Posts Tagged ‘england’

England Adventures

11 June 2009

Flashback. Way back. To May 17.

Hannah arrived on a spectacularly rainy and cloudy English morning. And poor dear I did not let her sleep. We went back to RoHo for a spot of lunch, and then it was off to Hampton Court. Somehow there were 2 or three of the state apartment tours I didn’t do the first time I went. One that included a room that had GUNS in elaborate patterns instead of, I dunno, wallpaper. Also they seemed to have decided it was now ok to take pictures in the big fancy Henry VIII hall. But all of those pics are on Hannah’s camera.

I finally allowed her to collapse around 9:30pm GMT. Poor dear slept for 14 hours.

I had an exam the next morning on a part of campus I didn’t even know existed. After that unpleasantry was out of the way, we went to Windsor Castle. GUESS WHO WAS THERE!


Still didn’t see her though.

The Castle seemed so different! Everything was green and leafy. As previously mentioned, this was the 1st place I went in England that wasn’t RoHo or Egham, so it was kind of special that it was one of my last England hurrahs to go back again. When I gave Grace, Tyler, Annie, Colin the ghetto tour, we were too cheap to go inside, so this time I got to do the audio tour, which I thought was very informative. Needless to say, my tour of the town was even ghetto-er in this third incarnation. It was kind of like “Look…that thing up there…somewhere…is a pomegranite. Which was K/Catherine of something’s symbol. And then Henry VIII took them down. Except that one. Oh and the Queen can eat the swans. Eton boys!”

There was also a special exhibit of Da Vinci sketches and royal portraits. And I got to re-stand on HENRY THE EIGTH’S TOMB. Lordy.

Another of our exciting day trips was to SALISBURY, which is where you can get on the special bus tour of Wiltshire countryside that takes you to STONEHENGE.


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No, that’s not one of the default desktop backgrounds from Microsoft Windows, it’s the real things!

It was a little bit of deja vu, because, like Carhenge (the Stonehenge replica made of junk cars in Alliance, Nebraska),


you just kind of drive around in the middle of nowhere, and then, BOOM, there it is on the side of the rode.

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I’d say the only difference is that Stonehenge has an audiotour and a giftshop. And Carhenge had a weird bug infestation.

We also got a guided tour of the beautiful Salibury Cathedral and played around in the Water Meadows, both of which have been often portrayed in English paintings.

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I unfortunately had to leave many England/London stones unturned. Didn’t make it to Bath. Or the Sherwood Forest. Or Charles Dickens’ house. Or the Tate Britain (I’m looking at you, horribly timed Victoria line strike). I suppose that means I’ll just have to go back!

Some day.

Rest of the Stonehenge/Salisbury pics are here.


Hever Baby One More Time

16 May 2009

This is not a joke.

I just looked at the “Current location” on my facebook and saw Egham, England, and it sort of just re-hit me about where I’ve been living since January. It’s kind of unbelievable. Just when I think I’m getting used to it, the specialness gets renewed in some way or another. 

Is it possible to be nostalgic for something that isn’t over yet?


Speaking of hitting, I’ve been in another “dancing around historical sites in England” video with Miranda and Phoebe. This time, we bust our moves about the grounds of Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn.

Her loneliness was killing her.
Little did Anne Boleyn know that when she said she wanted Henry VIII to “hit her one more time,” he would.
With a sword.
That cut off her head.

It makes (a little bit) more sense if you consider the inspiration…

Oh Britney. Those were the days.

Arriving in Hever was a lot like arriving in Chawton. Except that instead of a bus, we got off of a train in the middle of nowhere, and it was a bit more of a wander through the quaint country lanes

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until we found the castle.

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Really, I’d say it seemed like more of a manor house than a castle because it was kinda smallish, but Castle it is. It was built in the late 1200s by William de Hever (thus the name?) and, as mentioned, was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn and her family. Then it was hers, and after she lost her head, it passed on to Henry VIII (imagine that) who ended up giving it to Anne of Cleves (wifey iv) when they got divorced.

More recently, and by recently I mean circa 1900, William Waldorf Astor (yes, as in the New York Astors) bought and restored it, as well as designed most of the gardens that are still there.

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The castle was pretty, but the gardens were absolutely STUNNING, especially since everything seemed to be in bloom.

And it smelled good too. Believe me, I checked.

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And I thought thatched roofs (which Hever has too) and half-timbered houses were the pinnacle of quintessential English-ness, but public footpaths have to be in there too!

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These are paths that go through fields and such all across England.

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I was nearly peeing myself with the Life Romance of walking on one.

Here, Miranda demonstrates how you use the little contraption to climb over the fences.

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Hever is ranking right up with Winchester/Chawton in my imaginary list of English day trips.

The video shows the highlights of the sights, but here’s the link to the rest of my photos.

And now for something rather (not completely) different…

14 May 2009

I tried to post this yesterday, but there were vast technical difficulties, stemming from the fact that I talked for too long, and the internet seems to believe one should not upload videos that are more than 10 mins in length.


And here’s a link to the pictures, so you don’t have to squint at the ones I show from my camera on the video.

It is a truth universally acknowledged…

10 May 2009

…that I am way behind in updates.

Before we get started, a few things:

1. Friday was my four monthaversary with England! I have been here for four months and two days. Can you believe it? Because I can’t.
2. On a similar yet opposite note, Tuesday marked T-1 month until I bid farewell to my beloved. America–I will be turning up on your doorstep in 26 days. Please be ready.
3. Hannah (my precious little sister) will be here NEXT SUNDAY!! The dynamic duo will be reunited at last!
4. Happy Mother’s Day! In my country, this holiday has already passed (similar to Canadian and American Thanksgivings) but I am worldly now and appreciate the cultural traditions of others.

Last weekend, I went to Hampshire with Miranda and Phoebe (of Bright Eyes fame) to commune with the spirit of Jane Austen and such. On the train there, it occurred to me the great lengths to which I am going to prepare for my Romantic Lit final, because I went to Wales for Tintern Abbey, and now, spoiler alert, I’ve seen Jane Austen’s house(s) and grave!

First up was Winchester, where Jane lived for a short while before she died.

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I tried knocking at her house…but she never came to the door. Not even her ghost could be bothered to make an appearance. I guess ghosts is more Bronte (been there, done that) than Austen, so I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up.

Then it was over to Winchester Cathedral, which has the longest nave and overall length of any Gothic cathedral in Europe (according to Wikipedia, at least…so take that with a grain of salt).

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It did seem long while we were walking around inside, but from the outside it doesn’t seem significantly larger than the other cathedrals I’ve seen. Maybe because it was kinda short. I feel like big tall cathedrals with huuuge ceilings and towers seem bigger, even if they aren’t.

We kept seeing photos of old-timey divers, with plaques praising William Walker for “single handedly” saving the cathedral from collapse.


This was very confusing because the Cathedral did not seem to be surrounded by water or anything that would require the services of a diver, but then I found this info on a diving history website:

In 1079 the foundations of the cathedral were placed on a layer of peat without knowing it. Over the years it turned out that the cathedral was sinking. Soon the layer of peat was discovered. The only way to save the cathedral was to remove the complete layer of peat and replace it with concrete. The space below the cathedral was 3.5 meters high and filled with turbid ground water. A diver had to do this job.

So I guess that makes sense. But I still don’t understand how he got under there. A reverse Count of Monte Cristo?

In other fun WC news, Mary (as in “bloody”) was married there, and Richard I (as in “lionheart”) was re-coronated there (not sure why you need 2 coronations, but there you go).

And of course!


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It was kind of like when I stood on King Henry VIII’s grave my very 1st weekend in England. My brain was just like “THE REMAINS OF A VERY IMPORTANT AND FAMOUS AND INFLUENTIAL AND LONG LASTING  PERSON ARE RIGHT UNDER HERE. Does not compute! Does not compute!”

Not that you can really compare H8 and JA as people or anything, but the experience, for me, was similarly hard to comprehend.

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I paid my respects solemnly, unlike, ahem, some people, who may or may not have danced on or around her grave. 

After some cornish pasties (that’s PAH-stees, not PAY-sties, just for the record), we went in search of the mythical round table of King Arthur fame, supposedly in the Great Hall (all that’s left of the Winchester Castle, which was built in the time of William the Conquerer). So we walk in, and the first thing I see is…

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THE ROUND TABLE! It’s so round! And table-y!

Just kidding.

This is it, really:

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You’re probably wondering, as I was, a few things about this. Obviously, it’s not really Arthur’s roundtable, but rather, it’s a 13th century imaginary imitation of what it might have been like. So then, you are now wondering, if it’s from the 13th century, why is there a gigando Tudor rose painted on it? Well, that’s because it was repainted for King H8 in the 1500s. Weird. But cool. And now we know where Merv Griffin got his inspriation for Wheel of Fortune. 

Mythical legend quotient filled for the day, we ventured by bus to nearby Chawton to see Jane Austen’s better known abode. I was following along with the cryptic instructions from the TI for where to get off (it reminded me of trying to get to the Venice hostel) when a lovely old english lady tapped me on the shoulder and said if we were trying to get to Jane Austen’s we should get off here. Looking out the window, the only thing visible was a busy roundabout and lots of trees. So either that lady was part of a plot to murder us in the middle of nowhere on the side of the road, or JA’s house was somewhere nearby.

Luckily, it was the latter.

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Jane (I’ve been to her house, so I think we’re on a first name basis now) lived here with her mother and sister Cassandra, and this is where she wrote Emma, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion, while revising some of her other manuscripts as well.

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I’ll never complain again about my desk being too small.

Chawton is quite possibly the most charming town in the whole world. Across from Jane’s house was a pub and a tea shop and some houses and a playground, and that’s about it.


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How English is that?

Here’s a little video I made to try and capture how wonderful and storybook this town was.

There was a field with horses, and men playing cricket, and sheep!

And did I mention the THATCHED ROOFS?

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I think it might’ve been one of my all-time favorite day trips. I kept looking around and thinking, “Wow, am I really here in this actual real place that is real and not imaginary?” because it was exactly the kind of little town I dreamed about going to in England.

Please have a glance at the rest of the photos. They’re SO ENGLISH that you just might die.

I’ll be bahck

23 April 2009

Or, in the words of Michael Scott, “I ahm bahck!”

1200 photos, a bajillion hours on trains, two countries, one principality, a sovreign city-state, and oodles of adventures later, I am, in fact, back.

Bye bye continent…


Hello, England!

april-20-22-160More later.

They tried to make me write a recap; I said “No, No, No.”

29 March 2009

Yes I been traveling, but when I come back you’ll know, know, know.
I ain’t got the time, and if my daddy thinks I’m fine 
You tried to make me write a recap, but I won’t, fo’ sho, sho, sho.



If you insist.

This music video is about 10 times lamer than the last 2 I posted. And by music video, I mean there is music and video, occurring simultaneously. Organ music. Your typical MTV fare, if you know what I mean.

BUT. You can see how freaking BEAUTIFUL York Minster is, all the while being serenaded by the quintessential church instrument.

Did you see the part where it goes like waaaaaay up? The super tall tower part? Yeah, that’s the tower we climbed to the top of. The stairs were in this terrifyingly tiny little windy shaft on the side, and then we ended up literally on top of the cathedral.

So that was awesome. My legs were a little bit upset about it, though. I was afraid to sit down because I didn’t want a Barney Stuck on the Subway How I Met Your Mother-esque Scenario. I love that show. I’m in Season 3 now. You should watch it, if you don’t. If you do, we should talk about it, because it’s probably my favorite thing besides England right now.

York also included going on a ghost tour, wandering emo-ly in the moors that inspired the Brontes, frolicking around a ruined abbey, and being generally amazed by the countryside. Pretty Pictures!

Now how about this for a transition?

That’s on a bridge over the River Wye, which forms much of the border between England and Wales. 

Grace, Tyler, Hannah F (from Barnard) and I went to Wales last weekend for a bit of adventure!

We saw a ruined abbey,


the WORST place to have a bookstore ever,


and a creepy haunted mansion hotel (that we stayed at).


Ok, so it doesn’t look so creepy in the daytime, but if you’d been INSIDE at night with the weird Victorian decor and the empty ghost lurking around every corner feeling, you’d think it was creepy too. And to top it all off, it was called Baskerville Hall Hotel. Yes. Those Baskervilles. As in Hounds of The…

But f I had to pick 1 word to summarize Wales, it would be sheep.


I think I saw a million times as many sheep as people. Those are exact figures, mind you. AND LIL BABY LAMBS ARE MY NEW FAVORITE THINGS! So. Cute. Part of the trip was a 3.5 hour horseride through the Brecon Beacons National Park, and we even rode through fields of sheep. You don’t know cute until a lamb baas at you when you are in its field. We could even hear them way up in the hills.

These hills:


Why, yes. You may call me National Velvet. Thanks for asking.


On the way home, I was quite sleepy, so I kept dozing on the bus. And everytime I woke up, I swear, we were in a roundabout. I suspected conspiracy–surely we must’ve been driving in circles exclusively, but no, we arrived in Oxford around 8pm. Why were we in Oxford? Because the Bus Drivers Union decrees that drivers need a 45 minute break when you are soooo close to being home (this happened on the way home from York too). If I were I bus driver, I’d skip that and get home 45mins earlier, but whatever.

It was then that I had my brilliant idea: take the train straight to Egham from there, thus saving myself the 45 min break, the tube trip to Waterloo, and the 40 minute train ride in the direction I’d just come (we literallly drove by RoHo on the way to Wales the day before). So I walk to the station using my memoriez from the trip to Oxford a few weeks ago, get to the station, get on the train to Reading. La la la perfect.

I get off at Reading and check the screens for the connecting train on the line that heads toward Waterloo. Hmm. Weird. It’s not on the little TV screens with departures. It’s not on the LED announcing things by the tracks. It’s not on the giant info boards at the entrance to the station. After helping a drunken drunk man read the sign and determine the next train to Paddington, I began to worry that I had taken a horrible transport misstep that would leave me stranded in Reading indefinitely.

Luckily, there was a worker lady in the ticket window.

ME: Um, excuse me? AretherenotrainstowaterlooIdon’twanttodiehere???
LADY: Not directly no. There’s trackwork.
ME: whimper. Ok, so, um, how do I get to Egham? And if you say ‘walk,’ I WILL cry.
LADY: There’s replacement bus service to Nowherevillehaven. Then you can get back on the train there. The bus stops out there by those drunken people in crazy Irish hats.
Me: …if you say so. But if I die, the blood is ON YOUR HANDS.

It wasn’t actually that traumatic. It was a little traumatic, but not in a major way. She even printed me out a little itenerary receipt. And there was indeed a bus next to the bar labeled “REPLACEMENT BUS SERVICE TO BRACKNELL(aka Nowheresvillehaven)” and a little Southwest Trains Important Man with Clipboard standing at the ready.

Spoiler alert: I made it. 

Despite the bus diversion, I did get home faster than I would’ve if I stayed with the tour group on the coach. So high five, me.

Check out the rest of Wales in pictures

There are probably more adventures I could recount at this point, but BRITISH SUMMER TIME (sounds better than Daylight Savings in my opinion) goes into effect tonight, so I’m losing an hour of sleep.

WOW my computer magically just did it. High five, Julian!