Presentation on theme: "It wasn’t until we were heading to Trafalgar Square for our first tour that the fact that I was actually in London hit me. The Big Bus Tour was an amazing,"— Presentation transcript:
It wasn’t until we were heading to Trafalgar Square for our first tour that the fact that I was actually in London hit me. The Big Bus Tour was an amazing, and exhausting, way to get a broad overview of London. There is something so thrilling and freeing to be bowling along in the open air and looking at buildings and sites that I have previously only read about or seen pictures of. I found myself taking picture after picture in quick succession before I reminded myself to just look and appreciate what I was seeing. I loved the contrast of the old buildings and gas lamps to the noisy, modern crowds and bright red buses and I spent a lot of time imagining carriages and sweeping skirts bustling down those same streets. There is such a sense of history here. It was odd to me to hear the tour guides saying that some of the buildings dated back to only, only, the 1600’s because of the great fire of 1666. Even in the oldest parts of the United States, most buildings date back no further than the early 1600’s. I thoroughly enjoyed our historical walking tour. Our sprightly tour guide seemed to me as the quintessential Englishman as he swung his umbrella and spoke fondly of the “Queen Mother,” tea, and ceremonies. It was by far the most absorbing history lesson I have ever had. It was exciting to be able to recognize names and events and associate them with the actual surroundings. It was also very sobering to hear about the battles fought against the French and later the German. I couldn’t stop looking at the pocked walls and damage from shrapnel in the World War II bombings. I feel as if the Big Bus Tour was a way of shaking London’s hand and now that we have made each other’s acquaintance, we can settle down to getting to know each other better. June 16, 2009 Leicester Square Trafalgar Square
As some of the oldest buildings in both London and in Great Britain, it was very cool to see so many pubs on our tours. It seems they still remain in many small towns a main center of social activity. It made sense to me that many of the inns and pubs have names easily depicted by a picture on the sign. According to our pub tour guide, historically the majority of the population would not have been literate, so if a central gathering location was necessary, the leader could communicate by word of mouth the inn or pub and the people could find it based on its picture. I was reminded strongly of this fact after rereading the Harry Potter series and coming across the description of the fictional Hog’s Head pub and inn with the head of a hog bleeding onto a white tablecloth on the sign. Most of the pubs we visited were not “bars” in the sense that perhaps Americans think of bars, these pubs were about comfort and tradition, not a night out. I had expected to find a larger variety of local brew and was a little surprised to find that most of the brews offered at the pubs were the same brands I could get in the States. June 17, 2009 I was interested to learn the history behind the glass bottomed mugs used in pubs today; clear so that men couldn’t be tricked into accepting the King’s Crown and being drafted into the Royal Navy. The Shakespeare Pub in Stratford
The Tower of London was one of the places on the top of my list of things to see. I was very excited to visit such a place so full of history. It was astounding to look at the ancient stone wall that stood next to Tower Hill and to learn that the wall had been built by the Romans who founded the original London. While that was probably the fourth time that we had heard the history of Henry the VII and his wives, just seeing the actual surroundings made the history more real. It was both sad and spooky to see the graffiti that the prisoners etched into the walls and see the spot where Anne Boleyn was executed. I simply couldn’t believe that I was looking at the actual White Tower, built in 1099 by William the Conqueror, and I tried not to think about a man falling to his death while trying to escape. I especially liked the Henry VIII exhibition in the White Tower. The men must have been very strong to have been able to move about with such heavy armor and the lances used for tournaments looked very crude and deadly. Imagine getting knocked off a horse with the equivalent to a tree limb and falling inside 300 lbs of metal. I am surprised that anyone lived through the sport. June 17, 2009 The White Tower The Tower of London with surrounding walls.
The bus tour to Chawton and Winchester was by far one of the best experiences so far on the trip. I found Winchester to be thoroughly quaint and enchanting. It was almost eerie to look up at the bay window of the house that Jane Austen died in and imagine her reclining there and watching the passerby under the watchful gaze of the doctor two doors down. I am also glad that we had the opportunity to view the Winchester Abbey ruins. Since they would have been there in Jane Austen’s time, I wondered to myself if she ever walked amongst the old stones as well. Of course, since she was in very poor health by the time she was moved to Winchester, it may be unlikely. Winchester Cathedral is a beautiful church and it seemed a fitting place for Austen to be interred. Although I was disappointed that there were so many school children and other visitors, I thought the church very romantic and gothic. I loved touring her home in Chawton as well and listening to our guides describing the lengths to which Austen went to keep her writing hidden from others. Testing out the squeaking floors that were her warning to hide her writing materials and looking at the displays of personal trinkets really made her real to me. I always imagined Austen as being something like her character, Elizabeth Bennett. There must have been a little rebelliousness in her nature to write so successfully during a time when it was considered scandalous to be a female author. The lovely gardens are especially interesting in the fact that the curators kept the exact same variety of flowers and shrubs as when Austen would have lived there. Many of the plants had household uses, such as the herbs and the flowers and seeds suitable for dying fabrics. Seeing this glimpse of Austen’s life; her house and the beautiful countryside, I recognize their inspiration as the backgrounds for Austen’s writing. June 18, 2009 Winchester Cathedral Jane Austen Museum
Today Christine, Christina and I went back to explore St. James’s Park. During our historical walking tour we had rushed through it as we attempted to keep up with the moving guard and I found myself determined to come back. It is a very beautiful park and it was so peaceful to watch the ducks swimming in the pond and exploring the dark places under the willow trees that stood at the pond’s edge. I love that the plants are well tended, but not formal. It is exactly what I think a park should look like. Green Park was interesting as well, especially after the story about the King and his wife Catherine who ordered all the flowers killed in her jealousy. Despite the fact that there was a rock concert going on, my visit to Hyde Park was wonderful. It is much bigger than I had imagined it to be. I remember one of the Big Bus guides saying that in the heart of Hyde Park, even the traffic of London couldn’t be heard. As I walked along a trail through the trees in Hyde Park and past its gardens, I was reminded of Virginia Woolf’s “Kew Gardens.” I am sorry I didn’t get to visit the real Kew Gardens, but I better understood the incredible imagery in Woolf’s story and the opportunity for solitude and reflection that the parks offer to busy and urban city dwellers. June 20, 2009 St. James Park Hyde Park near Rotten Row
I was a little disappointed with the Harry Potter Walking Tour; it was not quite what I thought it was going to be. I found it hard to hear the tour guide at times, and I did not see the relevance of the places we stopped. Though his magic tricks and stories definitely seemed to be geared to the younger children, I was interested to learn that the names of the Dursley and Weasley families in the Harry Potter books were actually the names of towns. The alleys and store fronts we passed were reminiscent of the scenery described in the Philosopher’s Stone when Harry is in London. I also thought it was relevant that Merlin, the great wizard from the King Arthur stories, was Rowling’s inspiration for Albus Dumbledore since that is exactly who Dumbledore always reminded me of. The Harry Potter story does seem to have traces of King Arthur and particular Christian bible stories that echo its themes of self sacrifice, chivalry, and prophetic destinies. Perhaps this is what makes Harry Potter an example of British Modern Literature, not merely alluding to myths or history, but recreating it in a new way. June 21, 2009 One of the towers at Oxford where the Harry Potter movies were filmed.
It was very exciting to learn about William Shakespeare’s life and travel to the house and village where he was born. I loved the way they set up his mother’s house to be as historically accurate as possible, including the leathers in the window to draw customers and the loose wool in the loft area as bedding. If the museum was wonderful, the best Shakespeare moment for me was attending As You like It at the Globe Theater. The theater is an exact replica of the original theater that Shakespeare worked writing plays for. It was so amazing to be standing on the ground floor right next to the stage just as the poorer people would have done in Shakespeare’s time. Although I know he wasn’t buried there, it is neat that there is a memorial to Shakespeare and other great British authors and poets at Westminster Abbey. June 22, 2009 Shakespeare’s birthplace Shakespeare’s Globe Theater My ticket stub from As You Like It!
At first I found the idea of a day trip to Paris to be little frightening. I had just gotten used to the idea of being in London and noticing and adapting to all the little things that are different to what I am accustomed to. To then suddenly be in a place where I didn’t understand the language was scary. I was very relieved that at how well we managed to navigate to where we wanted to be. I never felt so far from home as I did today, but it was so rewarding to see the Eiffel Tower. It is even grander than I had imagined it to be. I can only imagine how wonderful the World’s Fair that surrounded its creation would have been. I am sorry that we didn’t get the chance to go up in it, but I was not keen to stand in line for three hours to do so. I spoke to a Welsh woman and her son on the boat tour we took who had “queued,” as she said, for four hours the day before. The Louvre was also more magnificent than I thought it would be. It would take a week to go through all the rooms and see all its treasures properly. I especially liked seeing the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. Although I have seen many, many pictures of both, there is nothing like seeing the actual brushstrokes on the canvas or the precise curves of the marble. My favorite part of the day was sitting on a bridge by the Louvre while the rest of the group went shopping and watching a storm come in over the Eiffel Tower. Someday I would like to go back and spend more time exploring Paris, but I am very glad that we were able to at least spend the day. June 25, 2009 The Glass Pyramid at the Louvre’s entrance The Eiffel Tower
I didn’t really know much about Charles Dickens when we visited the museum in Bloomsbury. I have only read a little of his works and I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy the museum. I changed my mind, however once we were inside. I loved the short video we watched and it really changed my perspective of his writing after learning what his own life was like and the kinds of causes and events that impacted his work. It seems that much of his writing was about reform and bringing attention to wrongdoings through his characters. I was fortunate to be able to see “Oliver!” while in London, a play adapted from Dickens’ Oliver Twist. The museum’s display of the too common neglect and abuse of children, especially the poor, shed a new light on the plight of the young boys in the story. I spent some time in the room where Dickens’ sister-in-law died and tried to feel the devastation that her death brought to him. There was a very personal feel to the house, even though the Dickens’ family did not live there long. When we left the museum this evening, I was very anxious to read more of Dickens’ works. Charles Dickens June 26, 2009 My ticket stub for Oliver! which is based on the novel Oliver Twist.
One of the major impressions that I came away from the trip with was that the English seemed to be on better terms with death than most Americans I know. The way that their dead are interred into the very floors and memorialized on the walls of their churches seems to suggest that there is more of an acceptance of death as a natural occurrence and a tendency to keep the dead close to the living. I thought perhaps this acceptance of death comes from a much longer and heavier history than that of the United States. I remember the political ideology of Great Britain being described as “organic” in the sense that they believe that history and government are living breathing things with life cycles. Countries, like people, have infancy, a maturing period, and finally, decay and old age. The multitude of wars, changing governments, sicknesses, fire, and shifting populations in English history must have placed death as a day to day occurrence and something to comes to terms with and prepare for as inevitable. I think that, in contrast, the United States has a very optimistic and live for the moment type attitude that does not deal with death, but avoids even the idea of growing old. June 27, 2009 Westminster Abbey Jane Austen’s plaque at Winchester Cathedral Winchester Abbey Ruins
All photos are my own and were taken during the trip. Any clip art is Microsoft clip art available with any Microsoft PowerPoint software.