A Travellerspoint blog

What could be Nicer than a city named Nice?

Heading south into the "king of the Mediterranean"

sunny 10 °C

17 February
Arrival in Nice after a most miraculous and nerve-wrecking airport experience

Life sometimes throws flashes before our eyes, which we interpret as inspirations in disguise. Some of us who are proactive, jump to take the cue and act to the signal! Jane and I completed our three-day Monaco trip in one night after hearing the names of Morocco and Monaco together on the same day. We found a pretty hotel in Nice, called Villa Rivoli, for a nice price through Expedia (90 Pounds for two nights, twin bed).
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We got a free upgrade! The service at this French hotel won our hearts.
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The view out of our French window
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We enjoyed taking photos against this Belle Epoque styled room
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On our night stroll, I couldn't resist the impulse to capture this classy scene, lady on the balcony
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We'll later return to this illuminated square for the Nice Carnival!
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Hungry for food, after 30 minutes of walking in search of Gras Fois that would not leave us penniless
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The White Queen pizza. Nice is only 90km from Italy, making Italian cuisine a common offer at most restaurants.
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Amazing mussels - Eat as much as you want - of course, we ordered three servings 1) white cream sauce 2) Napolean tomato sauce 3) spicy sauce
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Our contented faces
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Dessert = Crepe with dark chocolate and a scoop of Pinocchio's special ice-cream at Pinocchio
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A moment to remember and to enjoy
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The gorgeous streets deserve a million embrace

19 February
A sunny trip to Monaco and Villefranche

Our second day welcomed us with bright sunshine. Thanks for Marie, a French girl how we met at the bus stop and gave us a ton of great local advice on where to visit and where to eat! We took the bus from Nice to Monaco, a journey of about 40 minutes with the best views on land and sea.

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The tall girl walking away is our heroine, Marie. Hope we get to meet her again in the states or London sometime, or Nice the next time we go!
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Breathtaking views from the bus

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Breakfast croissant - sorry the croissant is not seen because I'm eating it

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Are you scared of pigeons? seagulls? These giant versions of seagulls, albatrosses, are fearless of humans!
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We climbed up the hill to the Prince's Palace. While waiting for the Change of Guards, we indulged in photo-taking and drinking in the panoramas of the Monaco region.
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Friendship sealed with the kiss of sun and cool breeze from the ocean
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Attack with my binoculars
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Our perspective, our lens

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Grace Kelly, once the regal actress hailed on Hollywood screens, graced the royal palace of Monaco after marrying Prince Albert.

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Monaco flag
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I'm not a creeper. I promise.
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An interesting window that is also very utilitarian - great for hanging clothes!

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Ma Belle, qui te souviens?

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Monaco Guard

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Local attraction, the Aquarium built by Prince Albert (you'll remember this name after spending two hours in Monaco. He is ubiquitous.)
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dorey!
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Nautilus-crafted ornament
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Shell lady

After touring Monaco, we hopped back on the bus to go see Villefranche, Marie's recommendation. It is a pretty small town, where we grabbed dinner at a popular local restaurant. Sorry I don't have pictures because my camera was out of battery...Will try to update if I get the chance. (Jane's got all the photos!)

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La Meilleure Tiramisui! Unparalleled! Insurmountable!

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The Nice Carnival's opening - hilarious misconception of us to think that we were there one hour early, when we were there just in time for the festival. The time in Nice is one hour ahead of London time, which led our confusion. When we thought the opening was going to finally begin at "8:30," the crowd began to disperse after the mayor's speech. The real time then was "9:30," the end of the opening. We were there to witness the whole thing, with the wrong impression and interpretation. Nevertheless, we felt the high energy of the crowd and we were very hyped up!

19 February
Nice, gorgeous sunshine, beaches, ancient castle ruins, hours on a modern block of rock

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Mini baguettes!
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Market where people sell things from 5 euros to hundreds of euros for pricey items like old Hermes scarves
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French window - my new obsession
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Jane's new signature expression: look, that is really cool! =D
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Santa is working hard to reach the poor child inside who is still waiting for his Christmas gift

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Diamonds in the sea
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The distance is our common goal
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A comfortable niche among the large boulders on the waterfront
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The future is within our sight
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The walkway to purity and immersion

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Panoramic view of the city of Nice
As we trekked up the meandering stairway to the castle (L'ancien site de la chateau), we came to a forked path with two branches that seem to embrace the mountain is a vase-shape and converge some distance further up. I suggested to Jane: let's split up here and see where we meet again. Off we go, with my awful idea, because soon the fun faded and panic set in, as I realized that my path leads downhill (also I had to pretend cool while walking by a group of high school kids smoking shisha in a sequestered clearing). I texted Jane but realized that my phone could not reach her by any means, text or call. As my quickened steps took me closer to the top, the more enormous my anxiety grew. There was a spacious playground, some outlooks, and several restaurants spread out on the top of the mountain, but no landmark such as the Castle that we had aimed for as our destination and meeting place. When I asked the passers-by, they told me the entire mountain was the castle, or where the castle used to be. Now, people come up here for the panoramic view. Panic and worry stole my breath as I scolded myself inwardly for coming up with the idiotic idea of splitting up in a foreign country on a giant mountain, with no means of communication. Thankfully, Jane eventually found me as I was trying to dial her number on an American tourist's blackberry. Later, I thanked her by taking a picture of her and her two little boys. Never will I ever suggest again something that could potentially cause me heart attack.
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The stone stairs
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The balusters decorating the railings
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The view from the top
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An elevator that cost us 90 cents to go down the mountain in 1 minute

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On the way back, along la promenade des anglais
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Special note about Lufthansa airline:
We love the food served by this German airline.
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The snowy peaks from the plane window. We saw the brightest sun and the coldest tips in one day - how distances are so short between such different geographic regions, I wonder how far is my self-actualization from my present position?

Posted by Ceci's Cre 15:03 Archived in France Comments (1)

Wandering around the Westminster Abbey

This entry is a tribute to the gorgeous architecture of Westminster Abbey. The early English Gothic, decorated Gothic and perpendicular Gothic, all have existed for ages side by side in this breathtaking complex of architectural amazement.

sunny 5 °C

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An old rusty wall
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My professor talks to us about the tiles from Elizabethan times - he is one of the greatest and most humble and most talented professors I've ever had
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The decorated Gothic ceiling
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The rose windows are not their old selves. Look closely, are those images random? Remember the Protestants once ravaged the Abbey and destroyed the rose windows with Christian images.
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The beautiful London night

Posted by Ceci's Cre 13:29 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (1)

Bath and Stonehenge

warm inside and freezing exterior

rain -5 °C

13 February
Stonehenge
The legendary Stonehenge, the site of ancient civilization’s remnants, was at last beheld in our own eyes. The whole site was fenced off, which disappointed our longing for more intimate interactions with this old monument. The weather tried its best to deter our trip with heavy winds and chilling rains.

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The Stonehenge that was said to be an ancient way of keeping time

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My hair was jerked by the wind in every direction

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The plains under a gray sky

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Still unconvinced of the heavy winds, look at these escaping umbrellas

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The sheep fur will keep us warm for a while

Bath
After Stonehenge, we boarded the bus to go to Bath. The city of Bath is monochromatic, a soft earthy yellow color that spreads across the valleys, streets and hills. The overriding color and tone of the town is set by the golden Bath stone that glows in the sun (we were there to see the wet side, leaving us wondering about what the gold glow would be like on a clear day).

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the Palladian-style windows from 1600s

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Every corner and street presents a "picturesque" scene

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The river and the majestic bridge

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The manhole that is strewn with colorful stones

We had lunch at a lovely sandwich diner - Sally Lun's.
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Mouth-watering salmon sandwiches
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Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, special buns just for the loved ones

We visited the Roman baths after the sumptuous lunch. The relics from the ancient Roman world were pieced together to show modern curious minds the grandeur and high level of technology of the Romans thousands of years ago. The Romans had an ingenious design - there were chambers of different degrees of heating to warm up the noble guests before they dip into the hot natural springs. Today, tourists flock to Bath for the Roman bathing experience, not in the ancient site, but in a new 14 million bathing facility that fuels local tourism.
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This God's visage was completed with computer imaging

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The mists rising from the hot spring
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My footstep on the Roman stone

We also visited the Bath Abbey. I have fallen in love with Gothic architecture since I started architecture course in London.
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The sinister and fiery glow
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The candle lit against the imposing ceiling
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My greatest admiration for the high vaulted ceilings!

Bath is a lovely city, to be visited again on a sunny day. ~

Posted by Ceci's Cre 12:50 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (1)

Traveling North, within the Border of UK

Scotland – Glasgow and Edinburgh

all seasons in one day -2 °C

Feb 4 – The Gales of Glasgow

Waking up at 4am, we got ready for the 5-hour train ride to Glasgow. The train arrived one hour later than the scheduled 10:30am. The first mission is to find nourishment for our starved stomachs. An attraction on the map, Willow’s Tea House, became our designated Scottish brunch venue.
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The serene interior

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Derek sitting in the Scottish Mackintosh Chair

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Jane and her Haggis Neeps & Teets - Scottish meat pate

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Stephanie and I ordered this delicious Beef Chili and a giant Meringue

With our stomachs filled with delicious Scottish delicacies, we marched towards the Lighthouse – an architecture exhibition housed in an ancient printing house. The exhibitions were extremely unconventional and interesting. Themes included sustainable architecture, participating works for V&A in Dundee museum design contest, childhood play games.
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{Stephanie gazing at people’s reminiscences about their childhoods}

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{mackintosh chair}

One thing very worthy of noting is the storm that we got stuck in. The winds blew our umbrellas inside out, rain drenched our heads and clothes, the sky ominously showed no colors except gray and black clouds. Our spirits were dampened just a little. After a day fighting the elements, we relaxed in the hippiest club in town - ABC. The experience was extraordinary, in the sense that we were the only Asians (plus two other) in a sea of blondies and brunettes, dancing to energizing Scottish bands. Very exotic.

Feb 5 – Exotic Edinburgh
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{The sun painting the streets with orange and warm hues}

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{Jane and Christine’s happy smiles as we arrive in Edinburgh}

The rugged majesty of Edinburgh castle humbled us at first glance. The breathtaking view on top of the mountain, overlooking all of Edinburgh’s spires, alleys, galleries, streets…
{VIDEO}

We climbed the cobblestone paths, passed under sever arched gates (each added to strengthen the castle’s defense), and came to an opening where canons lined the wall, above the sprawling city below. The tour guide later told us Queen Mary introduced the canons for decoration – dangerous beauty.
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{Duel}

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{Romantic backdrop on top of castle ground}

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{The Royal Spanish Crest}

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{The imposing front of the Memorial Hall for soldiers died in WWI. The scroll of all the honored names slept in a metal chest on top of the highest rock of the mountain – held in highest honor}

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{Side view of the arch}

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{Inside this sturdy construction lies the most precious stone of Scotland – the sacred Stone. The first king of Scotland was crowned on the Scone, which since then has been named the coronation stone. When Coronation takes place in the future, the Stone would be transported with the greatest care to Westminster Abbey.}

On another side of the courtyard, we entered a monolithic hall with a high ceiling made of oak, no nails, just glued together (Super Glue’s ancestor).
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{The incredible oak ceiling}

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{Ornate lamp}

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{Military display – which one do you want?}

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{Our choice was made. We are ready for battle!}

In the Scottish streets, we often come across narrow alleys with various difficult-to-pronounce names, such as this one.
{they call an alley a “close”}

For brunch, we indulged in a big 90-minute meal.
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{Starter – Haggis Fritters}

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{Bangers Mash – yummy salty sausages}

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{Scottish tradition in its perfection – Haggis Neeps Teets (second appearance!)}

The Giles Cathedral marked the climax of my day. The national Church of Scotland, we were honored to absorb its beauty and majesty at our liberty. The Decorative Style ceilings, from the second Gothic era of the 14th century, put us in awe. The rose windows told stories of the saints and led our hearts to pure admiration.
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{The Cathedral’s interior}

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{The rose window}

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{Cher and I sat in our best posture on the steps in front of the Cathedral}

When we stepped outside the Cathedraw, the sun had dipped below the horizon. The faintly illuminated blue skies gave the city a fairytale ambience.
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{The misty and magical streets}

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{Cher and I enjoying our moments in the stroll}

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{The architecturally avant-garde Scottish parliament }

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{The ghosty and dark close, which we gratified our wanderlust}

We went to Mary King’s Close, a renowned underground attraction and learnt about the Edinburgh’s social history through taking a walk into history itself. The 14th century marked the pandemic that killed thousands and instigated a citywide reconstruction – all the multi-storey buildings had their top layers “chopped off.” Imagine a sword slicing through a sand castle horizontally in the middle. (The reality was much much slower than this swift imagery. Hands and animals were the only tools available at the time.} The Edinburgh we know today sits on top of the buried remains of the 14th houses, where many dead souls sleep and ghosts roam.
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{Our group picture in the underground. Mighty intriguing stuff}

Time to board our bus. Taking a last look at the amazing city, the buildings glow in the evening lights.
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Tired from overnight bus, heart and mind rejoicing with the architectural miracles we witnessed from Edinburgh Castle to the Giles Cathedral, I want to daydream for a while at my leisure. Yet Father Time tallies for no one, now it's time to go and prepare to tomorrow's early class.

Posted by Ceci's Cre 14:26 Archived in Scotland Tagged glasgow edinburgh Comments (1)

A Trip to the Origin of Time and Longitude

The past two weeks in London

semi-overcast -2 °C

I have been in London for 9 days now, and it is almost the end of January. I want to keep my promise of writing blogs about my travels, at least on a monthly basis. Today, I had a wonderful excursion around the famous town where the Meridian Line belongs, Greenwich. Backtrack a little bit.

When we began our life in London together last Wednesday, everything seemed so brand new and uncomfortable, exciting yet nerve-wrecking. I am living with my PCT sisters, all four of us living in one spacious high-ceiling room. I truly appreciate how accommodating and kind everyone is. We have become not only sisters in name but also sisters sharing the same living space and the common goal of enjoying all of England and Europe! Our roommate agreement made sure that our lifestyles, though distinct, would converge in harmony. I have no doubt we will all learn so much from this completely novel experience. As the only child for my life, I am finally in a place where I could easily find three close companions whenever I need.

Greenwich 28 January, 2011
Early in the morning, we gathered around Westminster Pier and boarded the boat for an hour-long tour of the Thames. On the boat, I made friends with two classmates from English Novel course - much harder than I imagined but I will stick it through.

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Ingrid and Mallory

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Gloomy skies hide not the grandeur of the Big Ben and the towers

Our walking tour guide coincidentally was the same gentleman who led us through Camden Town the night before. The most impressive historic buildings we beheld in our eyes was the Greenwich Hospital. The former was the first Navy charity built back in 1694 by Queen Mary and King William for serving and retired seamen. It served its charity purpose from 1705 to 1869, more than 150 years!
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The breathtaking domes of the Greenwich Hospital.
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The original Greenwich Hospital was built by London's legendary Christopher Wren. It took Wren close to 50 years to complete the construction of this unparalleled architectural feat, which also marked the last of his contributions to London's "cityscape". No one today could or would replicate this level of dedication and artistry. Due to later fire, the interior was redecorated with coad stones. Today, the details of the sculpted walls, painted ceilings, and magnificent golden organ together make the former hospital an architectural treasure.
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The organ is still in use after so many years

Across the pavement road stands the other half of the Greenwich Hospital, which was built with the original purpose as a dining hall for the seamen. However, the gorgeous paintings and grand arched windows attracted the nobles' attention and the seamen were eventually sent down to the basement to have their meals, while the nobles regaled in the beautiful court.
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Being a part of the timeless painting

Next stop was the Royal Observatory, home to Time and Longitude, as they like to call it.
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Yup, we are here
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Guess I am striding THE Meridian Line
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My Proud Stance

Our last destination on our Greenwich excursion was the Queen's home. History tells us that King James I loved to go hunting in Greenwich, but one day he accidentally shot Queen Anne of Denmark's beloved canine friend. To compensate the Queen, he commissioned one of the most sought after architect, Inigo Jones, to design a house for her, exactly where the dog received the fatal shot. The Queen's House was the first building in England to embody Italian architectural influences, thanks to Inigo's learning on his grand tour.
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With the last ray of sunlight, the Queen's House looked gentle with a soft tone.
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The famous tulip staircase. The rails were shaped like tulips, signs of regality and nobility.
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The students crouching to listen to Professor O'Looney speak about the architectural beauty of the interior. I would love to join this wonderful class.
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Professor O'Looney's gorgeous sketchbook.

The British accent is a very peculiar, attractive, and sometimes incomprehensible. I have yet to meet more locals to pick up some British accent myself, to impress my folks at home.

Posted by Ceci's Cre 09:56 Archived in England Comments (0)

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