March 24, 2014

 

The final leg of my journey has come and with it an inherent combination of both joy and sadness; the joy of heading back to all that I had left behind, be it friends, family, co-workers, and simply ‘home’, and the sadness of leaving such an amazing place and group of people (how’s that for a run on sentence?).  Working on the Proton Beam Therapy Centre was exciting and I’m hoping to keep up with it and the team as it progresses.  They are doing a stellar job and it’s going to be a project for the books once complete.

Though time ticked away, I continued to make the most out of my travels and ventured beyond England to Scotland and France.  To clarify, the image above pertains to the fact I visited Scotland during the Six Nations rugby match against France.  I then ultimately went to France after that trip (seemed ironic).

 

 ArthursSeatSmall

 

A good friend of mine and his father came to visit me and travel around for two weeks.  We all decided to take the train up to Edinburgh, Scotland for a three day weekend.  Edinburgh stands to be one of the more memorable places I’ve travelled to through a combination of the natural landscape and the abundant history within the city.  The most prominent feature of the city is, without surprise, the Edinburgh Castle.  Positioned hundreds of feet up on Castle Rock, I can only imagine how demoralizing it would be for invading armies to see this towering fortress.  The sheer cliff faces and 360 degree fortification would leave any enemy in a state of utter disbelief and futility.  Because of its elevation, the road that leads up to the entrance is steep and elevated – almost like a giant ramp.  At the bottom of this road (the Royal Mile) is Parliament and the Queen’s Palace; which is also the elevation that most of the city resides on.  If you try to imagine, various houses, shops and markets would be built along this road but would need to be elevated as you travel up towards the castle.  This creates almost a dual-storey city, like a layered cake.  In order to access each portion, alleyways (called ‘closes’) branch off from the road down to the lower elevation of the main city.  I’ll present to you the same scheme a tour guide gave us for understanding.  Think of Edinburgh Castle as the head of a fish skeleton.  The spine is the Royal Mile and the tail is the Queen’s Palace at the bottom.  All of the ribs from the spine are these closes that branch off down to the other portions of the city.  It’s an experience you must partake yourself to fully appreciate.

For me, the other high point (no pun intended, keep reading) of our trip was climbing the Salisbury Crags up to the highest peak known as Arthur’s Seat (pictured above).  The crags are a series of outcropping rock formations just beyond the city.  Arthur’s Seat is located at an elevation of over 820ft, and you can get a panoramic view of the entire city and adjacent country sides.  It was a perfect final touch to our trip to Scotland.

 

PantheonSmall

 

I was a little concerned when my trip to Paris, France got closer.  Paris was unfortunately experiencing some of the worst smog they’ve seen in years, prompting driving restrictions throughout the city.  Luckily the weather changed for the better and it cleared up before my arrival.  The city certainly has plenty to offer.  Around every corner there is something new to explore and the styles vary wildly with even as little as a quarter mile distance.  I knew the Arc de Triomphe would be a sight to behold, but you never really get a feel for its size and presence until you experience it for yourself.  The view from the top is amazing as well, which thankfully the skies were clear and the sun was out.  My personal favourite though, is the Pantheon (pictured above).  It’s a wonder to think of what man was able to accomplish so long ago, without the modern technology we have now.  If I had had the time, I could literally have laid on the flat of my back looking up and taking in all the exquisite detailing, forms and paintings that fill the Pantheon.

I was a little disappointed in the condition of parts of the city.  For a country that boasts it’s a greater tourist area than London, it is alarmingly dirty and not well kept in some of the busiest areas.  Not to mention that solicitors and scam artists roam rampant, heckling you at every turn.  It’s a lesser but unfortunate part that makes the experience less enjoyable.

And so, the countdown will soon reach zero.  I’ve taken time to look back on the last three months as to what I’ve accomplished and what I’ve gained from it.  Having never left the U.S. before, I had no predispositions and it was initially quite overwhelming.  After all, being thrown into the lion’s den on your own for such a long time is the best way to make the most of the experience, is it not?  Revisiting my travels and my time here in London (both work and play), I can appreciate how much I’ve learned and grown intellectually and personally.  I encourage anyone reading, to do as I did – go outside of your comfort zone.  Stop settling for what is your norm, and explore new possibilities both large and small.  I promise you will not be disappointed.

 

  1. I think I’ll go home now.

 

Michael Cochran – HKS Richmond, VA

Posted in Health
Tagged HKS London, HKS Richmond, Xchange