With many people gone from the manor enjoying the long weekend, my friend, Sonja, and I decided to plan a day trip to see the White Cliffs of Dover, and so the story begins... Waking up at 5:30ish on a Saturday isn't usually my idea of fun, but hey, you can't let an opportunity like the White Cliffs of Dover pass you up. So, half-awake we took a taxi at 6:20 to the train station in Grantham to catch our train at 7:15 (we got there earlier than necessary obviously). We got on our train and had a little over an hour ride to London, where we had to cross the street from King's Cross to St. Pancras to get on our next train to Dover. This all went off without a hitch; the first problem we encountered was once we got to Dover. We started walking around Dover and began following the brown tourist signs that pointed us in the direction of the cliffs, only to walk through some sketchy parts of Dover after losing signs, but we eventually made it to an information booth for the Dover Castle where a nice lady points us in the correct direction. Again, we began following the signs...but then we hit a fork in the road and no sign. We decided on the paved road, we walked and realized that this was probably the wrong way so we turned around. Naturally, we decided to head down the other path only to come to a dead end, so we turned back again. We then come across a German man and his British girlfriend who were also heading to the cliffs and they let us follow them. We actually ended up hopping the fence that Sonja and I thought was a dead end, but then a farmer emerged and informed us that we needed to take a turn earlier. So once again, we back tracked to another path, we crossed a street, go through some sketchy wooded area (Tangent time: It was then that I realized that this could have taken a turn for the worst and end up being the inspiration for a horror film: two American girls trusting two others in leading them through the woods only to come across a farmer, who was in on the plan the whole time, who end up leading us back to their home where they would feast on our flesh...yeah...glad that didn't happen), but we eventually made it to a paved path and to the cliffs, and just to clarify, everyone was super friendly and there was no cannibalism involved in this adventure. The cliffs were BEAUTIFUL, and no picture can truly do them justice. We had a wonderful time venturing along the paths, battling the wind trying to get a picture, and just enjoying the view. After walking pretty far we decided to head back to the Visitor Center for some tea, but the weather had a plan of its own. Before heading back, I noted that the sky was getting rather dark, but seeing as there was no rain in the forecast, we didn't think anything of it...and boy, were we sorrily mistaken. We were a little over halfway back to the Visitor Center when the rain started rollin' and the wind started whippin'. This may have been the most terrible weather I have ever experienced (this coming from a gal that has had to deal with plenty of Wisconsin winters). The wind took my hat (luckily it got caught on a bush and I was able to get it back), and it almost took my scarf and backpack. The wind was so strong that when I turned around, it pushed me into Sonja and then pushed both of us into a fence, and not to mention that the rain coming down felt like little needles hitting your skin. We finally decided to make a run for it, so I shielded my eyes so I could only see what was just in front of me and pushed my way through the elements. Let me say that I have never been more excited to see buildings in my whole life. We were soaked, cold, and extremely dishevelled, but in the end we have a memory that will last a lifetime and for that I am grateful.
Our excursion to Cardiff began before the crack of dawn at
5:45 on a Saturday morning. Actually, for one of my friends and I, it began with a
brisk morning sprint as we dashed from Pegasus Courtyard to the Carriage House
for some things we had forgotten. We made it back just in time to be picked up by a
nice, snarky cab driver who thought we were crazy for wanting to visit Wales,
the “sheep-shagging country.”
Little did we know when we got in that cab that it was only
the start to a traveling experience that would render us experts in almost
every mode of ground transportation possible.
My friends and I embarked on our first Harlaxton rail
experience—the 6:18 train to London. After a short caffeine break in King’s
Cross station and a photo stop at the legendary Harry Potter Platform 9 ¾, we
made our way to the London Tube, which we took down to Victoria. From there it
was a short walk to the Victoria Coach Station, where we boarded a coach and
settled down for a three hour ride to Cardiff, Wales.
Except three hours turned more into four when our coach was
forced to bypass a traffic accident and then come into Cardiff from a long,
roundabout outside road. The reason for the blocked main roads soon became
apparent as my friends and I hopped off our coach—straight into a veritable ocean
Of course . . . we had picked the day that Cardiff was
hosting not one, but two sports
matches—rugby and football. We still had a twenty minute walk to get to our
final destination, and a good bit of this walk was spent fighting our way
through masses of eager, painted fans like fish swimming upstream. Fortunately,
by the time we got to Cardiff Bay, the crowds had thinned out, and instead of
death by trampling, we now simply faced the threat of being knocked off our
feet by the gargantuan gusts of wind blowing in from the bay.
And so we reached our coveted destination tired, cold, and
windswept—peering up through our tangled hair at the beautiful blue sign that
read: The Doctor Who Experience. Yup, we were three faithful fangirls, willing
to brave everything and anything to spend less than two hours in a museum dedicated
to what we believed to be BBC’s greatest television series.
Which is exactly what we did. Two hours of flying the
T.A.R.D.I.S., escaping Daleks, avoiding Weeping Angels, squealing over David
Tennant’s Converses, and posing for pictures next to every possible rendition
of that iconic blue telephone box. We stopped in the gift shop on the way out,
and then it was time to retrace our long, arduous way from coach to train to
Tube to taxi until we returned to Harlaxton at 11:30 that night.
All in all, I think we spent over twelve hours traveling and only a
fraction of that time at the actual Doctor Who Experience. But it was all part
of the adventure. For me, it was my first and probably last trip to
Wales. And for three hardcore Whovians, every microsecond of the trip was worth
Last weekend the majority of the students here at Harlaxton signed up for a trip to London. We left Thursday evening of the 16th and arrived in London at our hotel, the Royal National. A few friends and I unpacked and then went to the pub on the corner to grab a few drinks and talk.
Friday morning, a friend and I set out to explore this amazing city. As we were without any cell service or wifi, we relied on our maps and street signs to find our destinations. We walked through Soho, Chinatown, Piccadilly Circus, along Oxford street and then arrived at Buckingham Palace. We were able to see the changing of the guard until we got caught in the freezing rain and decided to find a nice place to eat lunch. We then walked down to Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Parliament. My friend went back to the hotel and I sat along the Thames for a while to take in the view. I then met a group from Harlaxton for our tour of Parliament. Sadly, no photos were allowed inside, but it is an absolutely gorgeous and ornate building that hosts so much history. After Parliament, a group of us took the tube back to our hotel to change, eat dinner, and have drinks at a pub.
Saturday, my friend and I went to the British Museum and British Library. At the library we got to see original copies of the works of Shakespeare, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Beowulf, Alice in Wonderland, Magna Carta, and The Beatles. We then had lunch and went to Kings Cross to take our lovely tourist photos with the Platform 9 3/4 sign. That evening a large group of us from Harlaxton went on a pub crawl that took us to five pubs/clubs. We stayed out late dancing and walking back through the streets of London.
Sunday, we all wearily packed our bags and took the bus to the beautiful Hampton Court Palace and then back to the Manor.
1. Definitely take time to walk through the city. It has so much to offer and you definitely get a feel for the city when you walk along its beautiful streets.
2. Take lots of pictures. Who knows when you’ll go back.
3. Don’t try to cram everything in if you don’t have the time. Pick your top places and go from there. Also be willing to go with the flow and trek off the beaten path.
4. Enjoy the London nightlife. The pub crawl was a bit crowded and rowdy, but definitely go to a few pubs or clubs and enjoy the night.
5. Do not run up the stairs from the tube station. Trust me.
I’ve just experienced one of the best
nights of my life. It wasn’t in Ireland on the Ring of Kerry, in Edinburgh
outside the café where J. K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter, or in York on the
medieval wall, though those were all fantastic experiences. No, one of the best
nights of my life happened in London last week. I got to see Macbeth at the Globe. That’s right, the Globe, Shakespeare’s Globe.
The Globe itself looks gorgeous.
When I stood inside as a groundling, I could look straight up at the night sky
and see stars. I stood less than five feet from the stage while I watched Macbeth, but some people were right up
against the stage. At one point during the play, certain people shook hands
with Macbeth. “Want to kiss my ring?” he asked. Oh, yes, I thought, and wished
I’d stood a little closer.
Macbeth and Malcom were both
extraordinarily handsome. I don’t know why, but I was getting some Obi-Wan
Kenobi vibes from Malcom—maybe it was the ginger hair and dry humor. I’ve never
had a crush on Macbeth before, on account of all the murdering/insanity/general
weirdness that surrounds the character, but I did when I saw him at the Globe.
For the first time, I pitied his character. He was so in love with his wife at
first. When he ran to her and hugged her tight in their first scene together,
there was more emotion in that hug than there would have been in a kiss.
Everything went a bit sour once he started murdering people, of course.
The play began with drums. I wish I
had a recording of the music that was played live throughout the play. The play
had its own soundtrack the way a film would, and it was spectacular. The music
set the scene all on its own, drums and bagpipes and strings. The music during
the final fight scene was intense; I was so pumped, I was ready to swordfight.
The witches were appropriately
creepy. Their costumes looked almost steampunk at first. Before Macbeth showed
up for the first time, they dressed up for him—put on ivy crowns and something
akin to lipstick. Knowing Macbeth’s
witches, it was probably blood.
All these details didn’t make the
play perfect, though. Banquo did. He was played by none other than Billy Boyd.
For those of you who don’t know,
Billy Boyd played Peregrin Took in The
Lord of the Rings. For those of you who don’t know me, I have an undying
love for The Lord of the Rings
trilogy. For years, I’ve dreamed of seeing one of the actors in person.
I had no idea that Billy Boyd was
going to be in Macbeth. In fact, I
wasn’t even sure it was him up on stage until a middle-aged woman behind me
murmured, “Well, that’s Pippin, isn’t it?” I did a double-take. Indeed, beneath
that scruffy beard was impish Pippin, funny Billy Boyd. I choked and then, as
quietly as I could, freaked out. For the rest of the play, I covered my mouth
whenever Billy Boyd showed up. Just in case he saw me in the crowd, I didn’t
want him to see my stupid grin.
The final battle was wild. When I
see fight scenes in films, I assume that most of the work is done by stunt
doubles. There were no stunt doubles at the Globe. The actors somersaulted and
ducked and hit. By the time Macbeth died, I was ready to pick up his axe and do
a little fighting myself.
Then came the jig.
It’s tradition at the Globe for
there to be a jig performed after a tragedy. After all, as my Shakespeare
professor put it, you don’t want your audience to be so depressed that they go
throw themselves into the Thames. In order to prevent play-induced despair, the
actors get up at the end of the play and do a lively jig.
I was so caught up in the story that
I forgot the jig was coming. So when suddenly the dirge at the end of the play
turned into a wild and happy tune, I jumped. Then I laughed. Macbeth spun his
wife around in circles. Two of the witches danced arm in arm. Now it was the
actors onstage as themselves, not as their characters, and they were having the
times of their lives.
I used to dance—ballet, Irish step
dancing, character, and modern. Performances were a high for me. My favourite
part of being in a performance was the sheer euphoria at the end of a
performance, knowing you’d done your part and done it well. The Macbeth cast definitely felt that way.
Maybe my vision was colored by my own glee, but each of the actors looked
victorious as they took a bow. As they left the stage, Macbeth jumped up and
tapped the doorway—some little superstitious move, maybe, or just a way to work
out his wild energy.
I understood that urge completely. I
cheered until my throat was sore. Even now, when I think about that play, I
bounce in my seat. Macbeth at the
Globe was one of the best experiences of my life. If I could see it again every
night, I would.
As the weekend rolled around, and the majority of
Harlaxtonians prepared to embark on the school trip to London, I began to feel
more and more that what I was doing was insane.
Rather than signing up for the well-rounded
itinerary of the school trip, my friends and I had decided we would plan London
independently. We’d booked our hostel back in August, so we knew that we at
least had a place to stay, but that didn’t stop me from worrying. What if we
couldn’t find it? What if we got on the wrong train? What if –– and this was a
truly terrible thought –– we got to the hostel in one piece and found that it
was simply not a safe place to stay? What if our roommates were creepy old men
who ogled at us in our towels or shifty-eyed characters who stole our stuff?
WHAT IF THERE WAS NO WIFI??
It turned out that our hostel was none of these
things. We were in South Kensington, a pretty posh borough where we wouldn’t
have been able to stay otherwise, and all of our roommates seemed reasonably
normal. We weren’t all in the same room ––– in what seemed blindingly obvious
in hindsight, we’d booked independently and hoped to be grouped together –––
but the woman behind the counter did her best to try to get us together. And we
found the hostel just fine, although it took some map-reading and good
guesswork to actually find the building once we got off the tube. So all in
all, I felt pretty proud of our abilities to go somewhere by ourselves and not
end up lost or taken. But just getting to the destination does not make a good
trip, I soon discovered. While there, we had to do things like figure out where
to eat and what to see, and someone was bound to be disappointed. I worried
that I would leave London feeling like I’d seen absolutely nothing, or that I’d
wasted my money, or, worse, that despite the fun we’d had, it would never be
able to leave up to my fabulous daydreams of the trip. I worried that, like a
kid who awaits Christmas with a feverish anticipation only to unwrap socks, my
unrealistic expectations vs. the inevitably flawed reality would let me down.
But, thankfully, I was wrong.
My trip to London wasn’t perfect. I showered in a
space the size of an airport bathroom, forgot my railcard for the journey to
Watford Junction, had my walking tour held up by a car show, and came down with
a cold in the process. I didn’t get to see half of what I wanted to. But I also
drank butterbeer outside of the actual Potters’ cottage, watched the changing
of the guard, climbed the lions in Trafalgar Square, ate wonderfully authentic
Middle Eastern food (and fish ‘n chips), and affirmed my ability to safely and
successfully navigate places beyond my wildest imagination. I met Germans and
Vancouverites and saw street performers dressed as cats and drank in weird pubs
with some great friends, and I was not let down at all.
Leaving London, I felt like I’d barely scratched the
surface of a city rich in history and culture. Because to be honest, two days
is not enough to see a city. I could spend months pub-crawling and
museum-visiting and tea-sipping before I ever felt I’d experienced enough to
say I really knew or saw everything London has to offer. But I got a little
taste. And though it wasn’t complete, I don’t hesitate to say that it was one
hundred percent worth it.