Paris (again) 2011

July 12, 2012 at 10:00 am | Posted in General, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Moving slightly ahead of the year behind we come to a return to Paris from way back in August 2011.
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This was a brief stop over on the way to Germany (coming up next) and I was mainly aiming to chill out and wander around.
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I did want to go to the catacombs but unfortunately the line was literally around the block so that unfortunately didn’t happen. Guess I’ll have to come back again!

Luckily the Jewish Museum was an alternative that offered a good background to the Jewish experience in Paris, from the earliest days to today, including modern and religious art. Remember to pick up the audio guide as there’s limited English.
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Next stop is Cologne (Koln).
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Pictures at Flickr

Eltham Palace

April 14, 2012 at 11:40 am | Posted in London, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | 1 Comment
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Want gardens, medieval history and art deco glamour? Then Eltham Palace is the place for you.
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It’s not exactly a palace though. It used to be but much of it was destroyed though there is still the impressive medieval hall with its high ceiling to look at.
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The more interesting element is the 1930s mansion that was built next to the medieval hall with its art deco opulence. Seeing these two sit side by side and imagining the lifestyle (assuming you don’t currently live in gold plated luxury) is the main reason to visit Eltham Palace.
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Although the rooms showcasing the army dorms, which the building was used for after the family left are a touch less stylish.

Do remember to pick up the audio guide!

Surrounding the mansion and hall are some extensive gardens. Having a wander through them is quite relaxing.
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If you can make it to Eltham in south east London then I would recommend going to the palace.
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Photos at Flickr! (Note: no photos can be taken inside)

Google maps.

Royal Artillery Museum

April 12, 2012 at 10:10 pm | Posted in General, London, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | 1 Comment
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Boom! Pow! Kablam! That’s what you’d expect from Firepower! the Royal Artillery Museum in London.
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You may not hear a lot in the way of explosions but you will see an array of guns and things that would cause some destruction if they were working. For obvious reasons they’re inactive. Shucks.
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As you walk through the museum you’ll get an overview of how these firearms developed from guns and canons to tanks and missiles.

Included in the price is a large introduction to the themes. with projected videos on screens around the seating area. Downside to this is that the chairs face one direction which only gives a good view of one or two (of four screens). I’m assuming this is to try and immerse you.
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Overall it was pretty interesting and I think if you have a passion for the topic you’d love it. Even I felt testerone-y with all those weapons!

Entry is £5.30 and the museum is located out at Woolwich. It’s a little far from central London which can be a bit of a hassle to get to but there are some transport options, which might make it a little more bearable.

Photos at Flickr!

Google maps.

The Polish Institute & Sikorski Museum

August 5, 2009 at 9:51 pm | Posted in General, London, museum, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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Opposite Hyde Park, on embassy row, if you look carefully you might see the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum.  A small museum spread out over several floors detailing some of experiences of Polish expatriate forces during World War Two.

There are limited information sign next to the collected items however you won’t need them as a guide will take you around, answering your questions and highlighting the importance of the pieces. This could pose a problem if a number of people come through during the two hours it is open. This happened to me in the final room when the usher brought a few Poles in for the guide (there’s only one). Luckily we were almost done. Also, as to be expected the guide spoke Polish and English. A tour takes about 30-45mins.

Probably not the thing to focus on but I am a geek after all but they have an enigma machine!

It doesn’t matter that I didn’t go ‘whoa’, ‘whooo’, or ‘whaooo’ over any of the pieces because the experience of the guide as he slowly moved around the museum and raspily extolled the value of the items made up for it and created a sense of ambiance and the importance that these pieces have for the museum.

It’s interesting, particularly if you are fascinated with the history of the period – or the armed forces. This could be out of the scope for the museum but I would have liked to see some content about the experience of Polish civilians, general background history for the unitiated and an overview of the culture.

Ok that’s a lot of requests, which is probably why they only focus on the one area.

Met Police Museum

July 6, 2009 at 10:58 pm | Posted in General, London, museum, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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Close to West Brompton Tube at the Empress State Building is the local police complex and a newly opened police museum, which is also meant to be an aid to police recruitment.

Despite thousands of items in storage the museum is seriously restricted by the available floor space. They’ve certainly maximised the available area with blurbs covering topics such as the changing face of the Met since its inception, allowing women into the force and new technologies.

According to the museum they’ll be rotating the items on display and they’re also hopeful of expanding their floor space. The museum is new and the volunteer staff I spoke to genuinely excited and enthusiastic so I’m sure it will continue to grow and develop.

With the space as a caveat my only suggestion would be to add some greater information, perhaps anecdotes and histories on the display case items. Also an official website would be great too!

Given the size I can’t recommend it as a must see but if you happen to have an interest in criminal justice, working in the police or happen to be in the area then drop by this free and newly minted museum. Perhaps one day the Black Museum will open to the public too. Meanwhile perhaps one day the Bow Street Museum will open as well.

Also you might want to check out Time Out’s Big Smoke Blog on the museum.

Cardiff – St Fagans

October 19, 2008 at 2:15 pm | Posted in General, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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St Fagans located a short bus ride from Cardiff is an open air museum featuring buildings from around Wales. Other than the transport costs it’s free.

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On a nice day it is a nice way to spend a pleasant two hours.

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Wandering around the various constructions from Celtic farms to a home of the ‘future’.

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The architecture is interesting, some have information blurbs explaining the significance while others have very limited content.

One of the better parts of the complex is a museum housing a number of collections relating to Welsh life. While it didn’t help me understand the political issues in the country I did feel like I came away with a somewhat better appreciation of the culture. I just wish I had more time to read up on the displays.

If you have a spare 3 hours (round trip) and good weather a trip to St Fagans would be worthwhile.

Cardiff – National Museum

October 19, 2008 at 1:22 pm | Posted in General, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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Cardiff’s National Museum is more of a natural history museum with a splash of art and human archaeological history than a true national museum.

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As a result if you’ve been to a natural history museum anywhere before you may not get much out of it. Children will enjoy it as there are plenty of large models and recreations to engage the imagination. The museum also covers the geological history of Wales (as well as native species etc) so that’s probably the only thing this section of the museum has going for it. The maps at the museum do show Wales in relation with the other parts of the UK as they moved around the globe over millions of years – much better than that other museum.

The museum also has on offer some Welsh artwork in its upper galleries. I assume the arty among you will find something of interest here. I did not.

What I was searching for was an understanding of Wales and its people and history. At first I thought I’d missed it but eventually found it in one of the side wings. Most of this section details stone age life with maybe a third of room detailing historical developments. There was limited or more aptly no real explanation of English-Wales relationship when it came under the former’s control or the reasoning for devolution. I don’t know whether this was because everyone is meant to know these facts already or perhaps after centuries it is still too soon for an open discussion. Regardless as a newcomer I was left wanting with no understanding of the forces at work in Wales. For a place of knowledge that’s great work.

I later asked at the information desk (as well as the tourism office) where I could find more information about Welsh history -especially political as that’s my interest- everyone seemed mystified that such a thing should exist. I was pointed to St Fagans and the Senedd. Still not a great response for a part of the world that’s trying to highlight its differences and further devolve. 

Apparently there are plans to focus the museum solely on natural history. That might be a good idea as long as they develop a new museum for the history of the Welsh people.

It is free and located at Cathays Park in Central Cardiff. In its current form you can skip it.028

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What's with the matching outfits?

Edinburgh – The National Museum of Scotland

September 22, 2008 at 7:36 pm | Posted in General, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | 1 Comment
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The National Museum of Scotland provides a thorough overview of Scotland’s history spaced out of a half dozen floors, culminating with views over the city. The museum charts Scotland’s geographic development and the history of its human inhabitants up to the present day.

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One of my few criticisms of the content is the geological section where the territory of Scotland is seen moving across the world over billions of years. However, the rest of Britain is conspicuously is absent right up to the present period. Conversely, the Welsh Museum had a similar exhibit and it all parts of the landmass were included (at least when they came together). Similarly, I tried to understand when homo sapiens arrived couldn’t find information on this. When asked a guide pointed me to a display on the development of Scottish surnames!

It’s as though the Scottish Museum is trying to to prove uniqueness and independence.

While odd it didn’t detract from the remaining exhibits – although my lack of knowledge means I’m prime material to be misled. Oh well.

The Roman period, particularly the bribing of Scottish Chiefs, was particularly interesting. Most of the museum covers the changing natures of the state, religion, the crown and everyday life. I found the story of the Jacobites and the ever shifting allegiances fascinating. On the other hand I was disappointed by the lack of information about devolution. The section covering it was too brief for a non-Scottish person to appreciate the arguments.

At the end of the museum I feel like I understood more about Scottish history but still feel lacking in my appreciation of Scottish culture.

The museum is located on Chambers Street, Edinburgh. It’s free and worth a visit (put aside about 2 hours).

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More Edinburgh photos at Flickr.

HMS Belfast

January 18, 2008 at 10:29 pm | Posted in General, London, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | 1 Comment
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At the end of Autum my housemates and I ventured down to the Thames to check out the historic HMS Belfast. Now that the Cutty Sark is down HMS Belfast has secured the monopoly on the historic ship market. Unless you count The Golden Hind.

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My housemates and I made our way down south bank of the Thames in the late afternoon to the floating museum that is the Belfast. After paying a somewhat hefty £10.30 adult entry free (including free audio guide) we walked over the walkway to the ship itself.

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As the audio tour began so too did the difficulties. Apparently not all of the guides are the same. My virtual guide was a woman with a penchant for talking whereas my housemates had a male speaker who was faster and then there was the ‘for more press …’ addendums. Perhaps the attendant heard my accent and decided I needed the English for Australian edition?

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The tour and ship itself was pretty interesting. The tight, bare corridors with their mannequins and props attempted to highlight the existence and working life of the Belfast’s sailors. The ‘ground’ deck was quite dull but as you progress deeper into the bowels of the ship, through areas such as the engine room and armory, the scale of the ship and its human inhabitants began to take shape.

After going under the water line you return to the main deck and into the tower (?) where you’ll get views of the Thames and a sense of the command and control functions housed within. Oh and you can sit in the Captain’s chair and look out onto the river. Like a real captain!

Lastly, the ship has a few resident cats which you may see and presumably if you’re allergic you may need to check with the attendants.

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HMS Belfast is fun to wander around and there is extensive information but the primary drawback is there is only so much time you can spend in any of the rooms whereas the audio guides with or without the additional content usually exceed the amount of time I was willing to spend and pacing ad nauseum around the same small room is not my idea of enjoyable.

For navy buffs a trip to HMS Belfast would be hard to miss but for everyone else it’s not a guaranteed success.

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