Archive | February, 2011

St. Andrew’s: Jack and I decide we need to transfer

27 Feb

On Saturday (the 12th) Charles had crew practice in the morning so Jack and I slept in and had breakfast before setting out about the town to explore the shops.

We wouldn't be in Scotland without a kiltmakers shop, now would we?

We stopped in a shop Charles had pointed out called Jack Wills, which was originally a sailing/boating/crew outfitter but is now sort of a British Abercrombie and Fitch. I love their motto. And of course I bought a mug and a shopping bag for my groceries.

While walking around we passed many St. Andrew’s treasures, including:

The St. Andrew's cat! It's a stray but the entire town takes care of it. So fluffy and pretty.

I don't remember the name of this church but their garden was already blooming and it was so quaint and charming and British.

The fence into the church. Look at me taking artistic photos...

Remains of the Blackfriars Chapel

The West Port, built in 1587 and renovated in 1843. It served as a gate into town.

Charles returned from rowing and we went out for Indian food. Technically it was Bangladeshi food but it’s essentially the same. I had Balti, which is a medium-spicy dish, and the boys had chicken Tikka Marsala and we shared some garlic Naan.

The Balaka restaurant

After our delicious lunch, we went out for ice cream at Janetta’s. It’s quite famous and quite delectable. I had Sticky Toffy Pudding ice cream that was to die for.

Bennett Janetta opened this ice cream shop in 1908!

After the ice cream Charles had to run the Boat Club (crew, rowing, etc.) table at the Athletic’s fair so Jack and I tagged along and pretended to be St. Andrew’s students. We enjoyed the hustle and bustle of student life at St. Andrew’s. And this:

A bulletin board left from the previous semester advertising safe sex.

After the fair, Charles had a meeting so Jack and I ventured out to West Sands beach and the old golf course. Being in St. Andrew’s feels a lot like coastal Maine; there are lots of little shops, the beaches are rocky and there are seaside cliffs.

The old clubhouse

The beach and marshlands

A small waterway made from high tide

I love the way that wet sand reflects the sky

Because we're cute like that

Me freezing on the beach

Me freezing on the beach part two

The walkway to the beach

I can never remember what these are called... Cotton-tails? Either way, I thought they were pretty, especially against the ocean backdrop

The Old Course golf course

Once we met up with Charles it was time for our last dinner together. We went to a place called The West Port and had a drink (a French martini for me, Mojito for Jack, and a Gin and tonic for Charles. How grown-up we all are…) while we waited for a table. I had a fabulous pasta dish and the boys had steak (Jack) and a burger (Charles). We all enjoyed a glass of wine and chatted for a long time, just enjoying the atmosphere and the company.

After dinner we went to a local pub for a taste of St. Andrew’s locals and a raspberry mojito for Jack and I while Charles stuck to his grown-up Gin and tonic, this time it was served with a cucumber slice which was surprisingly wonderful with the drink.

After sitting for a while it was time to get to bed. Jack and I had to prepare for our train ride home and to say goodbye to a great friend and a place we grew to love in only a short amount of time. In the morning we had a quick pub breakfast and then we were off. I can’t wait to go back to Scotland, it’s such a beautiful place with nice people and such rich history. So for the time being, I said goodbye to St. Andrew’s, but I know I will go back in the future.


St. Andrew’s: A castle, cathedral, and cupcakes

27 Feb

On the 10th, Jack and I set off on an adventure to the north: Scotland. We hopped a train at King’s Cross (just like in Harry Potter, it was packed with Muggles) and enjoyed an almost six hour ride to Leuchars where we got on a bus to St. Andrew’s.

For those of you who don’t know, St. Andrew’s is home to the oldest golf course in the world and St. Andrew’s University, where a certain dashing young Brit goes to school. I’m not talking about Prince William as he has long since graduated. I’m talking about the ever-charming Charles. Jack and I have been close friends of Charles’s for a long time (Jack longer, but Charles loves me best) and since going off to college it’s rare that we all get to see each other. I hadn’t seen Charles since July; Jack hadn’t seen Charles since 2009. Needless to say, it was quite the happy reunion.

Our first night consisted of Jack and I building a place to sleep. We worked tirelessly into the night in order to perfect our sleeping chamber.

Sweet, cozy perfection with a 1970s flare

After a good night’s sleep we woke up early and had a light breakfast before heading out to explore. We started off walking through town, with Charles pointing out different restaurants and shops along the way, as well as explaining some St. Andrew’s tradition. The University was founded in 1613, making it much older than colleges in the States.

St. Salvatore's Church in the city center

Perhaps my new favorite street name... It looks like Butt's Wind. Like... Wind from the Butt. It is actually pronounced WHINED like... That kid whined all day.

This is the spot where Patrick Hamilton, a 23-year-old supporter of Martin Luther, was burned at the stake in 1528. He was a student at the University and to this day it is considered extremely bad luck to step on the PH whilst a student at St. Andrews. His ghost descended into the sky and...

And left an imprint in the stones of the church.

Typical St. Andrew's buildings. Basically, it feels a little like Hogwarts.

See what I mean? Turrets and bricks and medieval design elements... A lot like the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But where's Dumbledore's office?

Gotta love the views from the school

The streets in St. Andrew's are all similar to this one, except for the two main roads, which are wider and more commercial.

While Charles headed off to class Jack and I went to church. The St. Andrew’s Cathedral ruins, that is.

The Cathedral was originally built in the early 12th century after being a site of worship for about 400 years. What now remains is from the 1300s and 1400s as the original Cathedral was destroyed by a storm and later a fire.

People continue to be buried in the Cathedral cemetery so amongst the ancient tombs there are new, pristine headstones and monuments.

One wall of the chapel and a small spire

A doorway to the cemetery

An older section of the cemetery

Amazing that there are full walls standing

If you are an avid golfer, St. Andrew's is definitely a meaningful place to be laid to rest.

One of the neatest things about the Cathedral is the fact that a single tower is still standing and visitors are allowed to climb up (some pretty narrow, scary stairs) to the top for a panoramic view of the town.

The tower views…

Me (freezing!) on the tower

I like finding little doorways and windows…

Goodbye, St. Andrew's Cathedral (for now).

After the Cathedral we walked down the pier near East Sands beach.

Fishing boat

Fishing nets and buoys

East Sands beach

Steps into the water, a bit dangerous...

Someone left a scarf... Perhaps it's the Macbeth tartan?

Scottish cliffs are full of mystery and beauty

Seaside houses and the Cathedral ruins in the background

Me on the pier, with the Castle in the background

Charles met up with us after our walk along the pier and we went to the St. Andrew’s Castle ruins together. There was a group of three Justin Bieber-haired youngsters running around the grounds, which was entertaining. The castle is right on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the sea.

The original castle was built and maintained in the 12th and 13th century but little of the original castle remains. What is there now is mostly from the 16th century, like much of the town.  The great hall was actually destroyed in the 1800s by a storm.

Main entrance to the castle

One of the more intact castle walls

Stairs in a tower overlooking the beach

I can only imagine how amazing it looked in its entirety.

More stairs, leading to...

A castle toilet!

Through the window...

And a spy hole

An entrance to the mine and countermine. Enemies dug their way toward the castle and as a defense, the Scottish dug countermines to trick their enemies into getting lost and stuck. You are allowed to enter the mines at your own risk and it is rumored that they span across the town.

Final window view of the ocean

Charles and I at the Castle

After we explored the ruins we met up with Charles’s flatmates for lunch at Pizza Express. Now, I realize that a name like Pizza Express implies cheap, fast, greasy food on the go but Pizza Express is none of that. It is some of the best pizza I have had in London and even though it’s a chain restaurant it still feels intimate and classy.

After our delicious pizza lunch we went to Bi Bi’s Cupcakes for some take-away (take-out) dessert. I’ve had a few cupcakes from this bakery by my school and they were okay… a bit dense in the cake part, not moist and fluffy like I’m used to but good frosting. So I was a bit weary of Bi Bi’s but enthusiastic. And with good reason. We brought our treats back to the flat, made some tea and indulged. I had a Crunchie flavored cupcake (a type of candy bar made by Cadbury that consists of milk chocolate with a honeycomb center) that was so delicious I wished I had a dozen of them.

For dinner we went to a seafood restaurant called The Tailend and had, what else?, fish and chips. The best of my trip so far: perfectly fried, thick cut chips, a perfect end to a great day.

Born This Way

16 Feb

This post doesn’t so much have to do with my experience abroad, but it is something that has been a small part of my life here for last few days.

I want to take a minute to talk about something amazing that happened this past Friday, the 11th. Lady GaGa released a new song called “Born This Way,” and if you haven’t heard it, now’s the time. Pay attention to the lyrics.

I won’t put all the lyrics in this post, but I will give the chorus:

I’m beautiful in my way,
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way.

I’ve been listening to it on loop. It makes me feel so happy and confident. I’m a sucker for a positive message, especially one that is true. We’re all beautiful in our own way, there are no mistakes, we are born to be who we are and that’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. I only hope that someday we will live in a world where everyone feels this way.

I saw her in concert last year, and in addition to being a truly talented performer, she is a genuine person. I was so moved by her stories. One thing she said that I think about often is that if just one person believes in you, it makes all the difference.

So whenever you feel like people aren’t accepting of who you are, just remember that you’re beautiful in your own way, and someone, somewhere, believes in you.

We were born this way.

Victoria and Albert: Round two and Round three

16 Feb

On Sunday the 30th of January, Jack ( met me at Gloucester Road for another day of museum exploration. We took a long walk around Kensington and stopped at a bakery for breakfast. Jack enjoyed a ham and cheese sandwich on a croissant and I had an almond croissant. Now, I have become quite the consumer of croissants in the last few weeks. I’ve always loved the pastries but never have they been so readily available to me. Some days, I have two. Other days, I have more than two. Am I ashamed of this? Not in the least; they’re delicious and I’m going to enjoy every buttery, flaky, mouth-watering bite.

We enjoyed some hot chocolate and continued on our way to the Victoria and Albert Museum. I didn’t get to see everything last time and Jack had been itching to go too. We spent a lot of time in what I will now and forever refer to as the hallway of awkward statues and my new boyfriends. Here are the best of the rest from the V&A:

Awkward Statues:


The minotaur strikes again!

This is an awkward statue of the Princess from the Grimm Brother's Frog Prince. The story is worth reading, but this statue is just silly.

Awkward beatings

Truth seizing the tongue of Falsehood. I'm not making this up.


Apollo skinning a man alive for losing a contest. Because that is how the gods do things.

Are they dancing?


Facial hair? check. Mole? check. Fabulous hair? check. Stylish outfit? check.

How could one possibly choose?

The crypt keeper. I hear he's single...

Love the hat.

Facial hair is very important.

This boyfriend is made of metal. Here's hoping he doesn't rust like the tin man...

My stained glass boyfriend.

This visit we tackled the medieval period, Asia, and the casts. Medieval art can also be known as “Oh hey, Jesus!” because he is literally everywhere and on everything. Celebrities complain about having their picture taken but look at Jesus, he hasn’t been left alone for two thousand years. Here’s a sample of the art from Round Two:

Oh hey, Adam, try this apple. --Nah, i'm good.

A medieval ring stand.

Notice the Tiny Tim baby Jesus. I still don't understand this painting.

Ornamental crucifixes.

A decorative "P" to start the book of Psalms in a medieval Bible

Medieval belt buckle. So chic.

I don't think this is the best interpretation of what Mary looked like...

I like to wear tunics that are similar to Link from the Zelda games.

His holiness bows his head in prayer.

Chinese tea kettle.

I would be a very happy girl if I had this fan.

My samurai boyfriend.

I like his swagger


Samurai swords

It's the beard. I can't resist.

These ladies are gossiping about Mulan.

I wanna see your peacock.

Ice cream party, anyone?

This is Moses. I thought it was Zeus.

Hmm... I'm not sure that painting works on that wall.

Notice the man in the middle... He must have had a rough day.

Perseus has just slain Medusa. And the details are grotesque, thus, I love this statue.

A giant cast of a cross.

Men taking naps. Typical.

And here are a few things I picked on while touring the rest of the museum with Jack…

Apparently this guy is fighting a dragon.

This woman is beautiful and I want red hair like hers.

I have no idea what this child is doing and I can only wonder where his parents are.

Museums teach me how to make faces.

A wall of gentlemen

Tea, anyone?

This face is on a fountain. This face is also terrifying.

This guy is just so bored. And he's not the only one...

Another case of boredom in a piece of art at the V&A

I didn't stop to read this my first trip but I wish I had. It amazes me that so many great places were spared during the bombings of WWII.

My third visit to the V&A was on February 7th, just before class. I felt the need to get out and do something so I walked over and toured the India wing and the Islamic wing, with a few stops at minor displays.

Here’s a brief sample of my solo venture:

An automaton of a tiger attacking a soldier. It is also a music box and as the music plays, the tiger eats the man.

Body paint...or smurf?

A card game

A chess set

A spoon made of gold and inlaid with rubies and emeralds

A wine cup; kind of reminds me of the cup from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

An ornate turban pin

A battle-helm

A compass

A bejeweled dagger

An ancient printing of the Quran

And in the case next to the Quran is an early romance novel


This was called something like "The deranged bird"

Some weird centuar/duck man getting attacked by snakes... I think?

A butcher knife. I understand the irony in the fact that I am a vegetarian. But hey, it's well made and the carvings are incredible.

A cookie tin shaped like books

A cookie tin shaped like the globe

There was a display of instruments that travelers carried, including this ornate flute

A flask shaped like a shoe

I love this museum. I know I will be making a few more trips here in the next couple months.

Paris Part Three: Versailles

16 Feb

On Sunday (the 6th) we woke up early and hopped a train to Versailles to see the Chateau where Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI (among other French royalty) lived. The last time I went to Versailles my camera died, so this time I made sure to have a charged battery.

A tip if you are ever in Paris: The first Sunday of each month the museums are free. Versailles costs 25 Euro. Free is a better price if you ask me.

The thing to know about Versailles is that it is less of a house and more of a small town. We didn’t have a tour guide so this post is mostly photos…

This is just the Chateau; there is also a mini Chateau for Marie Antoinette, several carriage houses, gardens, fountains, etc...

It was funny to see where restorations had taken place on the exterior because the gold leaf was so bright in comparison to the last paint job.

See how shiny and new the clock looks? And the sculptures around the clock...

The chapel. A man was sitting at the organ but he didn't play anything.

I thought this lady looked a lot like Meryl Streep.

One of hundreds of painted and gilded ceilings

Me being all artistic in the hall of mirrors.

A crystal chandelier. Some of them had purple crystals. This one was in the hall of mirrors.

Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt

What a view to wake up to everyday.

The ceiling in the Queen's bedchamber, so Marie Antoinette's bedroom.

Marie Antoinette loved feathers so much she had them put in her canopy.

Her bedroom was flowery and girly and I loved it.

There's even peacock feathers embroidered on the cushions of her sofa.

They had a table set for dinner. And I got excited because I can make these napkin folds! It's an origami lotus flower.

One of the most famous portraits of Marie Antoinette and her children.

This was an entire wing of portraits and busts of French guys. And there's a skylight the whole way.

One of the many paintings in the hall

Some French man of importance. Possibly a pirate, by the looks of him. Perhaps he knows Captain Jack Sparrow…

An interesting jar of sorts...

Quite the backyard…

A fountain in the gardens.

A close-up shows that the men have the heads of frogs... super creepy!

The view from the back

No trip to a historic place would be complete without a few new boyfriends…

Winner of the best Shakespearean ruff award

Best mutton chops

Best hat and cape combo

Best stache and runner up for best Shakespearean ruff

Most luscious locks and most distinguished mole

On the way back from Versailles I got a snack…

Macaroons...From McDonald's. And they were delicious.

We got off the Metro near the Louvre and walked around the tourist shops before following the Seine back to our hotel. All along the Seine are these green boxes which open as stalls for used book sellers. It was fun to check out the literature on the way back. And before I knew it, I had to say, “Au revoir!” to Paris.

Paris Part Two (continued): Who goes to the Louvre and skips the Mona Lisa? That would be me.

15 Feb

After leaving the Tower we had lunch at a little café and walked to the Louvre. Now, chances are if you are reading this you now know that I love my museums. I spend hours in them, wandering around and taking pictures of just about everything. The last time I was in Paris our Louvre tour guide told us that if you were to spend just one minute at each piece of art in the Louvre you would be there for about three years. So you can imagine how time constraints in a museum that large would affect my plans.

Hello, giant museum... I will gladly spend days wandering your labyrinthine halls.

Not as large as the Arc de Triomphe, but the different-colored stones and copper horses make it an outdoor work of art. The carvings are unbelievably detailed.

The famous glass pyramid entrance. To get into the museum you ride an escalator through it. It's pretty darn cool.

Like I said I have been to the Louvre before (in 2005) and on our tour we hit what’s known as the “Big Three”: Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, and Aphrodite. Here’s the thing: The Mona Lisa is cool and all, but you only need to see it once. It’s smaller than the average magazine and –spoiler alert!—it looks exactly like it does in all the pictures and recreations of it. She’s got that smug look on her face just like you expect. No eyebrows. Eyes glancing at something to the left. Even she knows there are more interesting things to look at…

See? This is her in 2005. I'm guessing she looks the same now. She hasn't aged a day since da Vinci put the brush down.

So while the gaggle of girls I was with wanted to “hit the Mona Lisa and then leave” I knew I wouldn’t be okay with tagging along to do that. I’m a nerd. This is a well-known fact. I love museums. I love Greek and Roman sculpture. That is what I wanted to see. So I went off on my own in hopes of finding some interesting statues…

Here are a few of my favorites…

Hermes is one of my favorite Gods in terms of sculpture. I love his helmet and winged ankles. They're always a tremendous amount of detail in the wings.

Lemme tell you a secret!

Hercules fighting the Hydra

Oh no I forgot to get dressed again...

Winged Victory. I will say, it's quite majestic. There's reason for it to be a part of the "Big Three"

Zeus cradling baby Hercules

An angel and a maiden in an embrace.

A woman crying over her lost love.

Early boxing match, my money's on the guy on the left. He looks burlier.

This statue looks just like my brother. Seriously. When he doesn't shave for a few weeks, he looks identical to this guy.

Aphrodite, the last of the "Big Three." I love the scene in Hercules where he skips the rock and it wrecks a statue... and it's this one.

As much as I liked the crown jewels, this diadem is more my style.

Hermes and Psyche, twirling around.

Hercules fighting a mini-hydra.

A room full of statues, just waiting to be opened... Sadly, I couldn't find the door. And I'm sure the guards would have loved to arrest the nerdy American who tried to break into a closed exhibit.

Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt. This is probably my favorite depiction of her. It's elegant and yet she is poised, ready to fire off some arrows.

Where Lady GaGa got her inspiration...

Quite similar if you ask me... Plus, I love GaGa. And I love statues. So I will find ways for the two to correlate.

One of two sculpture rooms lit almost entirely by natural light. I swear they knew I was coming.

A warrior resting before battle.

Battle helmet with a seashell on it, must belong to Poseidon.

Drug dealer? Homeless person? Hades? Source of laughter?

The Frisky Satyr?

A baby wrestling a duck. Or perhaps it is a goose. Either way... Uhm... What?

And I'm thinking... Where is she gettin' the money from?

I really hope that portrait is of her husband. She must like playing "My New Boyfriend" as much as I do.

So many babies! It's like the Angelina of Ancient Greece.



And here’s what you were waiting for, the most awkward of the bunch:

#5: "Wrestling"

#4: Om nom nom...

#3: After a long day being an immortal god, sometimes you just need to lounge around.

#2: I think he might be a little old for breast-feeding...

#1: A circle of men staring at their manhood. There are four of them. Men I mean. Well, and I guess manhood (menhood? manhoods?), too.

And a close-up is necessary.



And how can I forget all of my new boyfriends?

A strong nose always melts my heart.

This guy comes with room for an herb garden.

A dead ringer for Zach Galifianakis, aka Alan from The Hangover.

He has wavy locks and a fabulous stache, plus his pose is worthy of Fabio himself.

The facial expression... The facial hair... Who wouldn't want to come home to this fellow every night?

And for the days when I just can't decide, we have the Wheel of Eligible Bachelors.



Even though I only had about two hours in the Louvre, I made the most of it. There’s nothing like walking around a museum alone. Even on a Saturday, when the place is packed full of tourists and people with small children who clearly were just dying to go to a museum for the day. Without worrying about other people you can fully appreciate every aspect of the museum: the art, the layout, the displays, the building itself, and your fellow nerds, the ones who stroll through the halls with Nikon cameras attached to sniper lenses, taking expert photographs. I was sad when I had to leave but I know that the next time I’m in Paris it will be on my own time and on my own terms, and I can damn well spend two full days at the Louvre. Let’s hope I learn French by then so I can read all the signs. (Audio guides are your friend in foreign museums; unfortunately I didn’t have enough time)

The last section of my tour was in the garden:


The Minotaur (and Theseus slaying it) is never not awkward and giggle-inducing.

A centaur carrying some girl off to who knows where....

More Lord of the Rings ghost army warriors! (To me at least)



I left the Louvre and, using my city girl street smarts, consulted my map to find the nearest Metro station. The nearest station was the Musee de Orsay stop. Musee means museum. I was sad to see it was closing in five minutes. The Musee de Orsay is the impressionist museum; it is home to quite a lot of van Gogh and there were some interesting statues outside:

A majestic horse

I headed into the station and from there I successfully approached the ticket booth where I had this conversation:

Me: Bonjour! (SMILE!) Parlez-vous Anglais, sil-vous-plait?

Attendent: (Unintelligible mumble).

Me: …Anglais?

Attendent: (yelling) Lee-tall!

Me: Ah! Yes! (points at map) Gare Austerlitz?

Attendent: Platform two.

Me: Ticket?

Single-word conversations are often the most effective. And when in Paris, the more you smile the better. No one smiles in Paris. If you smile at someone, they become confused, and then they are less rude.

Ads for Euro Disney make me smile

So I successfully made my way from the museum to a Metro station, from the Metro to the station across the river from my hotel to my hotel.

And I made a stop at a market, because I was in serious need of a baguette and over-priced beverage.

I finished the day with a half a baguette, dinner at an Italian restaurant (yes, I had a margarita pizza in Paris. I’m ok with it, it was delicious), and an early night’s sleep in preparation of visiting Versailles in the morning.

Paris Part Two: Do we get to ring the bells?

14 Feb

Saturday (the 5th) was an early start: breakfast at 8:30am, meet for the bus tour at 9am. I don’t mind getting an early start, especially for tours. Our tour guide’s name was Julian and he was originally from London, so he spoke the English I’ve grown accustomed to hearing over the last month. He spoke French with our driver and endured countless “the Bloody French!” jibes from our program chaperone.

Things I saw on the tour:

A typical Parisian church

A typical Parisian house... (This was probably some sort of mansion thing but I can't remember)

The Shakespeare and Company book shop. It had a story to it but sadly I don't remember (This will be a recurring theme)

A fountain. possibly the one from "Devil Wears Prada" when she throws her phone in the water.

Louis Vuitton headquarters, also the largest LV store in the world. Fortunately and unfortunately, I didn't get to go inside.

New York Avenue. And New York Restaurant. In Paris.

Replica of the Statue of Liberty torch

Metro Station designed during the Art Nuevo phase

We drove around Paris and learned about the architecture and different districts before heading onto the Île de la Cité, one of two islands on the Seine, the other being Île Saint-Louis. The Île de la Cité is home to one of the most famous cathedrals in the world: Notre Dame. The last time I was in Paris (summer 2005) I only glimpsed it from afar. Lucky for me, the bus stopped and let us off to see the cathedral up close and walk inside.  The outside is a marvel. I’ve seen some old buildings and I’ve seen medieval churches (well… parts of them, in museums…) but seeing Notre Dame up close was a whole new game.


The view from the side.

A statue on the grounds…

The copper has oxidized so these guys look a bit like the ghost army from Lord of the Rings (always a plus for this nerd).

Though most of the statues were restorations of the originals, the tableaus and their stories remained unchanged.

The three doorways into the cathedral.

Looking up at the center doorway

Statue between two of the doorways

John the Baptist. Holding his head.

Mary and a few other ladies in front of the center window

A few of the gargoyles. Disney gave me false hope that they would sing as Quasimodo rang the bells.

In medieval times the majority of people were illiterate, so Bible stories were told in picture form. Julian focused on the center doorway, as will I.

One of three entrances to the museum, the center door depicts the ascension of souls.

We have Christ seated as a king, flanked by angels. Below him is an angel (on the left) who is holding a set of scales. The scales tip towards good, or those who are going to go to Heaven. The devil is on the right, attempting to tip the scales towards evil, or those who are going to hell.

Tipping the scales... And the devil figures are just plain creepy.

Those on the left (Christ's right) will go to heaven...

Those on Christ's left (our right) will go to hell. This superstition towards the left is what led left-handed people to be treated so poorly.

After learning all of this from Julian, we were given free time to go inside the cathedral. There are few places that have taken my breath away: the Coliseum in Rome, the view from a cliff in St. Thomas, the first time I went to New York City… And now Notre Dame.

Ceiling of the main section of the cathedral

One of two giant windows

The organ

Chandeliers hang from the ceilings, providing a little extra light.

There were dozens of little apses, each with its own stained glass window. This one held a golden crucifix.

I’ve never been so impressed by columns and arches, stained glass windows and high ceilings.

People light candles in memory of loved ones who have passed.

I consider myself to be more spiritual than religious but I felt something while I was there. I can’t describe it entirely, but it was a feeling of contentment and wonder. It’s the same feeling I get when I go to a new museum or a new place that instantly captures my heart; as cheesy as that may sound. I could have spent hours in Notre Dame admiring the details but alas, I only had half an hour, which is more like five minutes for me when in a place that amazes me.

I could have stayed there all day. And night.

We continued the bus tour, getting a brief history of Paris and glimpsing a number of sights:

Arc de Triomphe

Sculpture on the Arc. Someone is having a hard time letting go...

This was a message left on the bridge above the tunnel where Princess Diana crashed. There were thousands of inscriptions on the bridge in tons of languages. This one, being a quote from a Lady GaGa song, was my favorite.

We finished our tour at the Eiffel Tower where we took the elevator to the second floor, the observation deck. There are quite a few monuments to be seen…

The Arc de Triomphe

Do I know what this is? No... Is it pretty? Yes.


Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, Sacred Heart Basilica, on a hilltop in the distance.

A football field

The urban part of Paris isn't in the heart of the city but on the outskirts in order to maintain the classic feel of the city.

I thought about going all the way up but the wind and limited visibility talked me out of it. Besides, I’ve now been up the thing twice. I figure that makes up for not going to the tippity top.

Me on the observation deck; thankfully there is a railing and a fence to prevent clumsy people like me from failing off the edge.