Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Heights of Abraham

This last week, I was very intent on finding a good day trip for this last weekend because I was getting very tired of the manor! I originally had been thinking that going to the east coast would be fun and easy. However, the more I researched, the more complicated it got to be. Grantham is in a pretty central location for things in England, but as far as day trips are concerned, things are a little bit too far away. Travel time would take up too much of the day and it wouldn't be worth it. I finally went to the Student Development Office and asked on of the English assistants what she suggested. She had TONS of great ideas (I obviously should have just gone to her in the first place) and was really adamant about this place called "The Heights of Abraham". At this point, anything sounded great to me, so I looked into it!

The Heights of Abraham
Ashley was going to London to visit her uncle who now lives in Thailand so I had to find someone else to go on the adventure with me. (It was the first time in a MONTH that Ashley and I weren't going to be together! Good thing we don't have trouble branching out...). Luckily, my friend Rebekah was interested in coming along. Rebekah is a sophomore at Hannibal LeGrange College in Missouri (the same school our friend Jake goes to). She was also very interested in leaving the manor for a bit!

We got up early Saturday morning and caught the shuttle into town to the train station. We took the half hour train north to Nottingham and waited a bit to catch another hour train north to Matlock Bath. We had a great time chatting and getting to know each other a little better. The train to Nottingham was extremely full (because everyone wanted to shop, of course) but the train to Matlock Bath was pretty empty. The area we were headed to is known as the Peak District, which I had been very interested in seeing. As we headed north, the landscape went from being very flat (Lincolnshire is known as on of the flattest areas in England) to having really giant hills (they definitely weren't mountain peaks) and a lot more trees. We arrived at the train station and headed down a path toward the Heights of Abraham.
The Cable Cars up to the peak!

This park(?) was generally a place to view the area and explore the hillsides and caves. We had to take a cable car up to the top of the peak (which Rebekah was a bit afraid of) that gave us an amazing view of the area. Once we were at the top, we walked around climbing up into towers to check out more of the view. It was extremely windy and cold which was a bit of a bummer. But it was still really fun to see such a different landscape than what we were used to at Harlaxton. We also went on a cave tour that was pretty interesting. It would have been more fun but it was full of loud families and older couples who talked right over the tour guide. [Sidenote: I am quickly learning that a lot of the time, college students are the best listeners on field trips and tours. The adults tend to talk right over whoever is teaching and act like they already know everything about what is being said! I always make sure I avoid the tour groups the visiting faculty are a part of when we travel as a school...I want to be able to listen and learn!!] The rest of the time we walked around the hillside taking pictures and exploring. We ended our afternoon pretty early, however, because we were so tired of walking all the hills!
On the hillside facing the town of Matlock.

Although it wasn't the most spectacular adventure with lots of stories, it was still a great day. It was wonderful to get out for the day, but still be able to come back and get some work done during the weekend. I loved getting to know Rebekah a bit more and was glad she was willing to adventure with me! The rest of the week since then has been extremely busy in preparation for our first big British Studies Exam tomorrow. Straight after I head to Dublin to visit Ian and Jen! Very excited!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A View into the Future

I am officially filling up my semester as the weeks go on with lots of travel plans. I figured people were a bit curious as to where I was deciding to adventure. Being here at Harlaxton has made me realize how very short a semester is! Every one of my weekends has at least a tentative plan, if not a booked one. I've been recently thinking about how bummed I am that I can't even begin to get to all of the places I want to go this semester! (i.e. Finland [Sorry Colin!!], Scotland, Wales, Prague, Amsterdam, Italy, Rome, etc, etc, etc). If those are all the places I'm NOT going, where am I spending all my weekends??

To answer that, my schedule is as follows:

Sat. Sept. 25: Unknown. My goal was to go to London for the day and see the opera. Still in the works.
Wed. Sept. 29-Oct.2: Dublin, Ireland, where I'll be visiting with Ian and Jen!
Thurs. Oct 7-10: Brussels, Belgium, where I'll be visiting Elizabeth!
Thurs. Oct 14-17: The Lake District, England, with the school.
Fri. Oct 22-24: RA duty...I won't be able to leave the manor, but I'll be studiously working on 2 term papers!
Fri. Oct 29-31: University of Sheffield, England, celebrating Matt's 21st birthday!
Fri. Nov. 5: London day trip with the school
Sat. Nov 6: Unknown day trip - possibly Cadbury World...
Wed. Nov. 10-14: Paris, France! Accompanied by Ashley and Kate
Fri. Nov 19: Class day...
Sat. Nov. 20: The RA organized Costume Ball and Date Auction!
Thurs. Nov 25-28: Granada, Spain, visiting Maren!
Fri. Dec. 3-5: More RA duty...
Fri. Dec. 10: HOME!

Anyway, that's probably more information than people really wanted, but there you have it! I also wanted to explain my Meet-a-family a bit. Ashley and I were coincidentally paired as siblings and had dinner with our family for the first time this evening. We were picked up by Ray, in their blue Audi, and driven about 15 minutes from Harlaxton to the village Hougham (pronounced hoff-um). We were greeted by his wife Pat and daughter Sarah. Now, Ray and Pat are in their mid-seventies, and Sarah is 40. Sarah has Down's Syndrome but is very high-functioning. The Beal's don't always participate in the meet-a-family program because they are a very active family, especially due to all of Sarah's activities. However, they had time to have dinner with us this evening and it was a great time.

The Beal's are very well traveled, due to the fact that Ray was in banking his whole life. They had great stories about where they've been and good advice to us. We discussed many different things, from Christmas Crackers to Hedge Rows to Thousand Island Dressing. They are such a personable family and love to make sure we are taken care of! Sarah sat at the table with us, working on very intricate knitting. She said she loves to knit in front of the TV while she watches all of the quiz programmes. She remembers everything.

After having a dinner of a pasta bake, garlic bread and banana meringues (which were delicious!) Pat brought out the deck of cards. They made sure we weren't offended by gambling, and proceeded to hand out the buttons. They taught us a very simple, but entertaining game of "Sevens" in which we gambled our buttons. I think one button was worth ) 0.5 pence. We played that for over an hour and chatted amiably. We collected our buttons at the end to hold on to them until next time.

Overall it was a great night! Our schedules together won't allows us to see them again until the end of October, due to them going on Holiday, but hopefully after that we will be able to see more of them. It's actually very spoiling to have two wonderful "host" families while we're here! Ashley and I are learning so much from the Beal's and Matt's family that it's very possible we're known as the know-it-alls. But then again, there are worse things!

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Day in the Manor

I wasn't very interested in writing a new post this week because it had been a very normal week for me. I figured I didn't have very much to say. However, I realized I have never explained what a normal day in the manor was like! So, I'll explain:
Exploration of the grounds.

My class schedule is very laid-back compared to my usual schedule at UE. All 130 students here have British Studies at 8:30am Mondays and Wednesdays. There are 4 English professors who trade off giving lectures, and all of them teach 2 seminar classes. Lectures are very difficult to stay awake through because we all gather in the Long Gallery, one of the state rooms in the manor, and proceed to listen early in the morning all in a hot room. However, I think the history is very fascinating and have been enjoying it quite a lot. I really enjoy my seminar professor, Dr. Bujak, because he's extremely passionate about what he's teaching and makes even the most boring parts of the English and British history"deliciously" interesting. [The English tend to use very exaggerated words to emphasize things; i.e. deliciously, gorgeous, etc. I really enjoy them!]

I am also in Studio Art and Environmental Science that meet in the afternoons on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Art is fun, when I'm not being rushed in what I'm doing, and I've been learning quite a lot. So far we've worked on design and are currently working on drawing. I'm definitely not a gifted artist, but it's passable! Environmental Science is interesting enough...but that's about it. It's a bit of an easy class so far...

My only other class is...choir. Which I say with disdain. I knew from the beginning I would not like it when the professor began to advertise her choir as a choir that didn't need music and was not focused to train people into opera singers. I understood that she was aiming toward including people who may not be able to read music, but the more she talked, the more I felt she was condescending what I was studying! After the first rehearsal, my inklings toward her teaching style were confirmed when we were taught some "warm-ups" that were incorrect and asked to sing in ways that were completely backwards to what I have always been taught. Interestingly, her music degree is in instrumental studies....
Sitting in a Yew Hedge on the way to Matt's house from Harlax.

Those are my classes for the week, but what do I do in my spare time? In between British Studies lecture and seminar, I usually nap for about an hour! After seminar there is lunch in the refectory, usually consisting of an odd combination of foods. Everyone always ask how the food is. The answer: just the same as any other cafeteria. There's plenty of options as long as you're willing to be creative! After lunch I work on things for awhile (today I "exchanged" my sheets! We can take our sheets to housekeeping and the give you a fresh set. No having to waste laundry money!). In the evenings I normally work on homework, often having to meet with a group of people to do projects for British Studies. If I don't have homework, there are plenty of common rooms to hang out in (like I am now) where there are TVs to watch English DVDs or play games. There's also 3 pianos to choose from, Matt's guitar that I borrowed and the music room to sing in (where the acoustics are so heavy you sound great no matter what! And if none of those satisfy, there's also the Bistro that is open during the week where all drinks are 2 pounds flat and you can order "cheese toasties", pizza or chips (as in fries). Oh, and there's the Sports Hall, but I only go there when I absolutely have to...!

Also, for those of you who haven't heard, I am no an RA and so I have a few responsibilities every so often with that. I now live in the manor (rather than the Carriage House) in the 400 corridor. Tonight, for instance, I am on duty, so I get a radio from the security desk, make rounds all around Harlaxton and occasionally relieve the security guard at the desk. It's pretty easy-peasy.
Kate, Me, and Ashley after the Meet-a-family reception.

I also participate in SWAG, our student Christian fellowship group on campus and lead music for it every so often. And then there are also other random events such as the Distinguished British Guest series that I get invited to, random British Studies movies (like Monty Python), dance events, SGA events, dinners with our Meet-a-family, dinners with Matt's family, trips into town and more! Basically, the point in what I'm saying, is there's ALWAYS something to do! However, soon enough, my weeks will become rest periods from my weekends! My constant traveling beings very soon!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Robin Hood's Hometown

This weekend, a large group of people stayed at the manor rather than traveling with the school. I was so looking forward to having my first unscheduled days since arriving in England. (Maybe even since before camp!) I had no plans except to catch up on some work and little things and to watch lots of movies.

On Friday, Ashley and I went into Grantham to run some errands and wander without time constraints. It was absolutely fabulous and we couldn't get over it! We discovered our new favorite grocery store (how did we miss it?) Morrisons - which is the first store that I've been able to find every single thing I was looking for! We headed back to the manor and both spent some good hours having "me" time in our rooms (that are across the hall from each other. We can also yell the other person's name from our rooms if we need them...). That evening we ordered take-away (it was awful) and watched Pride and Prejudice in one of the common rooms. It was a very English evening!

 A view of the buildings from the city centre.
Saturday morning, we decided to be a bit more adventurous and took the train to Nottingham. It is about a 45 minute drive north of us and so the train ticket was only 4 pounds 70 round-trip! We were accompanied by our friend Jake and had a great time. We had no plans as to what to do once we arrived because we didn't know what to expect of the town. Upon arrival, we realized that the town was very cute and had tons of things to do and see. There was shopping on every corner, from department type stores to boutiques to small hole-in-the-wall types. We meandered for awhile, stopping in all the necessary stores and, of course, the really touristy ones. We treated ourselves to lattes and a cheese and tomato baguette and people/fashion watched for awhile. Ashely and I are very enthralled with the current English fashion of not wearing pants (by pants, I mean jeans, not underwear as the English would assume) but instead leggings or tights. I think I've seen a total of 4 English in jeans. Very strange. We have decided, however, that we very much approve of this fashion. Don't be surprised if I come back wearing only leggings.

Ashley and I in the fountain.
Anyway, we continued our journey passing a very awesome fountain in the city square. It was a flat surface with water on top that created a waterfall off the edges of the flat. What you couldn't see was that the flat surface actually got deeper and so if you walked through it, you could be down to your shoulders in water! It's very hard to explain but we were fascinated by it! And because the locals were playing in it, of course we had to try!

Me and Robin Hood.
After discovering the fountain, we we headed toward Nottingham Castle where everything was dedicated to Robin Hood! We wandered around the grounds viewing the castle and seeing the different statues. The castle was on a hill and overlooked most of the rural areas of Nottingham. I began to realize that I actually knew nothing of Robin Hood except that his villain was a lion and his friend was a bear...I think I should either re-watch the Disney version or pay close attention in British Studies when we discuss him!

We decided that was a thorough enough adventure in Nottingham for the day and headed back to Grantham. Once in town, we headed to The Goose, a very Harlaxton popular pub, for dinner. We had the BEST dinner thus far in English restaurants and for the cheapest price! I had a giant piece of lasagna, two pieces of garlic bread, a salad, and a drink all for under 4 pounds! It was the best deal ever. After our delicious meal, we decided it was best to take the taxi back to the manor to, of course, watch more English movies. What a weekend!

Monday, September 6, 2010

The City of Walking

This weekend, I went with about 120 students from the school to London. We left on Thursday evening and took three coaches to the Russell Square area of London. Most of explored a bit of the city that evening, getting an idea of where we were in reference to the rest of the city. Our hotel was definitely not fancy, but then again, we weren't planning on spending very much time there!

Ashley and I with a Recycling Man in Covent Garden
Friday morning, Ashley, our friend Kate, and I got up and began exploring. Harlaxton's principal, Dr. Kingsley, and his wife had written out a very nice walking tour of all the sights for us to see. We decided to give that tour a try at our own leisure. We began walking in the direction we believed things to be, only realizing that the tour we had just had very vague directions, and didn't actually tell us what streets to take! We knew we were in for a bit of adventure knowing that the streets in London were not set up in any type of grid and would take you in completely the wrong direction if you weren't careful!

Big Ben - Though from afar I didn't think it was big enough to be the right clock tower...
However, me and my really good sense of direction got us to all of the things we wanted to see! We spent about 6 hours walking and saw Piccadilly Circus (the Times Square of London), Covent Garden (lots of shopping), Leicester Square (pronounced Lester - the theater district), the National Gallery (free!), the National Portrait Gallery (also free!), St. Martin-in-the-fields Church (where we ate lunch in a crypt), Trafalgar Square (my favorite one), the Horse Guards Parade (or at lease, the guards on the horses), Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the Thames River (which we now know to pronounce "Tims"), the London Eye (though I didn't get to ride it...), and finally Buckingham Palace (though there were NO guards to be seen!!).

I didn't get the chance to see the Tower of London or the Tower Bridge which was a little disappointing, but my feet were extremely tired by that time. While in Leicester Square, I made sure to buy tickets for a show, and so that evening I went and saw "Love Never Dies", the sequel to the Phantom of the Opera. I had great seats for a good price which was very cool. The show was definitely no Phantom, but the leads had great voices, there were tons of fascinating circus-type talents incorporated into the show, and I will never view the plot line to the original show the same again!

So touristy...but we had to do it!
On Saturday, Ashley, Kate and I explored the British Museum (also free!) for a bit. That place was so huge and had so much to look at, it was a bit overwhelming. What I had mainly wanted to see was the Reading Room, which had original copies of tons of famous literature and history books, and where many famous authors have gone to be inspired for their writing. However, it is closed for the next TWO YEARS. I was very disappointed. But I got over that by happening across a very exciting shopping area nearby called the Seven Dials. Lots of great places to window shop (a little too expensive for a traveling college student...) and a neat area to be on a Saturday.

All in all, we probably walked about 20 miles (no exaggeration) throughout the whole weekend. I felt very confident in my exploration of the city and never got lost. There was always so much to do, and definitely not enough time! Sunday was spent checking out of the hotel and taking the coach to the west end of London to visit Hampton Court Palace. I had no idea what the palace was about, but quickly learned from my (free!) audio tour that it was the palace most of the early kings and queen's had lived. Now the palace is focused on teaching about Henry VIII and his many wives. It was fascinating, but hard to take in after such a packed weekend!

I do want to go back to London for another weekend sometime this semester to explore a few more things that I didn't get to, as well as see the Opera and, of course, Billy Elliott. I'm definitely going to work on those plans soon! As for now, I'm lying low this week (although, keeping very busy) and hanging around the manor and Grantham for the weekend. I can't to crazy traveling all the time!