or the Tube.  It is the cleanest, most extensive, and best managed system that I have ever been on.  When you get on or off the tube, a recorded voice reminds you to "mind the gap."  A scenic way to get around is on a cruise on the Thames river, especially at night.  The city is lit with its most famous landmarks in their full splendor.   Of course they are also regal during the day.

The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

The Tower Bridge

Thursday, January 24, 2013


The world's largest flower garden, only 30-60 minutes from Amsterdam (by train and bus), and only open in the spring.  But oh is it ever the grandeur of spring!  So beautiful I wanted to bury my face in it!

Amsterdam Museums

The Milkmaid-Vermeer
Rijkmusem houses the Dutch masterpieces of Rembrandt, Hals, Steen, and Vermeer.  It has beautiful sculptures inside and out, and is surrounded by the Museumplien, a park that also has the massive Amsterdam sculpture that tourists like to to hang out on.  Nearby is the little Cobra Cafe that had delicious pancakes.  The other museum in the park is the Van Gogh museum, which houses the master's works in a well-organized fashion in a historical timeline. 

a golden-hued field with streaks of green and a blue sky and a flock of black birds in the background
Wheatfield with Crows-Van Gogh

Night Watch-Rembrandt

Portrait of a Young Couple-Hals

Amsterdam Sites

Magna Plaza is a mall that used to be the postal office. They have a fabulous cheese cart and souvenir shop with the most friendly proprietors. In Central Amsterdam, Dam Square, is the Royal Palace. Today its the royal place for so-called performance artists who dress up in costumes and let you take pictures only if you pay. 


Westerkerk is the church immortalized in Anne Frank's diary as she heard the church bells nearby as she and her family hid in the attic for two years. We visited this also, a barren and tiny place where they had no air, no sun for so long. Anne died just before their camp was liberated. The Mint Tower is near the Jewish Resistance Museum, where I had a tasty bagel with lox and cream cheese. Nothing beats the real thing!