Friday exploration

Today was the day where I wanted to check off all the final sites I had yet to see.  This first of which was Westminster Abby.  This building is simply amazing that it was built so tall so long ago, and yet still stands.  The few parts of it that explained the history of the building were the most intriguing.  I saw one model that did not have buttresses, which must have been added later to increase the stability, and I also saw the wrought iron braces that spanned the outer layer of arches to achieve the same effect.  Sadly there are no pictures in such a holy site, but I think that makes it all the better because you need to burn every image into your brain.  After the Abby Stefan, Livy and I peeled off from the group and went to the gaming exhibit at the Somerset house, Now Play This.  The exhibit featured what seemed to be projects from university that experimented with some new (or retro-old) style of gaming.  One game used ascii graphics, which is shown in the picture.  The entire screen is covered with text that changes the letter based on how much black space is in the letter, to achieve shading.

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Then we got food at Pret, and had to do a double take at the prices.  It was 2.50 for the best sandwich I have ever had, thus finalizing my theory that there is a perfect inverse relationship between cost and quality of food.  The next place I went to was the Imperial War Museum.  The World War 1 exhibit on the first floor was the best one there.  They included many first-hand accounts of the trench warfare in excerpts from letters home that showed the transition from green recruits to hardened warriors.  The final place I visited was quickly the Sherlock Holmes Museum, where I bought a shirt.

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The Great City of London

Traveling thru London for the first time I learned many bits of information. The information learned is some that simply cannot be taught. Living in London and absorbing the culture for the past week I have begun to see several unique societal traits that Londoners have that we as American’s do not.

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Even with all the busy streets and loud noises, there are several beautiful areas within the near reaches of London. While we have explored the many areas of interest I have noticed several areas that appear to be safe zones from the chaos of the city life. Those areas are the multitude of parks we visited. Each park was unique in of itself, but they all shared one incredible characteristic, an overall calmness. When you walk into the park from the jungle of the city almost immediately there is a noticeable reduction in noise pollution. The people are no longer absorbed into their phones or running to the next tube station. Everyone is relaxing and taking in the sun, enjoying the beautiful scenery around them.

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With all the business happening around, Londoners seem to find time for a smoke or a cup of coffee. The number of coffee shops on each block is astounding to me. While moving around London I probably passed around one hundred coffee shops, which I then proceeded to stop at about half of them. Coffee culture in London appears to be a very large one. Annually the hold a London Coffee Festival, which I attended. The convention mainly consists of a large variety of companies testing new kinds of coffee or displaying new coffee machines that are being developed. At the coffee festival, I tasted probably twenty different kinds of coffee ranging from mild roast out of an electric siphon coffee maker to a new Starbucks coffee that was injected with Nitrous Oxide.

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My conclusion of the entire trip is that the people of London come from a large variety of cultures and countries. They know how to take a step out of the busy roads of the city and relax. And they almost like coffee as much as I do!

Shaken, Rattled, and Rolled

This morning I took the opportunity of the small group explorations to return to Westminster Abbey, which was closed on Wednesday and Thursday due to a service. The church is magnificent inside and out and the Gothic building dates to near A.D. 1245. The inside was just as great, with wall sized stained glass windows depicting Christ and the apostles and the most ornate tombs I’ve ever seen. When I wasn’t awed by the building and it’s incredibly high vaulted ceiling, I was mesmerized by the golden ornate pieces used for worship and ceremony. Even with all of this magnificence a simple wooden door caught my eye, and upon closer inspection it turned out to be the oldest door in Britain, having been at the site since A.D. 1050.

After this I went on a search of a less famous church: St. George’s German Lutheran Church. In 1764 a group of would-be German settlers were on their way to Nova Scotia when the person providing them passage took their money and left them in London. The pastor at the time petitioned the king to provide passage for the group to South Carolina, which the king did. In the mean time the church helped the stranded Germans while they camped In a nearby field. In this group were my ancestors, a family led by Heinrich Adolf (for those keeping track I can now cross off Brown, Adolf, and Smith from the list of generic family names that i am related too). I was hoping the church would have some records of the incident that I might be able to see and show my family, but unfortunately the church appears to only be used for events now and did not seem to be an operating church.0407171140

I then left to meet some friends at Baker street, where the plans for changed, but I didn’t have international data to recieve the changes, so I wound up walking around for 45 minutes in search of Wi-Fi. What I found was the most picturesque scene I’ve ever beheld in my life. Regents park is a very beautiful place and I could have spent all day there, but alas, places to go and people to see.0407171308a

We eventually ran into each other and grabbed some food to eat on the train to the Olympic park. A word of advice: don’t open sparkling water on an underground train changing cabin pressure. The guy next to you will laugh, and you’ll be glad he did, because he will know you didn’t pee your pants. The Acceleromittal Orbiter was pretty cool, but we were unable to ride because tickets are usually bought in advance, which wasn’t advertised. It still had a great veiw though.

On our way back we decided to try the carnival. Best. Decision. Ever. Those rides were way more intense than their American counterparts. In pretty sure we were pulling 4-6 G’ s on two of the rides. It was a lot of fun until the “cool down” ride. We decided to ride the swings that go up high through the air and spin in a circle and are generally pleasant to just sit and cool down. Not this one. The turn radius was really small, but what really messed me up was a kid on one of the other swings rocking back and forth which was causing the whole ride to slow down and speed up and lurch. I have never been so sick on a ride in my entire life. I literally almost lost it. After that lovely experience, it was time to go to the group dinner.

Somerset Game Fest (Now Play This)

Traveling through on the last day being in London was quite the adventure. This time around, we had the whole day to ourselves so of course, we spent it looking at everything we can get to. The main journey that I had planned was the Somerset House, and they had an event called Now Play. It features an interesting array of games which focused on the medium in which it was being played on.

On of the most technically interesting exhibit was the “Restless Spirit Projector”. The game consists of a projector, an opaque crystal ball, and a jar. The crystal ball captures the ghosts being projected by the projector and puts it in the jar. Each ghost has their own story and to appease the lonely ghosts, the player would have to pair up the ghosts according to their riddles. To actually select the ghosts, the player would use a mirror to reflect the light representing the ghosts from the projector onto the crystal ball. With some technical magic, they were able to not only detect that there is a light shining onto the crystal ball, but they can also differentiate which ghost is being selected simply using a mirror. This was the only exhibit that I did not understand how they could have implemented it. I am still quite amazed at the magic trick it possesses.

Most of the other exhibits use special tricks to convey the game to the players. One such game was based on an ASCII graphics engine. The game “10000 Years” is a small storytelling game which puts the user in a foreign environment to explore. The environment itself, however, is being displayed using nothing but letters, numbers, and punctuations on a keyboard. It is similar to old rogue-like games where the screen can only display text but also produce pictures from those texts. This case, it was a 3D world being explored in a first person perspective, all depicted in the form of ASCII characters.

There were a few more exhibits that peaked my interests. If you want to know more, come talk to me, I promise I won’t bite.

Olympic Park

tmp_14657-20170407_161650-378563389.jpgTo wrap up my trip to London, I decided I had to see the Olympic park. I started off the day getting to see West minster abby. The chapel was truly amazing. I particularly loved the ceiling in the part that is known as the ladies chaple. It has this ornate spiraling pattern. One wall was filled with six giant stain glass windows. After that I went to the Sherlock museum. It’s a reconstruction of what the scenes in the book looked like. I’ve never read any Sherlock Holmes books but after seeing a module of a severed thumb and a creepy child’s mask proudly on display my curiosity has been peeked. It made me want to read the book to understand what exactly was going on. After getting lunch in a sandwich shop, my group headed to the Olympic Park by tube. We wanted to ride down the slide that spirals down the monument build there during the olpimpics. The structure is taller than the statue of liberty and thankfully has an elevator you can take to the top to get a view of the city, and then a slide you can take back down. Unfortunately you had to get tickets in advance. So, desperate to find something to spend out last pounds on for our last day in London, we decided to check out a carnival happening near by. This proved to be the highlight of the day. I tried looking this up to no avail, but I am suspicious that the levels of government force rides are allowed to have are different in london than they are in America. I’ve never been on a ride that intense. We were spinning in little pods of four on a ride that was also spinning on a platform that tilted at a 45 degree angle. We were going so fast that I couldn’t move my arms and tears were streaming out of my eyes. It even got a little hard to breath we were experiencing so much fore. This may sound terrible to some, but I had a blast. We rode two more rides before we had to call it a day and head back for a group dinner. After that, my buddies and I wrapped up our London adventure at a pub playing darts and trying to spend out last few pounds. I can’t think of a more perfect way to wrap up the trip.

Steam and Coffee

As the final day of our trip, today we had no large group activities to do in the morning leaving plenty of time to go visit our own points of interest around the city. In my case I needed to finish up my research on the history of steam power in London and then Zach and I had plans to visit the first day of the annual London Coffee festival.

We started our expedition, after sleeping in a bit, by taking the District line all the way out to the Chiswick area of London.  This was the first time that we had ventured so far from the city center and we were pleased to find ourselves in a much quieter and greener residential area. The first stop of the day was the London museum of Water and Steam, which turned out to be one of the coolest museums of the entire trip. There were several working steam pumps and engines as well as many different interactive exhibits showcasing exactly how the massive machines functioned. The one pictured below is the four-story tall 90 inch Cornish steam engine which at the time of its construction was he largest waterworks engine in existence.

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After finishing up at the museum we grabbed a bite to eat at a nearby pub and began to make our way across town to the Old Truman brewery, the location of the coffee festival. This resulted in the tube ride of the trip as we wen 26 stations down the District line to the other side of London.

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We arrived at our destination a bit earlier than planned and proceeded to go wander around the Spitalfields market to kill some time.

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Once we were done browsing through all of the art and clothing stalls we moved on to the Coffee festival which turned out to be far bigger than Zach and I expected. Each floor of the festival was crammed with a multitude of booths and stalls all offering samples of some of the best coffees, teas, chocolates, desserts, and juices that London had to offer. We drifted through the crowds for several hours until we had to return to the hotel, hyper from far too much caffeine and sugar, for our final group dinner before returning home.

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Reflections of a Time

As the week draws to a close I remember the fun and exciting time I shared with my class mates. Only today, I traveled to the London 2012 Olympic Park to see a huge slide. Although we couldn’t slide down, we did visit an small amusement park beside it. The rides here in London are much more intense than the rides in America. I felt so much G-force that my body was smushed back into the chair.

This Fun Fair was very different from an American pop up park. Here in London, they have some shooting games that use tiny balls; you would never find that time of game in the States.

As a history major with a passion for London, I was so happy to be in London and visit the many, many sights of important history. I mostly studied World History in grade school so historical sites of our trip were informative for me. They had an exhibit about the Moghual empire in the V&A Museum that I found quite well done. i learned about that Empire in school but forgot about it until I saw that exhibit. I loved the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace the best. I found the self contended nature of the historical complexes allowed for full immersion. So many years of history are found in these places and they embrace and reflect upon the ever changing nature of the site.

One thing I found very interesting and different was the direct contrast because the Old style and New. You would have one old building right next to the high rise modern buildings. I think this shows the growth of the city of London. Although it may be such a lovely old city, it will always be changing and growing.

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A Trip of Many Firsts

This trip was filled with many of firsts. This was my first trip out the country. I was a little nervous because everything was brand new especially navigating the airport. Even though I was a little nervous, I was super excited to have the opportunity to travel with the Honor’s Program. The highlight of my trip was the going to Buckingham Palace and Wimbledon. These to places have always been on my lifetime bucket list and I can’t believe I am completing these adventures at age 20! My favorite memories that I will always remember will be tackling the tube and learning about the history of the London. This will be something that trip I’ll never forget!

Dover

 

Today was the best day I had on this trip. I went with a small group to the White Cliffs of Dover, where we climbed to the top of the cliffs and then climbed up to the Dover Castle. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. There are no words to describe how beautiful it was. The sea was emerald green, and the beaches by the cliffs were made of black stones instead of sand. With every step, the view just kept getting better and better. We climbed to the top and on the way, we saw ponies all hiding in a grouping of trees. After we got to the top, we went to a lighthouse at the top and had afternoon tea. Camille and I also got a cup of the best hot chocolate ever. We all shared cones, cakes, and shortbread.

 

The town of Dover was also beautiful and the beach had smooth rocks instead of sand. We spent the first and last parts of our trip skipping rocks and sitting on the beach. Although we didn’t converse with too many people, we had some nice interactions with the locals. London and Dover were very different in atmosphere and people. In London, everything is very fast-paced, but in Dover, it was much more laid-back, with people just strolling around and enjoying the moment instead of worrying about getting to the next thing.

Hampton Court Palace

On Wednesday, as a group, we traveled to Hampton Court Palace. This exploration was my favorite because I enjoyed watching the scenery pass by while we rode on the overland train and the neighborhood outside of Hampton Court Palace. Another reason I enjoyed Hampton Court is because I am interested in royalty and how they lived during their time.  I thought that the palace was beautiful and exquisite. The first place in the palace that my friends and I ventured into was King Henry’s kitchens. We learned that King Henry and his court ate a variety of meats, wines, vegetables, and fruits. Afterwards, we walked around the gardens. My friends and I took a carriage ride around one of the main gardens. During the carriage ride, our tour guide informed us about the history behind Hampton Court Palace. Also ,during the ride, I got a better view of all the gorgeous flowers and trees. I love flowers, gardens, and fountains, so walking and riding around the palace was aesthetically pleasing. After the carriage ride, we walked to the other gardens on the grounds and took pictures there; the farther we walked the more beautiful the gardens appeared. Attending this group exploration educated me about how British royalty and how they lived. Hampton Court Palace is an amazing tourist destination and I would recommend it to anyone that desires to travel to London.