Friday, July 30, 2010

The Lions of Bath

In Bath we noticed all of these really cool lions around the city- each of them painted differently. The signs near them said that they were for some kind of art festival promoting Bath. I didn't really get it, but some of the lions were really amazing. This one was in the Pump Room:

And this one was made out of Scrabble tiles. Whoever made it had spelled words throughout it.

There was another one that I really liked, but I don't have a picture of it. However a friend does and I'm hoping to get it so that I can post it up here.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Prequel

I am so terribly behind in this blog (and in the journal I'm supposed to be keeping for class) that it's a bit difficult to remember what day we did what. Everything is starting to run together in my mind. Hopefully as I write things will come back to me.
I believe I left off with Friday from the first week we started travelling.
Saturday we went to several small, thought still cool, castles. First was White Castle. We got there an hour before it opened, so Tom decided to walk along the Offa's Dyke trail. I was a little annoyed at first, but we saw some great scenery.

Then we did Skenfirth

And then Grosmont.

We didn't spend very much time at Grosmont because the town was having their local festival and some of it was set up inside the castle- which I have to say I thought was a lot of fun. Who wouldn't want to have a town festival inside a castle?

After the castles we went to Hay-on-Wye, a bookstore mecca. The amount of bookstores (most of them selling used books) was absolutely mind-blowing. I think I reached nirvana while there. But sadly I did not purchase anything. I saw tons of books that I thought I would like to get, but I just couldn't commit. Maybe because there were so many books I couldn't settle on just one. Whatever the case, I have to say that I ended the day with a sense of anti-climax. But I will go back, and I will buy a book!

On Sunday we went out to Old Beaupre (a castle) to read, write and relax. I ended up doing a sketch of the part of the castle that turned out fairly well. Of course, the experience of spending a Sunday afternoon relaxing in a castle was simply fun.

Monday and Tuesday were both slow days. On Monday morning we met with a group of Welsh speakers who get together in a hotel to practice their language. I have to say that I didn't really enjoy it. I hate talking to strangers as it is, let alone in a language I can barely speak.
However, the afternoon certainly made up for it. We went out to Cardiff Castle and got a tour of the Victorian manor there. It was built by a Lord Bute who wanted it done in a medieval style. Of course, it isn't an authentic medieval (more a Victorian imitation of medieval), but it is certainly gorgeous. All of the rooms were done in rich colors and lavishly decorated. In the children's room the walls were painted with scenes from fairy tales.

Another room, the Arab Room, had it's ceiling done completely in gold. The affect was astounding. The tour guide told us that all of the gold in the manor was actually 24 gold.

In fact, all of the ceilings were absolutely astounding. They were probably my favorite part of the building. Unfortunately, we had to turn off the flash on our cameras so most of the pictures I took didn't turn out well.

Tuesday morning we had class again with a local group. This time we went to a Welsh speaking pub called Y Mochen Du. I was uncomfortable again, but they have some good hot chocolate there, so that made up for it. In the afternoon we talked about the plans for the next day in London.

Now I've already written about what happened Wednesday night, but the day was as incredible as the night was... cold and annoying.
We started off at the London Museum and went to the exhibits featuring the Stone, Bronze and Iron ages as well as Roman and Medieval time periods. Most of it was information we had already covered so I didn't really look at anything too deeply. I was anxious to see the rest of London.
After the museum we were free to go where ever we wished; we would meet up again in the evening for the play. My friends and I wanted to go to the British Museum, the British Library and Portobello Road. We're going to have another day in London and we're planning on buying a pass that allows us access to a lot of sites that cost money, so we decided to hit the free things on this trip.
Our first stop was....

The entire time we were there I had the song form Bedknobs and Broomsticks stuck in my head. Like so much of what we do on this trip, I wish that I had had more time to explore the area. We only got through maybe a third of the market before heading back to the Tube station. Still, we found a place that was selling scarves three for five and I also bought a cute headband. And now when people ask where I got them I can say on Portobello Road.

Next we went to the British Library to view their special collections. Sadly I couldn't take any pictures; photography was absolutely forbidden because of the delicacy of the documents. Still, it was an astounding collection. They had old books and hand written manuscripts several famous authors- my favorite being Jane Austen's writing desk and notebook. They had original transcripts of music from composers like Beethoven. There was a Gutenberg Bible, beautiful illuminated manuscripts, and other astounding religious books and scrolls. The experience was really almost indescribable. Anyone who loves literature, books, and music should go.

Our final stop was at the British Museum, another home to amazing artifacts. I saw the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles, Cleopatra's mummy, an Easter Island head, Greek pottery, and countless other amazing artifacts. When I think back to how much I saw that day I can't quite believe it.

However, I do have one complaint with the British Museum: it's lack of air conditioning. Only a few rooms were kept cool for reasons of preservation. In other places that wouldn't have been much of a problem, but the British Museum is crowded (or it was on that day). It was the suffiest, hottest, most suffocating building I have ever been in. I thought I was going to die before we came upon the exhibit for the mummies (where it is cool and misted). The most annoying part is that fighting heatstroke made it difficult to enjoy the wonders of the museum. Next time I go I'm going to carry one of those hand-held fans with me!

As you know, in the evening we saw Henry IV in the Globe as a group. It was a very good performance, and being in the Globe was an awesome experience. We had groundling tickets and my friends and I were able to get a spot right by the stage- which turned out to be slightly dangerous. Some of the girls got sprayed when one of the actors 'threw up' and I got a little 'beer' spilled on me. Also, thanks to Doctor Who, I kept expecting someone to yell "Expelliarmus" at the end of the play.
I've already related what occurred after the play, and I spent most of Thursday being excessively lazy.

Then on Friday we went to Bath! Although we started the day with visits to two small towns: Bradford-upon-Avon to see a Saxon church and Lacock to see it's abbey-turned-manor. Bradford is a very cute town, and even though just about every town we drive through seems picturesque, it's one of my favorites.

Besides seeing the abbey in Lacock (where scenes from Harry Potter were shot), we walked around the town a bit, which has been home to a couple of movies itself. Can you guess what movies from the pictures?

Pride and Prejudice (A&E) and Emma. In one morning I visited Meryton, Highbury, and Hogwarts.

And then finally Bath! We started with a quick tour around the city, ending in the Royal Cresent. And I now know why Anne is so out of breath in the newest Persuasion. Running from the Pump Room up to the Royal Cresent is a fair distance, most of it uphill. Add to that a corset! No wonder she's so out of breath that she can barely kiss Wentworth! (if you can't tell I think that is one of the silliest, most poorly executed scenes ever filmed). Then we had some free time before going to the Roman Bath Museum. I wanted to go to the Assembly Rooms, but I was told that they cost money. Later I found out that they were free. Oh well, I will go back!

The museum was a very good one- engaging and informative. I especially enjoyed reading the curses Romans would throw into the spring, hoping they would reach the goddess. Most of them were cursing the person who had stolen their cloak or pin or other items.
Just before leaving Bath I slipped into the Pump Room (which is connected to the museum) to take the waters. Some of the girls thought it was really gross, but I didn't think it tasted that bad. It was very warm, and minerally but I've had tap water at home that has had a stronger, more bitter flavor.
So far Bath has been one of my favorite cities. I would love to go back again and explore it some more.
Well, I guess that's most of that week. I'm slowly catching up!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tardis Sighting!

We were going into Bath and the traffic was absolutely horrible. I was just idly watching the cars in front of us, when I notice something large and blue. It took a second for my eyes to focus on what I was seeing, and then a another second for my brain to really register that a Tardis (or what looks like one) is being hauled on the highway. I cry out and start frantically searching my purse for my camera. As the traffic begins to move I remember that I had put it in my pocket and not my bag. Luckily I was able to snap this shot before it had completely moved out of the range of my vision. I was incredibly excited and was looking for another sight of it the whole time I was in Bath. Also, I'm pretty sure everyone in my van is now certain of my weirdness/nerdyness... nerdiness (?). But I guess they were all going to find out eventually.
I can't be completely certain that it was a blue police box- we were never close enough for me to see it in detail- but it definitely looks like one!

English to American 2

take away- take out
footpath- trail
engery- calories (I think; food labels here are difficult to decipher)

I've also had a blackcurrant Starburst- blackcurrant is a very popular flavor here- some seriously delicious chocolate and Willy Wonka chips. That's not what they're called, but my nickname for them. They have some crazy chip (or crisp) flavors here: Spanish chicken paella, Australian barbecued kangaroo, German bratwurst, roast chicken, and one of my favorites English roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Some are really gross (like the barbecued kangaroo) but some are actually yummy. They have more normal flavors too of course. Also, there is this amazing place called Shake Away that produces the best milkshake ever. I've had a lemon drizzle cake one, which was delicious. They actually blend cake into the shake. AMAZING

Another fun thing about the UK is their signs; they are absolutely hilarious. The school crossing signs look like a mother dragging her kid and they have crosswalk signs showing elderly, stooped people holding canes. Here's a picture of one that I took at a castle:

Hilarious right? I like the guy who's squinting best. Anyways, the signs here are always making me laugh.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Wild Night in London

I realize that I'm skipping ahead chronologically since I was just in London this morning, but I figured people would want to hear about the circumstances leading to me spending the night in Paddington Station. So here I go:
We had gone to the Globe to see Henry IV (which, by the way, was fantastic). Our show let out at about 10:30, but of course it took a while for everyone to stop by the toilets and then get reorganized. At about 10:50ish I'd say we headed off to go look at St Paul's- the last train left at 11:30, so in theory we had enough time.
We crossed the Thames on the bridge that gets destroyed in Harry Potter 6. The view of London was breathtaking from there. From the bridge it's not very far to St Pauls at all. We walk down the street looking a it, and then when facing the front stairs some of the girls start singing the "tuppence" song from Mary Poppins (the part that I always wanted mom to skip). After that brief interlude we head on down the street for the Underground station. Here's where things start to go wrong.
Tom takes us down to Blackfriar, not realizing that it's closed. And instead of heading back up to St Paul's, which is fairly close (although I don't know why we didn't go there first), we go on down to the next one, because surely it can't be too far.
We walk, and walk, and walk. But with Tom it's closer to a run. He's a rather short man, but the speed at which he walks is ridiculous. Everyone is strung out in a long line, with people having to break into run occasionally to keep up with Tom and people crossing streets is a very perilous manner.
Finally Tom asks for directions to the nearest stop- and we find out that it's STILL not close. We cross the street, and then Tom himself takes off running. It was ridiculous. A group of thirty odd people, mostly girls, running through the streets of London, screaming.
Needless to say, I was not doing too well by this point. I've never really enjoyed physical exertion- especially running. My feet are aching from a day spent walking around London and then standing for three hours (yes, we were groundlings at the play). My breath is coming in great gasps, and I'm beginning to seriously lag behind with some other girls who are equally out of shape.
We catch up with everyone at the Underground station, and once Tom has made sure everyone is present and explained the stops and connection to Ana (one of the supervising adults) he takes off ahead of us. A group of girls had already gotten on a train and left.
So we're finally on the Underground. We file into a cab, and all fall into seats. I pop some sugar and some nuts (see Mom, I'm taking care of myself), and begin watching the time. Remember I said that the last train leaves London at 11:30. Well, at 11:30 we pull into the stop where we have to disembark and make a connection. For some reason however, this escapes the others and we take off running through the Underground station- which is rather warren-like. I'm shaking my head at the ridiculousness of running for a train that you've already missed, but keep up with the group.
We make in onto our connection, and in a few minutes arrive at Paddington Station. In the train terminal we meet up with Tom and the others girls, far after our train is gone. Tom gives us a few options: spend the night in Paddington Station or take a train that could take to get us part of the way there, but we would end up arriving in Cardiff much later. We pretty much unanimously decide that the later is waste of money and a little silly, and begin to make ourselves comfortable.
We all use the toilet (which costs 30p) since it will close at 12, which is quickly approaching, buy some food from the few places still open and either sit on the ground or benches. Eventually Tom manages to procure us some cardboard (which is actually an amazing insulator against the freezing floor) and arranges some of the benches into a square enclosure for us. I spend the night alternating between reading (I'm so glad I almost always have a book with me), talking, and dozing. All the while absolutely freezing. At 4:30 someone notices that one of the stores is open again and I rush over to buy a hot chocolate and a croissant- two of the most lovely things I have ever ingested.
As 5:30 approaches we begin to watch the board to see what platform we will be on. And watch, and watch and watch. I'm beginning to grow more than a little nervous now. I've developed a lovely pair of blisters on my foot, I'm tired and sore from sleeping on a stone floor, and I haven't eaten very much in the last several hours. I really, really don't want to have to run for it.
At about five till the board finally says delayed. We all sigh and several of us, including myself, sit down for a few minutes until the board tells us to go to Platform 2- which thankfully is the one we were closest too.
Once on, everyone absolutely crashes. It's about a two hour ride to Cardiff, and my eyes were closed throughout most of it. In Cardiff we catch a train to our local station (Thank Goodness) and then all make our tired way home and straight into bed. I think it was about 7:30 when my head hit the pillow.
After a few hours I force myself up- so that I won't get my days and nights switched around- and hobbled downstairs to get some food and write this up.
It was a long, tiring night, and if I could go back in time I certainly wouldn't do it again, but now I can say that I've slept on cardboard in a London train station.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Continuing the adventures of my first week

We covered an incredible amount of sites during the first week of travel- look how long it took me to write up Monday (which is still one of my favorite days so far). It feels as if I've been here forever, not just a little over two weeks.

Anyways, Tuesday we the cathedral at Gloucester, where scenes from Harry Potter 1,2 and 6 were filmed. I took lots of pictures of walls where this and that scene was filmed, and now can't tell the shots apart.

And this box was left from the set

Besides the link with Harry Potter, it's a very pretty cathedral, and the cloisters have these amazing fan vaults.

After Gloucester we went to Stratford. My friends and I went to the Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare is buried along with his wife and one of his children (I can't recall which one, I was mostly just interested in Shakespeare). In the evening we saw King Lear. It was my first time seeing a live performance of one of Shakespeare's plays. I rather enjoyed it, but it didn't seem fantastic to me.

Then on Wednesday we went to the White Horse of Uffington, which is the oldest chalk hill ..... carving in England. Right below it is the hill where St George supposedly slayed the dragon.

We also went to Oxford. Of course we went to the Eagle and Child and I got a picture of C.S Lewis' signature. But I have to figure out how to get it from my phone to my computer. My normal method won't work because the card reader in my laptop isn't working......

On the way home we stopped at Stow-on-Wold to see a church with this awesome door!

Thursday started with us going to Avebury, which I loved. The older the site the happier I am! I knew the stone would be huge, but I was still amazed standing before them.

My favorite part of Thursday was seeing Chawton- the house where Jane Austen lived when she did most of her writing. The gardens around the house are absolutely beautiful. Someday I want to have gardens like those. They set up the inside of the house to look like it would have when she lived there, and they have a bunch of her things. Sadly we didn't have much time there- or at least it didn't feel like much time to me! Also, I could have spent far too much money in the gift shop. But behaved and only bought one book- a cute little copy of Persuasion.

After Chawton we went to Winchester. I didn't really have much time there though. We had been given two options: go to Chawton and sacrifice time in Winchester or forgo Chawton and spend the whole afternoon in the city. Needless to say my choice was not difficult. Still, I did get a peek at the Round Table.

Friday morning we stopped by a dolmen, and then went to the Museum of Welsh Life, which is a very cool museum. Most of it is outdoors and consists of various buildings that have been brought from all over Wales and rebuilt on the site. All of the buildings have been furnished for a certain time period. One of my favorite areas was the Celtic village- of course. I hope we go back again- there's a lot more I'd like to see!

Well I think that just about covers most of my first week. It's crazy how much we've done already!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

More from Monday

This would be so much easier if I didn't have so many pictures to put up. I took a total of 240 pictures on Monday. However, I am thankfully on the last castle of the day, and as I said before, the rest of the week should go quicker.
Our final castle of the day was Usk, the lost garden castle. Being at it was like being in a fairytale.

Also at Usk were these amazing, giant Queen Ann's Lace flowers- although the sign posted near them called them Giant Hogsweed and declared them to be rather poisonous. My professor then told us that if you touched them and then brushed your eyes you could go blind. So I'm not sure if they're the same plant......... Still, it was awesome to see flowers taller than me!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Finishing Monday

Yes, I am just still working on what we did Monday. After Tintern, which I reiterate was amazing, we had a few issues. The wrong destination had been put into our GPS (Gypsy). We ended up going up this tiny, steep steep road with cars coming toward us and coming up behind us. We wanted to turn around, so we went up this even steeper and smaller road, and got a little stuck. However, with the help of a very nice woman (who may have been afraid for the safety of her house) we managed to get turned in the right direction. Our poor very brave driver is driving a manual, a van and in Britain all for the first time! She was a little stressed out.
After heading the right direction we went to Monmouth. The castle was the birthplace of Henry V, but there's not very much left so it was a bit of a let down. However, there was this awesome tree:
After Monmouth we went to Rhaglen Castle, which after a week is still one of my favorites. It is an absolutely gorgeous, ruined building. One of my favorite things about it is that you can see where fireplaces and doors would have been in the exposed walls. Walking around these castles, history becomes practically tangible.

I still have one more castle from Monday to write about, but once again my internet it not loading pictures well so I'm going to have to postpone. However, the rest of the week should go faster- I didn't take as many pictures