Un Autre Royaume

March 19th, 20th, 21th

“Death must be so beautiful…to have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace.” Oscar Wilde

In the past few days, I ventured back in time. I visited to another world within Paris, the realm of the great deceased. On March 20th, I went to visit the most famous and most visited cemetery in Paris and in the world, Père Lachaise. Père Lachaise takes its name from the confessor of Louis XIV, Père François de la Chaise. A garden graveyard built on the side of a hill, Père Lachaise is not just any ordinary graveyard, but a city of the dead with its own winding streets named after famous people laid to rest there. Père Lachaise is the place set apart for all Parisiens dead or alive. To be buried Père Lachaise, one has to be either a citizen of Paris, or to have died in Paris. For the living Parisiens, Père Lachaise is their favorite location for a walk (the French really likes promenades in graveyards for some reason).

Given the numerous great spirits laid to rest in this cemetery, I decided to follow the guided tour laid out in Anna Erikssön and Mason Bendewald’s book Meet Me At Père Lachaise. As I walked down the winding roads following the instructions in the book, reading about the life stories of the famous deceased, I felt myself transferred into a much more peaceful world. I felt like if I was quiet enough I can almost Molière and La Fontaine discussing literature or Chopin playing music. I couldn’t help but be filled with great awe and respect for all who has given their lives to making our world as beautiful and rich as it is now.


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some of the famous graves at Père Lachaise: Chopin, Abelard and Heloise, Jim Morrison, La Fontaine, Oscar Wilde, Balzac, and Molière.

Earlier on March 19th, I went to Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris and Sainte-Chapelle on the île de la Cité. 

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Notre-Dame de Paris



Finally, today I visited the Musée Jacquemart-André in the Belle-Epoch bourgeois townhouse of the art collector Edouard André and artist Nélie Jacquemart designed by famous architect Henri Parent. This museum is also one of my favorite smaller museums. Not only does it boast of a great collection of paintings, sculptures, artifacts, and decorative art collected by the couple through their travels around Europe and the world, the architecture of the house itself can be considered a masterpiece (in fact, I liked this townhouse better than Palais du Versailles, which is a little bit too ornamented for my taste). I was struck with awe by the amazing work the couple has done for the art collections in France, both acquiring important paintings themselves and helping French museums with their fund and donations. At the same time, I can’t help but admire at the design of the spiraling staircase positioned in one side of the house, the retractable walls of the reception room, and the exquisite winter garden.

Finally, I had the luck to enjoy the temporary exhibit of female French-American impressionist artist Mary Cassatt. She was a great friend of Edgar Degas, an important member of the impressionist movement, and spent part of her childhood in the Philadelphia area in Pennsylvania. She was a great advocate for presentation of women in paintings and particularly enjoyed depicting the subject of maternity and the tender relationship between mother and child.


Looking Back – China Reflection

Written and posted March 21st, 2018

Today marks the fifth day since I’ve been back from China. I still have jet lag, though it’s not as extreme as the first three days. I also cannot completely grasp that I, Anna, went to China. Besides the jet lag, the photos, countless retelling of my journey to family and friends, and the WeChat messages I keep getting from our group and tour guide are the only reminders that this trip was a reality.

I learned so much and had many new and great experiences on this trip. I was able to immerse myself in the culture from the moment I stepped off the plane. Since we were able to visit so many cities (six total) in two weeks, I feel as though I was truly able to get a glimpse into understanding China. Our action-packed days and amazing tour guide helped with understanding as well. Our ability to engage in touristy activities such as climbing the Great Wall, visiting the Forbidden City, going on a night river cruise in Shanghai and more was amazing, and while basic to any tour, also delved into a history, culture, and background much greater than me, a kid with a camera.

However, not all our activities were touristy. We also immersed ourselves with the locals. My favorite meal by far was the one cooked by a local. He was gracious enough to shelter 21 school students and chaperones in his small house and make us a delicious meal. My second favorite meal was when we went out to a local restaurant to try hot pot. The third was when we were able to eat dinner (and spend the whole day) with T. Bei’s parents. My fourth favorite was jumping off our bus to grab fresh soup dumplings.

The food wasn’t the only activity where we engaged with the locals, however, it was the most memorable. Every night in each city, if we had free time that night, I would go out and explore the city. Night time was when I truly felt like part of the community. Whether roaming around the streets, getting lost in a mall larger than King of Prussia, sipping coffee in a local cafe, or walking through loud bustling night markets, I was able to experience, what I believe, was the true culture of the people living in those cities.

From this trip, I not only expanded my knowledge of Chinese history and learned a bit of Mandarin (I can even count to ten), but gained a greater cultural and world sense that I am very grateful for especially before I go off to college. I love to travel, and I am hopeful that this trip won’t be the last and that it has prepared me well for study abroad and life in the working world!

– Anna


March 20, 2018

Each museum has a very distinct feel. I only realized this after I visited five museums in five days. The museums I visited include the Museu Picasso, the Dalí Theatre and Museum, the Museo Reina Sofia, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, and the Museo del Prado. Since this is a number of museums, I will only write about Dalí’s Theatre-Museum and the Museo del Prado in this post.

I took a day trip from Barcelona to Figueres to visit Salvador Dalí’s Theatre-Museum. It was overflowing with evidence of Dalí’s eccentricity, which was evident even from the exterior of the building. Its bright red walls adorned with little gold dots contrasted sharply with the yellow buildings surrounding the museum. To make the comparison even more drastic, a line of life-like eggs were perched at the top of the building. A statue of a woman with large breasts standing atop a black Cadillac greeted me as I walked into the open courtyard of the museum. Behind the statue is a stage with huge glass windows. Going into the inside, there is an abnormally large painting with deep red curtains around it, solidifying the impression of a theater. Even though I would not consider myself a Dalí fan, or even a fan of surrealism in general, I found myself increasingly drawn in by the peculiarities of the art shown. However, every so often, there would be some element that reminded me that, while I was in a museum, I was also in something resembling a theater. For example, there are windows behind the golden statues above the courtyard from which you can look out and view the stage. I moved through the galleries in a state of wonder. After visiting the Theatre-Museum, I can safely say that I am more appreciative of surrealism, contemporary art, and of Salvador Dalí’s genius than I had been before my visit.

After leaving Figueres, I went to Madrid. Due to poor planning, I only managed to spend about an hour and a half in the Museo del Prado before I had to leave for Valencia. However, I was extremely pleased. Unlike Dalí’s Theatre-Museum, the Prado Museum had a more classical structure and collection. There were, as expected, many depictions of Greek and Roman mythology, which, as many friends know, I absolutely love. While walking through the first floor of the Prado, I came across a painting by Paulo Veronese entitled Venus and Adonis. It was the same painting that adorned the cover of my text book for Latin IV last year. I can’t even begin to convey my excitement at seeing the painting. I think I stood there for a good ten minutes or so, the first two just gaping at the work and the rest analyzing minute details. It was remarkable to see a piece of art in person that was first introduced to me in school.

As I continued through the gallery, I found more paintings and statues that depicted scenes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the text I studied a year ago. I spent the rest of my time at the Museo del Prado looking at them. Below are some of my favorites.

~ Auria

Reflection on Ireland

March 21st, 2018

I learned a lot while in Ireland. In truth, more than I expected. In my first blog post, I stated that “I hoped that by traveling to Ireland for my Senior Project I’d feel more connected with my ancestors, my larger family, and come to understand why my grandfather felt so connected to this magical place that he would often reference as my homeland.” I now feel as though I have obtained these goals. After witnessing the rolling green hills blanketed in farms, the snow-dusted mountains, the “wild” Atlantic sea crashing up against the rocky shore, and more, I can say that I understand why my grandfather felt so connected to Ireland. I also understand why my grandfather was an Irish citizen and why my father and aunt were also granted Irish citizenship. I now understand why my family continues to go back and visit our homeland. My homeland. I feel connected to this place and I can’t wait to return in the future.

My grandfather passed away this past January. I mention this because my Irish cousins flew one of their own across the pond to attend the funeral. My uncle Stephan was the one who came as the Irish representative. And just recently, my father and I stayed with my uncle Stephan while in Ireland. Due to my grandfather’s funeral and my Senior Project, we as a family have re-established an open line of communication through social media and are creating plans to visit with each other more often than twice a decade. My uncle Stephan is now discussing with his wife a plan to come to America this summer and spend time with us at our family’s shore house in Stone Harbor, New Jersey.  Likewise, my father wishes to return with my brother to see the Open Golf Tournament at Port Rush in 2019. I’m also planning to study aboard in either Ireland or Scotland during college. Additionally, all of my cousins who are around my age (Adam, Bruce, Chole, and Martha) now follow my brother and me on Instagram and continue to communicate with us via Snapchat. Through social media, we are continuing our family legacy of establishing love, loyalty, and friendship between our families.

I miss Ireland. It’s the home I never knew. And thus, this past St. Patrick’s Day was difficult for me to observe. To see people getting drunk before noon, not knowing what they were celebrating made me upset. I knew that barely any of the strangers I passed on the street appreciated Irish culture as I now did. Most of them probably only knew of the classic Irish stereotypes of Leprechauns and red hair. I was saddened by the whole day. However, while out to dinner with my father at a small tavern in Unionville an old man pulled out a fiddle while we were waiting for a table outside at a firepit. Over the blare of the modern day pop covers that were being sung inside, this man played traditional Irish songs on his fiddle. It made me cry hearing the music that I thought I wouldn’t hear for another couple of years. I thanked him before meeting my dad inside, and the man just smiled like he understood everything I was feeling. It was the little taste of home that I longing for all day.

I like to think I would’ve made my great-grandmother Rebecca proud. Her direct descendants have come a long way from being simple sheep farmers in Ardara. Especially me, an intelligent, well-educated girl looking to make her own way in an increasingly complicated world. I have been given so many opportunities, such as going to Westtown, that she couldn’t dream of obtaining in her lifetime. I hope that as I move forward in my life, I’m able to continue making my family proud.



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Les Meilleurs Malheurs

March 16th, 17th, 18th

Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect. — J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

The weather in Paris is becoming very cold again and it started snowing this weekend. While it’s exciting to see some snow at Paris, it is nonetheless a bit of a bad news for a traveler in foreign city who relies on the public transport and on her own feet. Thus, these past few days I’ve deliberately chosen to remain inside and visit some more museums. Despite the freezing cold weather, I’ve made some very heart-warming discoveries.

This past Friday, I spent an entire afternoon at the Louvre Museum (yeah, I went again). Instead of browsing through the entire museum looking for must-see masterpieces, I decided to slow down and take the time to look at the collections I’m interested in more closely. Thus, the entire afternoon, I remained in the French/European sculpture and Etruscan, Greek, and Roman antiquity departments. Aside from being amazed the numerous priceless masterpieces in these departments, I was most pleased to find part of the medieval collections from the Musée du Cluny (Musée national du Moyen Âge). Musée du Cluny, a museum constructed on the remains of a Roman bathhouse and dedicated to medieval history, is the museum I wanted to visit the most on this trip to Paris. Yet, unfortunately, this museum has been closed for renovation until mid-July and I was not able to pay a visit during this trip (I did get to see the remains of the caldarium and the tepidarium outside the museum). Fortunately for me, I can still see part of this museum’s collection thanks to its cooperation with the Louvre to transfer part of its collection to the Louvre for temporary storage. As I wandered around and marveled at the medieval works of art, I remembered J.K. Rowling’s famous quote from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect.” Sometimes, what I deemed as bad luck might bring pleasant surprises at the end of the day. 

I was soon to discover that the same is true for my visit to Versailles on a snowy Saturday. I was a little bit disappointed that I wasn’t able to walk around the gardens at Versailles because of the heavy snow. Yet, at the same time, if it weren’t for such a cold day, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the best chocolat chaud at Angelina’s nearly as much!


Sunday, I decided to give myself a break from traveling non-stop and only went out near noon to visit Musée Marmottan Monet, which turned out to be one of my favorite smaller museums at Paris (which is a huge compliment considering it’s Paris, a city filled with museums). I really enjoyed the works of Monet and other impressionist artists, especially temporary exhibit on Corot.



Wednesday, Thursday: Tapering and Coping Saw-ing

The work for these two days was without question the most stressful I’ve done so far. Now that I have the four legs fitted and square to the floor, it was time to cut sections into the tray which the legs will fit through, in addition to their mortises in the table top. Needless to say, they have to be precisely measured and cut — the right tool for that turned out to be the coping saw, which I’d never used before.

A bit apprehensive at first (because of the whole using a tool for the first time for a key part of the project), I managed to get the hang of keeping my blade square in two and sometimes three dimensions at once and very carefully carving out large, not-easily-replaceable chunks of wood.

I have to say I’m not disappointed in how well I did; after two days of on-and-off work with the coping saw and the sanding block for finer work, I have legs A, B, and C fitted more or less how I want them to sit in the final arrangement. Leg D suffered from some mis-measuring, but after this weekend (I’ll be away at Springside Chestnut Hill volunteering at the robotics competition there) I plan to sort out the final leg’s shape in the tray and look at the whole assembly for the first time!

As my “breaks” from working on the tray, I further sanded the large shelf that will live up above the table. It was busywork that didn’t require much thinking, just to take a mental breath and reset.

As if that wasn’t enough cortisol in my system, it was also finally time to taper the legs. That was a process; taking off half an inch of width over a two foot length from the inside two faces of each leg is not a large angle, and Mom and I really had to think through how we were going to maintain the angle, and how to push the whole assembly through the table saw, and all the right forces to put on the wood as we were sliding it through the blade… We got them all done, though, and I was surprised at how the legs went from substantial in a blocky way to substantial in a delicate way. They now fit the scale of the table and they even look elegant, which I’m very pleased with.

Another day or two and I’ll have the tray completed, the wedges driven into the tenons of the legs, and then it’ll be time for a mass sanding and mass finishing. This is the exciting part of the process for me — I can see the end.


Until next time,



Two pictures of legs A and C, which are fit into the tabletop and the tray; one of the large shelf for up above.

Hello America! – China Day 13

Written and posted March 15th, 2018

Today was our last day in China! Since it was our last day and everyone was so tired from our busy schedule we had a free day. In the morning I slept in and then went out to breakfast across from the hotel. Joanna, Alex, and Kamryn all had avocado on toast with a fried egg on top and Nick had a croque madame. I was still full from dinner last night so I didn’t get anything, but the food was amazing! I then went back to the hotel and packed. We traveled by ding ding (what people call a trolly) to SOHO for lunch. We went to a burger place where I got a delicious cheeseburger (I was very much looking forward to American food) with Wagyu beef. After lunch, we went to the airport and boarded our plane. Our plane left at 6 PM on Thursday Hong Kong time and arrived at 10 PM on Thursday EST. While our flight was technically 15 hours, we only lost four hours of the day. I really felt like I time traveled! I’m posting this on the bus ride back to Westtown. I did not sleep on the plane at all so I could fight jet lag and go to sleep the normal time in Philly, which means I’m extremely tired and ready for bed!



Intersecting Paths and Gaudí’s Imagination

March 15, 2018

At the top of the Passion Towers of the Sagrada Família

I began my first day in Spain by simply wandering around the hotel where I was staying. In a span of only a few minutes, I stumbled across the Palau, its full name being the Palau de la Música Catalana. The pillars were decorated with tiles of contrasting colors. Above the entrance was an extremely impressive array of statues and busts of various composers. My curiosity peaked when I saw a baby grand piano in one of the large glass windows, so I walked around the hall to find a way in without having to pay for the guided tour. (I’m cheap, I know.) The side of the building was covered in glass windows and so had a decidedly more modern look than the front. The interior reverted back to the typical style of the bourgeoisie, complete with gilded stairs and high, elegant arches. In the center, however, was a charming little café area with yet another piano. An old man dressed in a rumpled black coat and a large striped scarf was seated at the piano and playing Mozart’s Sonata No. 16 in C Major. The music filled the area, lending a nice juxtaposition to the quiet chatter of people milling around. To my surprise, once he finished performing the composition, he simply collected his keys, which were lying on the stand, and left after acknowledging the scattered applause. After questioning a guard standing nearby, I learned that the piano was there for public use, for any person to come and play if they wanted to. After some seconds of internal debate, I decided to play a piece, despite weeks of avoiding practice.

Once I finished, I was reminded acutely of Westtown’s South Room. Anybody can go in and play, and the main purpose, as I see it, is to find some respite in the middle of a busy day. It is by no means a formal performance, which I tend to strongly dislike. As I walked out of the music hall, I was filled with a similar sense of glee I had felt when I first played in the South Room four years ago. I also felt something new. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow also once said, “Music is the universal language of all mankind.” This was the first time I understood this sentiment. When I had glanced up after performing, there was no sense of awkwardness when I addressed my audience. I felt connected to the people listening.

Recording of my playing in the Palau. Check it out, if you want!

In the afternoon, I began following my itinerary with visiting Casa Milà, or more commonly known as La Pedrera. It is currently in use as both a place of both residency and business. However, it dates back to 1912 when it was designed by Antoni Gaudí for the Milà family. The architecture was different from any other that I had seen before, in that I could not find a single right angle. This characteristic remained constant as I went through my tour of Casa Milà. The courtyard had an ovular shape, with the open sky overhead. Some surfaces were splattered with faint hues of blue and green. Even with this show of eccentricity and my knowledge of the pictures on Google Images, I was not prepared for what waited on the roof. Shapes that resembled bodies and faces lined up one after another in the middle of the curving tiled path. Some had white tiles stuck on them, others were left blank. As cliché as it sounds, if I could not see the city roofs around me, I would have believed I stepped into another world. Continue reading “Intersecting Paths and Gaudí’s Imagination”

Paris, Je t’aime

March 13th, 14th, 15th

“When spring comes to Paris the humblest mortal alive must feel that he dwells in paradise” — Henry Miller

The last few days, the weather at Paris is becoming gradually warmer. Despite the occasional light shower, I’ve been able to enjoy Paris’ warm sunshine and pleasant light breeze. The places I adventured to in these past few days ranges from the grande and magnificent Palais Garnier (L’Opera Garnier) to the petit yet casually chic lesser-known private museums like Musée Gustave Moreau, Musée Cognacq-Jay and Maison du Victor Hugo. I got a feel for Paris’ artistic atmosphere through promenades through the artist districts Montmartre and Le Marais. I was also able to discover a little about French perfume and tea industry at the Fragonard Musée du Parfum and the Musée du thé of Mariage Frères.

March 13th

Originally, I wanted to see a ballet at L’Opera Garnier, but since the show I wanted to see, Orphée et Eurydice, does not premiere until the night I’m leaving Paris, I am not able to fulfill this hope during this trip (saving it for my next time at Paris). Despite that, I’m still stunned by the gorgeous interior of the great opera house. The shining halls of the opera are adored with numerous paintings and sculptures of famous dancers, singers, playwrights, and directors. The whole place has such a royal feeling that its name Palais Garnier is a rather appropriate description. Walking on the grande staircase in the opera house, I feel like I’m not just a spectator, but an actress part of a grand production, just like Charles Garnier has envisioned. FullSizeRender 53.jpg Continue reading “Paris, Je t’aime”

Feeling Affirmed

It’s been healing and comforting to be surrounded by people who affirm my identity. At Westtown, I’ve struggled with coming to terms with my identity in a space that is overwhelmingly white, cis, and straight. While Westtown is in some ways a progressive and open-minded community, it isn’t one in which there are many other people like me.

At the museum, I am being surrounded by queer people of color, their art, and their energies. My boss Lindsay is genderqueer and black! So are a lot of the teens in the programs I’ve been helping with over the past week. I’m so grateful to be spending time in a place with people who are so empathetic and passionate.

And the people I work with are similar to me outside of our shared identities; we’re all passionate about art! I’ve been engaging in amazing conversations with my supervisors and other teens alike about what art means to them, especially in relation to social justice. This is one of the few times in my life where I have not been the only one, and I am so happy.