Stadiums Galore! 5/11-5/21/13

What Sport Industry in the United Kingdom trip would be complete without a look at all the venues that make sport the spectacle that it is? On our trip we were able to see some incredible venues that gave us great insight into how the sport industry in the United Kingdom is similar and how it differs from the one we are familiar with in the United States. Some facilities were familiar in design (Twickenham, Wembley), some were incredibly different (QPR) and some were on a different level that what we normally see (Wimbledon).

Olympics Venues

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Wembley

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Queen’s Park Rangers

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Southampton Football Club

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Chelsea Football Club

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Wimbledon

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Twickenham

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Southampton 5/18/13

Being that our home base was in Winchester, we were able to take a quick train ride to the port city of Southampton. Southampton, the largest city in the Hampshire, gave us an opportunity to explore the Southampton Saints Football Club & afforded us an opportunity to explore the area where the Titanic set sail from on her maiden voyage. We were able to see Port 43 (currently occupied by a Carnival Cruise ship) where the Titanic was docked. Their is a large exhibit at the SeaCity Museum that is dedicated to the crew and passengers of the Titanic. Based on the area, the loss of the Titanic is still felt. Many of the crew & passengers, 685, were from Southampton.

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Paris 5/15 & 5/16/13

Now that we had experienced one of the biggest attractions Paris has to offer, we were off to explore the rest of the city. Walking directly out of the Louvre from the Pyramid lead us directly to Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. This monument stands as a Napoleon’s military victories. From here were able to see Paris’ famous Luxor Obelisk. This is one of three obelisks dubbed “Cleopatra’s Needle.” One is here, one is in London and one is in New York. From here we took a stroll admiring the many parks Paris had to offer on our way to the Arc de Triomphe. Easily one of the most famous landmarks as it stands as a symbol for all of those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I. From here we journeyed onward to see the most impressive momentum of all, La Tour Eiffel, the Eiffel Tower. The monument itself is breathtaking in sheer stature given the area and its significance as a cultural icon.  The trip to the top is well worth it! The views from the top are an incredible way to view the city and see all of the important places to visit including the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, Sainte-Chappelle and so many more.

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The next day we decided what better way to finish off our time in Paris than to visit Sainte-Chappelle and Notre Dame. Built in 1239, Sainte-Chappelle represents the highest achievement from the Rayonnant period of Gothic architecture. The stained glass windows are easily the most impressive component of Sainte-Chappelle. We were able to see almost every glass pane in the church. It is currently undergoing renovation and I can only imagine how the glass will look once it is done.

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No trip to Paris would be complete without a trip to Notre Dame. This incredible Roman Catholic cathedral is unbelievable. Simply put this cathedral is huge! The cornerstone was laid in 1163 and it wasn’t completed until 1345. Compared to today where buildings are built quickly, it is hard to imagine taking so long to complete a structure. Let along a structure that changes because the style of architecture at the time changes.

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Musee Du Louvre 5/15/13

In an attempt to beat some of the crowds our first major stop in Paris was the Musee du Louvre. It is said that in order to see each and every item in the Musee du Louvre for 30 seconds it would take you over 100 days. We were lucky enough to spend a few hours exploring Louvre. The vast size of this building is hard to take in. The building is situated on 98.84 acres! Given our “limited” time there we were able to see some of the most famous pieces of artwork in history. Mona Lisa being one of the immediate paintings we all had to seek out. It is hard to express how impressive this painting is. It could be a combination of the work itself combined with the thick plate in front of it, with the large display for it, the guards and the large crowds. Da Vinci’s other works were equally impressive. Two other’s here that really stood out were The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and The Virgin of the Rocks. We were also able to see the Wedding Feast at Cara (easily the largest painting here!), The Virgin and Child with St. John the Baptist, Oath of the Horatii, L’Européenne, The Coronation of Emperor Napoleon the I and so many more.

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The marble and other works of art were just as impressive as the works of art. Winged Victory of Samothrace, also known as Nike of Samothrace, was easily my favorite of all the marbles works. This statue is impressive on size alone, it is 8 feet tall, but the detail is truly where this statue excels. Aphrodite, also known by Venus de Milo, was another favorite. Some of the other important pieces we saw were Artemis of Versailles, the Dying Slave and Psyche Revived by Cupids Kiss.

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Platform 9 & 3/4 5/14/13

Before we made our trip to France there was one more stop in London we had to make. The stop was St. Pancras! You may be thinking that doesn’t sounds at all like Platform 9 & ¾….. In a way it is. Due to the modern design and construction of King’s Cross it wasn’t the best exterior to play a role in the movie. It was however in the perfect location to show above ground rail and to blend into the author’s story based on her own trips and life experiences.

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If they didn’t use the exterior of King’s Cross, what in the world did they show us in the movie? The answer is simple. The station used for the exterior shots in the movies was none other than St. Pancras International train station. Not only did this station play a role in the movies, but it was also the easiest way for us to travel to Paris as it was the local Eurostar hub.

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London 5/11 5/12 5/19 & 5/20/13

How do you summarize the greatest city in the world? Simple… you call it London! Summarizing this portion of our trip is much more difficult as there are so many things you can do in London. No matter what you are into, there is something for everyone in this city. There are museums covering everything from art, cars, the city, history, natural history, science museums, tea and the list goes on and on. Beyond museums there are arcades, bicycle tours, boat tours, East India Trading Company, haunted houses, music experiences and so much more.

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Due to its extensive transportation network, primarily the tube system, moving around London was extremely easy. In addition to the tube, there is a variety of bridges that allow you to move easily towards your destination. Some of the notable bridges we walked across were the Tower Bridge, London Bridge, Millennium Bridge, Waterloo Bridge & Westminster Bridge.

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On our first day in London we explored the Olympic Venues, British Museum and Wembley. I will touch more on the sport venues later. But for now we will explore more on the British Museum. The British Museum has a wide array of treasures from all around the world including the Mold Gold Cape, the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon, the Vindolanda Tablets, Rosetta Stone, 7000+ year old Jade and the Olduvai Stone chopping tool. There are so many items to explore a person could easily spend many hours here. The most awe inspiring of all the exhibits was the long hallway featuring the Elgin Marbles.  This hall is full of almost half of the original frieze, some of the metopes and many figures, including Poseidon, from the Parthenon.

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While visiting London we had to visit Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately during our visit, the Queen was staying at the Windsor Castle rather than at Buckingham as signaled by Union Jack flying over Buckingham Palace. We were able to take in the significance of not only Buckingham, but were able to see the Queen’s Guard diligently on duty. From Buckingham were able to stroll through some of the surrounding parks and gardens to enjoy the ambience of the scenic routes.

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The Palace of Westminster is the meeting place for the House of Commons and House of Lords. The Palace of Westminster is more commonly known for the Elizabethan Tower that houses Big Ben. This not only served as an exciting place to visit and hear Big Ben, but it also served as a great landmark for navigating. Located next to the Palace of Westminster is Westminster Abbey. This fully operational church is not only an inspiring place to visit for a ceremony, but it also serves as a coronation and burial site. Some of the most famous people in history are buried here including Edward the Confessor, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Edward I, Edward III, Edward VI, Mary I, Mary Queen of Scots, Isaac Newton and many, many more. This was easily one of the most interesting places to visit in London and gave us the opportunity to learn more about the English culture.

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Being in this area of the city afforded us the opportunity of seeing the Tower of London. This is considred a castle of great historical importance. Throughout history, this castle has changed control many times, often resulting in change of power in the country. Exploring this castle gave us an idea on what castle life was really like. This idea was further brought to life when actors took the role of typical castle dwellers. The castle also holds some of the most important items in history. This items range from the various Crown Jewels (including the crown of Queen Elizabeth), coronation swords, orbs, scepters to many golden dishwares.

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One of the most impressive pieces of downtown London was the London Eye. This extremely large Ferris wheel is located on the River Thames giving us one of the best views of many of London’s biggest attractions. During its 30-minute rotation we were able to see the City of Westminster, St Paul’s Cathedral, Canary Wharf, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Cleopatra’s Needle, British Museum’s reading rooms, Waterloo Station, Elizabeth Tower, St. James Park, Hyde Park, Kensington Garden’s, Olympic venues and so much more! This experience is hands down one of the best ways to spend 30-minutes of your time!

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We were also lucky enough to experience the O2 arena. This was one of the more interesting venues that you will see anywhere in the world. The architecture from the exterior is extremely unique and offers a very interesting vantage point from any corner. This outer shell houses a full arena, a cinema, a music club, restaurants, bars and most importantly (to us) the British Music Experience. This fully immersing exhibit allows people to come in and play right along with some of the UK’s greatest. We were able to see handwritten lyrics from Adele, guitars from the Sex Pistols, glasses and clothes from Elton John, the drum set from Pink Floyd’s the Wall album and tour and so much more.

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Winchester Cathedral 5/9 & 5/10/13

Today we went on a citywide tour of Winchester. This allowed us to expand more on the history and the changes the city has gone through in the last several hundred years. Among the many incredible sights we were to see in Winchester, the most stunning by far was the Winchester Cathedral. The cathedral was originally founded in 642. It was completely rebuilt starting in 1079 comprising of Norman and Gothic styles of architecture. This cathedral is stunning on the inside and out. The inside is acoustically one of the best venues to listen to any performance, especially if you are lucky enough to listen to the famous Winchester Cathedral Choir for one of their Evensong performances. Their ability to sing in great detail and in so many different ways is really something that must be heard!

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The cathedral is the resting place for many of the area’s greats including Saint Birinus, Izaak Walton, Jane Austen and many bishops. The cathedral was also used for movie sets including the Da Vinci Code (2005) and Les Miserable (2012). Most of our free time these days were used exploring the city and campus. This way we would be acclimated to the area to make navigation easier (and know the shortcuts to the train station!).

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Arrival & Winchester 5/8/13

Today marked our arrival at London’s Heathrow Airport. After a long flight we were all excited to be able to walk around and explore the airport. Although, we were all tired, there is no rest for the weary. (Especially, those who have come as far as we did. We had exploring to do!) From here we gathered our luggage and made our way over to the National Express Terminal.

After a scenic cruise through the country, we arrived in our new home away from home, Winchester. We were immediately welcomed to the city by their famous King Alfred Statue. This representation of King Alfred the Great stands on Broadway near the city’s eastern medieval gate. From here we were able to take in the architecture from the town and just how different that it was compared to home.

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Our introduction to the University of Winchester was a great experience. We were greeted by a staff that was very accommodating getting us checked into our dorms, familiarized with campus and made us feel right at home all while they and their students undergo final examinations. After we got settled in, we set out to explore Winchester’s High Street. Silas Brown was a great and insightful guide to the city and he was able to share a great deal about the town. It was a welcome sight to see the Great Hall of the Winchester Castle, home of Arthur’s mysterious round table. Compared to home, the medieval architecture was one of the most amazing sights of the town. This combined with the large number of small shops and pubs that lined both sides of downtown Winchester.

Travel Day & Our Departure 5/7/13

5/7 – The 7th was the first day of our journey and our travel day. We departed from Willard Airport in Savoy for a quick flight to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. After a short layover, we were off! We all settled in to books, movies, television shows as we watch the time of the 9 hour flight ticks down.

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