Saturday, August 1, 2009

Fun with formats and recapturing captions...

I've created a couple of photobooks in the past and had them printed as keepsakes, so online viewing options and/or sharing with others was never really an issue. Even though shutterfly photobooks can be embedded (see Peep's photobook post below or click here), a couple of people have reported issues with being able to easily read all of the captions in "Peep's Great Adventure". I didn't experience this issue myself with the full-screen option, but since there's not really a magnifier/zoom for the shared version of the photobook, I went ahead and reproduced the captions in a pdf version of the photobook, which I embedded below. Unfortunately, the pdf format with captions doesn't seem to allow the side-by-side reading intended in the original photobook, but for anyone who has difficulty reading the captions from the shutterfly photobook embed and wants to read Peep's story, check out the pdf too! By clicking on the toggle full screen option in the upper right hand corner, you can make the pdf version full screen and then use the zoom to see Peep's travels up close and read the captions easily. :)

A Photobook of Peep's Great Adventure


Friday, July 31, 2009

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Coming soon: Peep's photobook!

Two weeks after coming home from Paris and London and it still seems a little unreal not to be there. I absolutely loved my time abroad and my trip of a lifetime...and Peep had a great time too! I created a photobook to commemorate our travels and all the wonderful memories made, which will be posted soon!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A digital film and a family connection

I devoted several pre-departure posts to pondering potential destinations for my free weekend in England. As an undergrad English major, I had lots of literary-related options, most of which unfortunately got ruled out. In the end, the family connections won out and I traveled solo to Devon and a tiny village called Chagford. I took oodles of pictures while there, but to commemorate the experience of seeing the village and area, at least, where my ancestors lived some fourteen generations ago, I wanted to film my journey as well. The following is a short digital film I created of my journey to Chagford and what I found there.

Family Connections: My Journey to Find Chagford and Family Roots
by Stephanie Brown

This digital film is 21.5 MB and runs approximately 2:54. I created this film using Windows Movie Maker with background audio adapted from Photo Story 3.

Although my time there was pretty brief overall and the transportation en route was an adventure in and of itself, going to Chagford is an experience I'll never forget. The contrasts between sleepy Chagford and bustling London were a huge surprise, but it was a pleasant little getaway, and finding family connections made the whole trip worthwhile. :)


Monday, July 20, 2009

A Digital Story

After three weeks and seeing some incredible sights, I couldn't begin to choose one favorite place from my travels abroad. With all of the beautiful cathedrals, historic landmarks, and amazing museums and libraries, I really couldn't even narrow the field down to one favorite place in London and one favorite from Paris. I did, however, have a great final full day in Paris and, during our free time that morning, had the chance to visit the Musée d'Orsay with Joanna and finally get to see some Impressionist art. This digital story tells the story of that museum visit and how I finally found Monet. :)

Finding Monet: How Art Came to Life at the Musée d'Orsay
by Stephanie Brown

This digital story is 8.02 MB and runs approximately 4:00. I created this digital story using Photo Story 3.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Saying goodbye...

With the approach of the first real work week after my three weeks abroad, it's definitely setting in that I'm back home again and my trip of a lifetime has concluded. Despite being back in FL for a couple of days, it still seems strange not to get up in the morning and head down to the hotel restaurant for our croissant breakfasts before a class trip out into the city. Even though I didn't always understand the French conversations and questions swirling around me, Paris was great and it was fun to be a tourist and stumble our way through ordering at restaurants. :)

I loved the whole three week experience in general, though, because it was great to take a face-to-face class and meet professors and fellow classmates in person rather than only online, and it was so much fun to see London and Paris. Thanks to FSU, Dr. E, and the whole LN85 group for making it a great class and trip! I miss everyone already, and it will not be remotely the same this fall when I go back to being only a distance learning student. It was so fun to meet and interact with everyone in person as we toured the cities and saw the sights; even though we stayed busy for three weeks, time flew by and I can't believe it's over already! I loved every minute of my three weeks in London and Paris, and I'm grateful to everyone in the program for helping to make it my trip of a lifetime...

Before I left, a lot of people mentioned various things I would miss while in Europe, from iced drinks to air conditioning to elevators. I will admit that it wasn't so fun at first to hike up to our fourth floor flat in London—at least not when we had to tote our luggage up or forgot something and had to head back up a second time—but that was part of the charm of living in a historic building, and we did learn to plan ahead. The whole lack of ice in drinks, no refills, and no air conditioning also never seemed to be much of an issue either. I did wind up missing decaf iced tea, but that was really to be expected since its not often offered in restaurants here either.

I think the big surprise for me, though, was that I missed driving. I'm not a huge fan of driving here, but I suppose I'm so accustomed to being able to hop in the car and drive somewhere if I need to go somewhere or pick up something that I missed that freedom. The city transportation systems of Paris and London are fairly efficient and inexpensive (and every person driving would be totally impractical), but I was sort of glad to be reunited with my car and be able to drive to the store or work or wherever rather than trying to plot out what bus, pedestrian, and/or underground routes would get me where I wanted to go. At the same time, though, I do miss the trains for distance traveling, and it's a definite shock to go from huge city back to quiet, suburban central FL.

Such a fun many memories...and so many pictures! (I won't know what to do without carting Peep around everywhere and stopping for photo-ops.) :)


Friday, July 17, 2009

Home again

It's very unreal to be home again, although still nice, in a way, since the journey to get here was literally about 23 hours long and spanned three countries and currencies before we got home. It was quite the festive experience getting back to FL, and I can now say from experience that given the option, do not travel through multiple countries on the way back to the U.S. and that direct flights cut back on travel stress. Our Paris to London to NJ to FL journey was a study in modes of transportation and interesting signage, to say the least, and it was a nice relief to collect my suitcase at baggage claim A in Orlando and finally complete the last leg of our transatlantic journey...

My return voyage began with an early breakfast at the Campanile: i.e. one last chance to enjoy their croissants and the fun drink machine that made multiple hot beverages, including good hot chocolate that was super sweet in the end. Around 8 am Paris time, we (Robin, Laurie, and I) got a taxi to Gare du Nord to catch the Eurostar back to London. Even though Laurie wasn't on the same train as us, it was really nice of her to share a cab and one last memory of Paris since I'd never ridden in a car or taxi there. (Thanks again, Laurie!) Nonetheless, we made it the train station with time to spare, although the postings for admittance to the Eurostar check-in were apparently time suggestions only since people leaving on the 9:13 train were trickling in around 9 expecting to board and our train, the 10:13 to London St. Pancras, started check-ins practically at 9 as well. At any rate, we made it on the train, even though we were seated practically at opposite ends of the train, and, as is my usual special skill when traveling solo, I got a random seatmate who acted as though I'd inconvenienced him by showing up and claiming my seat. Nevermind the fact that basically the rest of our coach was completely empty except for this wacky family seated directly in front of me did provide some unusual, if unintended, entertainment for the rest of us passengers.

The train trip seemed shorter somehow heading back to London than when we rode the same trip to Paris, but at least my seatmate moved and thus, it was a quiet experience; I even had a window seat that actually had a window (unlike the trip down to Paris, when Sheila and I had the row with the faux window seat), so there were some picture opportunities. :) Unfortunately, once the train arrived in London, we had to figure out a way to get from St. Pancras to London Paddington, where we would be able to catch the Heathrow Express to the airport. Having never wrangled luggage on the tube in London, I wasn't overly anxious to attempt that, but at the same time, the underground is the fastest, cheapest means of getting there, so we topped up our Oyster cards enough to make the trip and caught the Victoria line to the Circle to get to Paddington. The subway was strangely empty for it being mid-day (I suppose I expected lunch traffic or something), but we made it to Paddington and, after buying our Heathrow Express tickets, got to experience a different kind of train ride out to Heathrow.

Unfortunately, neither of us thought of or knew to check which of the five terminals our return flight airline operates out of at Heathrow, so we took a chance and got off early at Terminals 1, 2, 3, hoping for some signage direction to where we could check in and ditch our heavy luggage. There are no signs explaining what airlines are at what terminals, though, and so we again guessed and followed the crowd towards terminals 2 and 3, which were paired together on the signage for the first three floors up and then magically became terminals 1 and 2. Thankfully, at terminal 2, where there was an underground connection option (I didn't know about this or we might've skipped the Heathrow Express leg of our journey altogether), there was a huge schedule of what airlines were located in each terminal. Here, we discovered that our flight left out of terminal 4, which wouldn't be an issue except that only terminals 1-3 share the building we were currently in and thus we would have to catch the free shuttle service train out to terminal 4. This meant carting our luggage back down three long hallways and three stories to where we got off our Heathrow Express initially. Sad times.

On the plus side, the shuttle train to terminal 4 is free if you've purchased the ticket out to Heathrow at all, so we just walked down and got on the next train out, which was conveniently waiting and ready to go shortly after we boarded. Once in terminal 4, it was pretty easy, actually, to check in for our flight and check our luggage, which only left security (which included a nice pat down from the female guard for everyone who walked through the metal detector carrying his/her passport because the passports triggered the metal detector). There were no announcements at the gate about boarding, so we thankfully happened to be paying attention when they were getting to the end of general boarding because you couldn't hear the guy at the gate telling what rows were boarding and the sign for our flight kept changing status from "open" to "boarding" to "closing," which was a little odd. I narrowly (by one person) escaped being the person chosen at random for the bag and body search pre-boarding, so that was a nice relief, and even though I sat next to vector Vicky for the whole 7+ hour flight, it was a pleasant stretch of the journey.

Once we landed in Newark, we had to go through passport checks, claim our luggage, go through customs, and then recheck our bags...or so we thought. The whole passport check process was a breeze compared to our two-hour wait at Gatwick, and even though the luggage was incredibly slow to ever arrive, there were no issues with collecting it, going through customs, and rechecking the bags. After those steps were completed, we expected to follow the signs for connecting flights and end up back in a terminal, from which we could locate our gate or transfer to another terminal. We did follow the signs, and they eventually, after three floors, led us to a security check, where we had to get in line and be rechecked along with all of the other domestic travel passengers who hadn't yet been on a plane that day. It seemed odd to have to go through security for a second time, but at least we knew not to hold our passports as we walked through the metal detectors and magically, we didn't have any issues the second time around. :)

It was another crazy long hike (a la Gatwick) to get to our gate despite the fact that we were in the right terminal to begin with and went through the central security checkpoint instead of one of the peripheral ones. We did make it to the gate with about thirty minutes to spare, but they began boarding super early (just like at Heathrow), so we basically sat for maybe ten minutes before we were back on another plane headed for home. Both planes were like refridgerators, so despite the 90-degree temperatures outside, I opted for a sweatshirt while other passengers wrangled for multiple blankets on the plane. Unlike our transatlantic flight, the NJ-FL one was pretty empty, and to help with weight balances, I volunteered myself and Robin to move up from our row towards the front of the plane, which was nice since the row where we relocated had way more leg room. :) Our tickets said our flight took over three hours, but on the plane they kept insisting it was 2 hrs. 18 minutes (I mean insisting...intercom lady had to have said it at least three times and then came on one last time to say "Two hours as in counting up from one, one, two hours and eighteen minutes"); I suppose other passengers hadn't believed her before, but in the end, we only arrived twenty minutes early, so someone's calculations were still wrong.

Thankfully, unlike in NJ, we waited literally only ten minutes for our luggage to appear, which was a nice surprise after a long day of traveling. We got to leave the airport at 12:15, which would be 6:15 am Paris time, which means our trip was basically 22 hours. Of course, home is a good hour from the airport, so in the end, it was a 23 hour journey home, but it was quite the experience and, I think, a fitting conclusion for my trip of a lifetime. :)