Castle in the Clouds

While the majority of Scots were out voting, we spent the afternoon touring one of the main attractions in Edinburgh: the castle. Unfortunately, it was a little cloudy.

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The great hall had a really cool ceiling; it’s actually the only remaining ceiling of it’s kind in the area.

IMG_0901Then, back into the fog we went.

IMG_0904IMG_0905IMG_0908Inside one of the exhibits I found this informative display:

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It’s a fork, everybody.

The jail was pretty cool, as well. There was a reconstruction of the original conditions,

IMG_0918a couple wooden doors with designs carved into them by the prisoners, including this early rendition of (supposedly) the USA’s stars and stripes:

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(on the left)

There was also a model ship that prisoners had built during their free time.

IMG_0923As you can see, they had a lot of free time.

Many prisoners also produced crafts for sale, which they passed through the bars of the prison walls during a designated time each day.

Then there was this sign, explaining how the French government made sure the French prisoners were living in relative luxury, while still not actually getting them out of prison. (That’s ok. The prison was eventually shut down in part due to too many French prisoners managing to escape.)

IMG_0925After seeing the castle, we went down into the city for dinner. This lady was giving ghost tours:

IMG_0949We tried some haggis with mashed potatoes and turnips with dinner. It was weird, and kind of tasted like chopped liver. Not terrible, but I would eat a whole plate of it myself.

IMG_0951And then we went to bed.

IMG_0954Goodnight Edinburgh!

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Political Passions

First off, I’d like to say that the only reason you’re getting these pictures now (after the voting is over) is because for some reason (wifi? wordpress?) I could not upload them in real time. And even though the referendum has been decided, I thought you still might like to see what the atmosphere in Edinburgh was like on voting day.

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On our way to Edinburgh castle we passed a group of reporters who just seemed to be waiting for people to go crazy.

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We also passed a nearly unprecedented number of street-bagpipers.

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And lots of people wearing shirts, holding signs, or waving flags to indicate which decision they advocated.

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This person is waving a flag with lion on it. It’s something like the crest of Scotland; not currently an official flag, but used quite often in-country.

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Here, someone waves the Basque separatists’ flag. Basque, Italy, Catalan, Spain, and Flanders, Belgium all have their own separatist/independence movements, and many came to support the Scottish and encourage people to vote “Yes.”

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Below, supporters of Scottish independence have laid out candles in the shape of the unofficial flag of Catalan, Spain (left) and the flag of Scotland (right).

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Graffiti was scrawled in chalk all over the stone city; “Yes”es and “No”s warring for supremacy, and occasionally responding to prior writers’ opinions.

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This group celebrates with a bundle of “Yes” balloons in the colors of the Scottish flag.

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Although the shop is empty, the owner or workmen have hung “Yes” posters inside the front window.

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Scottish Independence?

We just left Cambridge, and I have some London and Cambridge pictures left to show you, but I’m a little backlogged and I think you should see these new posts right away. Because I am now in Edinburgh, Scotland. And the referendum–whether or not Scotland will secede from the United Kingdom, is going to the popular vote TODAY.

So, first, let me show you what England looks like on the train: (hint: it’s mostly sheep and cows and one field of miniature horses that I didn’t manage to snap a shot of. Sorry. They were cute.)

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In Peterborough we saw firsthand the dialect differences between the US and England:

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“Well jeez! Sometimes you’re just not in a very friendly mood!”

We got in to the Edinburgh train station last night, and as we were walking to our hostel we passed the hill with Edinburgh Castle on top; it’s in the center of the city, and visible for quite a distance. Well last night someone was projecting a huge “NO” on the hill. “NO” as in “Vote NO on the referendum tomorrow.”

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A few minutes later the projection was gone. I guess they got caught.

Even the local burger place got in on it; they were running a “Burger Referendum” and each of the two specialty burgers bought–named, of course, after the main pro-UK and pro-Independence politicians–got tallied up, with the winner to be announced today.

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So the people vote on the referendum today, and the votes will be counted by around 3a.m., and announced officially early tomorrow morning. Stay tuned!

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Cambridge At Last!

So that whole time I was in Beijing, and then Belgrade, and then Paris, I was really making my way to Cambridge, England. But since I knew I was going to be in Cambridge for at least a month, I didn’t bother taking a whole bunch of pictures. Well, I still haven’t taken a whole bunch of pictures, so you can start on these.

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King’s College, I think.

Another college. Also King's? I'm not sure.

Another college. Also King’s? I’m not sure.

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A Really Expensive Cabaret

After wandering around the wrong area of Paris for most of the afternoon, we finally phoned for help and got turned in the right direction. As it turns out, when you actually know which subway stop to get off at, the Moulin Rouge is right there.

IMG_0585Don’t worry, it looks slightly more impressive in person. Also more impressive closer up.

IMG_0597IMG_0594At the time–and probably still now, it wasn’t that long ago–their show was called Faerie.

IMG_0591We didn’t watch it because the tickets are a couple hundred euros, which is even more in dollars, and really, I can’t think of any show that would be worth paying that amount of money (especially when I have no steady income).

There was a little tourist train you could pay to take around the area. I’m not sure what else you saw, since the shops around the Moulin Rouge seemed to mainly consist of other cabaret shows, peep shows, and stores that you *ahem* wouldn’t want to take your kids to.

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Paris has a lot of Churches

On our way to see the Moulin Rouge we got off at the completely wrong stop and found this church. It’s on the edge of a park in Mont Marte, I think. (If anyone knows what church this is, let me know. It seemed impressive enough to be famous.)

IMG_0567IMG_0568Here’s part of the park:

IMG_0569This time I’m pretty sure the church is actually neo-gothic, though I can’t look it up since I don’t know what church it is.

IMG_0570But you can see that it has more detailing in the stonework.

IMG_0571And there’s even more detailing once you go inside.

IMG_0572IMG_0574IMG_0575IMG_0576Man, I love neogothic churches.

IMG_0577IMG_0579Just look at that. Gorgeous!

IMG_0581IMG_0582*sigh* Time to go. We still haven’t found The Moulin Rouge.

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Under Surveillance

When the cat was not on my suitcase it liked to watch me sleep.

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Versailles Part Two: We’re Really Lost

Out the back of the main palace at Versailles there is a large man-made lake and strange, obviously newer, archway.

IMG_0500From that vantage point you can see about a third of the way across the property, to the next large body of water–this one with a statue of Poseidon.

IMG_0502Instead of walking straight down the middle, we opted for the “scenic” route, through the hedge not-actually-a-maze area.

IMG_0504By the time we made it half way through the hedges we were already a little turned around.

STB_0510At the end of the hedges you can look back up the hill to the palace,

IMG_0514or to the left to see the lake where you can rent a rowboat, if you’re so inclined.

IMG_0517We didn’t stop, but kept walking down to the Grand Trianon, which is about half way up the huge T-shaped canal.

IMG_0518But since we were looking for Marie Antoinette’s cottage, we took a right and kept on walking.

IMG_0523We found this nice little place, which might have been in the Petit Trianon, but I’m honestly not sure anymore. There are a much of confusingly-similar looking buildings, and they’re all very nice.

IMG_0527In any case, it was not Marie Antoinette’s cottage, so we kept going.

IMG_0528IMG_0529After walking for a while we stumbled upon this little place,

IMG_0533which turned out to be part of the Queen’s Hamlet, a quaint little village and farm modeled in the English style.

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Grapes!

Grapes!

IMG_0542IMG_0544After a while we found this building, but couldn’t figure out where it was on the map.

IMG_0547So we kept walking.

IMG_0549IMG_0552Then we came to a big road, which seemed promising, and took it in what was probably the right direction.

IMG_0553But then we just ended up here.

IMG_0555We found this pretty little house, but it also wasn’t identifiable on the map.

IMG_0557Eventually we found this other big building, which we were really hoping was the cottage…

IMG_0558but it wasn’t.

It was just the back of something we’d seen before.

IMG_0559Moral of the story: If you go to Versailles, bring a print-out of google maps satellite view with all the main bits marked. And consider shelling out for one of the little tourist trains to cart you around.

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Versailles Part One: No Bedroom Needs THIS MUCH Gold

Versailles–the house-part, at least–is all about the gold. On a sunny day you can see it shining from down the street.

IMG_0447Even the gate to get into the area to wait to get through the actual gate has gold.

IMG_0450At least it makes the tourists feel like they’ve actually gotten somewhere before they realize how long the line is.

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The line wrapped back and forth… four times? ish? We only waited an hour, though.

But then you get to the actual front gate! Which is almost inside!

IMG_0455Look! We made it through the gate!

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Ta daaa!

Inside was mostly marble and gold.

IMG_0461Really. Whose house needs this much marble and gold?!

IMG_0467I mean, check out this king guy’s bedroom! I guess some people are just high-maintenance.

IMG_0471The hall of mirrors was pretty cool, though. Especially taking into account the rarity and expense of mirrors at the time.

IMG_0477(By the way–the audio guide was totally worth it.)

IMG_0483BUT THEN THIS OTHER BEDROOM.

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AND THIS ONE.

IMG_0489And now I have completely lost track of whose bedroom is whose. I wouldn’t mind that last one, though. That’s kind of nice.

After the bedrooms it was mostly state rooms and statues, so I stopped taking pictures. And then we went outside to take a look at the gardens.

IMG_0495IMG_0496Next up: we try to find Marie Antoinette’s cottage and get ridiculously lost.

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NOTRE DAME minus the hunchback and singing people and stuff

We went to Notre Dame! It was really big!

IMG_0440We brought some extra group members with us: this is Monkey, who has her own travel blog over here. She’s getting her picture taken at the church.

IMG_0413The church had a really interesting, complex facade.

IMG_0415From the architecture, drawing on my high school art history class, I’m going to say it’s neo-gothic style. Now I’m going to go google it… Nope. It’s just gothic. Not enough fancy bits.

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I don’t know who this dude is but he’s holding his own decapitated head. Seems legit.

The inside of the church was also quite pretty.

IMG_0420(Oh yeah, I see the lack of fancy bits now.)

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The organ.

The organ.

IMG_0424IMG_0437Here’s what the whole outside looks like, minus the being outside part and the bigness.

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