Barcelona, Spain

Spain.  We visited only  one city in Spain…Barcelona. Located along the Mediterranean Sea, Barcelona is close to southern France.

Fun Facts:  The 1992 Olympic Games were held in Barcelona, Spain.

WE WENT TO A FC BARCELONA FOOTBALL (Soccer) GAME

Lets just say Spain loves it’s soccer and the best of the best play here and fans come from all over the world to see a game at this stadium.  There is a team song that the stadium sings before and after the game.  I wish I knew the words! We got there very early to see the stadium and get “the feel” of the environment. The fans are very enthusiastic.

IMG_2858Fun Fact: The Camp Nou Stadium is the largest Football (soccer) stadium in the world. It can seat 99,700 people!  The FC Barcelona Team is the only Team that plays here and the stadium is only used for Soccer games (once in a while during the off season a concert will be held here, but not often).  The stadium has a museum with all the Barcelona trophies, history and info on the team. Going to a game is an event!  Season ticket holders hold 90 Percent of the tickets.  We were lucky to get the tickets we did. Mom surprised us with the tickets that she got a month before online.    The game was the best game I ever saw , on TV, or in person.   I really liked watching the best players working together to create opportunities to score goals. Sawyer and I liked watching Neymar doing his fabulous foot skills …he did a “rainbow”.  We watched Barcelona VS Celta de Vigo.  The score was 6-1 which is a high scoring game so we got to celebrate SO many goals with the crowd.  They sing, they chant, they cheer, they play music. You can watch the game on You Tube especially the highlights, which included Messi’s famous Penalty Kick (he faked out the goalie by passing backwards to Suarez).  The TV channels and the Soccer channels had it on for days after the game. I will never forget going to Camp Nou to see this game.IMG_4683e IMG_4850Here is Messi (10) Neymar (11) and Suarez (9).  My dad took lots of photos and we had great seats.  IMG_4859

 

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Sagrada Familia:  This is the most visited sight in Barcelona. It has a lot of history behind it, basically, it started work in 1882 and is still being worked on today.  Sagrada Familia is the Spanish word for “holy Family.”  It has tons of carvings of Bible scenes on the outside and beautiful stained glass windows on the inside. The inside also has a different kind of archetecture than you would expect to see in a church.   It is built in the middle of a residential community and it is very large. See the ariel view below of what it looks like so far.

The Sagrada Família has been under construction for over 100 yearsWe watched a lot of documentary video’s about this structure and about Gaudi, the designer of the church and what the carvings and buildings are meant say. Without the “history” behind these things I would just think it was a bunch of jumble.  The Bible scenes are very nice and I liked looking for each statue I learned about.  IMG_4638  IMG_4567This is the Three Kings bringing gifts to baby Jesus and also Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus in another carving..IMG_4564

This is the inside of the church. I love all the colors of the stained glass windows.  This is just one area of glass. There were other areas with different colors.  See how the sun shines through them?IMG_4610

Fun Facts: The Sagrada Familia is only funded by private donations and entry fees from tourists, Not from Spanish government at all.

Sagrada Família is a large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, designed by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí.  Gaudi was the influence behind the unique design concept of the church. 

It has recently been announced that La Sagrada Família will finally be finished by 2026, on the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s death. The great Spanish Catalan architect lived to see only one tower erected, but construction carried on using the designs and models he left.

IMG_2812Here is Sawyer and I taking lots of notes on our observations of the  Sagrada Familia after we visited. There was a lot to write about.  After visiting we spent the rest of the day walking the city and took the Metro back to the hotel.

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PICASSO MUSEUM

Picasso work is kind of weird .  I learned about his art through photos of his paintings online, then we visited the Museum. It was a small Museum and not as interesting as the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam I visited.

Picasso , believe it or not, did some amazing “normal” paintings of people, scenery and still art earlier in his career (we saw these at the museum too) but later in his career he moved to the “abstract” art that we all know him from. Like pictures of people with triangle heads, weird eyes and lots of shapes. They had many paintings like these….and many of his earlier works which were far better in my opinion. You decide…

 The earlier paintings   VS the later paintings… ITs hard for me to believe it was the same artist…
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Barcelona was a nice city. We visited the beach but did not swim. We got to play soccer at a local park each day because the weather was so nice.  This was the first time I got to touch the MEDITERANIAN SEA.  IMG_2830
I can be reached at rileymeckley@yahoo.com if you have any questions for me.

 

France.

WELCOME TO EUROPEParis, France.  France is the largest country in Western Europe.  We rented an apartment in Paris for 9 days.  We originally were staying 6 but added more days because we LOVED IT HERE. 

Fun Facts: Paris facts: the most visited city

In 2013, 47 million tourists visited Paris and the Paris region, including Disneyland Paris and Versailles. Paris remains year after year the most visited city in the world ahead of London and New York City.

During WWII, when Hitler visited Paris, the French cut the lift cables on the Eiffel Tower so that Hitler would have to climb the steps if he wanted to reach the top.
Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923), a French engineer who designed the famous tower in Paris, which is named after him. He also designed the Statue of Liberty which stands in New York’s harbor.
 

Winter is a great time to come here because NO CROWDS anywhere. There is so many things to see. I will start with the thing everyone knows about (at least in pictures). THE EIFFEL TOWER:

FUN FACTS:  One of the worlds most recognizable icons. It was completed on March 31, 1889 and was the tallest man made monument at the time.  It was built for the Worlds fair.  There are 1,665 stairs leading to the top.  There are replica’s of the Eiffel Tower all over the world (we saw the one in Las Vegas).

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The tower sways 2-3″ in the wind. Mr. Gustaf Eiffel, designed the tower, had an apartment on the third floor.  There are 20,000 light bulbs lighting it up at night.  There was a race to see who can climb the stairs the fastest.  The tower is repainted every 7 years.

We visited on a rainy day but still went up top. It was foggy when we went and were only able to go mid way up.  I did not expect it to be as big as it was.  I thought this would be an “over rated” tourist trap, but it was actually pretty cool to see up close.IMG_3972.IMG_2377IMG_3340IMG_3734

On our walks around the city we crossed over  the Pont Neuf (New Bridge) which is actually the oldest bridge in the city (odd name for a bridge) but it was nice. It was built in 1854.  It has an “N” on it marking Napoleon’s Ruling. You see that a lot on certain buildings in Paris.  IMG_3179It crosses the Siene River and goes to an island in the river (Isle de la Citi) which has parks and the Notre Dame Cathedral on it.  The outside of the Cathedral looks very old and has tons of carvings on the entire building.  My favorite were the “gargoyles” that surround the upper level of Notre Dame.  They were built to scare away spirits and some look pretty creepy. I think they look like a combination of a bat and a dog.    IMG_3193IMG_3209IMG_3199IMG_3201Notre Dame is a  major tourist attraction but it is still used as a regular church, they  hold mass here regularly. We went on a short river cruise on the Siene River which past many of the sights in Paris and also some neighborhoods.  It was an hour long.

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The LOUVRE MUSEUM:   The Louvre is hard to put into a short explanation. It is a gigantic museum that houses so many works of art it would take 2 months to see EVERYTHING.  We got a 2 day pass and I will just post some highlights.  My dad took hundreds of photos so if you want to see them ask him!  We had an “audio guide” to help us learn about the art.  It is a device where you punch in the number of the artwork and it tells you some facts about the artist, its history, and meaning and historical significance.  We all liked learning about the art this way.  If my Art teacher is reading this she would love to see the Louvre. First off, the outside of the museum is a piece of Artwork in itself. The archeteture is amazing. It is the biggest museum in the world.  One hallway in the Louvre is half a mile long. We got a 2 day pass. You have to plan you day right. We put all of our coats in the free lockers and brought lunch with us to eat. We were lucky that it wasn’t crowded. We hear in the summer lines are 2 hours long just to get in. We practically had all the exhibits with little amount of people in them. That was great.  There is tons of history about the building itself. I watched a great documentary about it.  It started off as a Palace, even Napoleon lived here. Later on another Palace was built close by, and the then current King built a wall connecting the 2 Palaces. You can actually see the  “N” for Napoleon and the “L” for King Louis XIV on different parts of the outside of the buildings. Very cool. This is the museum from aerial view.

Le Louvre - aerial view

IMG_3575IMG_3656IMG_3609IMG_3670We liked walking on the outside just as much as the inside. IMG_3660IMG_3653

Fun Fact: The Louvre’s galleries are displayed across 652,300 square feet – which is nearly 15 acres! The galleries contain approximately 7,500 paintings, and 66% of them were created by French artists.

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THE SCULPTURES:

inside louvreThis was just one of the many galleries of sculptures.   The amazing statues of Greek and Roman gods placed in beautiful rooms.  Here are just a few photos of the hundreds of amazing sculptures.  We all loved these works of art.. IMG_3452IMG_3398Nike, the winged goddess.  this is my favorite statue of the Louvre. This was originally on a ship as the bow statue. they cant find the head:) mabey it sank in the water or was stolen. Greek and Roman gods! I saw Zues, Posidion, Hades, Aphrodite, Herculise, Artimis and lots more.  I found it weird that a lot of the statues were naked. I guess in the time that they were made, wearing your birthday suit was the style,

IMG_3539IMG_4028Sawyer and I are big fans of the “Percy Jackson” series (we’ve read all of them) and all the Gods they talk about are sculpted here. IMG_3373IMG_3360IMG_3362I would take notes to remember the important details for my journal.

IMG_3346This is the Venus De Milo.  Very famous because of the year it was made and how early this technique was used and how it inspired many other sculpters.  It was also found buried in a field. (still looking for the arms….) How cool that there were no crowds here.IMG_2326 (1)There were marble and bronze statues.  This statue of slaves represented a French Battle victory. Each slave is from 4 different countries. It originally had a fountain in the middle and was outside. It is huge and very detailed.

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Now the Paintings: Just a fraction of them.IMG_3414AIMG_3433This painting is called “The wedding at Cana”

Fun Fact:  The Wedding at Cana is a massive oil painting by the late-Renaissance or Mannerist Italian painter Paolo Veronese. It is on display in the Musée du Louvre in Paris, where it is the largest painting in that museum’s collection.

It is so big we couldn’t even fit it all in the picture.  It is actually in the same room as the “Mona Lisa” which I will wright about. The wedding  picture is HUGE! In fact it is so big, it is impossible to move it. They would have to break a lot of walls and it would be to heavy to carry. The painting was brought here in 3 pieces. I liked the art work of “The wedding at Cana”.   Here it is in  more detail.IMG_3985

The painting above is of Napoleon crowning Josephine, his wife.  In the photo there is the French Royal family and all of Napoleon’s sisters. It is called the “Coronation of Emperor Napoleon I.”  See original image

Fun Fact:  Napoleon  ordered the painter, Jacques-Louis David, to include his mother (seated on a chair) even though she wasn’t there. She didn’t approve of Josephine.

Below is the painting of a sinking ship. The ship was called The Medusa and the men in the boat have gone days without eating and in the picture they were calling out for help.

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IMG_4043IMG_4006There were so many wonderful works of art here. These were talented artists of the day. We enjoyed listening to the audio about the paintings.  I learned a lot. IMG_2295 (1) IMG_3420This is the one and only Mona Lisa.  Painted By Leonardo Da Vinchi.  It is so tiny! The Mona Lisa is good but I don’t see why its so great .  I think a lot of other pictures look better and have better art work and detail. I mean, I cant even tell what the background is supposed to be! It is not that interesting to me compared to the other paintings.  It is famous because it is the first picture with the person smiling and having posture toward the looker. You couldn’t really see the Mona Lisa that well because you had to stand away from it, and it was in a glass case, but here is a picture taken from the internet of a closer look. I think the mona lisa is over-rated. See adjacent text.

IMG_4004Just walking the halls were cool. That is me sitting in the round chair. Just look at the art work !!!!

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IMG_3517The Palace Apartments : Where Emperors and Kings like Napoleon and his wife once lived. Also King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette lived here too.

Fun Fact: Napoléon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led several successful campaigns during the Revolutionary Wars.

King Louis XVI: was the last King of France. He was forced to marry Marie Antoinette at age 15 and became King at age 20. There is a lot of interesting History about this couple.

IMG_3513The apartments were very fancy. Even  though they were old fashion, I still liked them. All the rooms had high ceilings and the walls were all painted. The picture shows sawyer and  I standing in what once was the meeting room of the palace.  This is where they had ball room dances and met other leaders from other nations. They had important meetings in this room also. IMG_3524IMG_3522This is the dining room where all of the Royal family ate, especially while hosting dinners for important people. Did you know that the Royal French meals consisted of 4 different courses not counting desert. The Royal family had tons of servants that cooked ENORMAS amounts of food for them.  They ate it within 1 hour and 15 minutes at the most! You would think that a meal so big would take hours, but everyone ate fast because the servants would come and clear your dish even if you weren’t done. The table was big and could fit over 40 people! (this is one of the reasons that the French empire declined, they were using the money for stuff like this).

In the apartments, I also saw furniture that they sat on and tools they used like plates,cups,ect…  I liked seeing the apartments and it is so cool to think that I was in the same spot as all the other Kings and leaders.

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IMG_3483IMG_4061The Louvre has some foreign art sections and this is us in the Egypt part. I liked seeing the hieroglyphics carved into rock.

Below, is a picture of us with an Easter Island Maoi head. Mom and Dad have been to Easter Island and they say that it is 3 times as big, because they have a body and a head piece on top of the head.   One day I will go here and see the real ones that are still there. IMG_4009aIMG_3392 This is just one of the many rooms in the louvre with a painted celing. I liked the gold on the walls.

There is a lot of big fancy doorways here…IMG_3389I really loved seeing all the different art works in the Louvre.  A lot of the paintings had half-naked people in them and most of them were either of religious origin or of famines and people dying.  All the art was great and the artists were very talented.  The people in the paintings and sculptures looked so real and life like.  It was amazing that people can paint and sculpt  that way.

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MONT-SAINT-MICHEL

Mont Saint Michel was very interesting. We took a car to get here and it was about a 3 hour car drive from Paris.  Mont-Saint-Michel was built on an island in the 7th century.  So it is very old.

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FUN FACT- it is called Mont Saint Michel because a guy named Michel had a vision to build a monestary (a place where you learn how to become a priest or nun) on an island. So he built a church and a little town on the island.

From a distance, Mont-Saint-Michel looks like a castle. It sort of looks like the castle from the movie “tangled” or “frozen.” Mont Saint Michel is a World Heritage Site and that means people are not allow to change the way it looks.  The same buildings are there  now that there were in the 7th century.  Pretty cool! IMG_3770 It really reminds me of an ancient kingdom because there was a draw bridge with an iron gate that could come down.  All the houses were very small and tiny. Even though you cant change the buildings, you are allowed to change what to sell. 200 years ago Mont-Saint_Michel would have had a black smith, a hat maker, a general store ect… but now it has souviner shops for tourist, restarunts, and a couple of hotels. the streets are very skinny and narrow and there are some passage ways leading to houses. It is a small village and easy to find your way around.

The church is in the center of Mount-Saint-Michel. From the top there is amazing views of the ocean and land. There were lots of different rooms in the monestary for different purposes.  At one point in time they used some of the rooms for a prison.  I liked the prison. A prision cell of the old days would be dark, empty and cold. Now a days the prisons have tvs, books, a weight room and you get your own cell, 3 meals a day and you can hang out with other prisoners. Back then no one really cared how the prisioners felt so they just threw them into a dark room with lots of other people and barly gave them any food. Skeleton bones were piled next to the walls up the ceiling! We saw where the bones were.

The prison room also had a huge wheel in it. I learned that the prisoners had to walk in  the wheel to make it spin (like a hamster) in order to get food. The wheel was used for pushing up water or supplies to higher levels.  picture…You can see it in the picture below..

I also saw lots of rooms to pray and an area where the priest and nuns studied. IMG_3767 IMG_3820 IMG_3870 IMG_3878 IMG_3905this room had a lot of tables and chairs that they learned at. There was also a church section. Not as good as Notre-Dame but still nice. We practically had this entire place to ourselves. The parking lot had only 8 cars in it. In the summer time there are 3,000 cars and several hundred busses carrying tourists.  HINT: Come to Europe in the Winter!

La Baie du Mt St-Michel - © OT du Mont Saint-Michel

                           FUN FACTS……

The very tip of Mount-Saint-Michel is 157 meters above ground.

During the 1800s in French Revolution when England was occupying France, they tried to invade Mount-Saint-Michel but couldn’t because it had good forces. (the bridge wasn’t there at that time. it was added on for the tourists). During this time Mount-Saint-Michel was used as a fortress and England couldn’t get into it because of the wall, plus they fired cannons at the English ships that tried to invade.

Mount-saint-Michel was built in the 7th century

I really enjoyed going to Mount-Saint-Michel. it was such a small little town and I cant belve people still live here today! I wonder what is was like to live here 500 years ago?

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NORMANDY

Most people know Normandy as the place that D-DAY happened. My famliy and I took a tour here and it was only a 2 hour drive away from Paris. We studied up on it before coming here. We read and watched documentaries about the sites we were visiting.

The picture above shows the where the Allied forces went to help France.

If you don’t know anything about D-DAY here is a quick summery.

Fun Fact:  During World War II Hitler was taking over a lot of countrys in Europe and France was one of them. All the other countrys new that they had to stop Hitler  and the German Army before he could come over to invade the other countrys. Lots of countrys tried to defeat the German Nazis but they were too powerfull.   The allied troops, USA, CANADA, ENGLAND AND THE ANZAC TROOPS OF AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALND got together to form a war strategy to defeat the Germans. They all decided to combined all of their forces together and do one major battle.

All of the allied troops put together there Navy and Airfore to attack the Nazis. this is what it looked liked…

See all the ships and planes flying in to attack the Nazis? There was so many of them! The planes flying above droped bombs on all the Nazis bunkers and sent parracuters down.  The Navy boats fired cannons and other boats let men out onto the beach.

 The men had to swim in there gear to shore, and once they got to the beach, the Nazis fired bullets at them and they had to dodge all the traps laying on the beach. We saw replica’s of what it looked like.
There is a lot of history to D- day and World War II. I think you should research it  on your own to get a better understanding.  We won the battle because all the Allied troops combined forces and worked together to defeat the Germans.  Sadly, America lost over 9,000 soldiers during this time.  They are buried here on the cliff in Land that was given to the USA by France. We visited the cemetery and museum. Very informative. IMG_2456
Our tour took us to the Utah beach and Omaha beach. It is actually a very nice beach and people vacation here in the summer. Its hard to imagine it with traps all over the sand.
I learned a lot about NormIMG_2402andy and D-day and World War II. I even got to go in the bunkers that the Nazis lived in.IMG_2393

 

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POMPIDOU MUSEUM

The pompudu was museum was the worst museum ever!!!!  We all agreed on that.  That might be a bad way to start writing about it but I’m serious! This was some of the artwork that was displayed…IMG_2158 (1)IMG_3726

They had a canvas that was painted all blue!  Some that only had 3 lines going down.  One “Piece” just had black and white lines, another had 3 triangles.  My 3 year old cousins (Jake and Kate) can do better than that. I don’t see how people consider this art. Mom and Dad were mad we wasted 24 Euro’s to enter this place.  Don’t waste your time.  Art is what we saw in the Louvre, and seeing this “so called contemporary art was a let down”

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ARCH OF TRIUMPH

IMG_2365 this is the Arch de Triomph. It was built after the French Revolution to celebrate their victory.  The French  had a big parade through it and France still had parades under it today. Under the Arch of Triumph there is an enternal fire that stays going all through out the year.  It is to represent all those who died for France.

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My thoughts on Paris

I loved Paris. In fact it is one of my favorite cities and France mights be one of my favorite countries. I saw so many cool things here. I learned a lot about history too.

IMG_2374 This is us at a café in Paris with the Arch of Triumph in the back round. There are backery’s ALL over paris and tons of outdoor cafes. I liked the hot chocklot and muffins. My dad liked the croissants and my Mom enjoyed the macoroons. Sawyer ate anything that had suger in it. LOL

Riley’s thought- I read in a lot of books that the French people are very rude. That is just propaganda because they are not. In fact they are very helpful and will always show you directions and enjoy meeting foreigners.

One thing I noticed about the French is that they where a lot of big puffy scarfs in the winter, and they never take their coat off inside. I don’t know why.?

The buildings in Paris are very old, unlike NY city,  there aren’t any sky scrapers and the buildings are always less then 6 storys high. That is one of the reasons I like Paris. IMG_3693

If you would like to email me my email is rileymeckley@yahoo.com     I will get back to you as soon as I can.

 

 

 

Belgium

BELGIUM:  BRUGGE  We traveled to Belgium from Paris.  Belgium is a very small country in between France and Holland, it borders Germany and Luxembourg.  The people in Belgium know a lot of languages.  It is amazing. If you live in South part you know French and Flemmish (the Belgium language 0f 55% of the population). In the North part you know Dutch/German and Flemish.  And everyone also knows English. They are the best English speakers in all of Europe, perfect dialect and all.  They must have to process a lot of languages through their head.  We visited a Mid – Evil city named Brugge.  It was INCREDIBLE.

 FUN FACT:   BRUGGE: Bruges, the capital of West Flanders in northwest Belgium, is distinguished by its canals, cobbled streets and medieval buildings

These are our first sights while walking to our hotel.

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We walked from the train station to our hotel with our wheelie suitcases and all. 15 minute walk and every sight was cool on the way.  Instantly we could see this city is very old and different.  Nothing has changed and it is World Heritage site so they are not allowed to change things. Even in the MacDonalds it was in an old building with no “M” on it.  The buildings cant change but the stores (what they sell) have obviously changed with the times . Every street looked very similar to this. It was easy to get lost but just as easy to find our way back. We just looked up at the big tower and headed that way.IMG_2604IMG_2557

So many canals and bridges and cobbled streets.  We rented bikes for 2 days. The city is small and everything is in biking and walking distance.  We even went out to a small town called “Damme’ that was 6KM away by  bike. We passed windmills, canals, horses, fields and very old houses. (This is mom’s favorite picture of us) Just after this, iIMG_2558t started to rain so we went into the first restaurant we saw and had our first “BELGIUM WAFFLE”  Yum. They put whipped cream, fruit and chocolate on it . No maple syrup (that is a US and Canadian thing).  IMG_2562IMG_2566Belgium is known for its Chocolate and Waffles. We saw so many chocolate shops and I even went to a “Chocolate Story Museum.”  I learned how chocolate is grown from a pod and made.IMG_2603

Basically The Cocoa Pods grow in Central America, they grow on low hanging trees,  they pick the Cocoa pod, get the beans out (about 30-40 per pod), dry them, ship them over to factories in Europe where they crush, and mix them with spices and sugars to make chocolate drops that are packaged and shipped all over the world. Then the factories that receive the chocolate drops melt it and form it into whatever they want.  For example, Hershey’s may melt them into chocolate bars or Hershey kisses.   I learned a lot about Chocolate and it was interesting. In ancient times they grinded the cocoa beans by hand.IMG_2585

Fun Fact:  Cocoa was once considered a drink for the “rich” only. In Europe they had Cocoa establishments (like bars) and people went to get a cup of chocolate water or milk. Cocoa beans were used as currency in South America by the Aztec’s .  For Example: One cocoa bean was traded for one egg. 13 cocoa beans were traded for a squirrel.  Even for clothes.

We got to see how the Belgium chocolate molds are used and we sampled a lot of chocolate. So much that I couldn’t eat anymore of it (So we took it with us).

Riding in the city was cool. They had bell towers, great streets of cobblestone and not many cars at all, and they all looked after the bikers. The canals had swans in them. A lot of swans. A chocolate or candy shop on every corner giving free samples.  I tried all of them. Sawyer too. He was in heaven. We purchased some too.  Check out the old buildings in BRUGGE.  IMG_2597IMG_2608 IMG_2529 IMG_2576There were not many tourists at all during the time we were here (off season) so we had the main square practically to ourselves.  Something that would never happen in summer. We rode around and around. IMG_2574 IMG_2581 IMG_2598

I liked Brugge a lot and glad we chose this city to visit instead of the Capitol , Brussles. We went here on advise from someone we met in Paris who told us about Brugge.  So glad my parents took his advise.

If you have any questions I can be reached at rileymeckley@yahoo.com

 

 

 

Holland.

Holland is also called “The Netherlands” Before coming to Holland the only thing I knew about this country was that they were AWESOME in the last Winter Olympics , especially in speed skating, and that ORANGE is the color of the Netherland’s uniform ( I am a big fan of the Olympics). Beside speed skating, Holland is famous for its tulips that  grow in the spring.   Now that I have been here I really love this country and the people living here.

Located in Northern Europe, between Belgium and Germany, the Netherland’s has a lot of coastline and 1,000’s of Canal waterways. We arrived in Amsterdam , the Capitol, from Belgium by train.  (I will post on Belgium in a few days).  It was practically empty and we did some school work and looked out the window.  The ride was about 3 hours. IMG_2514

My favorite part of Holland is the time I spent at the ANDERSEN SCHOOL in Woerden, Netherlands.  My family met a woman named Afke while we were in Australia.  She also volunteered in South East Asia as a teacher too just like Mom did. She invited us to her classroom if we ever made it to Amsterdam.   (I talked about her in the blog on the Great Barrier Reef).

Afke speaks great English and Sawyer and I  were very excited to go to school with her.  We had to take a 30 minute train from Amsterdam to get there and then walk about 10 minutes to get to the school. We had to leave at 7am. My parents would meet Afke at the train station with us and she would take us to the school with her.  How cool is that….

IMG_2647  IMG_2685 IMG_2645 IMG_4479My parents came to visit the last half hour one day so we got some great pictures.  IMG_4474These were the girls I met. I know if I could have stayed at the Andersen school more days we would have been great friends. During the day Ms. Afke taught the kids a lot of things, even English and a Math lesson and a History video on the stone age. It was in Dutch (their language) but I still got it. They did Math with computer tablets and I helped with the problems.  IMG_4433Some of the word problems were in Dutch but I looked at the numbers and figured out the problems.  My partner and I  got a lot correct.  I also was asked to present THIS BLOG to the class. IMG_4446IMG_4450I only had time to talk about The Great Barrier Reef, the kids asked questions in Dutch and Ms. Afke translated to English and then back to Dutch again.  I was impressed with how much English some kids already know.  In Holland they learn from Kindergarden English and Dutch.   IMG_4451 IMG_4425IMG_4429Ms. Afke has a very nice classroom. We eat lunch and snack in there and did our lessons also.  My favorite part about the school is playing with the kids at Gym (they call it Gymnastics) and outside at recess. The Gym was at another school which was a 5 minute walk away.  We played really awesome games with cool obstacles involved. I played “tic” at recess which is the Dutch word for “tag.”  We met a boy from the USA, he was from Baltimore, Maryland and has been living in Holland for about a month. He was the same age as me and learning Dutch too. IMG_4460

This was the class. Ms. Afke is a great teacher, I can tell the kids love her.  Try and locate Sawyer and I.  Unlike the schools we went to in Cambodia and Thailand, here we blend in!  We had a lot of fun and enjoyed learning and playing with all the kids.  I will keep in touch with the class  by email….Class…. when you read this please e-mail me. I say Hello to everyone and miss all of you.  Thank you Afke, we will all miss you. Hopefully we will see you when you come to New York.

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AMSTERDAM: What a great city! 

First thing we all noticed when we got off the train was the number of BIKES in the city.  OMG!!!!! IMG_4419People ride everywhere and there are dedicated bike lanes next to the road that are Only for bicycles. Very cool. I learned the central train station has 2,900 parking spots for bikes but 9,000 people leave bikes there. They have double decker bike parking. IMG_4380 Of course WE had to get in on the action and rent a bike for the day. The bikes don’t have gears because it is really flat . IMG_4404 Our friend Afke gave us great suggestions on where to go in the city.  We took her advise and rode by VondellparkIMG_4393 .IMG_4397 (2)We saw tons and tons of canals and I really liked seeing all the Houseboats. It is not really a boat, most can not even be moved, they reside in the water though. Some boats can be moved. They were all different. Some were even made of brick, some 2 stories, and the Houseboats have their own parking space in the water and park the bikes on the street. They have their own address and mailbox.  I would like to live on a houseboat for a month or two, I think it would be fun. You can see the Houseboats on the sides of the canals….

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Most are rectangular shaped and look like a trailer but in the water. We saw families in them and some have wood stoves for heat.

We rode around a lot of bridges that go over the canals. The houses are all narrow and skinny, they all have different “gables” some are triangular.   You can see the differences in the houses here.IMG_4389It was very scenic to ride around and just get lost through the streets and over the canals.

IMG_4374IMG_2630  IMG_4390It is winter here and I can imagine how beautiful it would look in summer time here.  One day it was raining out so we took a Canal boat tour along the canals.  It was interesting to see the city from the water.IMG_2708

Fun Facts about Amsterdam:

Dutch people are the tallest in the world (maybe that’s why we felt so “short”)

86% of Dutchies speak English as a second language

All Dutch kids learn English in school and visitors to Amsterdam are often impressed with the fluency with which the Dutch speak English.

The Nederlands is the largest beer exporter in the world.  In 2001, Dutch beer companies exported an astonishing volume of 1.3 billion liters of beer abroad. Half of that was shipped to the U.S.!

 

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Another day we went to THE ANN FRANK HOUSE.  It is the most visited site in Amsterdam.  I read the book earlier in my trip and looked forward to visiting this.  Here is a short summary of the story.

FUN FACT: Ann Frank was a 13 yr old girl born in Germany and moved to Holland. During the WWII invasion of Holland by German Nazi’s  her family and a few others went into hiding at her fathers warehouse….she writes in her diary about the things that happen everyday and her thoughts.  She is a great writer and includes lots of detail. They were in hiding for 2 years (1942-44). Eventually they get found and were moved to a concentration camp and Ann died there.  The story is amazing. 

It must have been hard being in a house for 2 years and never going outside.

We studied up on Ann Frank before going to the museum. Use this link to learn a lot…http://www.annefrank.org/en/

IMG_2690 You are not allowed to take pictures inside the house, this is from the internet.. The bookcase that was the entrance to the hidden part of the house.

Seeing the actual house was interesting, I got to see all the rooms and the book really came to life. The secret annex can not be seen from the street.   If you are in Holland and you know the story you will appreciate it.  All the rooms are now empty because the Nazi Army took everything!  A museum has been built next to the original building now. Her father was the only one to survive. Her real diary, and lots of notebooks are on display in a case there.  I would include more facts but my mom is telling me to “shorten it up” and get ready for bed!  I suggest you read the book.  Sawyer is actually reading it right now!!!

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VAN GOGH MUSEUM

There is an entire museum dedicated to Vincent Van Gogh. I loved his paintings. He includes tons of short brush strokes to make beautiful pictures.  He also did many self portraits of himself.   the museum is small but it tells his story and how he taught himself to paint , moved from Holland to Paris. How he went crazy with mental illness, cut off part of his ear and then went to a mental hospital. In the last 75 days of his life he made 75 incredible paintings.  He died from shooting himself. IMG_2710

At the museum we did an art project where we had to locate certain paintings, read about them, sketch them, and use facts. It was a book we completed and then got gifts from the museum for doing it.  It was cool and we learned a lot. Mom and Dad thought Sawyer would be bored to death but he was totally into it.IMG_2714 IMG_2715IMG_2718I really wanted to see the famous “starry night” painting but it is actually in a museum in NEW YORK.  This museum even  had cool images projected of his famous work. if you have any questions about my travels my email is rileymeckley@yahoo.com      I will love to here from you and will get back as soon as I can

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Karen “long neck” Hill Tribe

I went on a multi day  trip to the Karen Hill Tribe Village in northern Thailand.

It was very fun  and tiring.  The fun part was riding the elephants and playing with the kids.  The tireing part was the 6 hour hike….let me explain

First up was hiking.  It was very hot and was through fields and woods in the hills of Thailand.  Our guide showed us all different kinds of plants, trees and fruit.  IMG_1878 (1)  this is a loofah sponge plant.  It grows with a leaf around it and you have to peel it off.  It also has seeds inside that I banged out.  Loofah sponges are used for your skin when you take a shower and they do make sponges out of the loofa plant. These were all over and we collected some.

IMG_1879We past a couple of cotton plants.  Reminds me of the song that my school sings in music class. “and we jump down, turn around, pick a bail of cotton.” very cool and I never knew cotton grew on trees or plants too.

IMG_2882 This is a bee hive. You may not notice but there are a tons of bees crawling on the hive.  This was probably the most interesting things I saw on the trek and you can click on the picture to make it bigger. (my dad couldn’t go close to the bee hive because he is allergic to bees).

IMG_2941 IMG_2881We passed lots of farm land on the trek.  They mostly grow lettuce and rice.

IMG_2875 Me walking through all the banana trees. The hike was 6 hours long!!!!!!!!!!! the hardest hike I ever did and it involved a lot of up hills and steep down hills. We stopped for lunch and had  a quick swim in a river.

IMG_2900Me sliding down a rock slide into the coldest water I have ever been in.  FREEZING cold.

IMG_2920IMG_1888 (1)we past through some small villages with only a couple of families living in each one. I learned that many of the villages in this area are all related with each other.  One village has cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles ect…

IMG_2905We past a lot of other things on our hike and I got to see coffee beans and lots of different fruit trees.  It was very educational and out tour guide told us a lot.  Some trees had single leaves that were 6 feet long. no joke! I also saw big tarantula’s.  Did you know they shed their skin just like a snake does. And the shedded skin looks like another tarantula. There were other bugs in the forest that shed their skin too and the guide pointed them out to us.

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After a very long hike we finally reached the Karen Hill Tribe village.  Unlike all the “tours” that only come in for a couple of hours by bus…., snap a few pictures, buy a souvineer and leave- we actually came here for a multi day trip and slept in the village that all the long necks live in! In a bamboo hut and everything.

IMG_1978 (1) IMG_1975 (1)This woman cooked our meals of rice and vegetables for us.

In case you don’t know ( which you probably don’t) the “long necks” are a tribe that live in the northern parts of Thailand. They are called “long necks” because the women in these tribes where rings or “brass coils” around their neck.  It is an ancient  tradition and they also wear rings on their arms and legs. Some say the rings were first used for “beauty” and others say it was to protect them from tigers.  Only the women wear them. The Karen Hill Tribe is only about 30 families in this area.  There are other village hill tribes but they all live separately from each other.

FUN FACTS:  The long neck people have been arriving in Thailand for the last 100 years.  Most are from Burma (Myanmar).  Many people consider  the Karen Hill tribe illegal immigrants, however, the Government of Thailand lets them stay in Northern Thailand because they attract tourists and bring in money (taxes) to this area. At any point  they can be told to leave Thailand and go back to Burma (Myanmar)!!!!

The Long Necks are not the only tribes in the hills.  There are also Lisu, Lahu, Meo and Akhan and others.  Each has their own language and there is no written language and most of the kids do not go to school.

The longest neck in the world is 15 inches by one of the Karen Hill Tribe women. Most people THINK it  is the neck that grows but it is actually the shoulders getting pushed down and the chin pushed up, which makes the neck appear longer.

The rings are a symbol of wealth, position and beauty. 

Research shows there are about 10 different Hill Tribes in Northern Thailand. What makes them different is the clothes they wear and their language.

Life in the hill tribes is very simple. Men work in the fields, farming or as Elephant Mahouts (handlers) or sometimes in the city if they can arrange a job there. Women stay home, take care of the house and kids and weave and cook. They live in bamboo huts, one room , they cook outside.  Nowadays, a lot of kids are choosing to NOT wear the neck rings.  Some women only continue to wear the neck rings because of the tourists who want to take photo’s and then the right thing is to purchase something they sell.  Some say that the Karen Hill Tribe is like a “human zoo” when large groups come and just take photo’s of them.  My family did not see this as we were there for overnight and no other tourists were there at this time except my family and 2 other people who were exploring this area also. They were on our hike too. Hello Emily!!! Sawyer and I were the only kids staying over and that is why the kids in the village loved playing with us. They don’t see too many foreign kids coming to their village. THe parents were interested in “us” and funny thing happened on the way to the village….a villager took a picture of Sawyer and I eating lunch.  We let him.  IMG_1953 (1)

These are only the basic facts.  I researched and did a repot on this and it is a very interesting topic.  (I want to write more facts but my mom is telling me to shorten it up).

IMG_1972 (1) I like playing with the kids from the village. They ALWAYS wanted to play with me and Sawyer.  We had to use a lot of hand signals  to communicate with each other.

IMG_1945 (2) IMG_1952 (1) IMG_1923 (1) we all played together and there was kids of all ages. We played tag, ball games, soccer(they did not have a ball and used rolled up paper) and jump rope. (as a jump rope they used tied up rubber bands)

IMG_3137here is the long neck women and one man playing a game of checkers. They drew the grid on a board and used bottle caps as the pieces. I even joined in…

IMG_3143  I  guess checkers is literally known ALL over the world! Even in the hill tribes of Thailand.  They also knew rock, paper, sizzers.

IMG_2971 Some houses of the village.  There were only about 20 bamboo  huts and the whole family slept in one room and cooked and ate outside.

More pictures of the women with the rings…but please be aware that we NEVER were obtrusive taking photo’s. Everyday life was going on and they said it was OK.  They were more interested in watching their kids playing with us anyway.

IMG_2944 IMG_2987 They sat on there porch all day. There were community showers  and toilets that they all (and us) shared. They were located in one building.

Thoughts on the Karen village: It must be hot, annoying and heavy to walk around in those neck rings.  I was very lucky to see the village because maybe in 30 or 40 years, there will be no Hill Tribe village.  The government may tell them to finally leave!!!  I saw a lot of kids not wearing the neck rings.  So I guess the population is declining.  For all I know the hill tribe may one day become extinct!

The kids  that live in the hill tribes have lives that are SO much different from my life and the life of anyone else reading this.   I realized that they only stay about a few miles within their own village most of the time.   All they know is their own village and famliy because that is the only language they speek.  Imagine your whole life being 20 families!  I came all the way around the world to see how they live, but they will never see or especially experience how I live. Totally different worlds. I could tell the kids were sad to see us go.  I went and said goodbye.IMG_2982

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ELEPHANTS

Part of the Hill Tribe is the living they make from giving Elephant rides and time spent with the Elephants.   I got to bathe some elephants.  it was SOOOOOOOOOO much fun and a great experience too. The men in the village were the Elephant Mahouts.

FUN FACT: A mahout is an elephant rider, trainer, or keeper. Usually, a mahout starts as a boy in the ‘family profession’ when he is assigned an elephant early in its life.

IMG_3116giving the elephants a bath was so cool.  I’m sure you know but elephants are HUMONGUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

the ones I bathed are Asian elephants and they are about 8 feet.  The African ones are even bigger!

FUN FACT: elephants eat 20 hours out of the day and sleep for 4.

Elephants can live as long as a human so 100 years.

Healthy adult Elephants have no preditors.  But, lions are known to attack babies.

Elephants are herbivores and eat grass, plants, branches, tree bark, berrys, mangos, coconuts,  and leaves. They drink water by using by using their trunks and can drink about 200 liters of water a day!!!!! they can survive 4 days without water.

The Karen hill tribe has about 10 elephants chained up next to there village We woke up and the Elephants are literally 100 feet away.  You may think it is sad that they are chained but that is the ONLY way possible you can keep elephants.  If you let them roam free they will destroy all the farm land and rip up the bamboo huts like we rip paper.  I think they would be able to destroy a lot of things because they are so strong and massive.

We bathed the elephants in the river next to the village and used tree bark sponges.  The skin of the elephants was very hard! I could see how a preditor wouln’t be able to kill the elephant because the skin is very thick and wrinkly. You really had to scrub the elephant hard.IMG_3072IMG_3110IMG_3107

I was on the elephants back scrubbing it and the elephant STOOD UP and started walking out of the water. IMG_3082

it was the coolest thing ever! being on an elephant is really high up and you don’t relies till you acully ride one! The elephant walked up a little hill and Sawyer and I held on as best as possible, but it was hard!  An elephant trainer had to CLIMB up the elephants trunk and onto its head, and steer us back in the water! It was so much fun to bathe AND RIDE the elephants.  They are cool animals and are now my 3rd favorite animal. I love the elephants.

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FUN FACT: There are no more wild elephant tribes in Asia.  They are all owned by people now.

Visiting and staying in the Hill Tribe was fun, especially playing with the kids.   My favorite part was riding the elephants.  They are so BIG its crazy. I will never forget my time at this Village.

I can be reached at rileymeckley@yahoo.com       feel free to email me