There’s No Place Like Home

I don’t think I could have had a better trip to Europe.  I got to experience both the breadth of European cultures (through my visits to five different countries) and the depth of the Spanish culture (by living and working in Barcelona for two months).  I got to know so many wonderful people who taught me a lot, and I was able to do so many amazing things in such a short time.

Taking all of this into account, I was still very ready to go home to the United States today.  When I finally landed in Philadelphia after an 8-hour flight, I couldn’t contain my excitement.  Hearing all of the regional American accents at the airport was so comforting – I hadn’t heard a Southern accent in so long, and I loved it!  In the customs line, I struck up a conversation with the older couple behind me, who had just returned from London as well, where they went for a short vacation in the English countryside.  I didn’t care who I was talking to, I was just so happy to be home, and I think they were too.

Still in the habit of taking photos of all of the things that I felt some connection with, I snapped this one of the water fountain outside the airport bathroom:

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The first indoor water fountain I had seen all summer.

 

I even started to shed tears of joy about this water fountain, something that I never would have imagined myself doing a few months earlier.  Every few minutes, there was something else that I saw that I hadn’t realized that I had missed so much – Chobani yogurt, black beans, American outlets that actually fit my plugs without adapters, etc.

Yesterday, Clarissa and I were fantasizing about going back to the US, pretending to be Europeans: “Wow, how fortunate are we to be able to travel to the US tomorrow.  It has always been my dream to go over there.”  I heard this so many times this summer when people heard that I was from the States.  For many people, it is a dream just to travel to the US, let alone live here and attend a school like MIT.  One thing that I learned on this trip is that I have a whole lot to be thankful for.

Later, when I had finally landed in Chicago, I gave my parents the biggest hug in the world.  That alone made the whole trip worth it.

Last Day in Europe

Here’s the view out our bedroom window in the apartment:

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Houses in the north of London.

 

Also, here is our palace of an apartment:

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Kitchen and dining room.

 

I had a nice talk with our hostess Sarka in the morning.  I learned that she is from the Czech Republic and enjoys London despite the cold and rain, but likes to get away to her home country or Switzerland to go skiing once in a while.  She had a funny comment about London weather – “I like that it doesn’t change too much throughout the year.  The rain is either colder or warmer, that’s about it.”

Having seen several art museums and a science museum on our trip so far, we decided to go to a free anthropological museum today.  It was called the British Museum and was quite the place to be on a Monday afternoon:

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The British Museum

 

We followed the museum’s “one-hour self-guided tour,” discovering several cultural gems from different civilizations:

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We saw the world’s first chess set, which was apparently used as a model for the wizard’s chess pieces used in the Harry Potter movies.  It was most likely made in the 1100s in Norway out of walrus tusks and whale teeth.

 

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This was the treasure of an early civilization in the Middle East.  It is called the Oxus Treasure and is a display of metalwork dating from the 4th to 6th centuries BC.

 

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Here is the Portland Vase, made in ancient Rome using a special technique that allows the details to be shown in white against a dark background.

 

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This is a samurai warrior suit, used in Japan in the 1500s.

 

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And, here is one of the most important items in the museum, the Rosetta Stone.  The inscription written in three languages on this stone was used by the Frenchman Champollion in the 1800s to decipher the lost meaning of hieroglyphics.  This was why the obelisk that we saw in Paris was donated by Egypt.

 

Both Clarissa and I wished we had more time to spend in this museum, as it was very educational.  I think I’ve recently gained much more of an interest in history than I used to have, so I found a museum like this fascinating.

In the afternoon, we walked by the beautiful St. Paul’s Cathedral, another Anglican church:

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St. Paul’s Cathedral.

 

Also, we noticed that we were finally in the City of London:

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Post bearing the seal of the City of London, which reads Domine dirige nos, “Lord direct us.”

 

London is actually a county with 33 different boroughs, one of which is the City of London.  Where we had been all of the rest of the time was the City of Westminster.

As we crossed the Thames on a bridge in front of St. Paul’s cathedral, we noticed a man painting the gum spots on the bridge:

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Tiny works of art made in the dirty spots where people had dropped gum.  How thoughtful!

 

For dinner, we finally cracked and ate food in a style that was not from the country where we were.  We ate at an Anatolian restaurant, which served Turkish-style dishes:

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I had an excellent assortment of vegetables cooked in tomato sauce, and Clarissa had a similar assortment baked with cheese in a crust.

 

The restaurant was gorgeous as well:

Anatolian restaurant in London.

Anatolian restaurant in London.

 

After dinner, we were fortunate enough to be able to attend a performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in the original style in the original theater, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater:

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The outside of the Globe.

 

Before the show and during intermission, there were people wandering the area outside the theater wearing Renaissance style clothing and selling Renaissance style food.  In the theater, our tickets were for the yard, which is the standing area in the center of the theater.  The yard turned out to be the best place to see the show, because the actors often planted themselves among the audience members or paraded through the yard, making us feel as though we were really part of the show.

The theater was open-air, so we were at the mercy of the weather.  Fortunately, it didn’t rain except for an amazingly well timed one-minute downpour immediately after Caesar’s death.

Seeing the show in Shakespeare’s own style beat reading the play 100 times over.  I never would have imagined how lively and funny a tragedy like Julius Caesar was meant to be.  The gestures and body language of the actors helped immensely with my understanding of what was happening, and I loved the music that went along with the play.  Seeing this play was definitely the highlight of my time in London.

We weren’t allowed to take photos during the performance, but here’s a photo of the stage after the show when most people had exited:

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The stage at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater.

 

Outside the theater, a bridge was lit up beautifully for the evening:

London at night.  (Photo courtesy of Clarissa)

London at night.  (Photo courtesy of Clarissa)

 

What a perfect stay in a beautiful city!

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