Tag Archives: Shakespeare

Tea Time

18 Feb

It is a well-known stereotype. Brits love tea. And you know what? It’s a ritual worth having. After a long day, a steaming mug of Earl Grey with a splash of milk and a spoon of sugar can ease more than tired eyes. A proper cuppa can relax the mind, warm the belly, and give you enough energy to finish your day.

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I enjoy English Breakfast at all hours, typically with a spoon of honey and a splash of skim or soy milk. Earl Grey and English Breakfast are traditional but not the only tea enjoyed across the pond. At my internship I participated in daily tea time at about four o’clock, sometimes half past. We always had some variation of green tea—with lemon, jasmine, mint—and green tea remains a favorite of mine. I love a green and white tea, with a spoon of honey, whenever I feel sickly or in need of warming. Honey sweetens it just enough and soothes the throat as it goes down.

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Now when I say a proper cuppa, that mainly refers to how long you let the tea steep. A green tea only takes about three minutes to be perfectly drinkable. But black teas, like English Breakfast, take at least five minutes. The longer you steep, the stronger the tea. Steep for too long and it will taste like you’re sucking on a tea leaf. Steep for too little and you might as well throw the weak excuse for a cup down the drain.

Another important part of the tea ritual, at least for me, is the vessel. When it comes to mugs, I’m a bit picky. For some reason tea tastes better when sipped from one of my many UK-friendly mugs. The thin, bone china Harrods mugs I inherited from my uncle are perfect for cold days and chilly fingers. My short, wide Shakespearean insults and love quotes mugs—purchased at the Bard’s birthplace—are thick and sturdy, the right size for an afternoon spot. 

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National Portrait Gallery

14 Mar

On Sunday it was drizzly so a few friends and I went for a walk to Trafalgar square to see the St. Patrick’s Day festival. We took a bus to Hyde Park and walked past Buckingham to the square. Our walk took us down the Mall (rhymes with pal) which gave wonderful views of St. James’s park.

Buckingham

Parliament is just visible through the tree's along the Mall

A sure sign that spring is here in London

There were a few kids running through the flocks of pigeons, it was adorable.

The Eye just visible beyond the park. London is beautiful in the spring.

The festival was a bit lame…

St. Patrick's Day festival stage

Irish donut stand; Abby was once told by another of our friends "You smell like a nice, fresh daisy."

A giant ship in a bottle

After we got bored with the festival, we went around the block to the National Portrait Gallery. Photography wasn’t allowed inside, but we got to see portraits of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria, the Bronte Sisters, John Donne, Paul McCartney, Prince William and Prince Harry, Princess Di and Shakespeare, just to name a few.

 

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.

Breathtaking

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.