I went to the Salvador Dalí Museum and fell in love with this crazy surrealist.

Chicago

I’m back in Alabama this week, but I had a great time in Chicago. It was great to see my family again, and I also had enough time to get a glimpse of the city.

In addition to shopping on Michigan Avenue, eating some real deep dish pizza, and spending time in Millennium Park, we went to Navy Pier, where we rode the giant Ferris wheel. This was one of my favorite things that we did, simply because of the wonderful views we had of the city and the lake.

The next day, my family went to the aquarium while I headed to a cafe with wifi to get some work done. On my way back, I passed the Art Institute of Chicago. Naturally, I had to go in.

As I was paying for my ticket, I learned that this is the second-largest art museum in the US, and I knew I had made a good decision in coming in.

There are some days that I could spend hours and hours in a museum and still not be satisfied, but this wasn’t one of those days. I peeked at the photography exhibit, skipped all of the still-life and religious paintings, and rushed through all the other classics, including the world-renown collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artwork (with a quick stop to admire the works of my favorite painter, Toulouse-Lautrec). 

I did, however, slow down when I got to the new media exhibit and then I took my time as I looked at all of the contemporary and modern art. Overall, I enjoyed my time at the museum, but I would definitely like to go back sometime when I’m more focused. There was just so much to take in, and I left feeling completely overwhelmed.

My visit ended perfectly, though, with a stroll through the gardens surrounding the museum.

I know I’ve only scratched the surface of Chicago, but with cheap bus tickets there from Cincinnati, I think a weekend trip this autumn is in order. I can’t wait to discover more of what Chi-Town has to offer!

Love, Elizabeth

Shakespeare’s Globe

If you recall some of my posts about Stratford-Upon-Avon, you’ll know what a big Shakespeare fan I am. I have the complete Shakespeare dictionary, one of my bedroom walls is covered in Post-it notes with words he invented, and I don’t usually go longer than a few weeks without re-reading one of his plays or watching a film adaptation of one of them. So it should come as no surprise that the Shakespeare’s Globe attraction in London made it onto my list of English favorites.

This is a replica of the Globe Theatre in London where many of Shakespeare’s plays were originally performed. Originally, the theatre was destroyed when one of the special effects went horribly wrong, and a spark from a cannon landed on the thatched roof and burnt the building to the ground. The theatre was quickly rebuilt, but a few decades later, the Puritans took over England, decided that frivolous activities like plays were causing things like the plague, and shut down all of the theatres. The Globe that you can visit today was built in 1997, and is incidentally the first building in London that has been constructed with a thatched roof since the Great Fire of 1666, after which thatched roofs were outlawed.

Today, there is a museum attached to it, and then you take a tour of the actual theatre. The museum offered fascinating insights into the context of Shakespeare’s era, including so much information about what theatre was like at the time. I learned so much, but I think my favorite section was the costume part. Historic apparel always fascinates me, especially the women’s clothing. The exhibit talked a lot about costume design, fabric, maintenance, and many other interesting aspects. The most outrageous fact I learned was that pee was regularly used to take care of clothing. Rather than paraphrasing, I’m just going to directly quote from the plaque:

Urine Collection

Urine was used as a stain remover. It was collected and stored for three weeks until it fermented. Pregnant women’s urine was most effective because of its high oestrogen content; whilst the urine from someone who had consumed a lot of alcohol was useless. Urine was also used for mordanting dyes, tanning leather and bleaching.

So there you have it. It definitely makes the thought of wearing Elizabethan clothing a little less desirable (as if the corsets weren’t uncomfortable enough!).

As for the theatre itself, it was beautiful. The seats were just basic wooden, backless benches, as they would have been in Shakespeare’s time, but the stage was extravagant. You can see from the photos that it was decorated beautifully (those big pillars are wooden, but they were painted to look like marble because actual marble would have been too expensive). I would have loved to see a performance here, but their season hasn’t kicked off yet—at the moment they’re running a program called Globe to Globe, so all of their performances are in different languages. If I ever come back to London during summertime, I will definitely be making a Shakespeare performance at the Globe Theatre one of my priorities!

Love, Elizabeth

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

The Kennedys

After our tour yesterday, I dragged Molly to “Museum The Kennedys.” JFK is one of my favorite presidents, and I find the entire family fascinating, so I couldn’t pass up a chance to go to a museum dedicated to them. Berlin was a special place to JFK because on June 26, 1963, he saw the Berlin Wall for the first time on his visit to the city. Though he had prepared a different speech, he was so moved that he ended up scrapping the speech and sayingIch bin ein Berliner (“I am a Berliner”).

The museum had the reactions of several Germans who witnessed the speech. My personal favorite was that of someone was just a child when she watched the president on tv. Though she heard that famous line and knew from his funny accent that he wasn’treallyfrom Berlin, she still felt a sense of hope from what he said, and it made her feel that she could become an agent of change.

The exhibit also included many photos of the Kennedys as well as a few artifacts (some of John and Jackie’s things, and a few campaign pieces) and a recording of the famous speech that he gave just outside the museum. It would probably be a boring museum for someone who isn’t already interested in the Kennedys, but I’m obsessed enough that I really enjoyed it.

Love, Elizabeth

Ich bin ein Berliner!

Ich bin ein Berliner!

Adventure: Liverpool

"A World Heritage city, Liverpool is renowned for its passion and commitment to music, the arts, culture, and sport. Steeped in history and rich cultural heritage, Liverpool is a thriving, stylish, cosmopolitan and vibrant city break destination. Liverpool is the heart of Liverpool City Region and is known the world over for its strong maritime history, well-documented musical heritage and sporting heroes. So many reasons for you to flock to our exciting city, experiencing its charm and resurgence for yourself." ~From my city map

… I arrived at Liverpool just after noon on Wednesday. I bought a map of the town right away, but I ended up not using it much because there were plenty of signs all around the city, so I just followed them in the direction of what sounded most interesting. That led me through the bustling city centre to Albert Dock, which is where I spent most of my time, looking through the Tate Museum, the Museum of Liverpool, and a ton of little souvenir shops selling mostly Beatles memorabilia. I picnicked next to the river Mersey, which was really beautiful. I explored the nearby area, looking at a lot of the older architecture and churches and popping into the Walker Art Gallery.

I passed St. Luke’s Church, which was hit by a bomb in 1941; the only part that remains of the church is the outer shell. I wandered farther and walked through Chinatown. Then I made my way to the largest cathedral in the UK (and the fifth largest in the world): Liverpool Cathedral. I walked into it and was greeted with the low rumble of organ practice—I was completely awestruck. I learned a little bit about the history of it: It’s actually a really new cathedral. The Foundation Stone was laid by King Edward VII in 1904, and there was a service in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to mark the completion of the cathedral in 1978. I would have stayed for the evensong service, but Wednesday was the only day they didn’t have one. So I found my way back to the train station and came home.

I really loved Liverpool and want to go back sometime to see the museums more and walk farther along the river.

Love, Elizabeth

Coffee and Museums

Hello, beautiful people! Sorry for my long absence from the cyber world. Nothing extremely eventful has happened within the last few days, but I’ll fill you in anyway!

On Thursday, my flatmate Molly and I walked to the city centre to read a book for the class we’re in together. We worked in the cafe at Waterstones, which is a really big bookstore, like an English version of Barnes and Noble. We didn’t have time to walk all the way to campus before our lecture, so I earned ten more British Tourism Points by taking the train for the first time (BTP total: 20).

The only eventful thing on Friday was that in the morning, I walked to the city centre for the first time on my own and had a nice shopping trip. The weather had taken a turn for the worse, so I bought a winter coat—of course, because I did that, the rest of this week is supposed to be warm again. It’s windy and cloudy today but still pretty warm at 65 degrees.

Saturday was extremely amazing, with yet another trip to the city centre, this time with a flatmate. Apparently Costa Coffee is a big British competitor of Starbucks, so Dan insisted that I try it. I was converted upon first sip of the deliciousness. And just look at the beautiful presentation of my mocha—chocolate sprinkles in the shape of coffee beans! Not to mention how delicious my Belgian chocolate caramel shortbread pastry was… . Sorry, American coffee drinkers, but I’m no longer a Starbucks girl!

After the coffee, we went to the art museum and spent hours looking through all of the collections. One of the collections was the Staffordshire Hoard, which contains a ton of gold artifacts, most of which probably came from helmets and the hilts of swords and daggers. It’s a neat story, because it was discovered by an ordinary man with a metal detector that he had bought at a car boot sale.

Nothing much happened yesterday; I spent all day doing homework and organizing my room. I bought a shelf organizer for my wardrobe, so that looks much better now, and I started to hang pictures on my wall. Now my room definitely feels like it’s my own space. I’m finally starting to get a routine—my classes are all afternoon classes, but I wake up every morning at seven so that I can relax with a cup (or six!) of tea while I work ahead on some of my readings and talk to my flatmates as they all wake up. I love living in Birmingham. I feel so comfortable—in my room, on campus, at the city centre; it really feels like home here.

But that’s not really the point of my year abroad—now that I’m all settled in, it’s time to throw myself back out into the world! I don’t have any trips planned yet, but I’d say within the next few weeks, I’ll be having a London adventure. In the meantime, I’ll keep everyone posted with my daily life adventures, and I’ll throw in a culture-related post every so often.

Love, Elizabeth