Posts Tagged ‘england’

A Day of Firsts

For our second Saturday in England, Regan and I traveled a few miles north of Cheltenham to the ridiculously adorable town of Winchcombe. Though this town is about the same size as Cedarville, it is centuries older, and thus holds abundantly more history.

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Our first stop was Juri’s Tea Room, where we prepared for our day with a light brunch and some tea. I had my first-ever cup of Darjeeling, which is described by some as the “champagne of tea” for its delicate and astringent flavor. …Okay, I read that on the menu, and don’t actually know much about the tea itself. Regardless, I thought the Darjeeling was excellent, and tasted rather delicate. Definitely a tea I would have again.

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Throughout England, walking trails crisscross the countryside. It is a long-held English tradition to go out on a walking trip, trekking from one town to another. Winchcombe is located along the Cotswold Way, a 102-mile footpath that links various villages of the region. We saw many people in Winchcombe adorned with sturdy shoes and walking sticks, which gave me the itch to give this walking business a go. Thus, Regan and I were adventurous, and took a footpath through a couple of fields.

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It felt a bit rebellious…we had to go through a few different gates, and there weren’t many other people around. But, we didn’t get in any trouble, so I would call our adventure a success.

At the end of the path lay our primary destination for the day — my very first true English castle! Sudeley Castle was the home of Katherine Parr, the sixth and final wife of King Henry VIII. She was the only wife to physically survive the marriage without experiencing a divorce.

Winchcombe 130Although we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, the interior of the castle featured an excellent exhibition on Katherine’s life, as well as on the lives of some of the people who inherited the castle. Emma Dent was one of the last proprietors. She used the castle as a museum, and some of the articles she had collected were on display. These included handkerchiefs and flowers worn by Queen Victoria, menus from dinner at Windsor Castle, and pieces of manuscript from such well-known people as Charles Darwin, Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, Charles Dickens, and among dozens of others.

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Regan especially enjoyed the portion about Katherine Parr. My friend is a history major, and one of her favorite topics is the Tudor period and the lives of the wives of King Henry VIII. It was fun to travel there with her, because she was able to fill me in on information that the displays left out. ;)

Winchcombe 129Like any good castle, Sudeley featured a lovely chapel just adjacent to the main building. On the day we visited, a wedding was to take place in the afternoon, so we had the delight of seeing the chapel decorated with some lovely flower arrangements.

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The tomb of Katherine Parr, inside the chapel.

The tomb of Katherine Parr, inside the chapel.

I took a short video of the chapel interior, in case you’d like a glimpse of the stained glass.

A cypress of Lebanon, just like in the Bible! It was unbelievably immense.

A cypress of Lebanon, just like in the Bible! It was unbelievably immense.

 

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The castle’s myriad gardens were absolutely spectacular, and exactly what I had hoped to find on this adventure. Unlike the gardens at Anne Hathaway’s cottage, these were meticulously groomed. A plethora of flower varieties bloomed amongst tall, shapely topiaries. Some of the topiaries were immense, and had pathways cut inside of them! (I took a video of some of our garden adventures…feel free to ignore the commentary.)

Winchcombe 219The gardens also afforded an incredible view of the surrounding countryside. With sheep “baa-ing” and a cool breeze blowing, it felt like we were truly in the pastoral Cotswolds. (Which makes sense…because we were!)

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After walking back into Winchcombe, we visited the Railway Museum. This tiny treasure appeared to be one man’s private collection of hundreds of signs and pieces of memorabilia from all ages of Britain’s train industry. It was cool to see how so much of the industry has changed over the years, and yet how many aspects have remained the same.

I think the American Pickers would be friends with the owner of this museum, if he was in the States.

I think the American Pickers would be friends with the owner of this museum if he wasn’t so far across the Atlantic.

On the bus between Winchcombe and Cheltenham, we were afforded another fantastic view of the countryside. The trip took us over Cleeve Hill, which is the tallest hill in the county of Gloucestershire. (That’s pronounced “Glos-ter-sher”. Don’t worry, it’s taken me about a week to figure out.) It was a breathtaking view! The other people on the bus probably thought we were crazy, with all of our photo-snapping…but we didn’t mind the funny looks. We felt the need to appreciate God’s creation. :)

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After returning to Cheltenham, Regan and I did a bit of walking and (eventually) found the large Tesco in town. (The version we have been frequenting is at the center of town, and is about the size of a convenience store. This Tesco was approximately the size of Walmart, though was considerably further away.) On our way, we got to walk through a new area of Cheltenham, which held some lovely treasures — Polish grocery stores and restaurants!

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Cheltenham is home to many people who have immigrated from Poland in order to find work. The two most spoken languages in Cheltenham are English and Polish, the same as in Łodz, Poland (although, I think the proportions are quite different, between the two cities… ;) ) Seeing the grocery stores, filled with old familiar brands, and letters that don’t exist in the English alphabet, made me all giddy. :)

To conclude our Saturday of fun, Regan and I visited a local Indian restaurant, for our first super-authentic-actually-in-a-restaurant Indian meal. I had some sort of lamb & lentil dish, cooked in a tamarind sauce, which was quite good.

From left to right: rice, entree, vegetables, dal, cucumber yogurt. Not pictured: naan bread. I combined the rice and the entree on the big silver plate in the middle.

From left to right: rice, entree, vegetables, dal, cucumber yogurt. Not pictured: naan bread. I combined the rice and the entree on the big silver plate in the middle.

That’s it for our Saturday adventures. A post about Sunday is on its way!

Blessings,

Taylor

Hamlet and High Tea

Yesterday, our Cedarville crew took an outing to the beautiful and historic Stratford-upon-Avon. This town, located about an hour and a half east of Cheltenham, is where the great playwright William Shakespeare was born, raised, and buried.  Considering that half of our group is studying Shakespeare with Dr. Wilfong, this was a perfect place to travel, and has been my most-looked-forward-to outing.

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We first stopped at the childhood cottage of Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife. This is known as the most romantic of all of the protected Shakespeare cottages, because it is where the couple first courted. During Shakespeare’s lifetime, the cottage was much smaller, and consisted of only two rooms; Anne’s brother added an additional ten over a period of several years, after he received the tenancy.

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The cottage and the gardens surrounding it were beautiful! Peonies, poppies, allium, and many flowers whose names I don’t know bloomed, while well-tended rows of cabbage, peas, and other vegetables sprouted nearby. Though a bit smaller, this setting was almost as beautiful as Żelazowa Wola, Chopin’s birthplace. It was touching to see how much people care about Shakespeare’s legacy, and how they have gone to so much effort to preserve the land.

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Stepping into the house was like stepping back in time. Stone slabs made up the floor in the original kitchen, and low, beamed ceilings (originally to keep in the heat) made tall visitors wary. The guides on our tour were quite informative, and provided lots of information as to how the kitchen worked and what life would have been like in the house. Although most of the furniture was from after Shakespeare’s time, all of it was still incredibly old, and told the story of a house built more than one hundred years before the United States gained her independence.

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Our next stop was Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare was both baptized and buried.

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Of the churches I’ve visited so far on this trip, this was one of smallest. Nevertheless, what Holy Trinity lacked in size, it made up for in grandeur and priceless artifacts. Like the other churches, gorgeous, intricate stained glass windows covered the walls, and graves were inlaid throughout the floor. As usual, some of the most interesting artifacts lay near the altar.

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Marked with a blue cord and located in a place of honor, just in front of the altar, lied the remains of William Shakespeare, along with the remains of most of his family. This was almost surreal to see. The body of the man who people study extensively, whose plays still draw huge audiences, who completely revolutionized the English language, was right in front of us. After almost four hundred years, the corpse is now probably little more than dust, but being in the church where he was baptized, and walking in the same places where he walked still felt significant.

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To the right of the grave stood a weathered stone baptismal, where Shakespeare was christened.

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Off to the side stood a bookstand, where an old Bible was encased. At first glance, it appeared to be simply another beautiful old book, but a closer look at the nearly worn-away words on the sign revealed the book’s true significance. Not only was this book a beautiful example of the Word of God – it was a first edition of the King James Bible. Oh man. Seeing that – a book that played such a huge role in furthering Christianity in the English-speaking world – was to me more significant than seeing Shakespeare’s grave. After all, Shakespeare was just a man, who is dead. But this, a timeworn example of the living Word of God, which God uses so often to turn people’s lives around, was so much more powerful.

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After leaving the church, we trekked down into the center of Stratford and were given a few hours to explore. Many of the town’s buildings featured iconic timber-and-plaster Tudor architecture, which gave one the feeling of walking into a fairy tale. Stratford, like almost every town we have visited, was exceptionally clean, and its stores had names that fit with historic themes. There was Iago’s Jewelers, Othello’s hotel, a restaurant called The Food of Love, and a shop called Much Ado About Toys. The entire place was clever, cute, and wonderful.

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The next highlight of our day came in the late afternoon, when our entire group had the privilege of taking high tea together. What a lovely, joyous occasion it was! The first course consisted of delicious finger sandwiches, with flavor options of cucumber, egg mayonnaise, tomato & cheese, and smoked salmon. Gee, were they delicious. Having the sandwiches cut in such small sizes made you not feel guilty for eating more than one, and gave you the opportunity to try many different flavors.

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Next, we had fruitcake, scones, clotted cream, and jam. Mmmm. (Throughout the meal, we of course had English Breakfast tea.)

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The entire experience was delicate, refined (well, as refined as you can get with a group of silly Americans), and completely wonderful.

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After tea, we made our way to our final stop, and the one I had been looking forward to most – the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, to see Hamlet! The theatre has been recently renovated, and sits at a gorgeous location along the River Avon.

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A view from the fourth floor of the Theatre Tower.

A view from the fourth floor of the Theatre Tower.

After picking up our tickets, a few of us took advantage of hour remaining free time to explore one of the costume exhibits in the theatre. It was especially neat because they showed how the costumes of the same characters (like Hamlet, for example) have changed throughout the years, as different producers do different interpretations on the same play. It was also neat to see costumes  worn by famous members of the Royal Shakespeare Company, like Ian McKellen (Gandalf, from Lord of the Rings), David Tennant (from Doctor Who), Patrick Stewart (from X-Men and Star Trek: The Next Generation), and Judi Dench (from…everything).

David Tennant's costume from the RSC's 2008 production of Hamlet, in which he played the title character.

David Tennant’s costume from the RSC’s 2008 production of Hamlet, in which he played the title character.

Finally, we sat down, ready to enjoy the show. The Royal Shakespeare Theatre has three levels, all of which are arranged in the round, and at steep angles, so that every member of the audience might be able to see the actors. (It reminded me of a posh version of the Globe.) I was in the second row on the highest level, which got a little dizzying at times…but even from there, I had an excellent view of the stage, and never had trouble hearing the actors.

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The show was simply amazing. High quality acting combined with modern clothing and special effects produced a breathtaking, fantastic play.

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The entire day was a huge highlight of my trip. Seeing Shakespeare’s hometown, his church, his grave, and one of his plays, having high tea, and seeing a King James Bible…it boggles my mind that we were so blessed, that we got to see so many fabulous things in one short day! I am so thankful.

Have a wonderful rest of your day!

Blessings,

Taylor

Frolics in Bath

For our first Saturday in England, Regan and I went on an outing to the city of Bath. Located about an hour from Cheltenham, Bath was established by the Romans in the first century AD. The Romans were so enthralled by the natural hot springs in the area that they built canals from the springs to feed public bathing houses, as well as to feed a temple to the goddess Minerva. As time passed, people groups continued to marvel at the hot springs, and began claiming the sulfuric waters possessed healing powers. In 1687, the barren Queen Mary bathed in these waters and miraculously bore a male child the following year. Other members of royalty, like Queen Anne, highly valued the waters, thus boosting the town’s popularity.

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In the mid-1700’s, Bath gradually became the resort center of English society. People of means would come to the city and stay for “the season”, idling away their time while engaging in dances at the Pump Rooms and going visiting to all of their rich friends in town. The Pump Rooms were also a place where people could easily become acquainted with strangers – and sometimes fall in love. (Such is the fate of Catherine Morland, in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.) But, I digress – enough with the history lesson. (If you want more history, read this article. It’s fantastic.)

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Upon entering the city, Regan and I walked down to the city center, marveling at the gorgeous Romanesque architecture.  We were lucky enough to arrive before most other tourists, and thus were able to more fully enjoy the sights, as well as the shops.

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My main motivation for wanting to visit Bath was a recent interest in Jane Austen. This past semester, I had the opportunity to take Romanticsm with Professor Belliveau, in which we had an amazing time learning about Gothic and Romantic literature. (It was one of the best, most enjoyable classes I’ve ever taken in my life!) One of the first novels we read was Austen’s Northanger Abbey, which is partially set in Bath. Later in the semester, I was priviledged to write my final paper on the influences of Austen’s works.

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All of this to say – our second stop in Bath was the Jane Austen Centre. This site offers information on the now-legendary author’s life, and also has a small exhibition about life in Georgian Bath. Jane lived in Bath for a few years, around the time that her father died. Two of her works, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, are also set in Bath, and describe the frivolities of the upper classes during the early 1800′s.

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Regan and I enjoyed playing dress-up at the end of the tour ;)

After visiting the Jane Austen Centre, Regan and I continued browsing about town. The best part about our day was not having a plan. Though there were specific places we wanted to visit, we had no specific time schedule, allowing us to browse shops and explore side streets to our hearts’ content. At one point, Regan and I visited the most wonderful bookshop in the world. The staff were extremely friendly and helpful, and even gave us free tea! It was delightful :)

The little sugar jar even held sugar cubes! It was a fantastic surprise.

The little sugar jar even held sugar cubes! It was a fantastic surprise.

Late in the morning, we discovered a large courtyard in the middle of town, edged by quite a few tourists. In the center stood a group of men (and a few women), dressed in some rather funny clothing. These people – a troupe of Morris dancers  — were dancing around to the music of a small buttonbox accordion, waving blue and yellow handkerchiefs in the air. Soon, they began their next song. One of the men called out to the audience of tourists: “For this next dance, we can ask anyone we want from the audience. Young or old, tall or short…” At these words, Regan and I began hightailing it to the next street. We wanted to see the dance, but by no means did we want embarrassed. However, as we were about to cross, I stopped. Why not dance with them? After all, it wasn’t like I knew anyone in town, and plenty of other people were participating, too. And we’re in England, for goodness sakes! Why not embrace the traditions? Although Regan decided not to join me, she graciously offered to take some photos whilst I volunteered and joined the dance. It was so much fun, and definitely an experience to remember!

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For lunch, Regan and I grabbed some Cornish pasties (yes, they’re good enough to eat two days in a row!) and found a spot enjoy them near the river Avon. 

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After lunch, we took a tour of the interior of Bath Abbey. Gorgeous stained glass windows lined the walls, and carvings covered the 75-foot-high ceiling. The floor and lower portions of the walls were covered in graves and memorials of former parishoners and their families. It was touching to see the kind words people had written in memory of their deceased loved ones. Construction on the Abbey began in 1499; although the building has undergone some renovation (especially after bomb damage during World War II), the stones commemorating people from times long-past still remain.

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After visiting the Abbey, Regan and I trekked up to the Circus. The buildings lining this roundabout were constructed in the mid-1700′s in a then-revolutionary circular pattern. Each building houses several mansions, which serve as vacation homes for incredibly wealthy. A current famous (sometimes) resident of the area is Nicolas Cage, who owns a house (complete with a heated indoor swimming pool) on the Circus.

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Just down the road is the Royal Crescent. This architectural marvel holds only 30 houses, each of them taking up approximately 6,000 square feet. Like the circus, the mansions on the crescent have always been meant to be vacation homes, and have housed the wealthy for over 200 years. A super-informative guide informed us that one of these houses is currently on sale. The asking price? £4.6 million, or about $7.4 million.

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Fun fact: The designer of the Royal Crescent and the Circus was obsessed with Stonehenge, and built the two marvels so that they were perfectly in line with the ancient site. The three are so perfectly aligned, in fact, that on the summer solstice, the line of the sun follows the road between the Crescent and the Circus. In addition, the shapes of the two sets of buildings held significance: the Crescent was meant to represent the moon, and the Circus to represent the sun

As we continued our walk, Regan and I frequently stopped to explore other bookshops, side streets, and any interesting-looking locales. We kept a constant eye out for a tea room; though the Regency Tea Room at the Jane Austen Center was completely booked that day, we still wanted to have our first “true” English tea (with scones!). Soon, we came upon a church door advertising “cream tea for two” for a fairly cheap price. Taking our chances, we entered the building – only  to find ourselves in an absolutely gorgeous church with a small café at the back.

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We ordered our tea, sat down, and relished in our surroundings. Regan and I could hardly believe our luck. We kept saying to one another, “Can you believe this? We are in England. We are in a beautiful church. We are having cream tea!” We felt incredibly blessed. Soon, the server brought over our tea (with milk and sugar, of course), and then our scones with jam and clotted cream. It. Was. Amazing. The scones were sweet, with a few raisins and a biscuit-y texture. The clotted cream was like butter, except not quite as firm. It added a soft, fatty, delicious richness to the scone that made you close your eyes in revel in the flavor. Mmmm. It was so good. (It’s possible that our tiredness added to our deep appreciation for the sweets…but still! We greatly enjoyed it.)

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After tea, we continued to amble for the rest of the day, finally taking an evening train back to Cheltenham. Though rather tiring, our day was absolutely incredible, which I wouldn’t trade for the world. This entire trip to England is a huge blessing, and I am so thankful to have this opportunity!

 

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

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.

London 2 134

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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