Sunday, 16 February 2014

White Cliffs of Dover: the most exquisite and terrifying experience of my life

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. 

By Lorissa Vanden Hoogen

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Cardiff: All the Way There and Back Again


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 people.

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 it.

Until next time . . . Allons-y!

~Joy Grace