Jumping over the lazy dog

or, taking the bull by the horns.

Bob the Sponge and his Square Pants!

The French take fancy to some artifacts of Anglophone culture, and this is where their discerning eye seems to fail them. They, for example, love Johnny Hallyday, who is essentially a faded echo of Elvis in his heyday. Or, take a recent exhibition on the phenomenon that is SpongeBob SquarePants, or Bob l’Eponge as the French fondly call him.  There was plenty of advertising – you couldn’t walk down the street without seeing at least one poster for this expo.  It took place, appropriately, at the Pavillion d’Eau, and was accompanied by an educational exhibit on how to conserve water and the value of tap water over bottled water.  All these little details might clue you into the fact that this exhibit was geared towards the little ones.  And it shouldn’t surprise you that The Accomplice and I found ourselves at the Pavillion’s watery door.

To be fair, the advertising I’d seen included images like these…

...and I'm a sucker for all things art and satire, so I had to check it out.

There isn’t much to say about the content of the exposition – I didn’t learn much about SpongeBob that I didn’t already know.  Though I did watch my first episode of Bob l’Eponge entirely in French, with no subtitles…in a room full of 3-8-year-olds. I felt a bit out of place, like I was back at that Fall Out Boy concert in Roanoke, where age 10 was the mode. And years of sustainability-training have taught me quite a bit about water conservation, so not much new knowledge on that front, either.  But it was a great excuse for me to take some fun pictures!

If they can spoof Magritte, so can I. The Accomplice did what accomplices do, she helped.

Had The Accomplice not been pointing and giggling, what would Bob l'Eponge have to be embarrassed about?

I really did enjoy the architecture of the Pavillon itself - these steps pass over a pool of water, and terminate in a glass floor that continues above the same pool. Pretty swish stuff.

One thing that SpongeBob does rather well is unite the youth and adults that watch the show - here, a wall of drawings by the audience. Artists represented almost every demographic.

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Filed under: All things French, Close to home, , , , , ,

Joyeux Thanksgiving!

A bit after the fact, I know, but had you eaten the huge meal we ate on Thursday, you’d have slept until Saturday afternoon, too.

My first Thanksgiving away from the family began as many others: with a dirty joke.  At work, nonetheless. And it only got better.

As The Tall One, The Accomplice and I had been scheming about this party for the better part of two months (the idea actually came up the first day we met, back in September!), I was getting pretty excited as the day grew close.  We’d already made our playlist (everything from Bon Jovi to Metallica to Robbie Williams to Jacques Brel).  I was in charge of the menus, and managed to notice my misspelling of ‘coctails’ (who needs the ‘k’ anyway?) only after printing them.  So, of course, being the perfectionist that I am, I redid the lot.  They turned out quite nicely, if I do say so myself.

I rushed over to The Tall One’s apartment after work. Her flatmates had generously decided to not only donate their space, but the turkey and the pumpkins as well. Cooking was already in full-swing by the time I got there, and after a run to the grocery store (they didn’t have parsnips!) and the boulangerie (freshly baked baguettes = warm and gooey on the inside, crunchy on the outside = delicious!), I pitched in. Well, a bit.  The Accomplice’s friends showed up early, so I split my time between the kitchen and learning about ethical issues related to artificial forms of reproduction…what is it with sex and Thanksgiving?

Eventually, the once 4-person round table was unfolded (several times over) to squeeze 17 chairs and stools of varying size and comfort around its circumference, and the guests began to arrive.  The party went without a hitch – only one very tardy arrival.  The guests came from all over the world, mostly Americans but a handful of French and some representatives from England (unfortunately *the* Brit couldn’t come). All with different backgrounds, too – publishing, medicine, business, politics, architecture, literature, engineering, psychology…ne’er a dull moment.

As for the food, here’s a quick look at the menu, followed by some images of our table of plenty – tablucopia?

  • Cocktail hour: Cosmos, wine, porto, olives, turnips and hummus, pumpkin seeds, cheese and baguettes. The cheeses were amazing: had comté for the first time, which is like manchego but sweeter.
  • Dinner: salted herb turkey, cranberry sauce, mushroom and leek stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy, roasted root vegetables, corn casserole. It was all good, but I think my stomach has shrunk since coming to France – I could barely manage a plate and a half…
  • Dessert: pumpkin and sweet potato pie, strawberry tart.  The pumpkin pie was made from scratch (like everything else), but in this case, it was made with a *real* pumpkin. Not the canned stuff.  It was not as overpoweringly sweet and pumpkin-y, which meant the French people weren’t grossed out.

The set table - see my pretty menus?

There are more than four people you can't actually see in this picture. We got to be really good friends by the end of dinner, and if you didn't manage to elbow somebody over the course of the meal, you had some real etiquette prowess.

The star of the show, a turkey from Brittany. The freshest meat I've ever eaten. Well, other than those crabs in San Francisco.

Filed under: Close to home, , , , ,

Green, like Kermit and grass.

I just returned from a screening of The Age of Stupid, part of the Festival International du Film d’environnement, a week-ish-long event in Paris (for you English-speakers, there’s a little British flag in the top right that translates the page to anglais).  I haven’t spent much time on this blog writing about “serious” topics, like the environment or sustainability.  That’s not necessarily because I don’t think about them, because I do, and certainly not because I know nothing about them, because 50% of my courses addressed sustainability at one point or another. But it just hasn’t come up recently.  That is, until now.

I saw an article in one of the Metro issues this week about the affair, and thought I’d give it a go.  I was particularly interested because I saw they were screening Food, Inc., a film I’ve been wanting to see for a while. More about that film in a minute, first I’d like to mention that they have screened (rather, will have screened) 100+ films during this event, documentaries and fiction, feature-length and shorts, all of which address our present and future as a species and a planet.  Basically, there’s something for everyone, even an animated film for the 4-8 year-old crowd.  Start ’em early.

I saw two of the films aired today, because they seemed the most interesting and happened to best fit my schedule (er, I wanted time to actually work on my grad school stuff today?).  The first was Food, Inc.

A smart farmer and giant corporations that mysteriously keep mum. What's not to like?

The title of the film is pretty accurate: it’s a documentary about how the source of our food has transitioned from small farms to big corporations, and the resulting mistreatment of the animals, workers and consumers.  But it’s not just another PETA film, though if you’re squeamish and like little chicks, you might want to cover your eyes for some bits. I was impressed with the film on a couple of points:

  • Story-telling: the documentary interviews characters that are memorable and presents their stories in a compelling way.  One of the individuals, a farmer who grows free-range everything, from chickens to cows to pigs, and has an impressive vocabulary, is interviewed as he slaughters chickens and packages them for sale.  It’s all done in an open tent, and the farmer notes the irony that conducting this work in fresh air is considered dangerous by the FDA as it can lead to contamination of meat (through air-borne particles).  The film then goes on to remind the viewer of the previous interviewees, a chicken farmer who wore a mask to wade through a throng of hobbling hens to gather the ones that had died during the night.
  • Art direction: the film is divided into chapters, of sorts, with catchy headings (that I can’t remember, but I remember they were catchy at the time) done in an artful way.  Oh, here’s an example: when talking about a veil concealing the source our food, the heading first reads “evil” then rearranges itself to “veil.” Subliminal? Not so much.  Point taken, though.
  • Art direction 2: there are bits of the film that are animated, that read almost like graphics from WIRED, reworked in 3D and talking about food consumption rather than the next big gadget. I thought they did a good job integrating these animated bits into the overall visual and narrative fabric of the film.

The other film I watched, The Age of Stupid, is along the lines of The 11th Hour, or Al Gore’s little number, An Inconvenient Truth. Except instead of a straight-up documentary, the team uses a fictional narrative arc to tie the stories together.  An old man, in 2055, looks over “archival” footage from 2005-2008, pondering the inability of the human race to save itself from global warming, thus “committing suicide” and resulting in global devastation.  I found it a bit contrived, but I liked the stories the arc allowed the director to tell: an African village abandoned by Shell and its government, the “not in my backyard” approach of individuals to wind as a power-source, an 80+ year-old guide who still takes tourists and his grand-children for treks in the Alps, even as the glaciers are melting away…

Here's the old man, and the images on the screen are the contrived plot. But the point of the film is a good one...

Perhaps more interesting than the film itself was the information I gleamed from the Q&A with the director and producer after the screening.  One of the question-askers noted the film was quite alarmist, at a time when the public is being bombarded with “be green or be dead” propaganda, and asked the director why she didn’t take a more gentle approach.  The director, Franny Armstrong, noted that they had considered two endings, a positive end, where humans fix the problem, and a negative end, where they don’t. They decided to keep the “nightmare” approach, as opposed to the “I have a dream” approach, because, in the director’s words, “We’re not at a crossroads, we’re at a point, on a path we’ve been on for over 100 years.  We’ve got to turn the whole ship around.”

I even got to ask a question. I was curious, since the film included documentary footage from around the world (Mumbai, New Orleans, the Alps, England, Africa) and spoke specifically about the large amount of emissions made by the airline industry, how the crew kept their carbon footprint low while filming.  The producer answered my question, saying they commuted using trains as much as possible (flying as little as possible), used eco-friendly supplies in the office, were all vegetarian, etc.  For the film’s premiere, they hosted a multi-national satellite event, based in London. Celebrities arrived on bike or in electric cars and walked down a “green carpet” to the screening area, where the projections were all powered by renewable resources. It was the largest film premiere in history, and it produced only 1% of the emissions you’d expect from a Hollywood-sized premiere.

Their approach to marketing and production is quite interesting, too.  Each crew member (104 total) took a pay-cut in order to invest themselves in the film, thus earning a profit as the film earns profit, and not limiting the film’s circulation through contractual means.  To further increase circulation opportunities, the film is available for private/public screenings: that is, whoever you are, you can have a screening whenever and where-ever you want, and keep your profits. Of course, you pay a base fee for the rights to screen the film…but it’s for a good cause?  If you’re interested, check it out: http://www.indiescreenings.net/.

Well, that’s my “important topic” for the month. Don’t expect the next blog entry to be so serious – I’ve got to tell you about my afternoon with Bob l’Eponge.

P.S. Did I mention this whole festival was free, one of many free film festivals in Paris over the course of the year, in fact? I love it when a government puts money towards cultural enrichment and public education. Of course, the people that need to be convinced about the importance of sustaining our environment probably didn’t come.

Filed under: Around the world, Close to home, In the news, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Chuck Norris doesn’t fear Death. Death fears Chuck Norris.

Continuing in the tradition of class cancellations, six of my twelve hours of teaching this week never took place, either because teachers needed the students to take tests, or because the teachers were sick.  This means I spent a lot of time sitting at a computer typing away at my graduate application essays: 3 out of 5 essays are nearing completion, and my deadline is a month away! I’ve never been so far ahead of schedule.

None of my seconde classes were canceled, however.  That meant I could still go ahead with my carefully planned out class schedule.  This week we went over another idiomatic expression (“thick as thieves,” or “copains comme cochons“).  But the pièce de résistance was my social-networking experiment: the Facebook Classroom.

I had been getting several of those chain emails with attachments like “What if God had Twitter?” and “Isaac Newton’s Facebook Page,” which is where this all started. But we’d been told to stay away from religious themes in class, and I wasn’t sure how many of my kids were nerdy enough to be entertained by Newton’s hypothetical profile (unlike my friends, who I’m sure would be ROTFL.  Please note that the last word in that sentence was written with only sarcastic intentions). So I found something I was sure they’d all find funny:

Luke, Vader wants to add you as a son on "Family Connections." Accept? Ignore?

Some of the classes thought it was funny.  That’s better than nothing.  One class, when asked if they thought it was a funny joke, said, “No, because it’s childish.” I retorted, “Too bad! ‘Cuz we’re doing one just like it!” And in the end, it was the doing that brought them to the dark side…

So here’s what I asked them to do:

  • Pick a well-known Anglophone figure: celebrity / politician / actor / musician / fictional character / etc.
  • Pretend to be the character and fill out a Facebook profile.
  • Make friends: requests are made in person.  If you accept, leave your new friend a message on the wall. If you decline, let the asker know why.
  • Share your profile with the class.

The writing, they didn’t like so much. But making fun of the guy that didn’t understand the “pretending to be the character” bit of the instructions, and wound up playing Eva Longoria because “she’s so sexy” – with another dude playing Tony Parker? That, they liked.  I’m now going to share with you the fruits of this labor: excerpts from my students’ Facebook profiles that had me laughing out loud while riding home on the metro.  Also, note: all errors are my students’ doing…I actually do know how to speak English.

Numero uno: Chuck Norris. Sex? Male God. Relationship Status? He don’t need it. Hometown? The world is mine.

"Chuck Norris don't need music, he create the music. You can't hit Chuck Norris. He is the champion of Karaté. Chuck Norris is Walker Texas Ranger and he hit peoples with his feet. No one can write on the wall of Chuck Norris, or he will kill you. The friends of Chuck Norris are who he want. Chuck Norris decide your life."

This charming student, when asked to describe Chuck Norris and share his profile responded with: “If I said who Chuck Norris is, Chuck Norris will kill you.” If this had been a competition, this kid wins.

The rest:

"I am a Rich Man and a Popular Person, I have a wife but I forgot her name. I live in America, everywhere because I'm RICH."

David Beckham. Relationship Status? "Married with Victoria, it's complicated because David go playin Milan AC in Italian, in January."

"My name is Wentworth Miller and I have 34 years old. I'm just registered in Facebook and I want to be your friend :D. I'm the celebrate characters in the serie Prison Break: Michael Scofield. I hope to find love in Facebook or other because I'm alone :("

"Queen Elizabeth II. She likes Jazz and classical music. Movies / TV? Inspecteur Derrick and Barnaby. Activities: she sleeps."

As for Eva Longoria and Tony Parker? Well, Tony wrote on Eva’s wall. “I love you Babe. XD”

Filed under: All things French, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Like two piece in an iPod.

Before I left for England a few weeks ago, I decided to ambitiously quasi-plan the remaining 19 weeks of teaching to which I would have to return in early November.  Those of you counting, that means I only teach for a total of 21 weeks in 7 months. One of the pros of working for the French is, in fact, not working. Anyway, my planning had me scheduled to play a few ‘getting to know you’ games with my secondes (sophomores), since they knew a bit of my past and interests, and I knew nothing of theirs.  In my usual super-planner way, I wrote everything out, divided the class into minutes and then discovered that I can, in fact, think on my feet in class.

One of the teachers at our orientation mentioned she went over an idiomatic expression every week with her students. One of my teachers at school mentioned playing pictionary with idiomatic expressions in class.  I decided to combine the two: every week, I’ll go over a new expression, and in April I will hand them out a list which we’ll use to play a Idiomatic Expression Pictionary game.  Last week’s expression was “like two peas in a pod.”  In an effort to get them to speak English, I had the class devine (guess) what the expression could possibly mean. And, boy, was that entertaining:

  • “Madame, ees eet becos oo are alone becos zere are only two?”
  • “Madame, whot ees a pod? Ees like iPod?”
  • “Madame, ees peas half?”
  • “Madame, ees becos oo are a lot of peepol in a smol place?”
  • And finally, “Madame, ees becos oo are same?”

For your reference, the French equivalent, which my kids were quick to offer up, is “Ils se ressemblent comme deux gouttes d’eau.” They’re like two drops of water.  Oh, and a pod is une cosse.

That was supposed to be a five minute exercise, but 15 minutes later we arrived at the translation, and had to move on to the next jeu: I know someone who…

This is the game where everyone stands in a circle, one person gets in the middle and says something like, “I know someone who is wearing red shoes,” and then everyone wearing red shoes has to change places. Well, it took forever to explain the game, but once it got going, I think they enjoyed the opportunity to horse around a bit.  Getting them to sit back down became the hard part. Having a sentence structure already given to them didn’t seem to help them construct a sentence correctly, though.  After several “I know someone who is shoes/brown hair/sister” statements, I made them repeat and get help until they got the sentence structure right, by which point everyone was itching to switch places and chaos ensued.

But the last game was definitely a favorite with the classes: Who am I? I asked the students to write down one or two names of celebrities on a piece of paper and collected them all. Then a volunteer came up, picked a name at random and covered his or her eyes. I wrote the name on the board so the other students could see, and then erased it.  The volunteer had to ask questions to discover their “identity.”  Once they did, they picked the next victim, er, volunteer.

I was quite impressed with the range of celebrity names I got from the students…everything from Beyoncé to JFK.  Here are  a few names for your entertainment:

  • Characters: Hulk, Spiderman, Superman, Batman, Iron man, James Bond
  • Actors: Brad Pitte (sic), Tom Cruise, Eva Longoria, Georges (sic) Clooney, Orlando Bloom, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Vin Diesel
  • Musicians: Janis Joplin, Beyoncé,  Billie Joe Armstrong
  • Politicians: George W. Bush, JFK
  • Authors: J. K. Rowling, Stephen King, Stephanie Meyer
  • Other: E.T.

One of the more entertaining question-answer sessions came with Billie Joe Armstrong, which resulted in the class not really knowing who it was and offering suggestions like, “The jazz guy,” then, “No, the man on the moon,” followed by, “You’re wrong, it’s the Tour de France winner.”  Turns out, he’s the lead singer from Green Day. Even I didn’t know that, and I like Green Day.

One thing I learned after my first week of teaching in October was to plan more than you think you’ll need, because sometimes an exercise goes faster than planned.  That didn’t really happen this past week, but having extra things to do meant I could skip over bits if I felt the kids were being too rowdy or if it looked like it was boring them.  Three 15 minute activities, or four-five 10 minute activities seem to get the best response.  American doctors might take a look at some of my classes and shout ADD.  I think that kids today are so used to getting immediate response and cycling through multiple sources of entertainment thanks to the internet (for example, going through 40 YouTube videos in an hour, each with a different topic), that as a teacher you have to be on your toes.  Youreally are competing against internet-based instant-information in an entertaining presentation.  If you want to win, you’ve got to be more fun.

This week’s theme is Facebook, and today’s 3PM class is my first set of guinea pigs.  Let’s see how Darth Vader fares.  That last sentence will make more sense later this week, so I guess you’ll just have to come back for the punch line!

Filed under: All things French, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sunny ol’ England, Part II

We now present the second portion of Amrita’s first visit to the UK.

So, where was I? Ah yes, one more museum.

#6: The British Museum. I’m a huge fan of the atrium Foster did at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, so of course I wanted to see the “original,” so to speak.  Foster’s first attempt at the technique was actually at the British Museum, and on our last day in London, the Brit and I decided to check it out.  Well, we made it over to that part of town around lunch time and were both really hungry.  I was determined to eat fish ‘n’ chips before I left England. We walked up and down three streets, apparently the only streets in London that don’t have a fish ‘n’ chips place or a pub, spent over an hour looking for a place and finally gave up.  We grabbed a quick lunch of baked potato and wandered back to the museum.  Guess what we found on the street right beside Foster’s masterpiece? Yes, a handful of pubs and fish ‘n’ chip joints.  Go figure.

Britmus

The atrium at the British Museum. We checked out the actual exhibits, too. The English stole a lot of really nice ancient artifacts.

#7: Hyde Park. I did mention that it was surprisingly sunny and warm for late September when I visited London, right? The Brit and I went for a leisurely walk through Hyde Park, and as we both have incredibly sweet tooths (sweet teeth?), and it was such a gorgeous day, we nibbled on some ice cream as we made our way around the Serpentine.  Deliciously romantic.  When I told Roomie about it, she proposed a Flight of the Conchords analogy, though I’m not sure who is Bret and who is Jermaine…

Not my photo, but that's the park! Thoughts on Hyde vs. Central?

#8: Friends. I was definitely excited about visiting London, because as a design student visiting a new city is a fun way to add to your visual vocabulary. And, of course, I was excited about seeing the Brit after a five-month separation.  One thing I was slightly nervous about was meeting his friends, as anyone in a budding relationship will know. Especially when he told me I’d be meeting two of his oldest friends! But it all went well, no awkward conversations, a lot of joshing around and, as they say, taking the piss.  I think our two groups would mesh rather nicely, though the opportunity for that is a bit slim, since they’re separated by an ocean (or the Equator, in the case of Queen of the Lab).  There’s more to be said on this subject in the post about the next UK visit, as that was the primary goal of the trip.

#9: Slang. Of course, when you’re friends with or dating someone who speaks another language (yes, American English and UK English are different languages) or is from a different culture, you spend a bit of time discussing the socio-linguistic differences. I spent one incredibly funny evening in London hanging out with the Brit and one of his old friends discussing the actual definition of “douche” and the appropriate time to use the word.  Then I learned all kinds of terrible British slang, some of which should never be repeated (um, “wank tank”?), and some of which might come in handy one day.  For example, who knows what “chuffed” means?  Urban dictionary has it kind of right: to be surprised and happy, as in, “I can’t believe I won the lottery, I’m so chuffed!”

#10: Food. And if you know me well enough, you know I can’t visit a place without talking about their food.  The highlights of cheap London dining are as follows. Sandwich places are delicious, the English have mastered the salad sandwich, i.e. chicken salad, egg salad, tuna salad.  They even have chicken tandoori sandwiches, which just sounds wrong, but tastes sooooo good.  The Brit’s mom made us dinner most nights, and it was nice to have some home-cooking (delicious at that) to break up the daily eating out; she made a variety of things, from this Asian-inspired chicken dish to a casserole-esque dish. I don’t know what they were called, I just know they were yummy.  Oh, and at one point we ate out at this South American restaurant, where for £12 we got the largest meal in the world: a steak with an egg on top, lots of rice, salad, beans.  It was iHop sized. The steak was cooked just right.

Well that’s the round-up of the first London trip.  It was quite whirlwind, we covered a bit of ground (physically and topically) in only 4 days. I was sad to leave, but as soon as I saw the Eiffel tower on my way to the apartment, things started to pick back up.

Next time, on Jumping over the lazy dog: Amrita has her first full week of teaching. Dun dun dun.

Filed under: Around the world, , , , , , , ,

Sunny ol’ England, Part I

I have a theory.  God made England sunny for a September weekend so that when I visited London, I’d find it quite pleasant and want to come back, thus not disappointing the Brit and causing him to spend oodles of his own cash with mandated trips down to Paris because I’m terrified of coming up to face yet another rainstorm. As it turned out, it was the Brit’s trip down to Paris that resulted in a downpour or two, and my last trip back up (just a week ago) was pleasant with only a few drops of rain and gusty winds – yes, even in Scotland!

In case you don’t believe me, I thought I’d give you some evidence that England can, in fact, be sunny.  Consider this our first flashback.  All the way back to September, when I left the US (for quasi-good) on a jet plane headed to Gatwick Airport.

I arrived in London at dawn, and after a confusing half-hour stumbling around the airport looking for a coffee shop in the wrong terminal (that’s what happens when you arrive in a country without a cellphone and no calling card), I managed to meet up with the Brit and he shuttled me off to his country estate. Ok, not estate, but rather a nice little house in a charming town called Horsham.  After a recuperative nap and some unpacking, we took a walk around town and through the park, where we ran into the Brit’s paternal unit. A brief chat later, we snagged lunch (a real English sandwich!) and did some more wandering before heading back home to meet the maternal unit and one half of the sibling set.  The meet-the-parents routine went rather well, I think, though I felt bad for bringing a bottle of wine when his mum doesn’t drink (but I’m making amends with my next trip up).

The next three days were devoted to London and trying not to miss our trains. We did a lot of walking, I think I counted 7 miles covered in one day, and saw a lot of the mandated tourist destinations.  I’ve got a couple of images from my own camera, before I discovered the sensor had been splattered with dust, and then a couple from the Brit’s camera that will serve as guides to this exciting narrative.  And just for kicks, I thought we’d go sight by sight, rather than follow a timely chronicle, since I can’t remember what we did first, but I certainly remember what we did.  So here’s the London Top Ten, in no particular order.

#1: The London Eye. You can’t miss it if you go to London, and it’s a great way to orient yourself in the city – kind of what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. Structurally I found it quite beautiful, and the view from the top was well worth the price and the wait.  The British certainly like to queue up.  Although I couldn’t help but think of that Doctor Who episode every time I saw this landmark…also, there was some random 4D movie experience, basically an excuse to get misted and have wind blown in our face, with some 3D effects that were better than Disney’s, while watching cool shots of the Eye and some little girl.

eye01
It doesn’t look so big, until you realize each one of those little pill-like cabins contains 15-20 people.
eye02
It’s like a huge, turning, bicycle wheel. But it moves incredibly slowly, so it didn’t seem to activate my fear of hights / motion sickness.
eye03
Better than seeing the Eye from the ground? Seeing sunset over London from the Eye! Who wants to guess the time?
The view from the top.
The view from the top.

#2: Big Ben. If you have to see the Eye, then you can’t help but hear Big Ben. I found its architecture interesting, though I prefer the proportions and detailing of monuments in Paris. When we were at the top of the London Eye, in true British style, a gent asked me for the time. And as a truly ditsy American, I searched my purse for a watch, Big Ben ticking away behind me, while the rest of the cabin laughed.

bigben01
The infamous Big Ben was actually one of the first things we saw. We saw it again and again the next few days, but for some reason I only recall hearing it ring once or twice…
bigben02

Big Ben at night, doesn't he look handsome?

#3: Buckingham Palace. So, we didn’t get to see the changing of the guard, and we didn’t go inside the Palace or the Gardens, but I did get to see a guard and he walked around a bit, so it was almost the same.  It was weird thinking that this essentially huge McMansion belongs to a little old lady that happens to be very rich and the (decorative) head of a small island/important country.  And that Prince Charles grew up there, funny ears and all.

Buckpal

That's the guard! And okay, so he moved a total of 10 feet...but he did change positions!

#4: Piccadilly Circus. The Brit describes this plaza as London’s version of the Big Apple’s Times Square.  I will say, it was cleaner than Times Square.  It was also smaller than Times Square, like waaaaaay smaller. I guess everything is bigger in America. But the tiny size and it’s great aspirations only made it quaintly adorable. Wait a minute, that sounds like an apt way to describe England itself…

piccad

It has a lot of moving images, which are interestingly hard to capture on still digital "film."

#5 Trafalgar Square, National Gallery. The Brit and I made it a tradition to approach relevant bits of public sculpture from the rear, and then forget to see them from the front.  We made an exception for Trafalgar Square, only because walking around the sculpture was key to our getting on our way. The National Gallery itself was beautiful, architecturally, and I was especially fond of its bathrooms – one of my professors always said, you can tell how well a space is designed by how much thought is given to the bathrooms, as they tend to be an afterthought.  The art in the gallery was your usual smattering of stuff, though I particularly enjoyed the Turners on display.

trafsq

From the rear at sunset, as we saw it. Take note of the sliver of moon on the right.

That’s it on London for now.  Look for Part II shortly!

Filed under: Around the world, , , , , , , , ,