A Tour of Europe though its Instructional Signs.

So, I’m studying to be an Architect, right?  I am constantly drawn towards any aspect of design.  And for me, I thoroughly enjoy the art of “instructional signage.”  These purely pictorial elements give a direct command with just a glance and I am always amazed how the designs themselves can vary so greatly, yet still convey the same message.

I was first introduced to this “art form” after watching an episode of BBC’s Top Gear, where they interviewed Margaret Calvert who co-designed all of Britain’s road signs.  Since then, I have been noticing humorous signs enforcing funny rules everywhere.  Now, in the States at least, the signs are standardized across all 50 states, but in Europe, they change quickly, while passing from town to town or country to country.

Here is what I found:

Barcelona had quite a variety of signs.  The warnings are serious, but the pictures are humorous!

watch out! Architecture!

electrocution, no swimming

no music?


Barcelona and Istanbul had construction signs I had never thought of before.



Salzburg‘s signs were very considerate.

Nice hat.

Sprinklers. Save your camera.


London and Croatia‘s text signs were lost in translation or tampered with.

I’m not sitting there!

No pooing?

Copenhagen and Paris have some funny signs!

Copenhagen.  Don’t drive in       the harbor!  Can you see the guy walking on the ice?

Paris.  The cane is a nice detail.  This crossing sign was for blind citizens, but it had no texture.


Italy‘s signs enforced funny rules and the symbols were very different.

No eating on the monuments, camping, or bare-chests?!

Watch your head!  Pericolo=Danger!

Torino’s subway warning.

Don’t touch.


The one sign I saw everywhere was to clean up after your pets. There was so much diversity between the signs, but they all conveyed the same message.




Parma, Italy


May your next trip be well informed and full of humor.

Happy Travels!

Oh, London. Day-Trips to Wimbledon, Oxford, and Hampton Court, and finally home.

26-30 June 2012.  Tuesday to Saturday.

The flight from Florence to London was quick and painless.  I just love flying over the English countryside and seeing the small villages, farm houses, and hedgerows.  We landed in London City Airport, located to the east of London near the new Olympic Park.  We used our oyster cards to bring us to the city center and then to Kings Cross where we could walk to our favorite B&B: The George.  In the process of traveling, we realized that the wheels had broken on both the big green and little red suitcases.  It was like dragging cinderblocks down the sidewalk.  The George is a funky little hotel located in Cartwright Gardens, just down the street from Russell Square Park.  In the mornings, they give us a tasty English Breakfast and stuff us full of toast, eggs and beans.

After settling in to our room, we hopped on the Metro out to Wimbledon.  I was very excited to learn that the Wimbledon English Lawn Tennis Championships would be taking place that week and next.    We walked through Wimbledon Park to the entrance gate and stood in a short queue to buy tickets to enter the grounds.  Since we arrived in the afternoon, the tickets were half price.  With entrance to the grounds, we watched the matches taking place at all of the courts except for courts Center, 1, and 2.  From the green, we could sit and watch Andy Murray playing on the big screen while we enjoyed a light dinner.  While we were wandering through the different courts, two gentlemen approached us and asked if we wanted their tickets to court 1 and of course we said yes.  For about 20 minutes we sat in one of the grand stands watching American Andy Roddick play Britain’s Jamie Baker.  It was so fun to watch all of the action until it began to rain.  I was most impressed by how quickly the ball boys lowered the net, covered the lawn, and pulled the referee under cover.  Like clockwork.  By then it was late and the park was closing, so we headed back to The George after stopping for fish n’ chips.


The entire Wimbledon Championships is such a classy event and full of tradition.  Even the scoreboards are the original wooden ones that must be updated by hand.  I was replaying the movie Wimbledon in my head the entire time and noticing locations used in the film.

In the morning we wandered out to Trafalgar Square, to the British Portrait Gallery and to look at London’s “Broadway,” the West End.  Then, we walked to Picadilly Circus to find a department store.  In Lake Como, we had met two English ladies on their summer holiday and they both recommended Fortnum & Mason for afternoon tea.  Mom and I enjoyed lunch and tea in their Parlour on the second floor.  On the top floor is the recently renovated tea room to honor the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.  There we saw photos of the Queen, Princess Kate, and Camilla at the grand re-opening.

We then made our way to Euston station where we took the train out of London center to Watford Junction for a tour of the Harry Potter sets at the Warner Brothers Studio.  These huge sound stages had been used for all eight of the Harry Potter movies and has recently been preserved for fans to visit.  Everything was there, from Potions Class, to Gryffindor Common Room, to the Ministry of Magic.  Accompanied by an audio guide, I learned everything about the making of these great movies, from set design, to costumes, to the “magic” of the special effects.  I highly recommend visiting this to every Harry Potter fan.  At the end of the tour, was the huge scale model of Hogwarts.  I was blown away by how much detail was put into these movies and some visitors got a little emotional at the end.


That night, Germany was playing again in the Football European Cup, so we made our way to a pub to enjoy dinner and the game.  Mom even tried cider for the first time.

We took the train early this morning to the town of Oxford and the University of Oxford.  We chose Thursday because it was the only day that did not predict rain.  We were surprised that it was Open Day, the day reserved for future applicants to come and check out the colleges and get information about their major.  Usually, the colleges are not open to the public, or you have to pay to enter, but today was special.  I put on the story that I was thinking of applying for the masters program (which I would love to do), and they let us in to discover the beautiful dormitories and Gothic structures inside.

We enjoyed lunch at the Eagle and Child Pub, now famous as the meeting place for the literary club, the Inklings; members of which include C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.  We sat in the room where they met and enjoyed a sandwich.  In the afternoon, we took a walking tour of the town and learned many stories about the different colleges.  The tour included entrance to the Divinity School, the room where students meet for lectures and discussions on theology.  Inside, the stained glass was amazing and so were the very impressive fan vaults that formed the ceiling.

Last stop was Christ Church College, the Alma mater of my church’s founder, John Wesley.  We found a portrait of him in the beautiful dining hall.  The dining hall and main stair were used in the Harry Potter movies as the Great Hall at Hogwarts.  We peeked into some of the student dormitories and the excellent historical library.

Please can I go to Oxford?!?!?!

Our last day in London.  This time, we took the metro out to Hampton Court Palace.  The huge estate and gardens was the summer residence for King Henry VIII, and escape from Whitehall Castle in London.  We began the tour by visiting the huge kitchens.  It was amazing how much food passed through the kitchens and to the tables.  We visited the King’s chambers and entertaining hall, wandered the gardens and even met the King himself and listened to him tell the story of his six wives.

We splurged on our last European dinner that night at the hotel Claridge’s.  We were welcomed in with a smile and enjoyed a tasty 3-course menu du jour.  Surrounded by photographs of their famous patrons, we felt so out of place, but enjoyed it none the less; especially the washrooms, where the water is running in the sink just as you step out of the stall.  As a souvenir, we were given little tins of their afternoon tea.

I absolutely love London and the culture that grew from years of tradition.  London is cozy yet proper and filled with history and architecture that fascinates me.  Though the people are cold at first, they love to share their culture, from tea to tennis.

The 12-hour flight to America was uneventful.  I stayed awake the entire time, catching up on the movies I had missed from the year in Italy.  I guess it did not really hit me that I was actually going back to California until we were flying over the deserts of Utah and Arizona and making our decent into the LA basin.  A slight fear hit me as I began to see the miles-wide urban sprawl that is Southern California.  I did not want to land.  I wanted to return back to Bavaria and the little hut in the Alps, back to Toscana and my butcher in Chianti.  But the runway came.  We passed through customs, I was welcomed back to America by a picture of President Obama.  Uncle Mart picked us up from arrivals and mom and I began the 4-hour drive back to SLO.

During the long drive, I began recounting the stories of the past year to my mama and remembering the countless amazing adventures I had and the many good friends I had made.  It is such a blessing to have been given this opportunity to travel and learn; to see the inspirational architecture and meet my family in Germany.

Finally back on the Central Coast of California, the rolling Tuscan-like hills began to form.  I was greeted at the door by my cats, my couch, my home.

London. My favorite city.


10-14 February 2012

With our first semester over and finals done, we are now off on our February break. I am heading to my favorite city: London! and then we will visit our Cal Poly friends who are studying in Copenhagen, Denmark.


JC, Fran, Jess, John, and I arrived mid-day into London Gatwick and took a short tram into the city center. Our first order of business was heading to north London, to the town of Kilburn, where we will be renting a room from an older couple for the next few days. We were greeted with tea and biscuits that we quickly gobbled up.

We rested for a while in the room before heading into the city center for dinner. We were on a mission to find an American restaurant that we all greatly miss in Italy: Chipotle. You might roll your eyes to this, but Californian college students survive on burritos, and not having one for six months is a terrible thing that donner kababs could not attempt to fulfill.

We ate at the Chipotle on Baker Street, just steps from the apartment of Sherlock Holmes. JC and I have become fans of the BBC show Sherlock that showcases a modern day Sherlock in today’s London. It is very exciting and witty, so we were very happy to visit 221B Baker Street! We then discovered a very cute street, Marylebone High Street. This street is an ideal London street, filled with pubs and cute shops. We took a rest in one pub and enjoyed our first cider. Cider is so good and tastes just like apple juice!


We had a simple breakfast at the B&B and then made our way into the city. Our fist stop, the changing of the guards at Buckingham palace. During the winter, the guards wear their grey winter coats instead of their bright red summer uniform. It was interesting to be there during the off-season. It was still very busy, but no way near as crowded as in the summer.

For lunch, we went to Borough Market. Just steps from the London Bridge metro stop, this is my favorite market! It is built under the tracks of the metro and provides yummy artesian foods. We had fun tasting chai tea and locally made granola. I settled for a delicious grilled cheese sandwich and Bienenstich (from a German bakery).

We walked past Shakespeare’s Globe Theater to the Tate Modern. We explored the contemporary art within this remodeled power plant. Next, we crossed the Millennium Bridge (by London’s favorite Architect Sir Norman Fosters) and enjoyed a coffee at the Starbucks (they are on every corner in London!) in front of St. Peter’s Church.

By now, it was dark, but we were still on the hunt to find a few more bits of cool architecture. We found two skyscrapers. One called Swiss Re, aka the Gherkin (it looks like a giant pickle and is also by Sir Norman Fosters) and the other Lloyds of London. Lloyds, by Richard Rogers, is a very interesting building because all of the systems (water, HVAC, circulation) are on the exposed outside of the building, leaving the interior to be free for the occupants use.

For dinner, we enjoyed Chicken Tikka Masala, the national food of Britain, at a great Indian restaurant.


A rainy and lazy morning, then, off to find lunch at Camden Market. Camden Town is the hipster and artist borough of London. With many stalls selling used clothes and locally made arts, we had fun looking at all of the stuff we would never buy. Through the center is a set of Locks that canal boats often frequent through. Up above the canal, we enjoyed tea and scones in a very cute tea shop. So relaxing!

We ventured through Regents Park (my favorite park so far) checked out Harrods department store and then sat in another café until it was time to meet up with some school friends for dinner.


We took the Metro to Parliament this morning. Big Ben looked stunning this morning! We said hello to the Prime Minister at #10 Downing Street and then made our way into Westminster Abbey. Inside Westminster, I got to see many memorials to Britain’s Greats: Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, and Queen Elizabeth I.

We went to Convent Garden to eat Meat Pies and then explored the Monday antique’s market. I bought a very cute and cheap 1940s cameo ring! We had a lovely afternoon tea and scones.

As the sun was setting, we made our way back to London Bridge to see the lit up city hall (it is to look like a river rock and is also by Sr. Norman Foster). This area is filled with some very cool architecture, including a new construction (it is not quite finished) The Shard by Italian Architect Renzo Piano. It will now be the tallest building in Europe.

We walked across Tower Bridge, past the tower of London, and to the Metro where we made our way back to Marylebone High Street for amazing fish n’ chips. The Golden Hind has some of the best fish ever. The batter is so light and crispy. Yum! I remember coming here with my mom when we were in London four years ago. I was so excited to find it again.


We only had a half-day London before continuing on to Copenhagen. Our flight was at 4pm, so we tried to squeeze in a few more things before heading to the airport. We took the metro to Kings Cross train station to pay our respects to Harry Potter and Platform 9¾. We walked through Russel Square Park, to the British Museum. I discovered that the Rosetta stone is kept here, I had no idea! We saw many cool, ancient things, including one of the large, stone heads from Easter Island.

We had Cornish Pasties for lunch, and then our time in London was over…
I want to go back so bad!!! I need to live here! London is the perfect blend between America and Europe. It is still very exotic and European, yet is has the comforts of home.