Friday, January 28, 2011

Bonjour from Paris! Paris is a busy, dirty, beautiful, stinky, lovely city, full of good food, and lovestruck couples. Too much kissing. ;)

I find the skyline of Paris very beautiful; more beautiful than London. Most of the buildings are quite old, with few ginormous, unromantic, modern structures. The view from Notre Dame was particularly lovely.

The kids really enjoy feeding the pigeons. I don't think the pigeons mind much either.

Some highlights so far:

Visiting Victor Hugo at his apartment. He was not much for conversation. Very stony expression on his face. Haha (readers roll eyes).

Exploring the catacombs. Thousands of Parisians were moved here when the graveyards in Paris began overflowing into people's basements in the late 1800's. Gross, I know. But despite it being a little morbid down there, it has been made into a memorial to those who are buried there, now nameless. There are many plaques throughout with poignant sayings on them; at least, from what I could understand, they seemed rather thought-provoking.

Strolling through the Montpernasse graveyard on a sunny Sunday afternoon was, in a word, sublime. I visited Camille Saint-Saëns there.

Being fed Nutella crepes made by this master crepe-maker.

In keeping with the food theme: eating escargot...

...and frog legs!

Stefanie (who came to Paris with Tobias to visit me last weekend :D) was not as impressed with the amphibian appendages!

The creme brûlée, however, was heavenly.

Mmmmmmm. Bonne nuit!

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Observations of an ignorant tourist

Living so close to Notre Dame is lovely. Every time I go for a walk, I pass by this beauty.

Every time I pass it, something unusual occurs. Whether it's a mob with torches, a stampede of a couple hundred rollerbladers, police scuba-diving in the Seine, or machine gun toting soldiers in camo an red berets, there is always something interesting to see!

A couple things I've observed about Paris: the crosswalks are very confusing. The people walk when the red man is lit up, and the cars go when the green man is lit up. When walking down the sidewalk, you constantly feel like you are playing a game of chicken. I am always the one who has to give way, because the French DON'T.

Hanging out with the kids and Sarah is fun, and busy! :) Sometimes I lock Sina in the cupboard to get some peace an quiet! :P

(I joke, I joke.)

Friday, January 7, 2011

"With eyes closed is the best way to look at the soul." -Victor Hugo

On Wednesday, Kelsey and I went to see Les Misérables at Queen's Theatre. Wow. I can't say how much I love this book, so I shan't try. What hit me most about the play, was the different affects grace had on Javert and Jean Valjean. Jean Valjean knew he did not deserve it, but accepted it and in turn, freely gave it to others. Javert, on the other hand, could not accept it, and so it drove him to his death.

In the morning we went to bookshops on Charing Cross Road. I eagerly looked for 84 Charing Cross Road, as I lived the movie based on it. Imagine my disgust to find it, not a quaint second hand bookshop, but of all things, a Pizza Hut. >:(

Here is a picture of me acting nonchalant as I pose for a picture in a great bookshop. Those books behind me look gorgeous and wonderful, but in actuality they are old men's magazines. Things are always less romantic up close. However, they make a nice picture.

Yesterday, we ambled down the streets of Oxford where famous guys like Lewis and Tolkein walked, likely with their minds far away in Narnia or Middle Earth somewhere.

This morning, we went to the Tower if London, and stood where many prisoners were kept locked in various towers awaiting their date with the executioner. Their last messages, carved into the walls of the towers, are hauntingly poignant, considering that many of them endured torture, choosing to be killed or their faith rather than recant.
"The more suffering for Christ in this world, the more glory with Christ in the next." -Arubdell, 22 June 1587

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Climbing Stairs. Many of them!

Yesterday, we went to St. Paul's Cathedral. I am running out of adjectives to describe all these glorious places. I love how all these cathedrals have such incredibly high ceilings; there is so much space to fill with gorgeous choral music.

We climbed the 528 steps up to the Inner Golden Gallery, and got a wonderful view of the city.

In the crypt is (among others) the tomb of Christopher Wren, who designed not only St. Paul's but many other buildings built in London after the Great Fire. His tomb is a simple stone slab. No ornamentation whatsoever or monument to the creative mind behind these exquisite buildings. His son put a plaque above his tomb which ends with:
"Reader, if you seek his monument, look about you."

Hmmm. Wow.

Then we went to the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood. I was in raptures.

At the British Library, we saw many incredible things, including Jane Austen's writing desk, many original musical scores by Handel, Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven, the Magna Carta, fragments of the Gospel of John from the 3rd century, and a MASSIVE column of bookshelves filled with beautiful old books. I was also in raptures here.

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Westminster Abbey

On the Tombs in Westminster Abbey

Mortality, behold and fear
What a change of flesh is here!
Think how many royal bones
Sleep within these heaps of stones;
Here they lie, had realms and lands,
Who now want strength to stir their hands,
Where from their pulpits seal'd with dust
They preach, 'In greatness is no trust.'
Here's an acre sown indeed
With the richest royallest seed
That the earth did e'er suck in
Since the first man died for sin:
Here the bones of birth have cried
'Though God's they were, as men they died!'
Here are sands, ignoble things,
Dropped from the ruin'd sides of kings:
Here's a world of pomp and state
Buried in dust, once dead by fate.
-Francis Beaumont

Westminster Abbey was by far what I was looking forward to most, and it did not disappoint. I walked through in a awed daze, trying to convince myself that I was actually there. First of all it is incredible to just be in such an old and astoundingly breathtaking cathedral, but the fact that this is where British monarchs since 1066 have been crowned, and that important historical figures and monarchs lie buried here makes it simply, well, amazing, for lack of a big fancy word that would accurately describe my awe.

Elizabeth 1 and her sister, "Bloody Mary", share a tomb with the inscription, 'Partners both in throne and grave, here rest we two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, in the hope of one Resurrection.' Other greats resting here include Handel, David Livingstone, Dickens, Sir Isaac Newton, and Darwin; though why he should be given such an honour in a place of worship to the One He rejected as Creator is beyond me.

The Abbey is intolerably beautiful. I can't believe it.

One thing that I found very cool is that every hour they have a moment of silence where a prayer is broadcasted over the speakers throughout the Abbey. I found it much more God-focused than a lot of other cathedrals I've been to.

We also went to Evensong in the evening, which was again, beautiful. The choir singing the Psalms and other Scripture set to music resounding through the magnificent structure is quite breathtaking. And yet, even the splendor, exquisite beauty and magnificence of the praises ringing through Westminster Abbey cannot compare with what our King of kings deserves. This makes it even more incredible that all He asks for is for is our hearts and lives.

O gracious and holy Father,
Give us wisdom to perceive You,
Diligence to seek You,
Patience to wait for You,
Eyes to behold You,
A heart to meditate upon You,
And a life to proclaim You,
Through the power of the
Spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord.
-attributed to St. Benedict c480-c547

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On Saturday, I flew to London and met Kelsey! I still can't believe I'm actually here. On Sunday, we went to St. Giles-in-the-Fields for morning prayer, and then to the Wallace Collection. It was neat, I met my knight in shining armour there, he's pretty tiny though. I guess people were smaller back then. I told Kelsey to pick one too, and she looked at me kind of funny. I guess she is not as silly as me that way! :P

After that we went to Handel's house. To stand in the room where he composed the Messiah was an overwhelming feeling. He lived in that house for something like 35 years.

I'm not sure that the Changing of the Guard was worth standing in the freezing cold for an hour, but at least I can say I've done it! We met some people in front of us that took pity on my shortness and let me stand closer so I could see better. :P

Seeing Big Ben and other such famous landmarks was also, as I've said, surreal.

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Wow, where do I start? If I could sum up everything in one word, it would be "surreal". I keep thinking, "This has to be a dream!"

Okay, well a few highlights from Germany are climbing the tower of the cathedral in Ulm; thankfully I didn't have a claustrophobic attack on the narrow, winding stone staircase.

Visiting the Schloß Favorite in Baden-Baden with Stefanie and Tobias

Going to the Ludwigsburg castle; that was a huge highlight!

Bringing in the New Year in Münchingen. Since the country is so densely populated compared to Canada, and we could see at least 20 different towns from the hill by the Glocker's house, the fireworks were absolutely amazing! Everywhere you looked there were fireworks going off all the time, as far a you could see. Amazing. I shouldn't even put this picture up, because it doesn't do it justice at all.

And lastly, it was really exciting when I finally got over my fear of making an utter fool out of myself and starting attempting more German. Stefanie's family and friends are very encouraging...surprised cheers every time I tried. :) It was so exciting when someone would ask me something in German, and I not only understood, but knew how to answer them! :P