Dr. Lee Hammer
The trip to Scotland and England was sensational! The weather was great almost every day, which made absorbing history and culture so much easier and more enjoyable. Edinburgh was a hit with everyone. Our hostel was located in old part of the city, so when one awoke and took to the streets, one felt like a citizen of another time. Stone buildings everywhere, punctuated by marvelous churches and other stately edifices. Hadrian’s Wall, in the northern English countryside, was a living scene from a Wordsworthian poem—sunshine, green, green grass, sheep and lambs grazing in the pasture through which the path up to the Wall Fortress ruins led. One’s heart could not help but leap up and dance with daffodils, so to speak. Yorminster Cathedral, Warwick Castle, Shakespeare’s birthplace at Stratford-on-Avon, Westminster Abby, the National Gallery, St. Paul’s Cathedral, all in London—one lived in history at every step of the way. Indeed, one grand lesson I learned from this trip is how much more real and memorable history becomes when one goes to the sites where the history was made. I am sure we all have a much clearer idea of who Charles I and Charles II were (and of Oliver Cromwell, who came between). We all now know that James VI of Scotland became James I of England (because England ran out of direct-descent heirs). We all can now identify Henry VIII by sight, since this is the 500th anniversary of the beginning of his reign and there were pictures and exhibitions everywhere — even life-sized figures of Henry and his six wives at Warwick Castle. Being near to where history happened and having that history daily repeated to one visually makes it stick. A lesson, perhaps, in the value of study abroad and, perhaps, in what it takes to make history interesting and memorable.
P.S. Blogging accommodations deteriorated as we progressed southward. Our hotel in London, where we spent the better part of three days, had no computing facilities and was located in an area removed from cafés. Therefore, many recent blogs had to be posted after we returned.
On Day 3 of our trip, we were finally given the chance to break away from the herd and explore Edinburgh at our own pace. This was exciting for me, because it meant that I could visit Holyrood palace, Edinburgh castle, Scotland's national gallery, the camera obscura, St. Giles Cathedral, and the Writer's Museum all in one very fast paced day.
The most exciting part of the day was completing my research project over the Scottish poet Robert Burns. I had already seen a Rabbie Burns Cafe on the Royal Mile and heard Tony, our tour guide, say that it was the Burns monument hiding behind scaffolding during a bus tour, but I was ready to take my questions to the people of Edinburgh. I was looking for answers that I could not find on the internet or from a book.
My search started in St. Giles. A very knowledgeable American tour guide showed me the window dedicated to Burns inside. He explained with excitement, "It is the year of Burns!" This year marks the 250th birthday of the poet. He also explained the symbolism of the levels of the window, which is the result of an international competition held in 1985. He then explained the symbolism of the man Robert Burns to the Scots. To them, he said, Burns represents something truly Scottish- something untainted by the English. Scots cling to the words written in their dialect as inspiration. He said this is even evident today in the Scottish Nationalist party. Before leaving I looked at the window in this cathedral dedicated to Burns with a bit of confusion. Robert Burns is not just a poet and lyricist in Scotland, but he is a national hero and inspiration to activists and the people as a whole. Do we have a writer comparable in the United States?
Next, I went to the Writer's Museum. The museum had personal artifacts such as a diploma and locks of one of his (many) lovers' hair. By far, the most interesting part of the museum was the Scottish cashier. She informed me that they start reading and memorizing Burns' poems and songs in primary school. She showed me a book geared toward young children or Burns for "wee folk." Robert Burns for Wee Folk. She explained that every Scottish person knows the name Robert Burns and every Scottish person knows at least some of his work. She also explained Burns Night to me. It is a supper held every year on January 25, the poet's birthday, which includes haggis and Scotch whiskey as well as other traditions.
That evening, while walking through shops on the Royal Mile and Princes Street, I found another Burns poetry book geared this time to secondary school students. It includes translation definitions of old Scottish dialect. I also found a "complete Burns supper kit". It even has canned haggis in it. It was a humorous find, but I later regretted having to pack it in my suitcase and carry it around for the rest of the trip.
I cannot wait to share with my fellow students the passion that the Scots have for Robert Burns and try to show them why with my presentation.
Our last day in London we went on the London Eye, which is a very large Ferris wheel that takes 30 minutes to make a rotation. The views were amazing; you could see Big Ben, Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Buckingham Palace. Each pod on The London Eye can hold 25 people. There is a bench in the middle, and the walls are all glass. This gives you a panoramic view of the city, and you go up high enough to see each building in its entirety. The London Eye gave us the opportunity to see the city in a whole new way. A walking or bus tour can show you the ground view and parts of each building, but the Eye makes it possible see the scope of the city.
While travelling through the British Isles, I noticed several connections between the UK as we have come to know it and what we would have called "Olde England." Just as our culture has been shaped by our history as well as by immigration, the UK still exhibits much of its history dating as far back as 14 AD (Hadrian's Wall.) Although many of the older places like Hadrian's Wall are used for tours and education, still most of them are used as schools just like ours, homes, places of worship, and governmental proceedings. One of the differences in the way the British people appreciate their history and the way we appreciate our history is in the way they preserve their artistic culture. Sure, we still read American classics like The Red Badge of Courage, but our famous authors like Stephen Crane are hardly celebrated to the same degree that Shakespeare and Burns are celebrated there. All in all, I have discovered that the UK has a much closer connection to its history than we have to our history.
Earlier today we were at Windsor Castle checking out guns, steel, and guards. But now I am on my own excursion through the city as we all have some free time before we meet at Baker Street (north London). I begin by walking through Hyde Park stopping to relax at the Princess Diana memorial fountain with many other Britains and some young french tourists. As I walk through the park, I am comforted by the aspect of such urban people enjoying time in the green grass and water ponds. London is one of the largest cities in the world when it comes to urban geography. Most of its occupants are subject to busy concrete traffic all around. Hyde Park is the largest of the parks in London. I see people in business suits lying in the grass, school children in uniforms having class in the grass, and young people catching the browning rays of sun to keep up appearances. As I walk, I think of the example Europe gives to America as a condensed urban union that has its pockets of earth that are used to stop and enjoy the slow growth of green inside the faster growing grey(concrete).
Today we went to Hadrian's Wall. While we were driving to the wall, I wasn't all that excited about it, but when we got there, my entire perspective was changed. The view from the wall was absolutely breath taking. You could see for miles from the point in which we visited (which was on a large hill). The thing about Scotland and England is that there are large cities but they are dispersed all around the countryside. So when you drive along the highway you see beautiful fields and land that is so well kept by the sheep you would think it was kept by a landscaper then large cities that were that seemed to be isolated from the countryside. I was in such awe at the splendor of the countryside and how uninhabited it was. Overall, I was more in love with the places of British Isles that didn’t have big buildings or lots of people, my absolute favorite part was the magnificent countryside and its subtle majesty.
There were so many exciting things that happened on our trip to the UK. One thing that stands out to me is the play we saw in London. The title was "39 Steps," and it was great. The play consists of only four actors and all but one plays a variety of different characters. The physicality of the actors was amazing, and it really helped define each new character and kept the plot clear. It was also a good experience to see a show that was not a popular musical or something automatically recognizable. "39 Steps" really allowed us to look at British humor and culture more in depth. Also, the venue we saw the production in was right in the heart of Piccadilly Circus the equivalent to Broadway in New York, at a beautiful theatre built in the 17th century.
Today was the first day of rain on the trip. We left Stratford for the town of Oxford where we had a little free time before we met our local tour guide, Bill. Bill took us to the University of Oxford where we were given the chance to experience student life on the campus. There is really no clear date of foundation for the university but teaching existed in some form in 1096. The university is made up of 38 different colleges and has around 20,000 students total. Bill told us that many movies are filmed on the campus every year, including some scenes from various Harry Potter movies. We also learned that some famous Oxford students include Bill Clinton, Hugh Grant, author C.S. Lewis, and our tour guide, Tony. From Oxford, we will be heading to the city of London.
The entire trip was amazing! I was waiting for it to hit me that I was in a foreign country. The moment that it hit was when we were walking through London at night. I saw my first glimpse of Big Ben! Going to London was something that I had always dreamt of doing, and it was so exciting to see such an amazing landmark. I wish we would have had more time to stand there, take pictures and really take it all in. London was beautiful, busy and full of history. It is nearly impossible to do everything in two days! The city is just too big! We saw the cathedral where Princess Diana was married and also saw the Queen of England! It was so surreal to see the Queen. We were in the right place at the right time! I will never forget that moment. I feel so blessed to have had this experience. The memories will last a lifetime.
Our first day in London we got to be on a television show! We were taking a walking tour after dinner and we were approached by a crazy man looking for people to sit in the studio audience of a local show called "The Mr. and Mrs. Show". Despite his awkward introduction we decided to do it because it sounded like fun. I didn't care for the show that much but one of their entertainers during filming breaks was fun. Doughnut Man is a middle aged man dressed up as a doughnut that we met backstage prior to being seated. So when his short spot came up a couple of us cheered for him at the top of our lungs. We were the only ones cheering and everyone else in the crowd turned around and gave us the dirtiest looks, it was hilarious.
I got back from my Study Abroad trip to the British Isles yesterday. Even though I missed my friends and family, I didn't want to leave. There were so many sights to see and things to do in just the little time we had. Some of the amazing sights I got to see were Big Ben, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, The Globe Theatre, Shakespeare's birthplace, Warwick Castle, and Edinburgh Castle.
My favorite places were Edinburgh and London. The history of why Scotsmen wear kilts and can carry knives was very interesting to learn about. I also found it very interesting that police officers in Scotland and England do not carry weapons. Shakespeare's birthplace was nice to visit, but I wish the weather had been better that day and that we had had more time there.
My most favorite place was London. Our tour guide Jan told us where the Queen was going to be going to church that day so we got to see Queen Elizabeth! The play "39 Steps" was amazing and so professionally done. I loved the acting and staging of the show. It was a great show, and I suggest that everyone go see it. Seeing the castles made me want to have been born in England during the 17th or 18th century even more than I have before. The Gothic Medieval architecture was so beautiful and the paintings of all the kings and queens were so detailed that I felt like was actually living in that time period while we were there.
As you can see from my blog; this trip was a wonderful experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. I wish it didn't have to end.
While in London we had a tour guide whose husband was a royal police officer. Therefore she was able to tell us where Queen Elizabeth was going to be on that morning. The police officers blocked the road and the Queen drove into town on her way to church at the West Minister Abbey. It was amazing, probably one of the best parts of the trip. She was beautiful! Also, later that day we were able to see the changing of the guard, which was pretty impressive. The men have to be so serious. We had a lot of free time in London as well, which worked out great. We were able to see things on our own and experience them to the fullest.
Thursday night we went on a haunted graveyard tour of Freyers Cementary in Old Edinburgh. As part of our tour, our guide led us through the back alleys and walk ways. We learned that before Edinburgh became developed they didn't have an established sewer system. Instead at ten o'clock all of the citizens would fling open their windows, yell guard de loo to warn those below, and then dump all of their days waste into the street below. The waste was said to be ankle deep and would run down the hill and end up in the citys drinking water. This caused many diseases during that time.
Before departure the fire alarm was set off at 5:30 a.m., which meant all of the students and other individuals staying at the hotel had to evacuate the building. After re-entering the building the students got ready for the day and we departed from the hotel at 8:00 a.m. The tour today was of Warwick Castle about 8 miles outside of Stratford-upon-Avon. Tony our tour director gave us a brief history about the castle before we were given free time to explore. Once we got inside the castle's walls many students climbed up to the 3 towers, the hike included 530 stairs. Some students also visited the original fort that was built of wood on top of a "mound". After exploring the inside of the castle and grabbing some lunch in the dungeon of the castle a group of students sat outside at the falconry arena to watch a demonstration of birds in flight. Students then loaded the coach and traveled to Anne Hathaway’s cottage, where they received a formal tour, signed a birthday card for Shakespeare, and visited the gift shop. Then the students reloaded the coach and continued on to The White Swan Hotel where they were given free time to explore the town. Dinner that night was provided at the hotel restaurant and included choices of Bangors and Mash, Vegetarian Pasta, and Chili Con Queso. After supper some students went and took a walk down to the river front while others went to bed to rest up for the next days adventures.
The play, "The 39 Steps," was one of the best show I have seen in a long time. I laughed so hard I thought I would split in two. Its a story about a man who is turned into a spy on accident and is running from the police for a murder he didnt commit. I enjoyed the show greatly as I'm sure did all of the people I was with. if you want to watch the movie version (which was done by Alfed Hitchcock and won't be funny because it is Alfred Hitchcock's version), the full movie is on imdb.com Type in "39 Steps") and click on the vedio link to watch the full movie. Also to see bits and pieces of the play, you can go on to youtube as well. The play is supposed to be funny, but I don't think that the movie is.
Early afternoon today we went to visit Hadrian's Wall. This visit to the wall was an important visit for me personally, because since I was 8 years old I have wanted to travel to see this wall. The wall was the northernmost boundary of the Roman Empire and was begun in 122AD. I really enjoyed the visit to the fort along the wall and seeing the wall wind along the ridges of the hills through this part of England. The weather was ideal for making the trek up the hill to the fort and wall. Lots of sheep and lambs wandering out amoug the pastures around the wall made the whole vista very pictureque. It was windy, but not cold or chilly at all. This visit to the wall met my expectations of it and more. I can now check off one thing from my what-to-do-before-I-die list.
Today our tour guide, Jan (short for January), took us to Windsor Castle, the vacation home for the Queen located in Windsor, England. We were given a remote audio guide for each stop on the tour of Windsor. Inside the castle there is an elaborate dollhouse, a gift to Queen Mary, that contains miniature replica paintings by artists, electric lights, and functioning plumbing. Each piece inside was made to be as realistic as possible. There was also a room that displays drawings done by Hans Holbein and Leonardo da Vinci. I was really interested in one particular sketch da Vinci did of the anatomy of the neck and spine. It was so interesting because it was inaccurate -- there were too many vertabrae depicted in the drawing, so this was clearly done without drawing from life. It reminded me of a piece I studied in art history -- a da Vinci sketch of a fetus, which also had some inaccuracies, but was still way ahead of its time.
The castle is also home to the ceremonies of the Most Noble Order of the Garter founded in 1348 by King Edward III. The crest of the garter and the motto Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense (evil to him who evil thinks) were used to decorate the ceilings of many of the rooms that we were allowed to tour. One very large and impressive room has the crests or shields of each knight ever invested to the Order mounted on the ceiling. A white shield meant that the knight was stripped of his title because of some dishonorable act. The patron saint of England, Saint George, has a Chapel at Windsor Castle. This is also the spiritual home of the knights of the Order of the Garter. There are hundreds of knights and ladies in the Order, but a few names you might recognize are Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. A guide in the castle told me the ceremony for the Order takes place in June each year.
SOUTH TO THE BORDER
We left Edinburgh this morning and made our way south to the English-Scottish border. As we left the city behind us, we experienced the true beauty of the Scottish countryside for the first time. Our hotel back in Edinburgh had been right in the center of the city, yet we were looking at rolling hills, coniferous forests, and field after field of sheep after being on the road for 30 minutes. The drive to the border took roughly two hours, which meant that we entered England around 11:00 in the morning. After a stop at Hadrian's Wall, we continued on to York. We only had a short window in this city due to time constraints, but Yorkminster Cathedral alone made the stop worth it. Words couldn't do this stunning Gothic cathedral justice. Shortly before six o'clock, we left York and drove on to Leeds, which is where we'll be spending the night. Tomorrow, we go on to Stratford-on-Avon.
Today we toured Edinburgh, Scotland. Today was our first full day of actual sightseeing. It was amazing. The city architecture is awesome here. We took a tour today from the hostel we are staying in all the way to the Edinburgh castle. The Edinburgh castle was cool. We also went and visited Holyrood Palace. We ate at a cafe, the Filling Station, while we were touring on our own time. My friends ordered lemonade and I wanted a Sprite. The lady kept telling me that Sprite and lemonade were the same; we were all confused. I just asked for a lemonade. The server brought out our drinks and they were not lemonades...they were Sprites with lime. That was interesting. Then we visited the St. Giles Cathedral, which is a large Presbyterian church. The cathedral is so beautiful. The windows are stained glass and look as if they tell a story for each window. Overall today has been a very eventful day in a wonderful city.
HERE WE ARE IN SCOTLAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Abby Johnston and Cindy Van Zante
Today we visited Edinburgh Castle. It was founded in 600 A.D. It was built on the top of the volcanic rock. From the top you have a stunning view of Edinburgh. The last time it was slept in was 1633. Today it is mainly used as a tourist attraction. It houses the Scottish Crown Jewels (the crown, the scepter and the sword, along with other jewels). Also 800 Scottish Guards are usually manning the castle, but currently they are deployed to Afghanistan. Edinburgh Castle is one of the most visited Tourist sites in Edinburgh.
Greetings from Edinburgh! Today was our first full day that didn't include air travel, and for most of it we had free time to explore the city. Our hostel is on the Royal Mile; at one end is Edinburgh Castle, which we toured as a group this morning, and at the other is Holyrood Palace, Scottish home of the English queen. After our tour, four of us walked from the castle down the Royal Mile and stopped at a place to eat lunch called the Filling Station. Our waiter asked us for drinks, and three of us ordered a lemonade. When our drinks were brought to our table, I noticed they were carbonated, which is odd for lemonade. There was also a lime floating in it. Apparently, here "lemonade" is Sprite, which was interesting to discover as my research project for this trip is the differences between Scottish/English phrases and American phrases.