This is Giverny the town Monet settled in and built his gardens. It was one of the most significant trips I made while traveling in Europe.
What a joy it was to visit the very gardens that Claude Monet built and created his later paintings. I was able to truly see the beauty that inspired Monet.
England is a cool country to visit. It’s different from America in the sense that it’s older. That may seem like an obvious statement, but bear with me. It’s older in the sense that there are marks of history still present today. Somewhere in England there is a remnant from literally every stage of history. Stonehenge is present from the earliest age. There are walls and baths from when the Romans took over. There are castles from the time of the Normans. There are castles and homes from the different kings and queens. There are workhouses and factories from the industrial age. The locations where famous authors stayed and wrote about are still there from the Victorian period. This goes on and on and on. History is incorporated into the culture. Every city has something from the past. The contrast between historic and modern can be very sharp, especially when right next to each other. It’s also very rustic, green and rolling. So basically, every town I visit I now expect to see either a castle, or a cathedral or monument of some sort reflecting a period of history.
This past weekend I went to Oxford, Bath and Stonehenge. In Oxford I was literally in the exact same great hall where Harry Potter was filmed! It was awesome! I also saw the Alice in Wonderland shop. Then we went to Bath. Bath is a lovely town; it’s easy to see why many people love it. I toured the Roman Baths and saw Cathedrals, churches, houses and art museums. It’s a rich town, as in I’ve never seen so many beautiful cars parked on the side of the road. Stonehenge, however, was my favorite. I loved seeing for myself the place I’ve been studying and reading about forever. I, of course, got pictures from every possible angle. It’s just so mysterious and cool. It was just an “aww” factor for me. I also got souvenirs of course. If you’re ever in England, hit up Stonehenge.
The food isn’t too bad. There is common ground with American food, but there are differences too. Fish, chips, and tea are a regular occurrence. However, there is not a set ‘tea time’ as I used to think. The food is a bit blander than American food. Potatoes are served at least once a day. Some of the sweets are too sweet, and some are not sweet enough, some hit the mark. There are no good chocolate shakes to be found here. Overall it’s not too bad. The most surprising thing to me about the culture here was the music. England listens to our American music. What’s popular over there is popular over here and is played everywhere. There is a shortage of movie theatres. Only the bigger towns have them. If a small town does have one it’s a small, dinky four cinema with movies from four months ago. That was interesting to me. All children wear a uniform to school. It’s quite adorable. Halloween is barely celebrated. It is not as big a deal in America. Thanksgiving is not celebrated, obviously. They have Guy Fox day on November 5, but other than that, they do not celebrate as many holidays as we Americans do. Driving on the opposite side of the road still takes some getting used to, but England is a lovely country.
Traveling is about making connections to places, about getting from here to there. Sometimes it presents itself in unexpected ways. Last Friday I took a day trip to Cambridge England. The plan was to see a John Cage exhibit. He was the composer who wrote the musical masterpiece 4’33”, that is, 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence. Before getting to Kettles yard to see the Cage exhibit, the first stop was to Cavendish laboratory.
Many major discoveries were made at this lab, not the least was the discovery of the structure of DNA by Watson and Crick in 1953. As we began our tour I was amazed at the accomplishments of James Clerk Maxwell the first professor and director of Cavendish labs. He had an interest in light and made many discoveries and inventions such as improving on the Zoetrope, a device that animates, by placing lenses in the slots which eliminates distortion. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Maxwell is he is the first to make a color photograph. Since I teach photography at HLG and have been a photographer since childhood, I found a connection between me and Cavendish Labs from learning about Maxwell and his work with light.
I’ve discovered that real learning can occur in traveling if you keep an open mind and open eyes. The trip to Cavendish connected me to my professional career as an illustrator and designer at Bell Laboratories in Naperville, Illinois. There I produced illustrations of cellular phone technology with the scientists that developed it, before it even existed. The trip to Cambridge was also steeped in history, the place where Isaac Newton, Tennyson and Francis Bacon worked. I saw King’s College chapel and was connected to my Christian faith. I finally made it to the Cage exhibit where I became connected to my passion of the arts. I was excited to see the innovative ideas that John Cage shared with the world. But it was the whole trip that exceeded my expectations as I connected so much of my life to one place.
Enchante! Paris, home of beauty and the beast, and a few weekends ago, home of Rebekah Keen. For me Paris was a vision of the Notre Dame Cathedral, The Louvre Museum, Mona Lisa, the Eiffel Tower, fashion shows, street protests, shopping, sightseeing, markets, and the metro. I thought the language would perhaps be a tough barrier to overcome, but we had no problem with it whatsoever. Everyone we talked to spoke English, and if they didn’t they would go get one of their friends who did. My favorite part was the night the entire city of Paris did not sleep. We went and hung out under the sparkling Eiffel tower. It would glitter every hour on the hour. So beautiful! On my way back I bartered with a street vendor and got 18 keychains for 3 Euros, Which is a great deal fyi. We also ate snails. I did not like them. It’s not that it tasted bad, it’s just that as I was eating it, I kept getting an image of a slug in my head, and then I had a hard time not gagging and chewing. It was a great experience though. I also love the pastry shops everywhere. Shopping and pastries around every corner.. it’s no wonder I love Paris so much!