Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Home, again!

The last full day of the study abroad program was busy, but fun. Jake and I went to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard. We didn't stay for all of the pageantry, but heard lots of fun band music and enjoyed the official event. Then we went to Harrod's so Jake could see it.
Next we went over to St. Paul's Cathedral. The tour was INCREDIBLE! Hearing about the history of the cathedral increased my knowledge of the history of London. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable. After the tour, we took the hike to the top of the dome...it was a lot of steps, but well worth it. At the first gallery, the whispering gallery, I enjoyed the view. However, the best part was experimenting with the whispering qualities of the gallery. Jake and I sat on opposite sides of the dome and spoke at normal levels and had a conversation; despite all the people walking around and talking, we heard each other quite clearly. Afterward, we headed up to the next level (outside), where we got some shots of the city. Then we made the final climb. We got to look through the oculus of the dome down at the floor — long way! Then onto the top outdoor gallery with high winds and great views! The stairs down were a little steep, but truly, the adventure was great!
For our last stop, we traveled across the Millennium Bridge and ducked into the Tate Modern. I was not impressed with much of the work. I think I will have to go see the Tate Britain and the National Gallery to be happy. However, the idea of housing a museum in an old power plant was fun.
Then we dashed home to change and run to the evening's concert. We heard the Philharmonia Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. They played the Brahm's Violin Concerto and Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique. I enjoyed the concert, but the best parts were the encore by the soloist (when he played part of Bach's Violin Partita No. 3) and the final bits of the Berlioz. The orchestra was good, but not as engaging as I would've liked.
The rest of the night was spent packing and getting ready for the next round of summer adventures.
Steve and I woke up bright and early to catch the bus, to the tube, to the train, to the airport. On the way, we had to deliver our bags to the left luggage desk at the train station. Luckily we made our flight in plenty of time. On the way, however, we had to check our carry-on weight...let's just say that our pockets got very full and I wore a book to drop both bags below the 10 kg weight limit. We explored the National Museum (unimpressive) once we got to Dublin and ate at a Korean BBQ for dinner since it was the only thing open when we woke up from our naps!
For Saturday, we took a tour of the Guinness factory. It is probably the most impressive museum that I've seen since being in Europe, and perhaps ever. They have done an incredible job of flow and presenting the right amount of information alongside items and images. I didn't partake of the samples, but partook of the view at the Gravity Bar at the top; the highest viewpoint in Dublin. The rest of the day was spent exploring the various churches of Dublin and the Book of Kells at Trinity College. We watched the game...I was mad that England didn't win. I know, I know, I'm from the US and need to support them. I do, but I support England more since I'm living here for the summer and want to cheer them on in this football-crazed country for as long as possible!
On Sunday, we traveled by train from coast to coast. We traveled to Galway and had a peaceful day visiting their cathedral, seeing the seashore, and walking the streets of the city. If I had to move to Ireland, I think I would live there. I liked the feel much more than I did in Dublin. The only downside is the strong wind off the ocean. All of the trees grow at an angle due to the constant wind. As far as the scenery...I've decided that Ireland is no greener than the East Coast...I'm sure a few people think me blasphemous for saying that! It is true, though. Replace the sheep with cows and I would've been in Virginia.
Yesterday, we wandered the streets of Dublin, focusing on reaching the edge of town by the docks. We saw the bridges of Dublin and I loved them. The flight back was fine, and they didn't even weigh our bags. Once back in London, we picked up our bags and made our way to my new place in Southwark. I like where I am living for the week. It is really new and well done. Once I was settled, I went into town to say hello and goodbye to Jake and Phil ahead of their departure for the US today. All three of us, after being gone for the weekend (they were in Paris) , commented on how good it was to be "home" again. It really does feel that way. Ireland was nice, but London and England is now home. It is going to be hard to go home at the end of the summer. Thank goodness that I have over two more months!

As far as pictures go...there will be more up sometime during this next week. Patience!

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