Sunday, November 7, 2010

Guy Fawkes, WWII, and Solving the World's Problems

This week has absolutely flown by due to the amount of activity that filled it. I began my week with strenuous studying for the second big British Studies exam and did nothing but focus on that. Once Wednesday came around, the manor relaxed and rejoiced at 4pm when the exam finally finished. After the last exam, everyone had scurried off onto a long weekend of travels, but this time, everyone hung around the manor breathing calmly and doing nothing but socializing.

We had our celebrations by celebrating an early Guy Fawkes day (November 5th) that evening. We all went down to the sports field as an angry mob and threw our Guy Fawkes mannequin into the giant bonfire. We spent the evening watching the bonfire, making "s'mores" even though they don't exist in England, and hung out with one another with the ease of finishing the exam. It was a great night of socializing and represented the marking of our 2/3 of the way done with British Studies. The last few weeks have been the toughest academically because everyone has been crammed with presentations, term papers, tests and projects, but now, we've passed that time. This weekend has been full of nothing, and everyone has felt very odd about that.
All of the RAs with Lauren, our dean of students, in the middle at the bonfire.

Friday, we woke up early and all loaded the coaches for the drive down to London. It was our third and final field trip for British Studies, and it was very relaxed. Half of the students headed to the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Sqaure, one of the most central areas of London. We had required viewings of particular paintings in the National Gallery, but we had already been tested on them, so there wasn't more information that needed to be learned. It was simply a free wander of seeing the "real deal" of what we had been talking about for so long. I especially liked the National Portrait Gallery best because it was less confusing and overwhelming. I really enjoyed looking at the portraits of Elizabeth I and Victoria. There's something about the women monarchs in England and their genius power....

After we were done there, we headed for a half hour long walk down the Strand, toward St. Paul's Cathedral. We were to meet up with our British Studies professor to have a guided tour of the place. We began in the crypt, learning about how the cathedral was built more as a political statement and not as an actual church. The church itself is the burial place for war heroes and political figures, such as Churchill and the Romantic poets. But the real interesting information began, I thought, under the dome and behind the altar. The dome was absolutely stunning and enormous. I thought Olympia's dome was pretty, but it is incomparable to St. Paul's. My professor lead us toward the back of the altar, spotted a table with a cloth covering, and uncovered. He had revealed two handwritten books of every single name of the American soldiers who had died on British ground during the second World War. It was all handwritten and signed by Eisenhower. It was absolutely fascinating and shocking that it was sitting unlabeled, on an bland table and covered by a cloth. We asked if it was something that was revealed on normal tours, and the answer was no. It was revealed to us simply because our professor is a historian, not a tour guide, and he's teaching Americans. He then lead us to the back of the altar to show us the dedication to the Americans after WWII. There was an inscription on the floor thanking the Americans, and every state flag was represented in the stain glass behind the altar. It was oddly amazing to me to see that.
St. Paul's from the Millennium Bridge.

The rest of the tour was spent climbing 234 stairs to the bottom of the dome to the whispering walls. It was really crazy to be up so high but still see the majority of the dome above you. You could also climb to the top of the dome and walk along the outside of it. I decided I wanted to sit on the ground level and look at the inside of the cathedral and save my heights for the Eiffel Tower next weekend. After the cathedral, I walked a bit to the Millennium Bridge to spot the Tower Bridge and see the ugly Thames river. In reality, I only wanted to go to that bridge because they filmed it in Harry Potter. But it was still cool! I then headed back to Trafalgar Square to meet up with Kate and Ashley (Rebekah was with me) for dinner. We went to a nice Italian restaurant and rested considering we had been walking nonstop all day.
A picture of the inside of the top of the dome I may have snuck...

That night, we went to see Stomp(!) in the West End. We had gotten decently priced tickets and had fabulous seats! We were in the second level (there were only two), front row middle and at eye level with the performers. It was an incredible show and we loved everyone minute of it. It was one of my favorite things I've seen. After the show, we headed toward a nearby pub to wait out the last hour or so before the coach arrived. Then we headed back to Harlaxton, arriving around 2am. It was quite a long evening.

Yesterday was spent being completely unproductive (because we've all finished our work!) and it was a bit of a bummer because we were originally supposed to spend the day with Matt in Stamford. It didn't work out, but that was okay. Today though, Ashley and I went to our meet-a-family's house for a traditional Sunday lunch and met two of their very close friends of 47 years. The food was absolutely delicious and filling. Along with Sunday lunch is the goal to drink more wine than water, which balanced out nicely with the amount of food we were eating. We started Yorkshire pudding, the continued on with a roast lamb (it was incredibly tasty) with mint sauce, roast potatoes, cooked carrots, cabbage, leeks in a cheese sauce, finishing with an apple pie with cream as the pudding. But don't forget your coffee and mint at the end (which usually follows fruit and cheese if it were a true dinner party). The whole lunch made Harlaxton Sunday roast dinners look, and taste, like a joke!
Just wanted to include Bob the Swan, our Harlaxton pet who died last weekend. He was seen wandering far way from his home a lot in the week prior to his death and I talked with him a bit during my RA rounds the weekend before. He always let us pet him and the lake doesn't look the same without him hanging out there.

Conversation around the table was great and constantly changing. We talked a lot about British Studies, old stories of Yorkshire (where the Beal's and their friends had grown up) and lots of random cultural things, especially since Cath and Brian (Ray and Pat's friends) had not had as much experience with the American (and Bahamian) college students like the Beal's had. But the dinner table got very interesting when we began to discuss global warming, which I'm currently studying in Environmental Studies, which lead to a lot of political talk. It was great to have the older views on politics as compared to Ashley's and my younger view. The four older adults decided that Ashley and I were destined to changing the world, and Ashley and I decided that we need to spend time with older, English adults to boost our confidence more often!

It was an overall great afternoon and Ashley and I are feeling very fortunate of our meet-a-family pairing. Next week Ray and Pat are taking us to a nearby town, Newark, to see something more pretty and historically interesting than Grantham. It should be another great visit with them. But before that, we head to Paris with Kate for 4 days of jam-packed sight-seeing! And lots and lots of cheese...

1 comment:

  1. Have fun in Paris, the war world two stuff sounds interesting as well!