Notre Dame Cathedral.
Gargoyles were Soren's favorite part.
Main Tympanum. The typanums include the virtues/vices, times/seasons, occupations/crafts, saints/scholars, astrological things, future sequences. They basically represent universal human life. ("Catholic" means universal). It was awkward knowing that I was milling around while people were there to worship--imagine going to church/temple/masjid etc and having people walking around you taking pictures of all you deem sacred while you were going through your prayers/ordinances/rituals. I almost wanted to apologize--several teary women looking for peace and comfort there. I hope they found it inspite of tourist buzz. Inside the different chapels there were quite a few reliquaries holding items from either saints or miraculous events. I could not understand French enough to know what most of them were, but there was a crown of thorns suspended in a block of translucent red resin at the chapel just behind the altar. I was intrigued to think that this could actually be THE crown of thorns. There was also a nice wall carving briefly highlighting the life of Jesus. One section also intrigued me. It would have been the right sequence of the wedding at Cana, Jesus's first miracle of turning water to wine. Jesus sits between Mary and Joseph and on the other side of Joseph is a woman (without the mandorla over her head ((ps. For those of you who like symbology, the madorla is a great one to study). I have heard speculation that the wedding feast was Jesus's. This carving looked like it could be. Just speculation on my part ala Dan Brown. My other questions surround Jesus and wine drinking. I know that Nazarites kept separate from alcohol for specific time periods and it is generally accepted that Jesus was a Nazarite (the sect, different from "Nazarene" meaning from Nazareth. I found a summary on Wiki about it: "A Nazarite (נְזִיר) was a Jew who had taken special vows of dedication to the Lord whereby he abstained for a specified period of time from using alcohol and grape products, cutting his hair, and approaching corpses. At the end of the period he was required to immerse himself in water. Thus the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-15) by his relative John the Baptist could have been done "to fulfil all righteousness" at the ending of a nazirite vow. However, following his baptism, the gospels give no reason to suppose Jesus took another Nazirite vow until The Last Supper." See the flying buttress toward the upper left in the back? Cool.
Paris's Metro stations are great examples of Art Nouveau organic lines. Metal looks like a living thing.

After visiting Notre Dame we patronized Galeries Lafayette, Paris's premier mall. Heaven. Lots of gray on the racks this season. Here's Soren by a Stormtrooper made of Legos.
And today, we leave in the afternoon. I have already added things to my calendar like garage sales, get togethers, pack meetings and church stuff and have started planning the next trip. My main focus will be to measure Soren's math progress to make sure he's not too far behind. I am excited to see Cyler and Ellery and be together again. Strong, healthy primary relationships that last a lifetime really help me feel happy and loved.



At Versailles (here in the Hall of Mirrors) I vacillate between wishing I lived here, and being mad that so many were poor and starving during Louis XIV-XVI's reign. So beautiful though. Utopia is where everyone can live in a Versailles without being complicit in oppression. The art, architecture, craftsmanship, landscape design is amazing here. What you can do with lots of cheap labor at hand.
This fountain (we were here during the Grande Eaux Show where all the fountains of the garden turned on accompanied by Baroque music) is made of shingles of volcanic rock of some sort as far as I could tell. Some of the shingles were actually large conch shells. This fountain was one side of an oval amphitheater. Some of the glistening behind the water is from the shells. So pretty, and with the music, I wanted to donn my tight corset, uncomfortable powdered wig with a birdcage in it, and wide wire hoop skirt so that I could walk the grounds, gossip about the similarly dressed women at court, and find a lover. Oh, to be part of the idle rich.
The gardens in their heyday were changed out with flowers of a specifice theme and/or color depending on the occasion or theme of the party, or what the royals were wearing. Today, Soren's shirt matched with the theme of the flowers.
I ate lavender flavored ice cream (Glace violette). I'm in France-what did you expect?
OK, I am usually a die-hard anti-segregationist but please leave the modern art in the modern art museum. I love modern art! BUT why, why, why would you put 2007 art in a 1700 venue. I was bewildered, verklempt and annoyed. Soren liked it though.
Marie Antoinette's Hamlet. I am sure lots of you know that she had a special country village built for her and her children to "play" in away from the hustle and bustle of court life. I would rather live here too. Built in the Norman style, the houses and dairies have thatched rooves, wattle and daub walls (think medieval Tudor). Quaint, tasteful, sweet and far away from the harsh realities of the outside world. A place to become unaware of the brewing revolution that would end her and her children's lives.
Soren and I both wishing we could live here. Today is Sunday so there were many young families out enjoying the sunny day, playing rugby, eating a picnic, bike-riding, kissing/hugging, and watching the fountains. Made me happy that in 2 days my little family will be back together again. Being here though reminds me why people sigh when they mention Paris, France. There is some kind of good taste gene they dole out maybe in the water. I remember in Edinburgh castle, the prison there housed French, Spanish prisoners and American revolutionaries (whom Britain treated as treasonous pirates). They were allowed to carve small trinkets to be sold on the outside for $. Many of the things were small boxes. A French prisoner made this amazing jewelry box by curling paper into all kinds of swirls to decorate the outside of his box while our guys were scratching angular pics of ships etc on their stone-age looking crafts. The French are just good at knowing how to say "when." Except the Louis(es) who needed to guild everything and put their symbols and initials on EVERYTHING under the sun. Oh, I forgot Louis XIV WAS the sun--his totem, the sunburst, was placed at the most sacred end of the Versailles chapel behind the altar where a crucifix typically hung. This guy had some ego! He and his relatives could commission some serious art though. Where have all the good patrons gone? Now we're left with pink balloon dogs (see above).


Bon Jour

We went to the 'above' to see the 'below.' But first we had to visit the Boulangerie.

My tofu quiche is on the ledge. Here we are at Aux Castelblangeois having breakfast. We came back here for dessert at the end of the day too. Fresh breads, sandwiches, pizzas with eggplants, tarts, flan, and all kinds of pastries. It is a carb addict's heaven. Soren was impressed when I said "Je voudrais quiche, sil vou plait. Combien?" (sp?) I'm bringing you some sweets Becky.
We got to the summit of the Eiffel Tower today. Long lines and smelly tourists all about, some getting in lots of kissing. We could see for miles. The fun entertainment was at the bottom underneath the tower. There was a living statue that would move when someone put change in her hat. She was all white, moved like a ballerina and blew a kiss to Soren. He caught it and sent her one back--she caught it, slowly and mechanically brought it to her chest, and it made her dance a bit longer--she almost cracked a smile. The other group was a hip-hop/break dance group.

Notice the log cabin pattern the wrapping makes on the mummy's face. Expertly done. Some of the sarcophagus covers were amazing in detail and craftsmanship. I learned the difference between and "good death/burial" and a "bad death/burial" in a history class. Being mummified with all the accompanying rituals and materials would definitely be considered a "good burial."
Soren's favorite sculpture he saw at the Louvre. It's Hercules killing the Hydra of Lerna. Herc looks as good from the back as he did from the front. He reminded me that celibacy will never be my strong suit.
A woman having lunch with the locals at the Louvre.

L'Arc de Triomphe. We got more done today than I thought. I try to approach people in French and then they are happy to speak English. We feel safe here and love the Metro. The great irony I can't figure out is how Scotland had not the greatest food and their people can tend to the overweight side of the scale. Paris has "I'll-kill-you-for-it" food and the women are stereotypically slender. Today is Saturday so we saw more children than we usually do during the weekday, which is fun. A darkhaired girl with tights and a scarf speaking French to her handsome Daddy is sweet to see. And then when he says to her, "Today is only English remember?" she switches seemlessly to English with a beautiful accent.


I AMsterdam

Soren at Bloemenmarkt. I bought a few bulbs but it gets hot in Texas too quickly so I plan to force them for Christmastime. We'll see what happens. Tulips are one of my favorite flowers--very architectural. The kale and snowberry branches were beautiful too.
We took the hop-on, hop-off boat to get all around the city today. The weather has been so good for us. I went shopping--Amsterdam has great clothes. Wow. In case you're interested, the trends I see here are as follows: skinny jeans in boots, long scarves around the neck, brown and black together, knits, patterned hose and tights with short skirts/dresses.
This house (?) is across from the Rijkmuseum. Notice the orange and white striped awnings on the front windows. They are so cheery. Charming place right on the canal.
Iron fence finial of Rijkmuseum--they were all different stylized flowers. So cool. Scandinavia is well-known for its modern interior design and architecture. Some household items are really quirky and comical--think Ikea. At the museum we learned that the Dutch had it going on in the 17th century after kicking the Spanish out and setting up a Republic. They could build ships and SAIL which sent their trade through the roof which in turn brought economic prosperity to this city in particular. We are proving the quote I taught Soren that if you control the seas, you rule the world. The resources that flooded into the city and the wealth it brought was symbolized by a pair of portraits, father and son. The father was dressed conservatively with a serious gaze. The son was corpulent, ostentatiously dressed and had a silly grin on his face. Another painting was of Catholics and Protestants having a "fishing contest" for souls. There is a Protestant church here that had the speaker stand in the middle of a greek cross so everyone had equally positioned seats and no one was favored over the other. Now, several churches have reverted to commercial use because they are so huge, expensive to keep up and organized religion seems to leave a bad taste in people's mouths here. (refer to above fishing painting) And of course there was Rembrandt's "NightWatch."
Bikes are THE preferred mode of transportation around here. Everyone from young mothers, to bankers, to pot-heads to ladies-of-leisure get on these old fashioned bikes. I read that the government first offered free bikes to the public--they were painted white and the idea was to use them when needed and just leave them out for the next person to use. People began stealing them, painting them and then selling them for profit. I am using this story to help me illustrate the difficulties with socialism. I love the ringing bells though and for such a busy city, it is relatively quiet and low pollution--except of course for the smoking. They have multi-tiered parking garages for bikes.
So, Soren calls Amsterdam "Sin City." That Marijuana is legal is one reason. Here's three packs for 10 euro. I am telling Soren that different cultural norms are not always better or worse than one's own, but we talked about how something that isn't healthful should be avoided. I'll leave the medicinal benefit of cannabis and uses for hemp for another discussion. I made the decision to bring him here so that we could go to the Anne Frank House where she lived in hiding for 1 1/2 years before being arrrested and dying in Bergen-Belsen ONE month before the Allied forces liberated the camps. Soren got a hefty dose of issues surrounding human rights, abuse of governmental power, religious tolerance, the depth of one human's soul, and the importance of writing in a diary/journal. It broke my heart when I watched Anne's father Otto, who survived the war, say after reading Anne's diary after she had died, "My conclusion is that parents don't ever REALLY know their children." He had no idea she thought at the depth that she did. We also went to Coster diamond factory. I have mixed feelings about the diamond industry right now. In the past I thought it was morally superior to boycott it, then I talked to a Canadian geologist that made me reconsider. Soren learned about the ways diamonds are cut, polished and set and saw a map of all the diamond mines, the majority of which are in West and South Africa. Business practices there in the past have troubled me, but I want to avoid fundamentalist extremism. We'll see where I land on this issue.
This city's roofline is great. These dutch gables and curvy hipped rooves are so fun to look at. There is every kind of person here. From every corner of the globe. I here English, Dutch, and Spanish the most but there are many Africans, MiddleEasterners here too. The press and smell of humanity on the streets of a large city is unforgettable. I have to say that eventhough I am open minded about different cultures, Dutch is not the prettiest language to fall on the ears, in my opinion. It sounds as if people are either cussing, spitting, gulping down a letter, or saying "fart" a lot. And then I realize to my dismay, that English is mostly a Germanic language too. I miss Irish Gaelic. Tomorrow we take a train to Paris. My ears will love to hear French for sure.


Farewell to Ireland

Soren at Bunratty with handcart. Where are your neeps and tatties laddie?
Who can stand uninterested while the pipes are calling?
Sheila na Gig (see below)
This was labeled 'London Pride'--I need to see if this could grow in Texas--It's a pretty succulent feeling ground cover.

Tomorrow we leave this blessed land. I have to come back. Amsterdam has a hard act to follow. Remind me to call a real estate agent about a place called Ennistymon. Today we went to the Cliffs of Moher on the Atlantic coast. The hardness of the ground inhibits trees from growing but the green on top of the rocky cliffs jutting into the blue ocean took my breath away. There is such beauty in the world. On the way back to our hotel, we saw a castle and a 'folk village' (living musem) and I said "what the heck let's go" not thinking it was going to be anything unusual. But I really loved Bunratty. Soren had fun sampling the cakes, farm equipment and checking out the pigs, baby chicks, and deer. The highlight for me personally was the Sheila na Gig plastered in the wall of the Irish built castle. My heart skipped several beats when I saw it. I kept saying to myself "No way, no way, no way." It may not seem like anything--BUT I know from studying Celtic archeological findings of feminine representations of deity, there are only about 160 of these that have been found as of this date. Most of them would have been detroyed as Christianity became the religion du jour. Sheila na Gig literally means something like "Woman on her knees." The Celts were egalitarian, using female and male images for life/death and divine power. And unlike Christian feminine symbols (Mary=virgin) they celebrated every phase of a woman's reproductive life (maiden, mother, crone or hag=wise woman.) Sheila is a fertility symbol as she crouches low to the earth and gives it new life with her rather (how shall I say it) 'enhanced' reproductive parts. I saw it and the book I read in college "The Road Less Travelled" came to mind. I took an exit, not knowing what to expect, and it made all the difference. Soren looked at me like I was Crazy Woman while I tried to explain to him what this was and what it meant to me. He is such a good sport. We stayed at Bunratty to eat a Medieval feast in the castle along with troubadors, harpist and violinist. They sang oldies but goodies like "Tell Me Ma" "Star of County Down" "The Parting Glass" and of course "Danny Boy." Most of the people we meet who are on bus tours are older--they always take a special interest in Soren and it has been good for him to talk with adults from all over the world. Homeschooling is not as widely done in other places as it is in Texas so he is something of a novelty to them. He started Gulliver's Travels (abridged) and we're having fun with it. Jonathan Swift wrote it--he attended Trinity College in Dublin where we saw THE Book of Kells the most amazing and wonderful book EVER. Velvety soft calfskin pages with natural materials used for ink--tiny intricate celtic knotwork and organic, stylized animals and plants indigenous to the area playfully curved within single letters. Thank God for monks!!!!!!


Slainte and Ceud Mile Failte

Soren hurling with Liam, Darragh (say Dara) and Niamh (say Neev).
Beach of Tramore.
Waterford mockup of the Millenium ball.
Waterford crystal harp. The factory was interesting. What a human can do with a little sand, water and fire.
Waterford--I took Soren to hear a junior choir at Christ Church today. They sang plainchant, Anglican chant and a modern mass. The organist soloist raised the roof (above)with a Mendelsohn piece and a modern piece. It sounded like you think--intense, massive, and then with the children's voices every layer of musical range represented. The roof is an Irish vernacular of a ribbed vault. The ribs have ivy shaped plaster lining them. So pretty.
Knowth is a Neolithic complex of passage tombs/sacred space. Some patterns made by posts in front of the entrance are a square and crescent inside a circle (Sun, Moon, and Earth)
Newgrange--I made it. Corbelled cantilevered roof. Shaft of light illuminates the inner room on winter solstice. Since the axis changes (someone help me explain this better) the light doesn't shine right in the middle of the small chamber and the end of the inner room right now. It will though in the future and it is as if the people built the tomb knowing this shift would happen because as long as the sun shines on earth, it will hit somewhere in that small chamber on the winter solstice.
Can you see the triple swirl closest to me and the triangular pattern to the left?
My adventure companion. He has become a breakfast tea aficionado.

Streets of Dublin.
Temple Bar. GOOD MUSIC is played here although with an 11yr old in tow, I didn't hear any since it's at night this place comes alive. Maybe next time. Other pubs in the area are the Hairy Lemon and the Bleeding Horse. GREAT NAMES.
Soren at the exhibit about the Viking raids in Ireland. The tour guide says "Did you know about 40,000 Irish troops died in your Civil War?" I said that I knew there were lot but not that many--and that they fought on both sides. Another guy says "Yeah, we always fight on both sides-that way we can always say 'we won." Here's me by St Patrick's cathedral and his well:
This one's for you Katy. Guess who my favorite is:

OK, I am officially obsessed with Ireland. It would take a potato famine and British oppression to make me leave this place. About ten minutes after I got here, we were waiting for a bus and I started talking to the lady next to me. She was fresh from holiday smelling like Spain and stout. Dolores says, "Am I the first person you've met since landing in Ireland?" I say yes. She gives me a hug and wishes me good luck--and nudges me off the bus at the right stop. After the garbage man walks us to the hotel (since Grafton hotel is not really on Grafton street as one might expect) I have not had one ounce of concern while here. The people are open, the food is good and the land is beautiful. I can tell there has been an economic boom here. Compared to Edinburgh, the streets and buildings are clean and people are generally happier here it seems to me. After getting the car and driving off not knowing where we would sleep that night and spending 15 minutes saying "on the left" to myself , we decided on Tramore--we hurled with the locals (no not throwing up) and were invited to their house for pizza. We chatted while the lads played, a neighbor came by with some rhubarb from his garden for Patty (2 masters degrees, adopted siblings from Bela Russe (sp?)). Kids pics above. We "put the kettle on" and Ronin told me about the time he took 4 kids out to the strand to pick cockles and mussels. The tide rose from his ankles to his chest in one hour and he had to haul kids 2 at a time so they wouldn't be washed out. He was a great storyteller--Soren just looks at me with an "I don't understand what he just said" look. Olive the B&B owner was great too. To say that her son used to be a bit lazy she said he was "absolutely horizontal." And when she said that someone got upset she said "There was mortar." We found this hotel with free internet so now we are between Limerick and Shannon. Hopefully we'll have a webcam date with Cyler and Ellery tonight. Tomorrow, Cliffs of Morgh (sp?) and the Burren are on the books. Then to Amsterdam on Tues.


Rosslyn Chapel

Mom, I got to Rosslyn. Just a short bus ride from Edinburgh at 3 pounds round trip for both of us. Here is the view from the chapel. Beautiful Scottish countryside.
Are these currants? These trees are full of bunches right now.
Lunch at the Rosslyn Hotel.
Hey, how did my car get here?
Rosslyn chapel of Knights Templar and Freemason fame is covered with a metal roof to help it dry out enough to rid the building of the green algae inside. So no pretty pics of the exterior. Here is a carving of a Mason tyler holding his trowel and sword. The tyler acts as a kind of a Masonic temple recommend taker, only letting in "real" Masons. I think it's interesting that the apprentice pillar is the one that is more difficult to execute. The chapel is full of Biblical and Masonic symbolism but what I loved were the 110 greenman carvings scattered around. The St. Clair family were Norse before they were Norman, then Scottish when they fell out of favor with William the Conqueror in 1066. The Greenman is a pre-Christian symbol of fertility and rebirth. I got to talk to two Freemasons from both Sweden and Panama. The secret brotherhood (patriarchal hierarchy) is still alive and well in the world. They hold considerable wealth in stockholdings and give millions of dollars in aid to children and the elderly. Anyway the crypt below is nothing like Dan Brown's movie but there is a HUGE vault (unopened) underneath the chapel where the Grail is supposed to be. There are St. Clair ancestors burried down there but the present St. Clair won't allow anyone in the vault to see what else is there. One thing I love is on an architrave--it's supposedly a quote from Darius when some men listed their idea of what was the strongest thing. The quote is carved, "Wine is strong. The king is stronger. Women are stronger still, but the truth conquers all." (This is in Lombardic Latin--I know from my medieval art history course at BYU that Lombardy (No. Italy) was where masons came from who took Roman architecture north to Europe, beginning Romanesque then Gothic cathedral architecture.) Ultimately though, I agree with theoretically American modes of authority--it is gained by people based on their individual merits, not because of who they are related to, even if it is Jesus and Mary Magdalen (Meritocracy vs Aristocracy) and definitely not because they possess a cool object even if it is the Grail, or the Stone of Scone, or the crown jewels or a really cool outfit, or a cool sphere to hold in their hand. Legitimate power comes from proper use of talents to improve another's reality, to build/preserve/grow things of value (it can be any and every person's destiny), not from being from a particular bloodline nor a certain group label. Maybe some family groups are better at teaching this than others, but leaders should be chosen by the governed based on the candidates qualities discerned by open debate. Freemasons did/do a good job at making sure leaders are mindful of ethics, but a group that excludes certain religions and females (some freemasons do, some don't) can't represent all humanity.

ANYWAY, ok so I went downstairs to get a snack for us while Soren finished Math, and ended up having a drink with a British couple in their 70's. They were a hoot. Soldiers were mentioned and she said that when the American soldiers were over here during the war (WWII) the joke with British soldiers went something like this: "Do you know what the problem with American soldiers is? They're overpaid, oversexed, and. . .over here." Haha. Hard for the British to take that they needed our help, I guess. She spent alot of time here in Edinburgh since her mother was Scottish but she says the city now is all "tartan and tack." I mentioned I wanted to see the new parliament building that everyone here is proud of. She said, "Scots are supposed to be blatantly nationalistic, but then they hired a Spanish architect. Don't bother seeing it." Me:"Why, what's wrong with it?" She says: "It's new." I pray for a conversation like this once a day while I am here.