So I’ve come to London for school and to spend a lot of my time in the city, but until now I hadn’t been to many places outside London that were actually in England. I’ve spent more weekends outside England than in, and I’m really grateful to have been able to use London as a launching pad to make it to continental Europe, but I want to get to know the country I’m calling home for three and half months! These last few weeks I’m here I’ve been traveling more locally in England and seeing some great places. With the trains and buses that run in and out of London, so many places are incredibly accessible and make great days trips.
Last weekend I went to Shakespeare’s home of Stratford-Upon-Avon with my school program to tour all the historic places and see my fourth Royal Shakespeare Company production, “The Merchant of Venice.” Stratford was so cute! The names of the B&Bs we stayed at were absolutely priceless, ‘Quilt and Crossiants’ and ‘Forget Me Not.’ In Stratford I got to see Nash House, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Shakespeare’s birthplace, and, of course, Shakespeare’s grave. We also checked out some classic English pubs, the Dirty Duck (where the RSC actors go after the show) and Rose and Crown.
In London this week we all had a reality check that there is only one week of classes left with finals quickly following the next week. Last Monday all my professors had to revise our syllabus since everything is moving by quite quickly! No plays last week, but on Wednesday my Shakespeare class got the opportunity to go to the Globe Theater for a tour and workshop with one of the actors. It was excellent! The theater is really cool (I’ll be seeing “King Lear” there this week, standing in the front under the open roof!) and looked exactly like the set of the film ‘Shakespeare In Love.’ It was very cool to learn the history and about the productions there today. After our morning at the Globe, further expanding our knowledge as Shakespearean scholars :-p my friend Meg and I headed to Madame Tussaud’s, the wax museum and the biggest tourist trap in London. After all the museums and churches I’ve been to though, it was refreshing. There was absolutely nothing intellectual about it and we ran around with the masses of people taking ridiculous pictures with wax figures. Great place for people watching, it’s really absurd how excited people (and I) get when a wax figure of someone famous is in front of them. There was even a little taxi ride like at an amusement park that took us through the history of London. It was ridiculous and yet fantastic at the same time. Can’t say that the teenage boys in the car next to us thought it was quite as funny as we did.
Yesterday, I went to the port city of Bristol with my program. We checked out the new Empire and Commonwealth Museum and then hopped on a boat that took us around Bristol harbor. I LOVED being on the water and with all the boats everywhere and water that connected the whole city it reminded me of Seattle!! Our boat then dropped us off at the old ship the S.S. Great Britain that is now restored and a museum. Except this isn’t just any museum, it won an award last year for being especially cool and we got to wander around the ship seeing what it was like to travel across the ocean 150 years ago. It has been compared to the Titanic because it was a big deal back in the day to have such a big, beautiful ship. Anyway, the bottom is completely rusting and it will never sail again. It is in a dry dock and has an air tight/water tight seal around the bottom where air without any humidity is pumped through in an attempt to preserve what remains. Pretty cool actually. Overall, Bristol recieved an A.
Continuing to see different parts of England, I headed to Oxford today with my friend Pete to see the great university that I’ve heard so much about. After just a short bus ride from London, we arrived in Oxford, and it looked exactly like I thought it would. There are many stereotypes of what England is like and so far. . . just about all of them are correct. When you see thatched roofs and sheep in the countryside it only confirms the stereotype. So we walked around Oxford seeing the different colleges throughout the town. We found our way to Christ Church College (probably the most famous one, or at least most picturesque) where we went into the quad and cathedral. Unfortunately, they didn’t tell us until we were already inside that the Great Hall, the dining hall in Harry Potter, was closed!! Ugh! So I took a picture from the outside, but it just was not the same! Apparently there was some big event celebrating the army, so rude of them to close it, didn’t they know I was coming?! After a little more wandering seeing the different colleges, we found the Turf Tavern, after accidentally passing the small pedestrian walkway where it is tucked away. Both a recommendation of Rick Steves and my mom, the Turf Tavern was a must see. It was awesome! Again, it had the stereotypical English pub look about it along with plenty of patio space where we sat outside and enjoyed some lunch and a glass of wine! Pete and I both agreed while sitting there: Life is good! After a lengthy lunch break there, we went and found some ice cream and wandered around the Christ Church Meadows, the beautiful property owned by the college along the river. Tons of people were out as it was one of the first really nice spring Saturdays. Many people were in boats floating along and we saw some of the crew teams practicing. As we walked by people in the park, we even heard a group rehearsing a play. It was so Oxford!! Every person we passed we imagined as having an outrageously high IQ and being far more important and smart than we. It might not have been the case, but it’s definitely a possibility. As we came around the meadows back toward the college, there was a cricket match going on!! Fortunately, I just learned about cricket in one of my classes the other day and could almost follow what was going on. As we stood there watching cricket, with Oxford’s spires as the backdrop and the church bells ringing, Pete commented while laughing, ‘It doesn’t get more English than this!!’ Maybe only if Prince Charles had been playing polo in the next field over. . . To finish up our day in Oxford we went to The Eagle and the Child, the pub where C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkein hung out. We got some frighteningly green beer and enjoyed it in the ‘Rabbit Room’ where the ‘Inklings’ (Lewis & co.) spent their time. While I was there I tried to soak up the wisdom that was once discussed there, and Pete and I struggled to think of a conversation topic that was worthy of such a place. The only bummer was that I didn’t plan ahead enough in advance to make an apointment to visit C.S. Lewis’s home at The Kilns, a few mintues outside of Oxford. Guess I’ll just have to go back sometime, darn 🙂 Oxford was fantastic and most definitely received an A+.
So England and I have gotten to know each other better, and there are some amazing places here, but I’m still looking forward to returning to the States. Top three things I miss about home (excluding people, which is, of course, always first): 1) my cell phone 2) the Subaru 3) the mountains. But only two weeks until I’m back, so I think I can handle it. Off to the coastal city of Brighton next weekend, but first have to finish up some papers (or start some papers!) for school. More again soon, much love to all!