Posts Tagged ‘cheltenham’

Evensong

Hello, all!

I would apologize for not posting anything yesterday…except, nothing very exciting happened. We had class, I made chili mac & cheese for dinner, and that was really it. But now for news of truly interesting occurrences!

This morning, we had class at a different part of the University of Gloucester campus. This section of the school is much older than the area where we had class last week, and I thought it worthy of a few photos. :)

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This afternoon, several of us rode in the top of a double-decker bus to the nearby city of Gloucester. There, we had the privilege of taking part in the Gloucester Cathedral Evensong service.

A gorgeous view of the Cotswolds from our splendid spot on the bus.

A gorgeous view of the Cotswolds from our splendid spot on the bus. :)

A rough equivalent to the Catholic Vespers, Evensong is an evening prayer service of the Anglican church in which many of the prayers are sung. The Gloucester Cathedral has an excellent boys choir, and we were blessed with the opportunity to hear them sing this evening.

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Gloucester Cathedral

As expected, the service was absolutely breathtaking. It began with a long piece played on the Cathedral’s absolutely stunning pipe organ, followed by a Psalm 147 sung by the boys/men’s choir.

As the choir began its first song, my jaw fell open and a huge smile crept over my face. I have heard quite a lot of beautiful music in my life, but this service ranked near the top. The bell-like voices of the younger choir members were exquisitely balanced by the rich, deep tones of the men. The gorgeous mixes of melody and harmony danced around one another, bouncing off of the cathedral’s ornate, aging walls, falling into my ears like dewdrops of golden sound. We sat in the nave, surrounded by carvings, staring into the eyes of stained glass saints. The atmosphere was gorgeous, the singing absolutely incredible, and the whole experience — almost surreal.

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Today is the Feast Day of St. Barnabas, so the New Testament Scripture reading mentioned him. In addition to the many choral elements, the service also featured communal prayer, two Scripture readings, and a congregational reading of the Apostle’s Creed. This seemed more like a concert than a church service, but it was still wonderful to praise God in such a manner. :)

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(If you’d like to listen to an Evensong service, to get a taste of the amazing sound, I found this example on the BBC’s website. And there’s also this shorter example, in which the Gloucester choir sings the Magnificat.)

You needed to buy a pass in order to take photos inside of the Cathedral, and the office was closed by the time we arrived, so I have no photos within the church. However, it was so beautiful, and there is so much history inside that we didn’t get to see, that Regan and I are going back tomorrow. You can expect lots and lots of pictures in my next post :)

Have a lovely evening!

Love,

Taylor

A Cheltenham Composer

Our second Friday in England has been nice and relaxing. After running a few errands, Regan and I visited TangBerry’s, a restaurant near Cheltenham town center that advertised “great British food”. Their advertisement did not lie! For my brunch, I got a “half monty” – a smaller version of the classic Full English Breakfast. Even though my portion was not the largest available, it was too much for me to eat!

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(Clockwise, from left: two hashbrowns, an egg, a sausage, a rasher of bacon, a fried tomato, one slice of black pudding, sautéed mushrooms, and baked beans. Not pictured: a slice of toast, and my Assam tea)

Although it was a cholesterol-laden feast, this plate of traditional greasy goodness was certainly appealing. To my surprise, the baked beans were the best part of the meal. They had a sweet freshness that I’ve never tasted in American baked beans, which added a new dimension to the entire meal. I appreciated the novelty of the entrée, and was glad to cross it off of my Britain bucket list…but I don’t think I would eat it again. It was a bit too much meat and grease for my liking.

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Fun fact: TangBerry’s holds a world record for producing the world’s most expensive bacon sandwich. This sandwich, which costs a whopping 150 pounds, includes truffles, an egg, saffron, truffle oil, several types of rare breed bacon, and gold leaf. Though nobody was eating the “Bacon Bling” while we were in the cafe, I did get a glimpse of it’s place on the menu board. Yes indeed, it does exist.

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This afternoon, I went with some other Cedarvillians to the Gustav Holst birthplace and museum. Holst was a composer who lived around the turn of the 20th century, and composed one of my favorite orchestral pieces of music: The Planets suite. (If you listen closely to Mars and Jupiter, you can hear themes which John Williams borrowed for the Star Wars soundtracks.)

The part of the house I most appreciated came in the very first room. The piano Holst kept with him at his London home, on which he composed The Planets, was the centerpiece of the museum’s downstairs parlor. Though the public isn’t allowed to play on this gorgeous instrument, it was still a joy to see the keys from whence those wonderful melodies first echoed.

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Holst bought this piano used. The price? £12.

Holst only lived in this house for the first seven years of his life, but the curators have done an excellent job of preserving its Victorian charm. All four floors of the house are have been maintained to looks just as they did at the turn of the 20th century, and provide an educational experience for all visitors.

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Bells to ring for the servants...just like on Downton Abbey!

Bells to ring for the servants…just like on Downton Abbey!

After a relaxing afternoon, I made a throw-together lentil/pasta/tomato/spices stew thing for our dinner club (which apparently wasn’t too terrible, because we didn’t have any leftovers…). Then, several of us students got together and watched Atlantis: The Lost Empire, to indulge our inner children. ;)

That’s it for today. More adventures tomorrow!

Blessings,

Taylor

A walk in the park with Sherlock

We have been incredibly blessed with beautiful weather here in Cheltenham. Almost every day this week, we have had temperatures around 70 F, with lots of lovely sun. Because of this gorgeous weather, Dr. Calhoun decided (with student encouragement) that our class would meet in a park this morning. We were quite excited!

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The setting was beautiful, and it was nice not to be cooped up in a stuffy classroom. However, traditional English weather decided to play some tricks on us. Instead of the sunny 70s, and the temperature dipped down into the high 50s, with an intermittent breeze and a thick layer of rain-heavy clouds. We still had class outside, but because many of us had dressed for considerably warmer weather, we were released for the day considerably earlier than usual.

The highlight of my day came not when class got out early, but as we were walking to class. Our route takes us directly past Spencer’s Café, where some of us ate lunch on Sunday. We had heard rumors that the film crew from the BBC show Sherlock had filmed at the café several weeks ago, but we had no confirmation. This morning, however, we received our proof.

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Our usual path was blocked by several people in fluorescent vests, lots of equipment, and some camera men. That’s right – the Sherlock film crew was back. As soon as we realized what was going on, we stopped dead in our tracks with looks of awe and amazement on our faces. (And yes, we girls fell into fits of excited giggles. It was pretty silly.) One of the men standing near the camera with a look of authority on his face (I think he may have been the director) saw our looks of wonderment and chuckled at us. I sort of wanted to stick around to see if Benedict Cumberbatch or Martin Freeman were on the set anywhere, but we had to get to class. Regardless, it was still super exciting!

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For lunch, I had a chicken tikka ‘toastie’. Toasties are essentially what Americans would call paninis. However, the English also have their paninis. Here, paninis tend to be made on baguettes, whereas toasties are made on traditional “square” bread. Chicken tikka is available in almost every cafe you visit. This variant of British Indian food was my first exposure to the cuisine. It resembled chicken salad, except it was made with curry and a tomato cream sauce; the curry added a rich, complex flavor to the dish. I definitely want to find a recipe for this, so I can make it upon coming home. :)

Tomorrow, our Cedarville group will take our first field trip! We shall travel to Stratford-upon-Avon, to see Hamlet performed in Shakespeare’s hometown! Since Shakespeare is fabulous, and Hamlet is one of my favorite plays, I’m super duper stoked.

That’s about all I have for the night. Cheers!

~Taylor

PS – In England, the term “cheers” does not always refer to drinking. (I haven’t participated in any drinking in this country, so I don’t actually know if they say it in that context…) Instead, “cheers” is a term one says instead of “see you later” or “have a good day”. Clerks and cashiers in shops frequently use the term.

She blinded me with science!

We are fortunate enough to be in town during the annual Cheltenham Science Festival. Each year, this festival brings in dozens of excellent speakers and puts on exhibitions that appeal to people with all levels of science knowledge. This year, some of the big-name speakers include James Watson (one of the co-discoverers of the helical structure of DNA) and Peter Higgs (one of the namesakes of the Higgs-Boson particle).

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Today after class, Steven and I decided to explore the wonders of the festival. Of the group of Cedarville students, Steven and I are the sole science majors, and thus the only ones interested in attending. Even so, we had a great time. We were privileged to listen to a lecture held by Jenifer Glynn, the sister of Rosalind Franklin.

IMG_1457Rosalind Franklin was a prominent scientist in the mid-20th century who studied the structure of carbon and analyzed the composition of the tobacco mosaic virus. She is most famous, however, for her contribution to the discovery of DNA’s helical structure. James Watson and Francis Crick used her discoveries (largely without her knowledge), and published their treatise on DNA’s structure before anyone else in the world. Franklin would have received the Nobel Prize for this discovery along with them, but died of ovarian cancer at the age of 37, five years before the prize was awarded. Although the story has a sad ending, Franklin accomplished significant works within her short life. It was neat to hear from Ms. Glynn, and to get a perspective of Franklin’s life outside of the lab.

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Incidentally, Gustav Holst, a Cheltenham native who wrote a series of pieces called The Planets, was Rosalind and Jenifer Franklin’s music instructor when they were children. A statue of him is installed in a fountain at the center of the park where the science festival is held.

This afternoon has been filled with the menial tasks associated with living on one’s own…doing laundry, buying groceries, making dinner, etc.

It was my first time using a laundromat!

It was my first time using a laundromat!

A group of the Cedarville students in my set of flats have joined with those living in the adjacent flats to form a sort of dinner club. One person makes (or buys) dinner for the group, on a rotation schedule. It saves a bit of money in the long run, and is a good way to build friendships. Tonight, we had pizza and vegetables. It was probably one of the more nutritious meals of late, and we had a lot of fun :)

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That’s all for this evening. Time to review for class tomorrow!

Blessings,

Taylor

Monday, monday

‘Ello, lovelies! Today was our first day of classes. Our professors have been kind enough to ensure that classes on Mondays don’t begin until the afternoon, to allow some recovery (and homework) time for people who travel on the weekends. It was nice to be able to relax a bit this morning, and get some extra reading in. :)

The class I’m taking (Introduction to Literature), will focus on five different works: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis; Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling; and The Hobbit and Leaf by Niggle by J.R.R. Tolkien. In studying each of these works, we will also discuss the lives of each of the authors, in addition to how each work incorporates elements of faith. (In summary: it’s going to be a great class. ;) )

After class, Regan and I knocked around the town centre for a while before stopping for dinner at Bon Appetit. This place is excellent for university students on a budget: everything they sell costs only 99 pence! (That’s roughly equal to $1.64.) They don’t have a large selection of items, but that’s a non-issue. When you’re getting food for that cheap, you don’t complain about selection.

IMG_1445They even give you fairly large portions for the price. I had sausage and mashed potatoes (known to some as bangers and mash). This meal has been on my British bucket list ever since we first learned about English customs in British Literature class in high school. The verdict: a simple, filling, tasty meal. It doesn’t score too high on the nutrition scale, but I still enjoyed eating it.

Looks unappetizing, but tastes delicious.

Looks unappetizing, but tastes great.

Oh! Exciting news! Yesterday, 2 June 2013, marked the 60th Anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Last year, the country of England celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – the 60th anniversary of her reign — by adding an extra bank holiday to the traditional schedule, in addition to various royal tours and ceremonies. (When Her Majesty first became ruler, they held back her coronation a full 16 months to allow proper mourning for the death of her father, King George IV.) This year’s celebration is to be a bit more low-key, but surely will encompass the same grandeur of any celebration of royalty.

Well, folks, that’s all for today. I hope you have a wonderful evening, afternoon…whatever time of day it is that you’re reading this. ;)

Blessings,

Taylor

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

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