Friday, January 8, 2016

Final Day

Hello everyone! We are on our last day in England and are getting ready to say goodbye. Here are some pictures of our beloved village, Welwyn. The first is St. Mary's Church, and the second is The Wellington, a pub from the 1300's.

Yesterday we also went in to London to celebrate my Mum's Birthday. We went to a very old restaurant called Rule's, where we had game, pheasant and rabbit.
We also went on the London Eye.
We would say that our adventures in England and Europe were EXCELLENT!

Harry Potter Studio Tour

Hi everyone! Just before Christmas we had an excellent time at the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour at Leavesden. This was where most of the Harry Potter movies were filmed, and we can't wait to share about it with you! To start, we walked into the large, but not so large area where the dining hall was filmed. It was a lot smaller than we thought, and the movie makers used lots of camera tricks and editing to make the hall seem bigger. We saw a lot of other Hogwarts rooms, and they were actually very spread out. I really liked Hagrid's motorbike, and this is one of the many used in filming.
 As many of you know, we both love cats, so Crookshanks, Hermione's cat, stuck out to us. Did you know that there was not one cat used, but four. The animals are tested and trained a lot before they ever come on set, and these four passed.
 Outside, we saw lots of larger objects and sets, including the Knight bus. We were surprised by how big it was. The Set Designers had to combine 3 London Buses, then paint it purple to make the Knight Bus!
 Next to the Knight Bus, we saw Privet Drive, the street that Harry lives on. The filming set is only made up of 3 houses, not a whole street. Of those 3 houses, only 1 has an interior, the others are just fronts.
After that, we returned inside to the creature design area, where we saw all of the creatures and mythical species in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The creature below is Buckbeak, Hagrid's Hippogriff. He is controlled by a remote, which we saw an interesting video about.
Lastly, we saw an incredibly detailed and scaled model of Hogwarts Castle. The model was added on to for the filming of each new movie, as new areas of the castle were explored. Each of the turrets has 1000's of shingles on them, each hand laid.
We'd say that the Harry Potter Studio Tour at Leavesden was EXCELLENT!


Hey everyone! We just got back from an excellent trip to Edinburgh and we're so excited to tell you about it! At New Year, Edinburgh holds a three day event called Hogmanay. Hogmanay is the Scottish word for the last day of the year. We participated in an event of Hogmanay that was a torchlight procession, where people sign up to process through the streets with a real torch in hand. It was so fun! Below you can see people with torches, at the end.
On our second day in Edinburgh we took an excellent bus tour, and learned about this statue of a dog called Greyfriars Bobby. There's a controversy now over it because one blogger wrote that if you rub the dog's nose, you would have good luck. The dog is hollow, so anytime someone rubs the dog's nose, it could collapse. We're doing the exact opposite of what the blogger did by telling you that rubbing the dog's nose does nothing!
The same day we took the bus tour, we went to Edinburgh's magnificent castle. The castle was built in 12th century AD, and people have lived on Castle Rock since 9th century BC. Edinburgh Castle has the Scottish Crown Jewels, and the oldest standing building in Scotland, St. Margaret's Chapel. The Castle holds the giant cannon, Mons Meg, which was built in 1449. The cannon fires cannonballs three times the size of your head, for up to two miles.
On New Years Eve, we planned on staying up to midnight. We did, and we got to go to see the excellent fireworks display. It was amazing.
All in all, we'd say that Edinburgh was EXCELLENT!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Portsmouth, Southampton, and Winchester

Hey everyone! We took a trip to Portsmouth, Southampton, and Winchester, and we're really excited to tell you about it. First we went to Portsmouth, a city on the Southern coast of England. There, we went up the Emirates Spinnaker Tower. The Spinnaker is 560 feet tall, and it is designed after a boat sail, which is supposed to reflect Portsmouth's maritime history. The structure of the Spinnaker is similar to the structure of the Burj Al Arab in Dubai.
In the Spinnaker Tower, we went on the glass floor on the first observation deck. The glass floor is the largest in Europe! It's 328 feet of the ground. We got great 350 degree views of Portsmouth. On the top observation deck, there was only a wire mesh roof! So it was extremely windy. Below is the view down on the glass floor.
That night, we went to a restaurant in Southampton. The type of restaurant was a tapas Thai. You may be wondering what the picture is of below, but they are crickets. And yes, we did eat them. But they were grilled and spiced. The crickets were delicious.
The next day, we went to Winchester, and it's excellent cathedral. Winchester Cathedral is one of the largest cathedrals in England, having the longest nave and being the largest Gothic cathedral in England. In the cathedral we went on a tour of the crypt. There is a statue in the crypt by Antony Gormley of a person looking down. Antony Gormley also designed the Angel of the North, which is a large sculpture on the side of the motorway going to Northern England. Usually the crypt floods in the winter, and water goes up to the statues knees. Also, did you know that there are no tombs in the crypt because it floods?
Overall, we'd say Portsmouth, Southampton, and Winchester were EXCELLENT!


Hey everyone! We recently got back from Athens, Greece, and we are very excited to tell you about our trip! When we got there, we went straight to the Acropolis, a large stone hill which the Parthenon was built on, the famous Greek temple dedicated to Athena. The Parthenon was finished in 438 BC, and it replaced an older temple to Athena, which was destroyed by the Persian Invasion. On the Acropolis we could see great views of Athens, and many old structures. Below, you can see a picture of the Parthenon, which is undergoing major preservation.
Below you can see a picture of the Acropolis, and the Parthenon with the cranes around it. The word "Acropolis" comes from two Greek words:άκρον, which means edge and extremity, and πονις, which means city. The Parthenon and the area around it was extremely damaged during the Morean War, when it was being used for gunpowder storage and a cannonball hit it.
Below is a picture of the Acropolis, built out of Lego! You can see more of the Acropolis in this picture, and the area below it. The Lego model is in the Acropolis Museum, which holds many artifacts from the Acropolis. In the Acropolis Museum, we saw a model of the Caryatids on the Erechtheion, which were six draped female figures used to cover up a 15 ft beam used to support the Southwest corner of the Kekropion.
In Athens, we also took a Segway tour.  A Segway is a two wheeled battery powered vehicle. On the Segway tour, we rode all around Athens, and went the hill where democracy was born. At the first meeting on the hill, many people paid no attention to what was going on, because they were distracted by the beautiful view! Talking about hills, did you know that Athens was built on seven hills, just like Rome? Riding around Athens on the segways was so easy, and so much fun.
Overall, we would say that Athens was EXCELLENT!


 Hi everybody! While we were in Italy, we got to go to Florence, and we can't wait to share about that with you. As many of you know, Florence was the center of learning and the arts during the Renaissance. And this impressive Cathedral certainly shows that off! This cathedral is called Santa Maria del Fiore. The dome, also called the Duomo, was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. When designing the dome, Brunelleschi studied the Pantheon in Rome, which we also saw. He built the outer dome out of brick, because it was lighter and easier to shape than stone. We got to walk up the dome, which was so much fun, and we got a good view of the Florentinian landscape. The dome is still the largest brick dome in the world.
Along with the Cathedral, there are 2 other buildings that make up the complex, the Baptistery and a bell tower called Giotto's Campanile. In the Baptistery is a beautiful painted ceiling, depicting many scenes from the Bible, such as the creation of man. Also, on the exterior, are beautiful panelled doors, made out of bronze. They were designed by a young man named Lorenzo Ghiberti, who won a competition for his design to be put in to use. He managed to beat Brunelleschi, Donatello, and Jacopo della Quercia.
Whilst in Florence, we also went to the Museo Galileo, a museum which houses a large collection of scientific instruments. In the museum are 2 large collections, the Medici Collection and the Lorraine Collection. The Medici Collection contains many of Galileo's instruments which we saw, and the collection dates from the 15th to 18th centuries. In there we saw the map below, which is of the world, but is not very accurate. It does look better once you turn it upside down though, with Britain in the upper left hand corner.
We think our trip to Florence was EXCELLENT!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Rome Part 2 and Vatican City

Hello everyone, we are doing awesome and would like to share more about our excellent trip to Rome. To start, below is a picture of Ara Pacis, an altar in Rome dedicated to the Roman goddess of peace, Pax. The monument was commissioned by the Roman Senate on July 4, 13 B.C., to honor the return of the Roman Emperor Augustus from 3 years in Hispania and Gaul. Restoration of Ara Pacis started in 1938 under Benito Mussolini, a Fascist ruler of Italy at the time. He built a protective building for the altar, in part of his attempt to build an "Ancient Roman Theme Park", to glorify Fascist Italy.
This is a picture of Altare Della Patria, commonly known as the Wedding Cake. The Wedding Cake is a monument built to honor Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a united Italy. It was designed by Giuseppe Sacconi in 1885, inaugurated in 1911, and finished in 1925. The structure is huge; 443 feet wide and 230 feet high. We were amazed by the utter scale of it. The base holds the Italian Unification museum.
We also went to a bunch of art museums, including the Capotiline Museums and the Galleria Borghese, where we saw the sculpture below. Some of you may recognize this sculpture, and it is one of our personal favorites. It is Bernini's David. Bernini was an Italian sculptor and architect in the 1600's, and was a leading figure in the Baroque style of art. Baroque art used very lifelike figures and showed the motion, for example David's muscle's flexing and him about to fire the slingshot.
We also went to Vatican City, the smallest country in the world where the Catholic Pope lives. We took an amazing tour, and saw many amazing sights. The most notable of these would probably be the Sistene Chapel, painted by Michelangelo. Since we were not allowed to take any pictures, we can't post one but I highly recommend you look it up. It gets it's name from Pope Sixtus IV, who restored it in 1480. The picture below is of St. Peter's Square, named for St. Peter's Basilica in the center, which is named after St. Peter, the first Pope. The dome in St. Peter's Basilica was redesigned by Michelangelo in 1547. He constructed it using 2 shells of bricks for support. St. Peter's Basilica is the largest church in the world.
In addition to the dome, Michelangelo designed a sculpture inside St. Peter's Basilica, called the Pieta. The sculpture is of Mary holding Jesus after he died. Michelangelo used a variety of techniques here. He made Mary a lot bigger than realisticly possible, in order for Jesus to be sprawled across her lap. Michelangelo also made his Pieta out of marble, rather than wood, unlike most earlier versions. In addition, Mary's face is youthful, though sorrowful, representing the youth and eternal life of God.
We had an awesome time in Italy and would say that this adventure was EXCELLENT!