England, Day Four: Leaving London

Sub caption: Bloomsbury to Wiltshire to Winchester to Alton

We awoke bright and early to leave the hotel by 7am to head to Stourhead Garden. The Harlingford Hotel gave us a last farewell by packing breakfast to-go for us to eat on the bus. It’s about a 2 1/2 hour bus ride, and I believe most of us fell asleep. There was one point where we were startled awake by Debbie saying, “Look, there’s Stonehenge!” We all sleepily jumped up to see it as we passed by. Some of us even got a couple blurry pictures.

Stourhead Garden is lots and lots of beautiful things all in one place. It was about 50 degrees when we arrived and warmed up only a few degrees during our time there. When you first enter the Garden, you descend a hill that takes you to the bridge that Kiera Knightly ran across in Pride and Prejudice. The lake is beautiful, and you can see the Pantheon behind it. Here’s our group in a selfie so I could be included.

The Garden is made of fields, flowers, greenery, temples, ponds, waterfalls, a waterwheel, a grotto, and lots of cute ducks, geese, and even a crane. Our group split up after our group picture, and we were able to move about at our own pace. I ended up walking around alone for a while, just taking pictures of all these beautiful flowers.

The Temple of Apollo, and the Pantheon allowed visitors to walk inside and view sculptures and detailed ceilings. Since the motto of the Garden is “a living work of art,” the area around and between the temples is full of green and colorful flowers.

There was a 300 something-year-old grotto that contained statues, beautiful views, and an ode. The stones are jagged and missy, but it was the most beautiful place to be.it was cool and misty: the perfect morning.

Leah and I found a little grove of giant trees that stretched at least four or five stories up, but one of them grew horizontally out from the ground before jutting upward, creating a nice place to lie down. Once there, you could look directly up and see the tentacle-like branches of the huge trees. In another place, there was a place that was PERFECT to sit on.

We also made a duck friend who walked in step with us for five whole minutes before rejoining her duck friends. Meet Bluebell who was named by the cute little English girl we met in the Garden today. (And also some geese just because we were really close to them, and they were cute.)

We walked and walked, finding all kinds of little adventures along the way. Overall, the Garden is my favorite place we have visited 🙂

After the Garden, we hopped back on the bus for another hour to head to Winchester Cathedral in Winchester (obviously). This place was HUGE. For our literary class, our mission there was to see Jane Austen’s grave. We observed the exhibit in her honor, and we saw her grave, memorial plaque, and inscriptions. We also wandered the cathedral, listened to the choir singing, and theorized about the rising of the dead in the apocalypse.

Our last stop for the bus was the Alton House Hotel, where we will stay just for tonight before heading to Oxford tomorrow evening. We explored a bit and found the pool which prompted this question: if, in the U.S., we open our pools on Memorial Day and close them on Labor Day, what is the English equivalent? The answer: there aren’t actually many outdoor public pools because it “doesn’t get warm enough.”

We explored Alton a bit tonight and decided to eat at a pub. Now these are all church kids. Good kids who don’t drink, and therefore do not frequent pubs. So we went into a bar, sat down, and then had a conversation about how no one had ever been to a pub and didn’t know what to do. There also wasn’t anyone looking at us, and we ultimately decided to run back out the door. Hysterical, right? Yes.

We did end up going to a hotel pub where we ate some DELICIOUS chicken and pie. We were there for a couple hours because who could pass up English dessert? Poor Megan never got her pie, but a crumble instead (also good). Fun fact: custard is WONDERFUL.

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England, Day Three: Cambridge

Today was our designated free day, but I didn’t decide where I was going to go until last night. I chose to accompany my English professor with a small group to Cambridge, London, England. This is the big fancy place where there are about 7198368 colleges (actual number is 31). There is lots of bikes. LOTS of bikes. And lots of people walking and smelling strongly of perfume and wearing nice clothes and also just college kids lying in the grass. That is a thing I’ve noticed people do a lot here: just lie in the grass wherever they please. It’s glorious.

We took a one hour train ride out to the city and just wandered a good portion of the day. We took a punting tour up and down the river. (Yes, “punting.” Google “punting Cambridge.”) I took a LOT of pictures.

The day was exhausting, and I’m pretty sure I slept most of the train ride back. We ate Mediterranean food—a lamb kofta—and played frisbee in the little park outside our hotel.

Another hot, yet wonderful day 🙂

England, Day Two: London

Let me begin by saying that if you ever travel to London and want to stay in Bloomsbury, stay at the Harlingford Hotel because they have amazing breakfast. They serve a full English breakfast complete with eggs, sausage, bacon, toast, coffee, tea, and a full continental breakfast with “your choice of over 15 kinds of cereal” (as per their guest book). It was wonderful, hands down. If that doesn’t sound glorious to you, we can’t be friends.

After the most wonderful breakfast, the entire group took the Tube to Wembley and walked up the winding suburban roads of Wembley Court to worship at the Wembley church of Christ. I expected straight British accents, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the congregation is a mixture of British, Jamaican, Indian, and more. It was wonderful, and they were so welcoming to us Americans. We were even made fun of because he tried to lead “an American song” and none of us had ever heard it before. Here’s a picture of the church entrance 🙂

After church, the entire group visited the house of the poet, John Keats, whose poems we read in World Literature and on our own. He only published 4(?) books of poetry before he died of tuberculosis at the ripe age of 25. Fun fact: he was only 5′ 1″ which is shorter than everyone in our tour group; there is a life size/real height bust of Keats in the welcome center of his home, and of course we all had to compare ourselves to him. We tried on costumes, learned about his family, purchased books, and appreciated hard work and history.

While still in Wembley, we found a little café called “Polly’s” where we ate lunch. They have tasty sandwiches, good coffee, foamy hot milk, and very cute decor. The owner and his sons were very friendly, and I would 100% eat here again. One of the sons had a nice conversation with us about the different currencies. Fun fact: English pound notes increase in size as they increase in value, and they have coins for 1 and 2 pounds along with 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 pence. I like their currency better than the American dollars because aesthetic, but they still can’t beat the Canadian’s maple syrup scratch-and-sniff.

After lunch, we all split up to go do different things around London. A group of us went to a local fair where we saw lots of very familiar attractions like funnel cakes, rides, and gimmicks to take your money. We also saw some not-so-familiar things such as this Buzz Lightyear teacup ride, this bubble game, and this Spider-Man prize.

We wandered past the fair to find a very pretty field, a lake, trails into the woods, etc., and I photographed lots of it.

When we found our way out of the woods, we continued on the Tube to Baker Street and visited 221B Baker Street, the location of the great detective, Sherlock Holmes. They have a door set up, but I’m not sure if it’s fake, if someone actually lives there, or if it’s owned by someone who just leaves it as a tourist attraction. People line up to take their picture outside the door, then head next door to the Sherlock Holmes museum and gift shop which I assume contains all kinds of Holmes-y things (it was closed when we went).

There’s also a really cute bike rack here:

We grabbed some sandwiches at a convenience store and headed to Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre where we saw an outstanding performer of Peter Pan. The best split second decision of my life.

I’ve done so much, and it’s only our second full day.

England, Day One: London

I had never flown over an ocean, but NOW I HAVE. Let me start by saying that British Airways is SO much better than flying Southwest in the U.S. First, the seats are comfier. Second, you have a little TV to watch or play games on the flight. Third, there is a real time flight path which you can view on your screen. Fourth, there is actual good food (pictured). And fifth, but most importantly, the people who work on the planes are English. This means we got 8 or so hours of nice people asking us if we wanted wine or coffee or TEA. It was glorious.

A big portion of what I was looking forward to was talking to native Englanders and hearing their wonderful voices, but London has been a lot more diverse than I expected it to be. Lots of nationalities, accents, cultures, and they are all mixed in here. It’s wonderful.

We flew overnight over the Atlantic, and through the darkness I could see the sea and the sky, and nothing else. Just darkness. The curve of the earth, but no vegetation. I have never felt so small. (And just a small bit terrified that our plane might just stop and hurtle us into the water.) but we made it safely.

Our first day in here was one for the books. Having only slept an hour or two during the flight, we were exhausted, but eager to see what London had in store. We didn’t “do” anything, as in we didn’t pay for tours or to ride anything (except the Tube, or course). We took the Tube from our stop to Green Park where we promptly lost Dr. Payne and Mrs. Kay, but fear not, for they were only up a lift stop from where we ended up.

After collecting them, we walked through Green Park to Buckingham Palace. I knew this place was cool, but I was not expecting it to be this BIG. It is massive. The guard’s hats are MASSIVE. And fluffy. Very fluffy. We took fancy pictures of each other, the palace, and the statues. While we stood at the foot of a golden statue, gazing down the most English street (pictured), a parade of horses begin marching toward us. Atop these horses sit soldiers? clad in armor and fancy things.

I believe the most spectacular thing I saw today, though, was a man in the Tube wearing only a pair of khaki Winnie the Pooh overalls, rolled up at the knee and falling off his shoulders. Very stylish.

After Buckingham palace, we walked to Westminster Abbey, Parliament Square, and Big Ben (which, sadly, is under construction and is barely recognizable). We walked to see the London Eye, and then rode the Tube to King’s Cross station where we visited Platform 9 3/4. Man, it was disappointing. The wizarding world deserves so much more than the small display they put up. The shop was amazing, though, and they had an entire section just for Dobby items ❤️💚

My friends and I found a little street shop on the way home and bought “potato jackets” which are baked potatoes stuffed with whatever you choose, and they were DELICIOUS. We sat on the stoop of our hotel eating them.

Our exciting day came to a close when we returned to our hotel room and promptly passed out on our beds.

Stay tuned for more 🙂

Friendship

There are good ships. There are bad ships, but the best ships are friendships.

When I was younger, I had an embarrassingly large collection of keychains. (So maybe I actually still have it tucked up in the closet, but that’s irrelevant now.) I had one little rectangle one that was full of blue glitter and little ship confetti that had this saying on it. It probably comes from somewhere from an important person, but I remember this little keychain with the handy little saying to help me remember the important things in life.

I never had a lot of friends growing up. I was “friends” with a lot of people: classmates, teammates, etc.; I did not, however, grow close to many of them. I had several people rotate through the “best friend” slots in my life, but only a few stayed for the long haul. In my eyes, though, having a small number of really good friends made more sense than having lots and lots of semi-friends. Depth over breadth, right? I think so.

This past weekend I was able to watch one of my best friends get her nursing pin and walk the stage in her cap and gown with her BSN, and I’ve never been more proud of anyone in my life.

This girl deserves more success and happiness than anyone. She has worked so hard through school to realize her dream of becoming a nurse. Long nights of studying, difficult teachers, other students (good and bad), loss, success, frustration, happiness, and lots in between. She conquered it all. She walked across that stage with her head held a mile high—deservedly so—while her family and I beamed with pride.

This woman said way back in high school that she was going to be a nurse. She had to retake classes because of unfavorable events by counselors; she had to study long hours and drink lots of coffee and energy drinks while staying up studying tiny body parts and the complex inner mechanisms of the body. She set out to accomplish something, and she did it. She gets to live her dream. She gets to work at something she enjoys. I hope it challenges her and fulfills her hopes and dreams. I know she is going to be an amazing nurse, and I am so proud of her for all she has accomplished.

I will say, though, that second to watching my beautiful friend walk across the stage, the best part of the day was watching her interact with her Mamaw. Mamaw is in a wheelchair, she is ninety-three years old, and she is incredibly proud of Becca. Watching the two interact made my heart swell and brought tears to my eyes. Pride is sometimes construed as negative and selfish, but I can promise that pride in others, especially those closest to you, is such a pure emotion. Watching someone you love accomplish grand things in their life fulfills something inside of your own heart. Mamaw definitely swelled with pride at Becca accomplishing so much. Smiles all around from Mamaw the whole evening, and the sweet words and hugs were shared afterward—happily caught on camera.

Becca has been my friend since middle school, and man, if you knew me in middle school, you know that it takes a special person to love you through that. But she did. She has been one of the friends that stuck by my side through everything, and I appreciate her more than she will ever know.

Thank you for letting me be part of your day, and thank you for letting me capture the special moments throughout ❤

Week Thirteen

When you think about your future, what do you fear the most?

I fear I won’t ever find a passion or something that I truly enjoy doing.

How does one go about planning a life when one can’t even decide on what they enjoy doing? I have been mediocre and good at lots of things in life, but not just one thing. Some people love building robots, and they pursue a career in engineering. Others love creating and pursue artistic endeavors. I have no such thing. I cannot pinpoint anything that I would want to do for more than an hour or so, and that scares me because I am only 21, and I have no real hobbies. I have no career path. I have no goals other than “survive til I move to the city.” What happens in the city? Hopefully magic. Closer to moving time I’ll have to try to find a place to live, a job for money. Once I am somewhat stable, I’d like to join a gym or a YMCA or something. Maybe fitness classes are my passion. If not, it would be a valuable way to pass some time and maybe make some friends. But really, the city has to be magical because the country definitely isn’t and idk if I can take a muggle city.

I fear that I won’t learn from my mistakes and will continue to make them the rest of my life, in a perpetual loop of misfortune.

I have made some decisions in my life that were tragic in my mind, but others would scoff and maybe shrug because they “weren’t that bad.” To me, these mistakes just proved that I was a flawed being—the first time. I had a relationship that wanted me to choose between my sports team and him. I navigated the situation, but stayed with him. I thought I handled it, and it wouldn’t happen again. Then I had to choose between him and my best friend, and ohmygoodness Brittany, you just told him to piss off, right? Nope. I didn’t. I trust people too much. I expect too much. I expect everyone to act as I would, and I can’t ever see when they aren’t. I am at fault because I am gullible. I have been manipulated, taken advantage of, and walked over. I apparently never had any self-worth, and apparently also haven’t gained much over the years. I want to be thin, I want a flat stomach and a thigh gap like so many other girls and women, but I continue to turn to cookies or ice cream late at night even though I know I won’t achieve my goals like that. That’s why I haven’t achieved them to date. I lose track of what I want to do to what others want. Friends want to go to Dairy Queen, yeah I’ll go—buys ice cream even though I swore off sugar two days ago. Plans to read a book that afternoon, but alas, I must watch a show with someone or read a paper or clean the house.

I always want to please everyone, but I know I can’t. I stretch myself too thin for others—I always have. This has worked out well, outwardly. I excelled in school, in sports, and had lots of friends. Parents love me. However, over all these years, I continually fail to think of myself. I know we are taught (or at least, I was) to put others first, and while my Christian inside knows that Jesus put others first all the time, I know I can’t do the same. Really I shouldn’t. It is exhausting to always put others first. You stretch yourself over and over to make ends meet for your friends, and in the midst, you lose yourself. I can’t really say that I regret putting others first all these years, but I just wish I had thought of myself before I was gone.

I seem secure, though. I seem like I have it all together. All through college I seemed okay. The girl who the whole floor was scared of. The RA that people listened to because of my demeanor. She knew how to fake it. She knew. I know. It’s wearing on me now. I can feel it. I can feel the walls of my heart that have been so strong and thick until now, crumble as I lie in wait of life. I fear that this will never end.

Week Ten

Name an animal whose characteristics you admire. Are you in any way like it?

Elephants. My favorite.

Elephants are good communicators, live in strong matriarchal herds that raise calves together and protect each other. They have amazing memory (it’s true, elephants never forget[or at least it takes years and years to do so]) and intelligence. They display emotions such as grief, playfulness, and anger. They are even-tempered for the most part, but once you push them past the edge, they are a force to be reckoned with and have a wicked temper. They are also very stubborn, which can be good or bad, depending on the task decided upon.

I have a good memory, and I am intelligent. Elephants are better painters than I, but I can be a little artistic. I can be stubborn. I am pretty even-tempered, and it takes a lot to make me truly angry.