Views from a Bus

So a couple of weeks ago, I took a bus home from the Tower of London. What caught my attention was that it was a old style bus with the back hop-on entrance.

Back of old style bus on route 15.

Back of old style bus on route 15.

While riding on the top of the bus, I got to watch the city of London roll by. It was really neat. I saw an awesome pub name, got some cool shots of the city and St. Paul’s, and just enjoyed watching it all from the bus window.

Name of a pub near the Tower of London.

Name of a pub near the Tower of London. Appropriate, don’t you think?

Loved the pub name…  A bit macabre, but hey, it fits with the Tower.

Steeple

Church steeple. I just liked the imagery.

 

View down a side street with a tube station.

View down a side street with a tube station.

Bench seats on the old style bus.

Bench seats on the old style bus.

On this bus, they had the old-school bench seats. It definitely had more jolts and jerks than the newer buses do. It was a bit more jouncy, and need some better shocks.

More street views.

More street views.

St. Paul's from the bus window. I thought it turned out quite well.

St. Paul’s from the bus window. I thought it turned out quite well.

 

People standing in front of St. Paul's. An interesting perspective.

People standing in front of St. Paul’s. An interesting perspective.

Those that have eaten at Downtown Disney in Orlando will recognize this next sandwich shop…

Earl of Sandwich.

Earl of Sandwich.

See the buildings. I love all the juxtapositions of new and old in London.

See the buildings. I love all the juxtapositions of new and old in London.

More old and new.

More old and new.

Fleet Street!

Fleet Street!

Sun soaked city.

Sun soaked city.

View of the front and side of the bus.

View of the front and side of the bus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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London Thoughts

So I leave London early on June 22nd. I can’t believe I’ve been here for over 5 months and am going home so soon. There is still so much I want to see and do. I still need to go to the Sherlock Holmes museum, finish exploring the British Museum, see Trafalgar Square at sunset, and go Harrod’s. That is just a few of the things I want to do before I leave.

I have booked my train tickets for a day in Oxford on June 15th. I also booked a tour of the Bodleian Library that day. Really excited about that. I’m going back to Hampton Court Palace on Saturday for my last visit there. On Friday, I’m going to wander and just soak up the city. I’m going to miss this city, but I am looking forward to seeing my husband at home.

What are some things you would do in your last two weeks in London?

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Easter in Rome Day Three – Vatican part 2, Colosseum, the Forum, the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain

So after our whirlwind day on Friday, our day on Saturday started early with a trip to St. Peter’s to make up for not seeing it the day before. St. Peter’s was absolutely amazing.

Portico of St. Peter's.

Portico of St. Peter’s.

The dome of St. Peter's from the inside.

The dome of St. Peter’s from the inside.

My most favorite piece of artwork in the world - Michelangelo's Pieta.

My most favorite piece of artwork in the world – Michelangelo’s Pieta.

I saw the Pieta by Michelangelo in person and wanted to take it home… It is behind glass because of someone attacking it a few years ago.

Floor detail past the Pieta.

Floor and wall detail past the Pieta.

Panoramic of the interior at St. Peter's

Panoramic of the interior at St. Peter’s

The building itself is truly massive. You really have no concept of how big it is until you see a line in the floor that denotes where famous cathedrals would fit into the basilica. Notre Dame de Paris would fit in there with room to spare, as would St. Paul’s here in London.

There are letters to around the nave that don’t look like it, but are 7+ feet tall. Crazy!

After our quick trip through St. Peter’s, we were off to the Colosseum. It’s such an icon of Rome and I was really excited to see it. Many of you know it’s history, but it’s so impressive in person. I wish we could have walked through the tunnels on the floor, but alas we could not.

Exterior view of the Colosseum

Exterior view of the Colosseum

You really have no concept of how big it is until you are right up next to it.

This is my perspective of looking up the side of the Colosseum. Truly massive.

This is my perspective of looking up the side of the Colosseum. Truly massive.

It really was the ginormous sports arena of it’s day. I can only imagine what watching a sea battle in here was like.

Shot of the Colosseum from one end. Wow!

Shot of the Colosseum from one end. Wow! The people in this shot just show how large it really is.

Just to prove I was really there. ;-)

Just to prove I was really there. ;-)

After leaving the Colosseum, we walked towards the Forum, which is a short jaunt away. On our way there, we stopped and got some great shots of a triumphal arch and the Colosseum.

I need to look up whose arch this is...

I need to look up whose arch this is…

I loved walking through the Forum. Walking on stones and seeing things that Julius Caesar, Octavian, and Marc Antony saw was just awesome. Unfortunately, they saw things that were not ruins. But it is amazing that anything is still around from then.

Entering the Forum and Palatine.

Entering the Forum and Palatine.

Ruins in the Forum

Ruins in the Forum

I loved the eerieness of the columns through the trees on the grey day.

I loved the eerieness of the columns through the trees on the grey day.

My feet walking on the stones Caesar walked on.

My feet walking on the stones Caesar walked on.

Marker from Ancient Rome.

Marker from Ancient Rome.

Temple ruins.

Temple ruins.

After leaving the Forum, we walked through Rome towards the Pantheon. The Pantheon was truly impressive. It was originally built as a pagan temple to the Roman gods and goddesses, but has now been co-opted as a Catholic church. Raphael is buried there, along with many others. Unfortunately, my camera died before I got some shots of that. Quite sad. However, I did get an exterior shot and a couple of pics of things on the inside.

Exterior shot of the Pantheon at night.

Exterior shot of the Pantheon at night.

Detail of painting in the Pantheon.

Detail of painting in the Pantheon.

Mary with child Jesus in the Pantheon

Mary with child Jesus in the Pantheon

After touring the Pantheon, I wandered to a church that Mark had wanted me to visit – San Gesu, the primary church of the Jesuits. It’s a beautiful building, very baroque in style. My primary camera was dead, but I got some shots with the video camera and will add links to that later. It was a really neat church to see.

I went back to the hostel to recharge my batteries, both camera and myself. I had pulled a calf muscle earlier in the day and took a cab to the Trevi Fountain with Jenna. The Trevi Fountain was crowded with tourists, but I did get my picture taken there by her and tossed the obligatory coin into the fountain so I will return to Rome. :-)

Trevi Fountain - So cool looking.

Trevi Fountain – So cool looking.

Me at the Trevi Fountain

Me at the Trevi Fountain

After we took our photos at the fountain, we went to a fantastic supper of multiple courses and unlimited red and white wine. Unfortunately, none of the wine was to my taste but my tablemates enjoyed it immensely. We pretty much took over the restaurant, toasting, singing, and etc. Our primary guide and owner of WSA, Andy Steves, gave a short speech about the trip and toasted our group. He started it with “My People” – he said that everytime he was trying to get our attention and all together. Really cool.

During supper, we got our tickets to Easter mass at the Vatican. Oh, I was so excited. I joined the Catholic church the previous Easter, and idea of celebrating my one year anniversary by hearing Easter mass by the pope was pretty awesome.

 

 

 

 

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My Husband With Me in London! Yay!

I have realized I go home in a month and 5 days. Wow! Where has the time gone? Over the last couple of weeks, I have been trying to soak up my favorite things about London, see new places that are my list to see before I leave, and take in a couple of shows. Last week, my husband was here visiting. While he was here, we hit some stuff I had been saving for his visit. Pics will be posted later, I promise.

While he was here, we did quite a few things. He arrived Saturday late morning. That afternoon we went to St. Paul’s, and then went to the Freemason’s Arms for supper and met some really cool folks. We ended up spending about 4 hours there; it was great! On Sunday, we went to church services at St. Paul’s. It is such a beautiful building; I highly recommend a visit when you come to London. Sunday evening we saw The Tempest at Shakespeare’s Globe. Amazing! After the play, we went to a special thing at the Tower of London. They do a ceremonial closing of the Tower called the Ceremony of the Keys. It was quite neat. After that, we headed back to our hotel for some much needed rest.

Our hotel was in BexleyHeath, which is about 1.2 hours from where we wanted to be in London most days, but it’s what we could afford. On Monday, we slept in a bit and headed into London around 10am or so. We spent some time walking around the area my flat is in and then went to a classic afternoon tea at the National Gallery Dining Room. We both dressed up for the occasion – he was in a suit and I was in a nice dress. It was lovely and we had a great view of Trafalgar Square. On Monday evening, we met up with my fellow library intern, John, and wandered through Chinatown looking for a good place to eat. We found one and it was fantastic. Mark was thrilled and it was really good.

On Tuesday, we went to The Making of Harry Potter. It was a pretty good hike to it; three changes on train and tube. It was in Watford Junction, of course the opposite direction of our hotel. But it was so worth it! We had an amazing time. Definitely worth a visit if you are any kind of a Harry Potter fan. They have the sound stages they worked on, props galore, an a/v guide that gives you some neat behind the screen access, and some really cool concept art. We spent about 4 hours there looking at everything and taking lots and lots of photos. The gift shop alone is worth a visit. If you are from Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw, bring your wallet. They have as much of those houses as they do of Gryffindor or Slytherin. We acquired birthday and Christmas presents for my best friend and my sister who are Hufflepuffs. After our full day there, we headed straight back to BexleyHeath, where we had supper and went to bed.

On Wednesday, we headed back over towards my flat so we could tour Freemason’s Hall. It’s the home of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) and an awesome looking building. They do free tours during the weekdays at various hours. We had scheduled the noon tour. It was pretty neat. There were only 7 of us on the tour so we had no problems hearing anything the guide said. It’s a beautiful building and I recommend a stop there if you are interested in Masonic history or movies. It’s been in quite a few films, more than I could list here. Afterwards, Mark and I had lunch the Freemason’s Arms again where he had his fish and chips. You must have that when you come to England. He came back to my flat and put on his suit so he could go to lodge. There was one meeting at 5pm, and he was able to go. I worked while he was at lodge. Felt like old times. ;-) He had a really good time, but isn’t sure his liver could survive being a Mason in England.

Thursday, we slept in and left BexleyHeath quite late in the day. We went to King’s Cross because we wanted to take our pics at Platform 9 3/4. Warner Brother’s now has a shop there and they will take professional photos for you, and you can take as many as you like with your own camera. What made it really cool, was the face they had house scarves there so we got to take our pics pushing the luggage cart with our house scarf on. :D I bought a hoodie that has the Platform 9 3/4 logo on it. Touristy, I know, but I had to have it. After we did that, we went to Westminster to go by Parliament and Westminster Abbey. Unfortunately, they had Parliament blocked off so we couldn’t get very close. However, we still got some neat shots of Mark in front of the building. Westminster Abbey was also closed, but we were able to wander around the outside of the building and in the exterior courtyard. Very neat. After we left there, we walked down Whitehall towards Trafalgar Square. We took Mark’s pic with the guard at the Horse Guards Parade and continued down Whitehall. Once we got to the square, I remembered a place that a friend recommended for whiskey – Albannach’s. We went to the downstairs bar and Mark had a flight of whiskies, and he ordered a pour of the one he liked the most. It was a nice way to end the evening.

The next morning, he flew out from Heathrow to go to NYC. We did get to have breakfast together at the airport before he left and I was sad to see him go. I’m going to miss London, but I’m looking forward to being home with my husband.

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Easter in Rome Day Two – The Vatican pt. 1, Aventine Hill, and Colosseum at Night

So after a good night of sleep, we headed off to the Vatican to tour the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s. We took the underground to a stop nearish the Vatican. After emerging into daylight again, we briskly walked to the outskirts of the Vatican, where we met up with our tour guide for the weekend. I regret to say I don’t remember her name, but she is a native of Rome and has been a tour guide for 15+ years. While waiting to get under way, I snapped some photos of the exterior walls of the Vatican.

 Exterior wall of the Vatican


Exterior wall of the Vatican

When you see the wall, you realize this was a fortified, defensible wall from the time of siege machines and upheavals. The Vatican is so identifiable with Rome, that many people forget it is not part of the city. It is inside of Rome, but not of Rome.

Thanks to our tour group, we got to bypass the long line to enter the Vatican Museum. Once inside, we got our tickets and our guide gave us a brief history of the museums and the Vatican itself.

Entrance to the Vatican Museum

Entrance to the Vatican Museum

View of the dome of St. Peter's from the courtyard of the Vatican  Museum

View of the dome of St. Peter’s from the courtyard of the Vatican Museum

After she finished the introduction, we went into the Museum. It is truly massive, and it was packed with people. The only problem with going to Rome for Easter is that thousands of other people had the same idea. Everything we went to was really crowded, but still glad I went. Anyway, we toured the museum, and I got some really great shots of some of the art in the various rooms. The Raphael room was amazing. I wanted to peel the School of Athens off the wall and take it home. ;-) The Sistine Chapel is part of the museum and seeing it in person was just as amazing as I thought it would be. I was disappointed we couldn’t take pics, but it is now stored in the memory banks. The ceiling was captivating, as well as the Last Judgment. I hadn’t expected to be as enthralled with the Last Judgment as I was. Truly impressive piece of artwork especially when you consider that Michelangelo considered himself a sculptor first and foremost. Painting helped pay the bills.

Pinecone from the Pinecone Courtyard

Pinecone from the Pinecone Courtyard

Giant globe in the center of the Pinecone courtyard

Giant globe in the center of the Pinecone courtyard

Art over an entryway

Art over an entryway

Detail on a frieze

Frieze of the Nine Muses

Statue of the Roman goddess Minerva

Statue of the Roman goddess Minerva

Statue of the god Apollo

Statue of the god Apollo

One of the most famous statues of antiquity - Laocoön and His Sons

One of the most famous statues of antiquity – Laocoön and His Sons

Statue of the Roman goddess Artemis

Statue of the Roman goddess Artemis

The School of Athens by Raphael - probably my second favorite painting in the world

The School of Athens by Raphael – probably my second favorite painting in the world

Raphael inserted famous figures of the day in his painting - this is the detail that includes Michelangelo.

Raphael inserted famous figures of the day in his painting – this is the detail that includes Michelangelo

After we left the Sistine chapel, we were supposed to go St. Peter’s. Unfortunately, they closed it early to prepare for services. I was sad that we didn’t get to see it, but I got some fantastic outside shots. It is a truly massive building.

The Basilica of St. Peter from the square

The Basilica of St. Peter from the square

Another shot of St. Peter's

Another shot of St. Peter’s

After leaving the Vatican, we climbed Aventine Hill. The views from the top and on the way to the top were amazing. I was so glad I went up there, even though I had sprained my ankle two days before and it was not happy about all the walking. I don’t know when I will make it back to Rome and wanted to see as much as possible. It was truly beautiful.

Panoramic view from the Aventine Hill

Panoramic view from the Aventine Hill

View from the Aventine Hill with yours truly

View from the Aventine Hill with yours truly

The view through trees

The view through trees

After leaving the Aventine Hill, we grabbed a bus back to the hostel to chill a bit before heading off to supper with the entire group. I took advantage of this to charge my camera battery, which I had totally drained by the end of the afternoon.

After arriving at the restaurant, I found out our group would be taking up the entire bottom floor. It was a good supper. I had grilled fish with tomatoes and a salad. Quite tasty. After our supper, we walked to the Colosseum to listen to Stations of the Cross with the Pope. Unfortunately, we got there too late to really get a good view, but I got some amazing shots of the Colosseum at night.

The Tiber at night

The Tiber at night

A church with a very tall tower

A church with a very tall tower

Rotunda I saw on our walk

Rotunda I saw on our walk

My first view of the Colosseum

My first view of the Colosseum

Another view of the colosseum

Another view of the colosseum

The fiery cross through the colosseum

The fiery cross through the colosseum

This is probably my favorite shot of the Colosseum.

This is probably my favorite shot of the Colosseum.

After taking my shots, I headed back to the hostel to get some much needed sleep for our early day on Saturday. It was a great day and the next day promised to be good as well.

 

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Easter in Rome Day One

So I got the opportunity to go to Rome for Easter this year. I went with Weekend Student Adventures because I didn’t feel comfortable going on my own and I’m really glad I chose them. My plane arrived at the Fiumicino airport outside of Rome on Thursday afternoon, April 28th. By this point, I had been awake for over 24 hours with the exception of a short nap on the plane. My airline, Alitalia, had a shuttle that took us straight from the airport to the Termini station in Rome. I, of course, took pictures out the shuttle window heading into Rome. :-) The hostel our tour group was staying was the Yellow Hostel. It was about 4 blocks from the Termini station, so not a bad walk.

After arriving at the hostel, I sacked out for a couple of hours. More folks arrived over the course of the afternoon and evening, and by 9pm my three roommates were in the room as well. We met up with Andy Steves, Rick Steves’ son, and he took us around some churches that night and showed us the area we were staying in.

All in all, a great first day in Rome. More to come – the Vatican, St. Peter’s, Aventine Hill, Colosseum, etc.

First view of the Italian countryside

First view of the Italian countryside

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Rome at Easter and Scotland in April

I know I’m dreadfully behind on posting to my blog. Schoolwork and illness have dreadfully cut into blog posting time. I plan on trying to get up pictures and thoughts on my trips over five different posts – one for each day in Rome and one for the weekend in Scotland. Please bear with me, and know more thoughts and pics are coming.

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