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Sunday, May 31, 2015

My Life in May: London and Edinburgh and Paris, Oh My!


For the first two weeks of May, I was off gallivanting on another continent. And as you may have gathered from my two previous posts about this trip (here and here), I had a completely fantastic time!

Here, I will share a fraction of my experiences and pictures from my trip to London, Edinburgh, and Paris. If I were to share all the details and all the pictures of my trip, this post would be novella-length!


London

I have so much love for all things British it seems, so London has always been at the top of places I needed to see in my lifetime. I'm so glad I was finally able to visit and that I was able to take in a great amount of the city's history in the process!

The Natural History Museum is an absolute must to see for any science nerd! I spent an entire day there, from the museum's opening to its closing, and I still didn't manage to see everything. I got to see some of the world's greatest treasures here (in my opinion): a first edition copy of On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, the original Iguanodon tooth and thumb discovered by Mary Mantell (Iguanodon was the second ever dinosaur genus to be identified), the original Archaeopteryx fossil discovery (first ever bird), and a ton of Mary Anning's gorgeous marine reptile fossil finds! If you aren't as familiar with historical palaeontology as I am, then you'll just have to take my word for it that these specimens are major treasures!
With some of Mary Anning's original marine reptile finds


No pictures were allowed while I was inside Westminster Abbey unfortunately, but it is truly a sight to behold. Most of England's monarchs have been laid to rest here in ornately carved tombs.


An entire day was also spent at the Tower of London, the historic castle that was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 following the Norman conquest of England. The Tower has had many uses over the centuries including a royal residence, an armoury, a menagerie, and a prison for many high-profile persons, so you can imagine how much history there is to take in just in this one place.
Henry VIII's suit of armour to protect his massive frame and umm, other assets...


Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster


I spent a not insignificant amount of time hunting along the River Thames for some treasures to take home with me. I found some cool fossils (horse teeth and clam shells) and loads of centuries-old artifacts (bits of pottery and fragments of carved clay pipes, and the like)! In this picture, St. Paul's Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge can be seen in the background. In the other direction stands the reconstruction of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.


Of course I had to make time to go see the five story Waterstone's book store at Piccadilly Circus! I didn't buy anything because I wouldn't have had room in my luggage, but I did spend plenty of time admiring the pretty UK covers of my favourite books.


After binge-watching and loving the TV show Mr. Selfridge last year, I knew I had to see Selfridge's department store on Oxford Street for myself. It is just as grand as it is depicted in the TV show!


This is another one for the paleo-nerds out there. In the 1850's, Waterhouse Hawkins was commissioned to create the first ever models of dinosaurs and other extinct beasties, and these sculptures are still on display in Crystal Palace Park. I can't even say how COOL it was to see these historic sculptures in person finally! You can probably tell that there are some key differences between dinosaur models today and what people thought dinosaurs looked like in the 1850's.


Abbey Road is really just your typical unremarkable crosswalk. And yet, I would have been remiss if hadn't gotten my Beatles photo-op for my dear dad who has been a Beatles super-fan since the beginning.


I also had to check out Fleet Street (à la Sweeney Todd) where I found an old mid-1600's pub from which to order some meat pies. Thankfully, these meat pies contained no human flesh harvested from a demon barber... at least not to my knowledge...



Edinburgh

Edinburgh was my favourite of the three cities I visited and may even be my favourite city ever! Of course, I say this having spent only a few days there and it was only on one of those days that it was actually raining. But I just dug the overall vibe of the city. I've never been the most patriotic person, but there was something about strolling the streets of Scotland that made me feel very proud of my Scottish heritage and made it feel like I was coming home.

The Royal Mile

Hill-top view of Arthur's Seat

A historic kirkyard (AKA graveyard) with a view of Holyrood Palace in the background

Edinburgh Castle, a 12th century fortress. I spent an entire day here exploring because hi, CASTLE!!

And it was up on the ramparts of Edinburgh Castle that my boyfriend proposed to me! Suffice it to say, YES it was perfect, and YES I said YES!



Paris

In Paris, I had the opportunity to break out my very rusty French language skills (I went to a French immersion school from K-9). I was pleasantly surprised that I was still able to communicate and comprehend the language fairly effectively! My time in Paris was quite a bit more laid-back than my time in the UK. I spent a lot of time strolling through Paris' many manicured gardens, eating tons of macarons and ice cream, and lounging in the sun. Either exhaustion finally set in after being up on my feet all day every day for over a week in the UK, or the laissez-faire attitude that permeates all Parisians got to me. Probably a bit of both!

Oh, Versailles, you gloriously gaudy piece of architecture, you. While at the Château de Versailles, you can tour the chambers of the monarchy exactly as they were from the late 1600s to the late 1700s. The insane gaudy opulence on display in each and every room is almost too much to take in, and my feelings alternated between complete awe and complete disgust at the amount of wealth on display. But the Château along with the accompanying gardens are undeniably beautiful.
Versailles' Chapel
Hall of Mirrors
Les Jardins


La Tour Eiffel

Cathédrale Notre Dame

Shakespeare and Company! I immediately fell in love with this little charming independent bookstore that's across the street from Notre Dame. Also while I was there, I crossed paths with Natalie Portman who was doing some bookshelf perusing of her own. Random, I know.

Beautiful Montmartre

Le Louvre

Arc de Triomphe

Just like at the equivalent museum in London, I spent a significant amount of time at the Natural History Museum in Paris. The above picture is the hall of comparative anatomy with a mind-blowing skeletal display of every group of vertebrate animal.
With a baleen whale skeleton
With a massive ammonite fossil


But I think my favourite sight seeing attraction in Paris was the Catacombs. Underneath Paris lies miles of excavated limestone filled with millions of human skeletal elements. These 18th century ossuaries hold the remains of 6 million people.
Artfully arranged skeletal elements
There are really no words I can use to describe how hauntingly beautiful this place is. It's not your typical tourist attraction as it was a very sombre and humble experience, but it's also one of the most astounding sights I've ever seen in my life.



Blog Posts in May:

Muggle Monday: In Which Aylee Attempts to Infiltrate the Wizarding World
Muggle Monday: Harry Potter Studio Tour Recap
My Life in April: RENT, Mockingbirds, and a Trip Hiatus


Best Book Read in May:

Eeeeep FINALLY!! Is it just me or do these books just keep getting better and better? Because I absolutely loved every minute of my reading time with Heir of Fire and my Queen Celaena. Now the waiting game for Queen of Shadows begins!


33 comments :

  1. Aaah, I can't decide whether your pictures are making me jealous or extremely happy. Maybe both? Also, congratulations on your engagement!! I'm thrilled for you and Ian!

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    1. Thank youuu Zahida!! :):) Can't wait to see you next week :)

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  2. Aylee, I'm CRYING at how gorgeous those pictures are! You are one lucky girl! Those three countries are my DREAM places to study abroad. I laughed so hard at Henry VIII's suit of armor! And goodness, congrats on the your engagement, couldn't be more happy for you! Looks like you had a fabulous month of May, Aylee. Here's to a fantastic month of June!

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    1. Thanks, Jen!! You will get there someday and get to see all these sights for yourself, I'm sure!

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  3. You look like you had an amazing time, they're such beautiful places and you look really happy in all the photos. I'm /so/ jealous. It's really funny to watch you geek out over fossils, it's great that you're so passionate.

    Finally, I'm so glad he proposed, that's amazing. I wondered who was taking the photos!

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    1. Thanks, Elle! I would have loved to have spent some time in Dublin too, of course. Maybe someday!

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  4. I am simultaneously incredibly happy for you to be able to take this trip and dying of jealousy because it's also my dream trip XD Thank you so much for sharing all of your stunning pictures with us. As much as I adore London, and as much as the French girl that I am longs for Paris, I have a feeling Scotland would have been my favorite place out of the three as well ♥ And we did the Museum of Natural History in NYC last year and absolutely loved it. I'm by no means as much of a science buff as you are but it was awe-inspiring all the same! CONGRATS on your engagement^^ that has the be THE most perfect proposal I've ever heard of. I'm swooning! You truly had an amazing May Aylee, and though it *might* be hard to beat, here's to a wonderful June!! xxxx

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    1. Aww, thanks Miche <3 I sure would have loved to have spent more time in Edinburgh, and maybe traveled to other places in Scotland! I'll just have to return. And yeah, May will be tough to beat, but thanks all the same :)

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  5. Every site looks absolutely gorgeous. I'm so interested to see what more the Natural History Museum has in store. Are there places in the U.S. that beautiful? I really don't know. I feel like our homes and structures are so boring compared to everywhere else. My cousin will be going to Paris soon. She loves it there. You are insane in my opinion to go down the Catacombs. I could not handle that especially since I would assume a ghost would lock me in and kill me - thank you movies and imagination.
    Throne of Glass... I've really lacked in this series. I'll pick it up once I get a break :P

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    1. I really can't think of any place in North America that is at the scale of the detail and opulence you see in architecture in Europe. I think because people would be furious if our governments wanted to put that much of our tax money into that nowadays! So they settle for more cost-effective buildings.

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  6. OMG, congrats on your engagement! That is so awesome. I would love to be in the UK when I get proposed too. haha It seems like you had a fantastic time. I really want to visit England soon. I MIGHT be able to go next year with my sister. We keep saying we'll go when I graduate from grad school and that's this December, so we really need to get planning. haha

    -Lauren

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    1. Aw, thanks Lauren :) Eeep that's so exciting for you to get to go! I hope that happens as planned :)

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  7. Ohhh, you made me start searching for flights and hotels! Your posts are just the push I needed, apparently. And congrats on your engagement! It really does seem like the perfect place. :)
    As for the Catacombs, they do look beautiful, but they are incredibly creepy. Didn't they give you the chills? I'm not easily scared, but wow.

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    1. Oh AWESOME! Dooo it! And you should def go see the Catacombs too. They were chilling, but also way beautiful. Thanks, Maja :)

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  8. You're so cute. This was awesome.

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  9. Your photos are great and you look so lovely! Travelling is such a beautiful thing, no? It really makes you realise there is so much to the world than the few things we know and see.

    Sarika @ The Readdicts

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  10. I'm so glad you enjoyed your trip! I too went to London recently. It's so amazing. Also Edinburgh! Despite only living an hour away I've been only once ... but it's a lovely city. That's a gorgeous picture of Arthur's Seat (I Pinned it!). As for Paris, I've never visited, but it's on my bucket list.

    Happy June!

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    1. Oh, I WISH I lived only an hour away from Edinburgh!!

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  11. Fellow science nerd!

    Congratulations on your engagement and it sounds like you had a wonderful month! This post was so much fun to read and your photos are gorgeous. I admit it made me a little jealous ;) I've been to Edinburgh and London before but aside from a day trip to Calais (which I don't think really counts), I've never been to France, so Paris is still on my list!

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  12. The places you went to look amazing, particularly the museums. I can't imagine how stunning it would be to visit those places and just revel in the magnificence of learning and history. And all those Thames treasures sounds so incredibly fascinating!
    Looking at your pictures of Edinburgh, I can imagine myself living there. It looks beautiful and kind of like my dream future home town. I WANT IN.
    Congratulations on your engagement, Aylee! Oh, I'm so happy for you! xxx

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    1. Yes, I'm glad you are able to understand my wonder and I hope you get to witness these things for yourself someday! Thanks so much, Romi :)

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  13. Sooooo many things for me to comment and gush on!!!! First, soooo glad your trip was so amazing! It looks like it was absolutely wonderful!

    Second, CONGRATULATIONS!!!! :D I've been a bad friend and took this long to check out your post, so I had no idea you've been engaged since May and I didn't even know!!! Congrats, congrats, congrats!!!!! :D I'm so happy for you, Eilidh...and it sounds like your proposal was perfect!!! Your "fiancé" definitely did good! ;D haha I had to use fiancé because it's new and exciting to say!!!!!!!! :D

    Now that I'm finished fangirling (for the most part :P) over your engagement, I love all of your pictures and your descriptions!!! I love that you went to museums and indulged in your love of science during your trip, it's so you! ;D I also love that you went to the atypical tourist spots! ;)

    Finally...your face next to Henry VIII armour and extensive codpiece is quite impressive. I'll never forget your expression. Never. :P

    Once again, so HAPPY for you and Ian!!!!! :D Congratulations!!! :D

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    1. Also, if your wedding doesn't have at least one Harry Potter element in it, I will be shocked...and slightly disappointed. :P haha

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    2. THANK YOU!! As I said on Twitter, you are absolutely NOT a bad friend for not commenting on it until now. As you can tell, I have not announced it specifically on any social media, as it is not my way. I just thought I would slip it into this post. And yes, it was perfect, but no I will not be calling him my fiancé because that still sounds so weird to me!

      There won't be a wedding either because again, it's just not my (or Ian's) kind of thing. But if there were... I'm sure I would have to find some way to include both HP and dinosaurs, haha.

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  14. Eeee I've been meaning to comment on this post, so sorry for the delay! But CONGRATS! So, so happy for you and your bf. That is quite possibly one of the best proposals I've ever heard of. Now all the fun wedding planning begins, right? I'm already starting to stress out a little.
    I love all the pictures you took. So jealous of your U.K. trip - it's on my to-do list. :) (Also, this may sound naive, but I totally thought the Tower of London was a...well, tower. haha. Deceptive name!) And I totally have a mini replica of Henry VIII's suit of armor. And Fleet Street! And Versailles! So cool. I've been telling my fiance that we need to do a Europe trip, and I'll use your pics as evidence of how awesome it could be.
    And yay for Heir of Fire! I just read the entire series over the past month, and despite not loving Throne of Glass, I LOVED Crown of Midnight and Heir of Fire. Luckily the wait won't be quite as long for us as it has been for most other fans who read HOF back last September!

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    1. No, no worries! It's just nice to hear that you read it at all. And thank you!! No wedding planning for me thankfully - so no stress!

      Ooh you need to go too! I got so much out of this trip - it doesn't even cover it here - so I'm sure you would too! Hopefully your fiancé agrees :)

      Heh, it's true I'm relieved we don't have to wait as long because man... that would have been torture with the way HoF ended!

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  15. Congrats on your engagement!! Thanks for sharing all those photos. I love vicariously traveling and it's so great to see modern photos of all the famous places I've been reading about in all my historical fiction books. Love the museums of natural history, too! The NY museum of natural history is hands down my favorite of all the museums I've seen. Love you face with the Henry VIII suit! haha Glad to see you had such an awesome vacation!

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    1. Thanks, Small! I'm glad I could help out with that :) I love the NY natural history museum as well!

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  16. Aylee, you basically just went to all my dream spots - I'm so jealous! It looks like it was a lot of fun! And omg congratulations on the engagement!! Your boyfriend's proposal was literally perfect - guess it's time for the wedding planning haha.

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    1. Heh, thanks Preethi! It was pretty perfect. Thank goodness I'm not planning a wedding because yikes, that does not sound like fun.

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