Corfu Day 3

I have to say that today we were so exhausted that we just sat around our condo for most of the day and slept.  We did enjoy our private spa with wonderful views of the sea.  After all this is a vacation and we should get some rest.

But if you know me, I can’t sit around all day. So we drove to Achilleon Palace.  It was built for Empress Sissi of Austria.  It is a lovely palace with some beautiful rooms on the ground floor, but not much furniture.  But the worthwhile part of this palace is its gardens with two wonderful statues of Achilles.  A must see if you are in Corfu.  Plus the views of the sea are awesome.

This palace has quite the history.  It was owned by Sissy and then Wilhenheim of Germany. Then it was a war hospital among other things.  It is funny how in war symbols of monarchy are used.

We ended our day with dinner in Bernitses in a cute little restaurant by the sea.  By the way today was our 21st wedding anniversary.  Not a bad place to celebrate.

London Day 4

Today we visited one of my favorite places near London, Hampton Court.  The train ride from Waterloo is easy and quick.  We first toured the Tudor palace and even got to see Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn. I was very impressed by all the interactive displays that were installed in this part of the castle.  I think it brings history to life and makes it fun for every one.  There were several school tours, as well as older couples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the favorite parts of the Tudor castle is the kitchens.  It shows how much food was required at court, what they ate and how they prepared it.  We always eat here too at the Privy Kitchen, Elizabeth’s I private kitchen.  We always seem to have soup and a big cookie. I love the ambiance, it feels like you are eating in a dungeon.

 

 

 

 

 

Then we travel through time and visit William III’s apartments.  William and Mary wanted to tear down this palace but thankfully added their own wing.  It’s from a much later time and the furnishings, decorations and needs were different.  One of the things that always impresses me is the rooms decorated with weapons.  What a clever way to use things that are utilitarian.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, the best part of Hampton Court is the gardens.  They are so beautiful, not nearly as big as Versailles but just as inspiring.  It always amazes me to see how big and beautiful the flowers are even though it’s only May.  We don’t get flowers like these in Northern Illinois.  The park has a lot of wild life.  We saw dozens of deer and lots of cute swans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget to get lost in the maze and to see the world’s oldest grape vine and tennis court.  It makes for a great day out.

On the way back we stopped in Wimbledon.  Beware that the train ticket from Hampton Court does not allow you to stop in Wimbledon even though the ticket agent told us it did.  This was my first trip without a guide book so I have to admit that I got a little lost getting to the Tennis Center.  We went to the Wimbledon Stadium instead.  It’s where they hold greyhound races.  Not very exciting.  Because we were late getting there we didn’t get to tour Wimbledon (it’s very expensive too) but the guards let us take some pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the evening we missed a bus so we barely made it to our show, War Horse.  I’m so glad we didn’t miss it because it was fantastic.  It’s the story of a horse used during WWI and his relationship with his young owner.  The horses are huge puppets and they come to life.  It was a great play and I would highly recommend it to anyone going to London.  Just remember to order your tickets several months in advance.

London Day 2

We took a boat to Greenwich.  What a glorious way travel!  You get to see all the sights, observe the comings and goings of ordinary folk from a privileged seat.  I took the walk from londonforfree.net. It shows the most important sights of this favorite Tudor place.  As soon as you disembark you are greeted with the Free Tunnel which was built so workers could come and go from Greenwich.  You cannot miss the Cutty Sark, once England’s fastest ship.

Downtown feels like a small village with quaint shops and pubs.  We were lucky to be there on a Saturday and thus be able to tend the Greenwich market.  A license for it was given in 1700 for a thousand years.  So you’ll be able catch it any weekend.  There are many stall selling food and arts and crafts.  I bought some hand printed postcards and saw some really cute crafts but the vendors usually did not like having pictures taken.    The walk to the Royal park is not far.  Up the hill lies the reason to come to this quaint little town, the Royal Observatory.  After getting your ticket, you walk through the court yard where the prime meridian lies.  It is interesting to watch the people taking pictures on the line, on one side or the other or  straddling it.  The house that Flamstead lived is interesting but his study even more.  It explains of the hard work he did every night recording the position of the stars.  There was also an excellent exhibit on the problem it was to calculate the longitude.  In the day of GPS we take  for granted the difficulty it was to calculate time and distance.  We become too complacent in our comforts to think of the difficulties overcome to get us where we are.  There is also an excellent exhibit about our knowledge of the stars, from the beginning of time to space exploration.  A most delightful day.  I would highly recommend this site for anyone traveling with kids as there are lots of fun activities for them.


We also had a chance to visit the Queens House.  It was a house built for a queen, finished for another, turned into a school and today serves as a museum.  It houses a collection of nautical themed paintings and some paintings of Greenwich most famous children- the Tudors.


We decided to return via light rail.  It was a beautiful journey back because we were given a privileged view of Canary Wharf.  Something we would have missed seeing if we had taken the tube.
No trip to London is complete without buying discounted theater tickets at Leicester Square.  We went to see We Will Rock You.  It was entertaining.  Being in Soho the night Chelsea played the finals for the UEFA championship was entertaining.  Thankfully they won because the throngs of drunk fans were very happy.  Some even risking their lives taking rickshaws downhill at break neck speed.  What a merry crowd.  Too bad no restaurant was open late because we had to find something to eat.  This is something very weird about London, their restaurants and pubs close rather early and you better eat before going to the theater.

Moments that take your breath away

One of my favorite quotes is “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but the moments that take our breath away.” I’ve learned that when traveling I am often surprised by when I have my breath taken away.  Some times it is at all the expected places, others it is completely unexpected.

Art

Art has the power to speak to you in ways that words can’t.  It can reach down to your inner most feelings and express hidden thoughts or ideas.

David by Michelangelo

One of the most amazing moments in my life was standing in front of Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia in Florence.  He was so beautiful that I cried.  His eyes were piercing, his body was perfect, his size was overpowering.  It was the first time that art spoke to me in almost a paralyzing way.  I just stood there for almost an hour looking at him.  The most amazing thing was that my son, then 13, had a similar experience.  He was transfixed by this majestic artwork.

Last year I had a similar experience and I must say it was very unexpectedly.  I love impressionists and I simply can’t stand many modern art pieces, especially cubist.  They don’t speak to me.  Picasso has never been one of my favorites.  I respected his work but I simply didn’t get it.  That is until I stood in front of Guernica.

Picasso's Guernica

I never knew that a painting could make me hear the cries of pain and anguish that this majestic painting did.  It was like I was transported into that awful scene and I was helpless, I couldn’t stop the slaughter.  All I could do was witness it.  It was such a powerful experience.  I hope I am a better person because of it, that when I see injustice I will try stopping it so no more Guernicas will happen.

I must say that I was expecting a similar experience when I went to the Louvre.  Mona Lisa is one the masterpieces of all time.  I am sad to say that I didn’t feel the overpowering experience that David or Guernica gave me.  There was a painting in the grand gallery that caught my eye so Mona Lisa was almost secondary.

Monet’s Water Lily

One of my  favorite Impressionist art experiences was visiting Monet’s Water Lilies (Nympheas) at the Orangerie in Paris.  Once again the size is impressive.  The play of color, light and movement make this work so interesting. There are several panels that show all the different seasons and times of the day.  And he did it while going blind.  The will power and the passion that certain people display never cease to amaze me.  I am sad that I was not able to visit his garden, but it’s on my to do list next time I am in Paris.

Two Sisters by Renoir

Renoir is my all time favorite painter and I am so lucky to live near Chicago where I can often visit my favorite painting, Two Sisters.  I simply run up the stairs of the Art Institute of Chicago and find the girls.  I must always say hello them first.  The colors are so vivid and the size is powerful.  I wish I could paint like that, brush strokes that don’t seem to have a purpose but overall give you a play of light, depth and texture.

When traveling go to the museums don’t miss out on some of these experiences.  I know some museums can be very boring, some can be very exhausting but you never know what  will move you.  After all “a picture is worth a thousand words” and you will be a better person for having taken that mental picture.