Hahaha. So I clearly have been very busy with life because my last post was so long ago! So many great things have happened in my three weeks in London. So many bad things have happened too, but the great things out weigh the bad things. Every thing was a learning experience.
I'll give just a brief summary of everything I've done since my last post. I'm sure I'll be missing something, but these are the big things:
Here is my Scotland weekend in summary:
I left on Friday night to take a bus to Scotland. The bus broke down around 4 in the morning, but not for too long. After only four hours of sleep, we were finally in Edinburgh! We walked up Calton Hill and were blown away by the view. I have never seen such a rewarding view for such a short walk. I could see Edinburgh Castle, Arthur's Seat, and the sea. On Calton Hill, they have the Scottish Monument. It's also called Scotland's Disgrace because they sort of ran out of money while building it. However, it is still wonderful to see, and absolutely huge. We walked to Edinburgh Castle by 9:00 am and toured it for a while. The castle is on a hill and you can't tell where they started building the castle because the stones look like they are the hill. The castle is like a small city on the inside. With lots of buildings and a high upward slope, there was so much to see. I learned so much, but I was also extremely tired. We ate lunch in a building that looked like a cathedral, but it was a nice cafe. We visited St. Giles Cathedral, and it was so gorgeous. It was wonderful seeing a cathedral that wasn't as huge as Westminster in London. I found it equally as beautiful and really loved walking around while listening to a choir rehearse. We went to our hostel, which is actually the University of Edinburgh's dorm rooms. They rent them out in the summer to travelers. We put our stuff down and made our way to Holyrood Palace. Each room became more and more ornate and that's exactly what they wanted to have happen while they designed it. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take pictures, but my favorite room was Queen Mary's second bedroom. I had visited Westminster Abbey this past week and learned a little bit about Queen Mary, but being in Scotland and hearing their side of the story made me appreciate the history so much more. So much jealousy. My favorite part of the entire palace was Holyrood Abbey. I spent the most time here. Due to anti-Catholic groups, it is now a roofless ruin. This is where Felix Mendelssohn was said to have chosen to write the Scottish Symphony. It was such powerful moment. I'll never forget it. We exited the Abbey and walked in the queen's gardens and exited the palace to go to Arthur's Seat. Now, after four hours of sleep, I was about to climb up to Edinburgh's highest point. If any of you know me at all, you'll know that this was really physically challenging for me. But, I did it. I climbed to the top, and what a view. Scotland is beautiful in every direction, at every measurement above or below sea level. Be sure to check out some pictures! It was an incredible moment for me to be there. There is this beautiful shot in one of my favorite movies called Driving Lessons. I thought it was so beautiful that I painted my first picture based off of this screen shot, thinking it was a set. Nope. It's Arthur's Seat. And I got to experience it first hand.
We started to climb down and we got a little bit lost because there are absolutely no signs to follow. We couldn't find a single place to eat because everything shuts down at 5-6 pm and we ended up eating at a Mexican restaurant, in Scotland. It was better than not eating. We went to our hostel and slept for an hour before fire alarms went off. There were drunk Scottish men singing and everything. What a day.
The next day, we took a tour of the Highlands. Our driver, Danny, was wonderful and very sweet and extremely knowledgeable. I had the time of my life. I won't go into it too much, but please check out the pictures. I ran out of memory card multiple times on this trip.
St. Paul's Cathedral:
This was SUCH an amazing place. It's definitely one of my favorite places in London. The Birmingham Symphony Orchestra was rehearsing with the choir there. They were playing Benjamin Britten's War Requiem and I couldn't even pay attention to the audio guide because it was so amazing. So, I ended up exploring on my own and climbed all the way to the top! I climbed 528 steps to the top, but after Arthur's Seat, this was nothing. What was hard about climbing the staircase was that the stairs all look the same and after fifty steps, I found my eyes were trying to solve an optical illusion. My motto for climbing up Arthur's Seat was, "Don't think about it, just do it." I loved the whispering gallery and absolutely loved the view from the Golden Gallery. What an amazing piece of history and architecture. It's so much larger in person than the photos show it. It's also a beautiful symbol of hope. During WWII, Hitler tried to bomb it many times because of this symbolism. What an amazing place, huh?
My professor thought it might be nice to have a day out for class. We met in the Southbank area and visited the British Film Institute and the Tate Modern Museum. We watched some contemporary films and saw some really interesting works. We walked by so many great things and saw so many artists and performers. In Scotland, they have many bagpipers playing in tourist-y spots and our driver mentioned that it's fine if you take a picture with or of the performer, but because you're taking something from that interaction, you should give something back, even if it's just a few pence. It's probably my favorite area of London. So much art and performing is done there. We walked towards the cinema, where my classmates were going to watch a film but I had to run off and have a meeting with a professor from Leeds Metropolitan University. I felt really privileged to have met him after so much emailing. I felt positive about the experience and felt very inspired from it. It made my week.
Paris, France Weekend:
Oh my. Paris was an interesting weekend for me. I'm not sure how to describe Paris, but it wasn't what I expected. I'm not going to say that I don't like Paris, but it certainly wasn't the most enjoyable place I've ever been to on Earth. However, I did have some really great times and met some really nice people from the trip. The first night we arrived, we missed our reservation to a boat on the River Seine, which was rescheduled for the next night. So a few girls and I went to visit the Eiffel Tower. It was beautiful and we got to see it sparkle, but it was a really scary place to be for young girls in Paris. We saw a few people get their phones stolen from them from people ripping them out of their hands. The next day, we took a bus tour of the city and saw every great monument that Paris has to offer. It was pretty and everything looked so expensive! Our last stop was the Monteparnasse Tower, which is the second tallest building in Paris, I believe. It provided a 360 degree view of the city. It was nice. Afterwards, I was trying to find the Metro stations and I found myself in the middle of a market. I bought a couple headbands and then ran into the gay parade that was happening the same day. I also visited a shopping mall and browsed there for a bit. Luckily, the Metro was below the mall. I went to a cafe near the restaurant we ate at later that evening. It was really nice sitting in Paris with a slow sipped cup of coffee. So relaxing and mind clearing. I met up with the program to have our dinner, which was in a lovely restaurant on a cute little street of cafes. They served us nice food and lots and lots of wine. We then went to the boat. The next day, I spent my time at the Pompidou Center of Modern Art and saw some of the most amazing pieces of art. I saw some powerful works and found it so inspiring to be in there. Then we took the Eurostar back to London and it was so great to be back home.
Harry Potter Studio Tour:
I can't write too much about this because I don't want to spoil it for people who want to go. Even if you think you won't ever make it to England, let me just say that I never thought I would make it here. Even on the plane there, I couldn't accept that it was happening. And that's especially true for the studio tour. Wow. So most of us thought that paying 29 pounds for this tour was really expensive, but after going through and seeing everything they have there, I would say that it is actually very cheap. I certainly got my money's worth. I left for the tour at 2:45 and didn't get home until after 10pm. I also felt like I rushed through the tour. There is so much to see and so much to do. I will tell you that there are only two places in the world that serve butterbeer. One is in Florida and the other is at the studio, so if you ever get a chance to go to either place, get some! It's so tasty! (unfortunately, it's cold.. :( ) Seeing everything at the studios made me appreciate film making so much more. Everyone always mentions that the amount of detail put into the movies is amazing, and I never argued with that point, but seeing it REALLY makes you appreciate it. There were people who hand wrote entire books for the movie. Some of the paintings in the movies are actually paintings of different people who worked on the films. One of the things that really stood out to me was a forced perspective set that they had from the third film (my favorite). It was so wonderful and simple and genius. The last room we were in was the most moving piece of art I've ever seen. I felt a lot of emotions when I saw it, but I kept thinking why I was almost being moved to tears by this work of art and not others I had seen in some of the world's greatest museums. It made me reflect on how much Harry Potter has influenced my life and how somehow, I felt like there was a part of me in the artwork, like the artists had included every detail I had grown to love about Harry Potter. It was a model of Hogwarts Castle. I felt so surprised by this jolt of emotion, but there were people that were openly crying. I even saw a girl sobbing in the corner. It was easy to laugh at her because she was so distracting, but, you know, I knew how she felt. Everyone did. I thought about all of the crap people told me for reading and liking Harry Potter over the years and how proud I was to have been a part of its generation. What makes Harry Potter so special to me is really beyond my comprehension, but in that room, it really did feel like the magic was real. It took 60 artists to create this model of Hogwarts castle, which meant it took 60 people to put all of their time and work into something that had to be so small and perfectly measured. That is something special and like most things in England, I found it incredibly inspiring.
Fourth of July Boat Party:
The boat party started off really "meh" for me. We had our final project due the next day, but because they make us sign up and pay for these events in advanced, I felt obligated to go even though my work was not yet finished. I felt pretty guilty about it for half of the boat ride, but I really enjoyed the views. The boat showed London better than the boat tour in Paris. I had such a feeling of thankfulness and humbleness when we went under Tower Bridge. The DJ played typical American pop music, but he only played Journey once at the very end. We sailed past most of London when it was dark and saw many of the bridges' lights. Seeing Parliament one last time was a rather emotional moment. I didn't cry and I didn't feel sad, but my heart just felt heavy. It felt full, and it felt content. My homework didn't matter for that moment in time, and I was so happy to be in the exact spot I had been.