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!

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