So I apologize for not writing more and sooner, it’s just been a crazy week with Statistics and there isn’t much to write about besides Statistics which would probably not entertain the majority of you.
So we will start with Wednesday.
Dr. Mee took us to the Imperial War Museum, and it was so amazing. I feel like I missed so much that I need to go back soon to see more of the exhibits. (I have to say one of my favorite parts about London is that almost all the museums are free!) But I really got a chance to explore their Holocaust exhibit which was done amazingly well, or as well as that kind of depressing subject can be done.
I think it was comparable to DC’s Holocaust Museum, but I enjoyed both in their own ways. This exhibit seemed to have a lot more actual artifacts of people’s clothing and such. They also had a lot of information about the people who actually did commit these hideous murders, what their back story was.
They also had an exhibit only for people who had earned the Victoria Cross which apparently is the highest honor that you can get for the country of England, which was really interesting to read through all these people’s stories. One girl was 11 and won the award because she protected herself and her 8 year old cousin against a cougar with a riding whip and her bare hands. There were many more amazing stories.
My favorite part though was to look at all of the vehicles and such that they had from all the wars. Some of them you could go inside, and they were so cramped. They even had a special exhibit for the war on terror, with stories of british officers away in Afghanistan. I’ll be honest, I’ve only really ever thought of our soldiers over there, so to see these faces and these pieces of their life in that desert, was rather powerful.
Outside the museum they had a piece of the Berlin wall. I took a picture with it 🙂 and of course I had to touch it! To think of so much history, so much pain and suffering and this wall saw it all. The side that is so decorative says “Change Your Life” while the other side has not a speck of paint on it. It actually looked really ominous. And there was rebar just sticking out all over the place out of the sides of this piece of concrete, makes you realize how much they didn’t want this to come down.
Some of the GLSers went out to the London Eye and the Tate Modern as well as other sites on the South Bank, but Laura, Ashley, and I felt that we wanted a chance to explore some of London on our own schedule. So we woke up early and headed to Twinings, which is this lovely little tea company that if you go into their store you can sample a cup of tea for free. So I had some Earl Grey with creme and sugar and we sat, talked, and woke up a little bit.
We then headed toward some historic sites, but quickly realized that most didn’t open until 11, so we kinda just wandered about. We found this little church called Temple Church, that apparently a scene from Divinci Code is set in. Then the girls decided to show me some places that they had been to a few weeks before, so we went to Ye Olde Chesshire Cheese which is apparently a really old pub that some famous people used to frequent (sorry I don’t remember who).
We then found ourselves wandering in this little back alley where we saw a sign for Dr. Samuel Johnson’s house, not knowing who Dr. Johnson was we quickly consulted Ashley’s guidebook. He was the first person to write down the english language, and to sort of unify the spelling and meaning of words (i.e. father of the modern dictionary). So we decided to check out this Dr. Johnson’s house (naturally)! There was a monument to the dude’s cat! I instantly knew that he and I would’ve gotten along. I miss my kitty terribly. (Mommy, loves you Augusta!) The house wasn’t too special, but still kinda cool to see. (Pictures of this are all on facebook)
Our stomaches started growling so we headed toward a traditional irish pub that apparently was the first irish pub to be set up outside of Dublin (cool!). It’s called The Tipperary, and I really enjoyed the fish and chips. I really wish I had more room to put the rest of it, I didn’t want to stop eating it, but I was about to explode.
After our stomaches were full of yummy bar food, we headed toward the Borough Market that we have heard so much about from our PA’s and some of the locals. When we got there we realized just how cool it was. It was a market only for food and drink, but they had everything you could think of. They had exotic meats and crazy cheeses, fresh breads and jams, Hot Cider and smoothies, fresh fish and pastries. It was awesome!
I was just thankful that I had eaten before we had gone and that I didn’t have much money left in my wallet, otherwise I feel like I would’ve had a field day with the homemade breads and cheeses (Still think I will, a more controlled field day though). After the girls bought some goodies, we headed back to our flats to drop off and rest our feet for a moment or two. We then headed out to some thrift stores, which are more expensive and sought after here than in the U.S. so basically they are “Vintage stores”, but they have the same not-so-fashionable-even-when-it-was-fashionable stuff. Seriously, like 20 pounds ($35) for my grandmother’s nightgown is so NOT going to happen.
Because of this, Trash-Treasure effect, everything was super expensive so I didn’t get my usual fun cheap finds, but it was still an experience. These places were super posh and nice, kinda made you feel weird to even walk in and then you looked at the rack, and there is a military jacket with tails that is lined in jersey (like a basketball jersey) with a giant hood. I guess I should probably just call it the Hipster effect, because everyone here dresses like hipsters, but they don’t have that word here. I think it’s just normal for them to dress like that. I don’t know. There are grandmothers here with bright pink dreadlocks down to their butts and crazy-patterned leisure suits on, so I can’t say I’m that surprised anymore.
Saturday, I woke up early for our train to Oxford. I was so pumped because we had already been to Cambridge and I loved it, but Oxford was where it all started so I knew it had to be interesting too. On the way there, Laura and I met two lovely British boys who we talked to for the whole hour long train ride, Josh and Jack. They were really quite sweet, Josh more so than Jack, and asked us just as many questions as we asked them.
Once we got to Oxford, the day started off to a rather rocky start on account that apparently our tour guide was given the wrong location as to where to meet us, so we had to go to the headquarters to figure out where to go from there. But Mrs. Mee was a fantastic guide and she figured out the problem, as I said before, and got us back on track.
When our guide did finally get there, he was precious. For starters his name was Allister. I know that’s just so British and so old man cute! Allister showed us all of the big buildings in Oxford of some of the major universities. We didn’t go in most of them as most aren’t open in the mornings and you have to pay in the afternoons. There were some absolutely beautiful churches inside these colleges though. I really enjoyed just walking around. It had a different feel that Cambridge, older feeling, if you can believe it. We saw the place where modern science was born, and where the first chemistry lab was ever made. Walked right next to the building that was one of the largest book presses in the world, and still is a giant (Oxford University Press). Books such as the Bible were printed there first.
So much history, and then we ended up at this little pub called The Eagle and Child. I didn’t know much about the pub until the guide turned around and began to tell us that this was the place where a group of professors who called themselves “The Inklings” would gather once a week and trade ideas and stories. Some of the professors in this group were J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. In fact, this pub was where their works were first read aloud.
So we walked in and I took some pictures, but mostly I had food on the mind (as I do often). So I ordered some popcorn shrimp and chips and devoured them in a moment. They were delicious! I still can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that I sat in the same pub as those literary geniuses. The books that I loved as a kid were just ideas here. That blows my mind.
After lunch we went to a little college called St. John’s College (one of the few free ones) and wandered around their gardens, which were beautiful. It felt like Spring in the sunshine and the fact that the flowers were starting to bloom. So I got a little artsy with some photos of the gardens (see facebook for evidence), but it was just too pretty to pass up.
We wandered around St. John’s College until everyone was done eating and then headed toward the church where C.S. Lewis gave his first sermon. Dr. Mee shared the first few sentences from that sermon and then we headed toward Christ’s Church College.
Christ’s Church College is known for the fact that some of the Harry Potter stuff was filmed there. Specifically the Great Hall was modeled after their dinning hall, and the staircase leading up to it is the first scene inside Hogwarts in the first movie (where Minerva McGonagall is giving Harry and his new friends the talk about the Sorting Hat, for those of you who need a memory jog).
After I paid my 5.50 for entry into the one place I really wanted to take a ton of pictures. True to Maddie form, my camera dies. Bummer, but I got a few pictures, and I kinda jumped into everyone else’s and used their camera’s (I know, it’s a low blow, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do).
I tried to take as much of the experience in as I could for the sake of you out there who love Harry Potter as much as I do, but without my own pictures it’s a little difficult. To be truthful, the only thing that I could actually see and recognize from Harry Potter was the staircase. Once we got into the dining hall (there was a massive cue), the ceiling was the only thing that looked familiar to me, and I guess the set up of the long tables and the professors table. But I enjoyed seeing the staircase if nothing else. 🙂
After Christ’s Church, we headed back to the station, to find that something had happened to a train in a station that we were going through on the way back to London, so our train was delayed and quite possibly cancelled. Thankfully, they fixed it up in about 45 minutes, and we were headed back to London with no trouble. Arrived at home, and just went back to my flat and watched some TV.
I really do miss home though. I realize that that is part of the whole experience to be away from everything and everyone you know, but it is a tad scary. Today, we passed by a shop that had american name brands and some of us literally about peed our pants we were so excited to see Reese’s Puffs. It is weird how you miss the little things. Me, I really miss my pets, and my friends and family. Food I guess can make you feel comfortable, but I really miss having a warm little lump in bed with me that loves me unconditionally and the ability to call or text anyone just to talk. I keep picking up my phone and then remember that I have this little dinky phone that doesn’t even have a camera here, and that I can’t text any of the people that I want to tell them that funny thing I see or heard, or even that I was thinking about them.
If you don’t have the right attitude, it can feel kinda lonely. But thankfully, I’ve found some friends here that I can talk to and even celebrate my birthday with. I’m not sure if any of you know (I should hope you do though) that tomorrow is my birthday. 🙂 I turn 20. And I have to say that I was a little nervous about being alone, overseas for my birthday, but I’ve already had some amazing cake that my friend Laura Bassett made. I feel like this wont be so bad after all, and that I’ve made some really good friends. That will hopefully make the homesickness easier…