Traveling: The Science Museum

During our study abroad in Scotland and Ireland, we had a free weekend.  We had three things we wanted to visit: Hampton Court Palace, The London Comic Con, and the Science Museum.

Being a computer science teacher, the Science Museum was definitely a must see for me.  We only really had an hour to visit the museum but that was enough to see what I wanted.

The museum is located in South Kensington in London and the entrance is free.  Some of the items that are there are the first jet engine and a reconstruction of the Francis Crick’s and James Watson’s model of DNA. We took some time during the first floor and toured the Power exhibit which helps tell the story of the Industrial Revolution in Britain.  We also looked as some of the space and flight exhibits.

However, most of our time was spent in the computing section.  There they have examples of Napier’s Bones and other computing devices.  I was in awe when I came across Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine.  The science also has the coolest odd exhibit I’ve ever seen in that they have Charles Babbage’s brain on display.

Here are some pictures of our trip to the Science Museum:


It was truly great to see some of the items, such as Babbage’s Machines fully built after years of reading about them and teaching about them.  If you want to learn more I highly recommend The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Sydney Padua.

Many of the great museums of London are publically funded which means they are free to go.  They do accept donations which we gladly gave.  If you plan a trip to London, plan a museum visit.  And we highly recommend the Science Museum.


Traveling – Hampton Court Palace

During a free weekend during our Scotland-Ireland study abroad, we took the opportunity to go to London.  There was a huge comic con going on that we wanted to attend, plus we would also have time for the Science Museum and Hampton Court Palace.

On our first day in London, we headed to Hampton Court Palace which is upstream on the Thames from London. We thought about taking a boat ride but logistically we couldn’t make it work.  The palace belonged to Cardinal Wosely, Henry VIII seized it when Wosely’s star fell. Only St. James’s Palace in London and Hampton Court survive from Henry VIII’s time.  Hampton is a huge estate and one that, even though we spent most of the day there, we only half explored.

Continue reading

Traveling: Last Day in Dublin

The last day of our trip in Dublin was spent mainly riding the Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus. We didn’t take many pictures, mainly due to bad weather, but also do to what I call travel exhaustion.

I really don’t remember much about this day except that we were practically out of Euros, so this is just a picture post.









We did board a plane to London that night. We stayed in a Nice section of Shepard’s Bush not too far from Earl’s Court.  The next day we took the train to Hampton Court so we could time travel to the time of Henry VIII.

Traveling: Beautiful Belfast

Nola Nerd Couple went on two study abroad during our grad school days. We are going to try writing about those days even though our memories aren’t that fresh. Luckily, we have pictures and those are the best parts about travel blogs anyway! This particular study abroad was to Scotland and Ireland in 2014. The previous blog in this series is located here.



Greetings at the Belfast Train Station


My first impressions of Belfast were formed by movies particularly, In the Name of the Father and The Boxer. In those movies, Belfast was a violent town.  It could erupt in a rage in seconds.  It seemed super industrial and cold.  A place the sun might visit but wouldn’t stay.  However, the city, even in this fictional but based on a true story terms, fascinated me. It was a city torn apart by civil war in a developed country.  A city, and a region, which was still fighting over Protestant and Catholicism in my lifetime when everywhere else both of those faiths were fighting just to survive.  When our study abroad to Ireland and Scotland had Belfast on the itinerary, we were both excited.

Most of the group we traveled with came of age after the Good Friday Agreement.  I remember seeing Belfast being war torn on the news.  I remember the IRA being presented as a terrorist group by the media in America (which it was, if you take the idea that one group’s terrorist is another groups patriot).

To say, I was apprehensive about going to Belfast is an understatement.

Time changes things.

Continue reading

Traveling: Meeting Rick Steves, our travel icon

When Kurt and I planned to spend a month in Europe in the summer of 2010, we knew we needed guidance. In some cities, we knew we would only have a day and half to experience them, so we needed a quick and dirty guide that was not afraid to be blunt about what was good and what we could skip. We found that in Rick Steves’ books, Europe Through the Back Door and the Best of Europe (all guidebooks are updated every year). Rick did not only explicitly offer his opinion on all of the major and off the beaten track attractions, food, and hotels, but he taught us how to travel. We knew what to pack, how to avoid con artists, how to save money, in addition to other tips, tricks, and other timesaving and efficient pieces of advice. Rick Steves became a travel icon for us. When we returned to Europe on a cruise, we bought his Mediterranean Cruise Ports Guidebook and his French, Italian, and German Phrasebook. Whenever we are researching a country, we look to his travel series, which includes television episodes, podcasts, radio shows, and an app, and watch what he has to say about the city or country. We follow him through the territory and familiarize ourselves with the layout. I follow him on Facebook and when he posts about current events and politics and how it relates to traveling, I analyze and reflect on his thoughts and weigh them against what I believe.

When I had the opportunity to attend the National Council for the Social Studies conference in New Orleans in November, I jumped at the chance. As I am perusing the conference website, I suddenly see who is one of the guests of honor: Rick Steves. I’m pretty sure my heart stopped. Rick Steves was going to be in New Orleans at the same conference I was going to attend. Was there a way to meet him?! Suddenly, I knew I had one goal at the conference (outside of learning new and interesting techniques and resources to utilize in my classroom, of course). I had to meet Rick Steves. He helped Kurt and I so much during our time in Europe and taught us so much about globalization and having a personal relationship with the places you travel, that I wanted to be able to spend that thirty second shared space of time with him.

Rick Steves, NCSS

Rick Steves on stage for the keynote address.

When I arrived on Friday, I immediately flipped through the program to figure out when he would speak. As it turned out, he was giving two talks on Saturday: one about diplomacy and travel in Iran and the other was the keynote address. Plus, his new book Travel as a Political Act, would be for sale and he was doing a signing. My giddiness was palpable.

Kurt was able to come on Saturday as well, because he knew he could not miss Rick either. We arrived early for the 9am Iran talk and managed to sit front and center. Rick gave a great speech on the history and culture of Iran and exclaimed how the people of Iran are very different from the politics of Iran. He was so comfortable with his lecture and at ease, and made the audience feel at ease too with humor and plenty of visuals to encapsulate his words. His room was standing room only, as we were obviously not the only people excited to hear him speak in person and hopefully meet him. When he finished speaking, he waited outside in the hallway and allowed everyone to take pictures and selfies and he signed whatever book you brought.

Rick Steves, NCSS

Rick Steves giving his Iran talk. We were front and center.

Kurt and I waited our turn and excitedly told him that his books were our travel bibles and helped make our month long trek through Europe an efficient, exciting, and productive one, not to mention our other three European trips that followed. He thanked us and we took photos with him. I think our joy was evident!

We listened to about half of his keynote address in the big auditorium, but it was lunchtime and we were starving. He spoke on the broader topic of travel as a way to immerse yourself in culture, with which Kurt and I agree completely. After lunch, we met him one more time to have him sign Travel as a Political Act, which I did not have a copy of that morning and which I have not had the chance to read yet, but is a series of essays about travel and what it can teach us. Based on previous experience with Rick Steves, I think it will be something I enjoy.

Rick Steves, NCSS

Rick Steves signing his new book, Travel as a Political Act.

Traveling: Trinity, The Book of Kells, and an Overview of Dublin

The Temple Bar in Dublin

The Temple Bar in Dublin

In a test of wills, our first lecture in Ireland was the morning after the Guinness brewery tour. After a quick breakfast at the local market, we made the trek to the university.  However, this was not just any university.  We were having class at Trinity University.

Continue reading

Traveling: Dublin and the Guinness Brewery

The worst part about Dublin was getting there. Our flight was before 7 am, which meant we had to be at the airport entirely too early.  We were planning to fly to London after Dublin for our first free weekend.  We had three reasons to go to London.  We wanted to take a day trip out to Hampton Palace, visit the Science Museum, and attend the London Comic Con.  Our friend, a huge Star Wars autograph collector, gave us some of his posters to be signed at the con.  Therefore, besides our luggage, we had a poster tube and a portfolio book.

Continue reading