Sunday, July 13, 2008

When I was in Europe...

My forum *niece* Grace requested to hear more about my European adventures from three years ago. Now it so happens that at the time I wrote up a piece for our homeschool newspaper, so I'm just going to copy and paste that in here for you all to enjoy! Please keep in mind that it IS three years old, and attribute the poorer writing style to that! Also, it's slightly more "educational" in tone than what I usually post on my blog, because I was trying to make it interesting and informative for the younger readers in our homeschool group.

This March my Dad and I had the privilege to visit three of the most fascinating cities in Europe- Rome, Paris and London. We spent a total of 12 days touring and walked over 80 miles with a group of 34 other homeschooled teens and their moms. We got to see some of the most famous places in the world and have some pretty wacky experiences as well!

Roma, Italia- Walking into Rome was like an entirely different world. Signs in Italian, cobbled streets, cars that looked like toddler toys and pizza without tomato sauce- how much more could there be? Palm trees grew right by the road ways, but there wasn’t much for grass. Every time we turned a corner another ancient structure popped out at us. In the ancient section of Rome we saw the Coliseum, where gladiators fought two thousand years ago. Nearby stood the victory arch of the Emperor Constantine, who made Christianity legal in Rome. A few minutes further on and we reached the Roman Forum, where we reenacted the death of Julius Caesar just a few yards from a stone that marks his final resting place. Beyond the Forum is the Capitoline Hill, which holds a prison cell that meant more to me than the highest wall in Rome. This was the cell where the Apostles Peter and Paul both spent their last days. The ceiling was low, my head was only a few inches from the ceiling at the highest point. It was round and dark and damp. There were no windows. And to think that this was the place where Paul wrote the book of 2nd Timothy!

Vatican City, the capital of the Catholic Church, lies on the other side of Rome. It’s massive walls surround the smallest country in the world- not to mention the extensive art collection of the Vatican Museum. This collection includes the Sistine Chapel, a hallway of magnificent tapestries, (floor to ceiling embroidery!) and hundreds of sculptures. My favorite part was the Basilica of St. Peter's, the largest cathedral in the world. It is so huge that you can’t even grasp the size of it. The people were absolutely tiny next to the walls! Another amazing piece of art is located near the entrance- the Pieta. This work, done by Michelangelo when he was 25 years old, is a sculpture of Mary holding Jesus after he was taken down from the Cross.

Once done with Rome, we boarded an overnight train that took us to Paris, France.

Paris has to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world! All the buildings are the same light yellow color and are decorated in the same style, lots of iron worked balconies and window treatments. And their food was SO good!

One of the best days of the entire trip was the day we went out to the Palace of Versailles. This palace was built by Louis the Sun King three hundred years ago. (Prior to that the Kings and Queens lived in the Louvre, a Palace which is now famous as the largest museum in the world and the home of the Mona Lisa) Versailles is huge- but we only were able to see a few of the rooms. Among those was the chapel where Marie Antoinette was married. We also saw the Hall of Mirrors, but they were restoring part of it so we didn’t see it in it’s full glory. Oh well! After touring the Palace we had the opportunity to walk in the gardens. Then we went down to a little cluster of houses that were built as a play village for Marie Antoinette. It survived the Revolution in perfect condition and now stands just as it was two hundred years ago.

That night we all met under the Eiffel Tower. Let me tell you, it’s size can’t be guessed from pictures! It took us over and hour and a half to get to the top and down again. Part of the way down we took the stairs- no matter how far we walked we didn’t seem to be getting anywhere! But the view at the top was worth it. All the lights shone in the city below- Paris is called the City of Lights.

We also saw the Cathedral of Notre Dame (but no hunchback), The Louvre Museum, the Artists Quarter, and took a boat tour on the Seine River. Many of us also bought ourselves berets that we wore proudly around the city- though the true Parisians had put theirs away for the spring!

Saying goodbye to Paris, our next train took us under the English Channel to the Capitol of Great Britain- London!

London, England- Being what my dad calls an Anglophile (Lover of the English) I was most looking forwards to this city and seeing all of it’s historical places. I was not disappointed. Hampton Court Palace, the home of King Henry VIII (the guy with the six wives, remember?) was amazing! It has 40 rooms just for preparing food! I could just imagine that I had gone back in time 500 years and that old Henry himself would walk around the corner! The Tower of London was a similar experience. It is the fortress of England- complete with two outer walls, full-time guards and resident ravens. (The ravens are paid employees of the queen and have their own passports!) The Tower is famous for two things- #1, it holds the Crown Jewels, including the largest diamond in the world. #2, it was the final lodging place of many of England’s most famous prisoners. These include Sir Walter Raleigh, Anne Boleyn and Queen Elizabeth I.

London itself was exactly how I imagined it to be. Our hotel looked like it had come right out of Mary Poppins, little red telephone booths were everywhere, and yes, they do drive on the wrong side of the road over there! We ate “British” food, including sausages and mash, and fish-n-chips. Dad and I road in a British taxi-cab and we bought everything with British pounds! The exchange rate was really bad while we were there, each of our dollars was worth the equivalent of 50 cents in British money! We attended Palm Sunday service at Westminster Abbey, which is across the road from Big Ben and Parliament. We saw a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and went shopping in Piccadilly Circus. (It’s not a circus, it’s a square) Our last night we attended a performance of The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre. It was amazing! Of course, a rather interesting addition was the fact that a couple of our guys went in kilts!

So yes, that was my European adventure! My hope is that in the next year I will either be able to go to Europe again, or make another film. However, as one of my friends so wisely pointed out, God probably has something completely differant in mind. Isn't that the truth!


Raewyn said...

Oh wow, Elena! Rome, Paris and London? *sighs* Take me with you if you go again, please! Hey, we could make it a forum trip, with Meg and Mamma Rose. And we could bring Paul along for protection. ;)

Thanks for sharing! I've always loved England... Can't wait for those for book reviews!

Your niece,

Abby said...

Goodness, I'm jealous! Lovely descriptions...maybe someday I'll actually be able to go to some of those places. You should post some more pictures from it!