Archive for May, 2013

Day 4

‘Ello, all! Today, our first full day in Cheltenham, has been our most relaxed day of the trip thus far. Although we still were able to get out and do some exploring, there were fewer items on our “to-do” list.

This morning we had an orientation meeting with our two wonderful resident directors, who gave us quite a bit of helpful information on adjusting to English life, as well as general information on how to get around Cheltenham. We are staying near the center of this town of about 100,000 people, and we are blessed with many public transportation options.

A street near our flats.

A street near our flats.

An interesting facet of this trip, which we discussed this morning, is the variety of minute, distinct differences between British and American English. For instance, what Americans call pants, Britons call trousers. What Britons call pants, Americans know as underwear. (Not a pair of words you want to mix up!) There also many, more benign differences, like how silverware is called “cockery”, a sidewalk is called “pavement”, chips are called “crisps”, cookies are “biscuits”, and English muffins are “crumpets”. (I got some crumpets from Tesco yesterday, and the English version of English muffins is equally delicious, though slightly more flexible and doughy than the American equivalent.)

One of the street flower merchants.

One of the street flower merchants.

After orientation, a couple of us went downtown to run some errands and generally explore. Cheltenham is well-known for being a center of excellent shopping, and it was neat to see the wide variety of shops lining the center of town. Laura Ashley, Dwell, Lush, Hotel Chocolat, and many other high-class brands have a presence here, as do an abundance of more affordable places, like Marks & Spencers. If I had more fashion sense, I would excitedly tell you about all of the new trends developing on this side of the Atlantic, so that y’all back in America could be ahead of the game…but alas, I’m not a shopper, and am currently unaware of the trends even in the States! Oh well. I guess you just have to come visit, to see the trends for yourself ;)

A street near the town center.

A street near the town center.

For lunch, Regan and I visited a small shop and ate traditional Cornish pasties. These “hand-pies” are warm, flaky turnovers filled with meat, potatoes, onions, and turnips. The first pasties were made in Cornwall, the furthest west region in England, which happens to contain many tin and coal mines. In the 17th century, miners’ wives would make these pasties for their husbands to take deep into the earth for lunch. Miners could easily re-warm the pasties by heating them on a shovel. Although today, people eat the entire pasty, the miners would discard the crimped portion of the crust because it served as more of a handle for the turnover, as the miners didn’t have time to wash their hands before eating.

Yum!!

Yum!!

I first heard about pasties a few years ago, and was quite excited to discover that a pasty shop was both close by and super affordable. A single traditional pasty costs only about £2.50 (about $4), and makes a delicious and extremely filling meal. I think we will be visiting this shop several more times in the coming weeks :)

Tonight, we have absolutely nothing on the schedule, which is a nice change of pace. However, tomorrow, Regan and I are leaving bright and early for an adventure! I promise to provide pictures and an update when we return :)

 

Love,

Taylor

 

PS – I was super duper excited to find that Tesco (our local grocery) has a POLISH section!! An entire 3-foot wide section of an aisle was entirely dedicated to many wonderful delicacies, the likes of which I’d naught seen in nigh three years. The very best part: they had black currant juice! I drank this stuff nearly every day back in Poland! Though this is a different brand, it’s still tasty, and full of memories :)

They didn't have Prince Polo bars, but this was the next best thing ;)

They didn’t have Prince Polo bars, but this was the next best thing ;)

Our third day

Wednesday was our final day in London. However, before we Cedarvillians left the hostel at noon, a few of us decided to squeeze in just a tad bit more sightseeing. Four of us girls took the tube up to Baker Street, where we visited 221b – the address of the world’s most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes. We hoped to tour the museum, but quickly realized we wouldn’t have time, so instead we took full advantage of the gift shop.

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"Who needs a mystery? Yeah, we need a mystery..." Oh wait, that's the Mary Kate and Ashley detectives song. Just kidding...

“Who needs a mystery — yeah, we need a mystery…”
Oh wait, that’s the Mary Kate and Ashley detectives song. Just kidding…

Even this portion of the building seemed historical. A few of the workers were dressed in period costumes, and the gorgeous hardwood floor creaked wherever you stepped. One of the rooms even featured an enormous, domed skylight (which perhaps serves as evidence that the sun actually shines in London sometimes?).

Another exciting part of our adventure was the opportunity to travel through Baker Street tube station. This section of the tube was much older than any others I had previously visited. In fact, this station was one of the very first on the tube, and is one of the founding stations of the world’s first underground rail service, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year.

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This station held a great deal of character. The walls were made of brick, and modestly decorated with vintage signs. The ticket hall featured a great deal of adornments that appeared original as well. The walls near the platform displayed maps of the original underground, allowing even the causal tourist to see how much the system has grown over its lifetime. This station, like so much of London, was packed full of wonderful historic value.

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It looks like something out of an old movie. I love it.

It looks like something out of an old movie. I love it.

Precisely at noon, our group departed the hostel on a private bus for Cheltenham. Our driver was quite funny, and extremely informative, making sure we knew the history of some of the more famous buildings and locations we passed. For instance, he pointed out a statue in a park near our hostel, and told us that it is on a list of the ten worst statues in London. It is a figure of one William Hosskinson, a member of Parliament during the 1830’s. However, he is most famous not for his political actions, but for being the first person ever killed by a locomotive. The train was traveling at approximately four miles per hour.

After about an hour and a half on the bus, we began to enter the Cotswold region of England. This portion of the country is known for its rolling hillsides, gorgeous vistas, and quaint towns. From the Middle Ages through the early nineteenth century, this region was renowned for producing some of the best wool in Europe. Sheep farming was one of the most lucrative occupations at that time, as a person could easily earn a great deal of money. However, when the Industrial Revolution occurred, and the production of cotton became much cheaper, the bottom fell out of the Cotswold wool market, leaving many people extremely poor. According to Rick Steeves, this major depression of old accounts for the quaintness of the region.

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The yellow fields were incredibly vibrant to behold. Our resident directors informed us that these fields grew rapeseed, from which Canola oil originates.

Finally, we arrived at our destination. Here in Cheltenham, we are staying not in quaint cottages, but in a lovely building in which each of us get our own room! Although the hostel was an unforgettable experience, we all appreciate not having to share a room with nine other people.

My room, pre-unpacking.

My room, pre-unpacking.

Last night, our two Resident Directors gave us a brief orientation to the town, and showed us how to get to the downtown area. They also took our group out to dinner. We ate a most delicious meal at Toby Carvery, a restaurant just outside of Cheltenham.

On the way back to town, a few of us struck up a conversation with one of the locals, who was also returning to Cheltenham.

“Oh, you’re all from America, eh?” he grinned. “One o’ your lot just won the cheese rolling competition, just last week. You see that break in the trees back there?” He pointed behind us, to a hill about half a mile from the Carvery. “That’s where they do it.” I was quite excited to learn this little tidbit. For years, I’ve seen highlights (although they’re more like lowlights, since most people look like they’re getting hurt…) of the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake, in which hundreds of people chase a wheel of Gloucester cheese down an incredibly steep hill. It looks like a very painful sport, but it was neat to see where the event actually occurs.

After returning to town, a few us us got some breakfast fixings from Tesco (yes! Crumpets!) before finishing our day. Cheltenham is a beautiful town, and I’m really looking forward to getting to know it better.

Blessings,

Taylor

Our second day

(Written on the evening of 29 May 2013)

Hello, lovelies! Today has been swell. Most of us had largely recovered from our jet lag by this morning, which was a huge blessing. (It helps that many of us were able to get around 8 or 9 hours of sleep ;) )

Today was our first outing as a group – a trip to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. It was amazing. When we first arrived, we had a tour of the theatre, and learned fascinating background information from our ever-so-kind tour guide. The original Globe Theatre stood from 1599 to 1613, and though it was the same size as the current theatre, the audience held about 3,000 people. The original Globe burnt down in 1613, after an unfortunate accident involving a cannon and the thatched roof during a performance. This more modernized Globe was built in 1997, closer to the Thames River, and holds only about 1,110 audience members. The new Globe, however, lacks nothing in historical value and sheer amazingness. A large portion of the audience (the Groundlings) still stands directly in front of the stage like an Elizabethan mosh pit. The theatre is still built in the round, with seats available even from almost behind the stage. This unique perspective (and excellent acoustics) allows for some unique acting methods – the actors are able to face any direction on the stage, and still be heard as well as seen by much of the audience. The location of the Groundlings also gives the actors a chance to interact with the audience – something rarely seen in modern productions.

Outside the globe

Outside the globe

Inside the Globe

Inside the Globe

We were privileged to watch the Globe’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was an absolutely fantastic rendition. The director stayed true to Elizabethan style, and the play was still completely understandable, relatable, and hilarious. Many elements (including the fairies’ lullaby to Titania, and the introduction of Bottom’s troupe of actors) included musical and rhythmic sequences which were delightfully unexpected. Overall, the show was excellent. If you’re going to London this summer, you most definitely should check it out!

After the Globe, my friend Regan and I swung by the Tower Bridge to take some photos. Though the Tower of London itself was closed, we also stopped by and got our picture with one of the Yeoman guards (affectionately referred to as “beefeaters”). He was very kind, and asked us some about our trip. We learned that he was originally from Cheltenham, and we got some nice advice about places to go. Huzzah for wonderful British people!

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The Tower Bridge

The Tower of London

The Tower of London, where lots of people (including Mary Queen of Scots) were held prisoner and later beheaded, and where lots of other people (like Queen Elizabeth I) were only held prisoner, and not beheaded. This building is no longer a prison, and now holds the crown jewels.

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After visiting the Tower, Regan and I had some fish & chips for dinner. Then, we hopped on the tube and traveled to Earl’s Court Station to find the only Police Box in London. (For the unfamiliar – on the TV show Doctor Who, the Doctor travels in a time machine called the TARDIS, which looks like a Police Box.) After taking our photos, we headed back to the hostel for some much-needed rest.

Yes, it's total tourist food. But it was crazy delicious!!

Yes, it’s total tourist food. But it was crazy delicious!!

The TARDIS! (Unfortunately, I don't think this one was bigger on the inside...)

The TARDIS! (Unfortunately, I don’t think this one was bigger on the inside…)

Overall, day two was quite wonderful. God is awesome! We have yet to get ourselves completely lost, and friendships continue to develop between people on the trip.

Thank you so much for your prayers!

Blessings,

Taylor

‘Ello mates!

Hello, all! As you might be aware, I am currently studying abroad in England, for a brief three weeks, taking a literature class through Cedarville. There are about twenty of us students, plus two professors, making for a lovely experience :) I have been out of the range of Internet for the past couple of days, so I shall now provide these tardy updates…

 

‘Ello mates!

Our first day in England has been busy, busy, busy! We landed in Heathrow around 8:30 am and met our representative from Brethren Colleges Abroad, who will be assisting us when we arrive in Cheltenham. She helped us make our way to our hostel, which is close to the Thames river. (Remember, that’s pronounced “tems”, not “thayms”…don’t want you walking around London, looking like silly Americans, now do we?)

Our hostel

Having never stayed in a hostel before, some of us are experiencing a wee bit of culture shock. The rooms are fairly small, full of many beds, and the stairwells are fairly narrow, and our room is on the third floor. However, we are very fortunate not to have to share our room with any strangers. The main floor of the hostel is super-cute, complete with couches and a restaurant. It feels very adventurous, staying here! I like it J There are bright colors everywhere, and the staff here are very helpful.

For lunch, a group of us went to a local pub called the Grosvenor. The interior of the pub was exactly how I pictured an English pub – a bar at the center, with tables and comfy couches and chairs throughout the rest of the establishment. The floor was covered in posh red carpet, and the walls were covered in retro posters. Seeing that it was only 11:30 am, the only other customer was an elderly man who appeared to be a regular. The man who ran the pub was incredibly kind and tolerant of our ignorant, jet-lagged, tourist ways. I got some vegetable soup with “crusty bread”, as the menu said, and it was especially delicious!

 

As today was our only free day in London, it was my goal to traverse to the British Museum to see their extensive collection of Ancient Egyptian antiquities, including the Rosetta Stone. Although it was raining, a group of 6 of us students decided we didn’t want to take public transit to the museum (which was on the opposite side of Central London)– no, we would walk to the British Museum. I had printed out directions before leaving home, and was confident that I could lead us there with ease.

Well….

The directions from Google gave incorrect road names, so we got turned around. Several times. In pouring rain. But it was an adventure! We ended up inadvertently walking past Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, and Big Ben – a major highlight for our day. Even though our walk took a full hour longer than we expected, and we looked like drowned rats upon arriving at the Museum, we did finally arrive! And it was worth the effort. Rick Steeves was right when he called their collection “the greatest collection of civilization, anywhere”. Dozens of mummies, Assyrian sculptures, Babylonian engravings, statues from the Parthenon, and tons, tons, tons of beautiful old books. And, of course, the Rosetta Stone. It was amazing!!!

The Houses of Parliament

The Houses of Parliament

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

Big Ben, with the London Eye peeking up behind

Big Ben, with the London Eye peeking up behind

The exterior of the British Museum

Museum interior.

Museum interior.

Pillars taken from a Babylonian temple

Pillars taken from a Babylonian temple

A tiny fragment of the Egypt collection. This section of the museum also appeared to be a library, housing hundreds and hundreds of beautiful old books.

A tiny fragment of the Egypt collection. This section of the museum also appeared to be a library, housing hundreds and hundreds of beautiful old books.

The Elgin Marbles. These were taken from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin. Due to some sort of restoration, they cannot be returned to the Parthenon itself, so they remain in the British Museum.

The Elgin Marbles. These were taken from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin. Due to some sort of restoration, they cannot be returned to the Parthenon itself, so they remain in the British Museum.

The Rosetta Stone! This stone presents a decree, written three separate times in three different languages -- Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs at the top, Demotic script in the middle, and Ancient Greek at the bottom. When this stone was discovered, Egyptian hieroglyphs were untranslated. This stone allowed researchers to first translate and understand Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.

The Rosetta Stone! This stone presents a decree, written three separate times — Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs at the top, Demotic script in the middle, and Ancient Greek at the bottom. When this stone was discovered, Egyptian hieroglyphs were untranslated. This stone allowed researchers to begin understanding hieroglyphs, and thus has proved priceless in the realm of Egyptology.

To avoid getting lost again (and killing our feet), we took the Tube back to the hostel. It was a much more historic/rugged experience than taking the Metro in Washington DC, and very enjoyable. (Plus, everyone here has British accents, making almost all experiences much more fantastic ;) )

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Our trip this far is a little bit like summer camp. Our room in the hostel contains five bunk beds, which offers a good chance to chat with the other students – many of whom I don’t know very well. It also has involved lots of adventures that wear you out (i.e. walking all over London), and very little sleep (we had an overnight flight into London, so we are all still jet-lagged). And, like summer camp, it has been lots of fun!

 

Thank you so much to everyone for your prayers! I will do my best to provide more updates in the coming days and weeks

 

Love,

Taylor

 

Soli Deo Gloria

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