Thursday, 29 October 2015

Cities as People

It is my firm belief that cities have personalities like people do. They have characteristics that make them unique, and help travelers determine if they’re best friend material, or simply an acquaintance. To illustrate this, let’s look at two cities I’ve visited: London, England, and Dublin, Ireland.

London could be personified as an old professor. He has been around the block a few times, and is set in his ways. He knows exactly what works for him, and will keep it that way for a long time to come. He has high expectations for you, and he won’t offer help if you need it. He expects you to figure things out for yourself. If you are lost, London subtly points you in the right direction. When you do find your way, London will reward you, not with a big fanfare but with a smile and a nod. He knows a good cup of tea, politics, and has a very good sense of his past.

Dublin is like that guy in a pub. He always has a drink in his hand, he’s a bit gruff, but he’s friendly once you get to know him. He’s rough around the edges – it might take you a while to find the nice spots – but Dublin knows it and will let you get to them on your own. He holds grudges for long periods of time, and takes time to remember those who have gone before him. He’s had problems in the past, and he knows it, but he’s working on putting it all behind him. Dublin doesn’t try to put on airs – what you see is what you get.

So as you travel to different cities this semester, try to get a feel for the personality of the city. Each one is unique, just like a person, so get to know them. You may end up with a new friend.

Written by: Elizabeth Niedbala

Monday, 26 October 2015

Keeping Memories: Souvenirs

Whenever I travel, I always want to take away something from the place that I’ve been. Over the course of my time at Harlaxton, I’ve made it a personal tradition to try to get at least one postcard everywhere I go, which I post on my board in my room. In addition to the postcards, I also try to get a key chain. My idea is that at the end of the semester,  I can fill up my Harlaxton lanyard with keychains of all the places that I went with the intent of hanging it on my wall when I get back home. Finally, my family also collects stocking pins and christmas ornaments from the various places that we go. 

Collecting souvenirs while abroad can be expensive. Even though they are meaningful objects, they can break your bank quickly if you arent careful. A souvenir can literally be anything that you take from a place; so it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to buy them if you want to save on money. For a lot of the trips I have been on, I have picked up a small rock. In addition to pieces of nature that you can bring back, something as simple as taking a picture can be a souvenir. They are easy to frame and you can give them to your family as gifts.

I recommend that when traveling, find a small number of little things that are easy to find in shops and are easy to fit in your luggage. My personal example would be the stocking pins that my parents and I collect. Because I’ve been to many different places, I’ve accumulated a lot over the years and it is fun to see my collection grow. In addition, I personalize my stocking pins by getting different ones than my parents so it is always significant to me and my experience.

Written by: Kelsey Fields

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Kindergarten x 12

New place. Strange-smelling food. Unfamiliar faces. Crying for Mommy and Daddy.
Nope, I’m not talking about kindergarten. I’m talking about Harlaxton.

Yes, we’ve all heard it’s just like Hogwarts (and yes, for all you future Lions I can confirm it totally is), but I’m here to give you another comparison: kindergarten. Harlaxton is, well, like kindergarten times 12. You’re in this wonderful, but totally new place, and it’s magnificent but can also make a person feel quite small. You’re incredibly excited, but slightly overwhelmed. And it’s during this time that you look to friends. Only, ha, oh yeah, you’re an ocean away from most of them. Suddenly you’re a little fish in a big pond just looking for other fish to swim with. The task can feel quite daunting, especially for those of us who are a bit on the shy side. But I’m here, as a friend, to give a little encouragement and reassurance using some age-old lessons picked up in, you guessed it, kindergarten. (Because at the end of the day, we’re all 6 year olds at heart.)

1.)    Can I sit with you?
This little line will forever come in handy. From kindergarten to college, the quickest way to meet new people is to do just that: meet them. Easier said than done, you might say. Yeah, I know. I am admittedly very bad at going up to new people and just striking up a conversation. But, at Harlaxton that awkwardness is minimalized because there are constantly opportunities that allow for you to engage with your fellow Lions. Refectory is full? Squeeze in with a group. First day of class? Find a buddy to sit with. Make the most of these little moments by interacting with someone in the simplest of ways: sit with him/her.

2.)    Do you want to be my friend?
So, maybe a bit too direct for a 20 year old, but the intent can very easily translate. The same initiative that it takes for a 6 year old to blatantly ask for friendship is the same initiative we must have to ask for help from a peer or strike up a conversation with someone new. If a 6 year old can ask a stranger to be best friends, 20 year old you can certainly talk about British Studies (or anything else) with a fellow Lion.

3.)   Here, you can share my crayons!
Although they may not be crayons, one of the best ways to make friends is by showing kindness. Newsflash: we’re all experiencing this together. Everyone else is just as anxious, excited, and overwhelmed as you are. So show a little compassion. Lend the boy scrambling for something to write with one of your pens; offer to share notes with someone who mentions she is struggling; grab the door for someone with an armload of books. And who knows? You might just make a new best friend that way. At the very least, you’ll have a better day because you’ve brightened someone else’s. 

4.)   What’s your favorite color?
We don’t ask this question so much anymore; now it’s more along the lines of “What’s your major?” and “Where are you from?”  But the purpose of all of these questions is the same: getting to know someone. Never underestimate the power of just listening to others. People like to feel heard, and most of the time, when you give respect you get it back in return. I know from personal experience that the closest friends I’ve made here are all ones who engaged in conversation and listened. We took time to get to know one another, and now I have people who light up my day each time I see them.

5.)    Wanna play?
Finally, never underestimate the power of just asking to hang out. With everyone traveling, going to House events, and studying, there is never a shortage of opportunities to connect with others. Be bold enough to ask someone to study or watch a movie and confident enough to say yes when someone invites you to something. Again: these people are in the same situation as you; no one is going to think you’re weird for approaching him/her.

Ultimately, just have confidence in yourself and assurance in the fact that everyone else is just as new to all this as you are. Shake yourself of judgment, doubt, and anything else that will hinder you from making this experience the best it can possibly be. After all, the pictures and places can only mean so much; it’s the people you bond with who really make Harlaxton magical.

Written by: Rachael Doyel

Monday, 19 October 2015

The Unspoken Class

When I anticipated my time at Harlaxton, I never thought I would be taking four classes when I only signed up for three. The fourth class isn’t another history, science, or math course; it’s the unspoken class of travel planning.

As students at Harlaxton, we all spend a huge amount of time planning for weekend trips. It can be a daunting task, especially without much guidance. We all learn as the semester progresses how to efficiently plan weekend trips, but the first few attempts are certainly difficult. Not to mention, the amount of time put into travel planning each week never really decreases.

For future students of Harlaxton, here are a few tips to hopefully ease the struggle of your first attempts at travel planning and to make your time spent at travel destinations worthwhile.

1. Transportation

First of all, how are you going to get where you want to go? Decide if you’ll be taking a train or plane, depending on the location, then begin your search. My favorite sites to use are for flights and for trains within the UK. Since there isn’t an airport in Grantham, you also have to consider how you will get to London or nearby East Midlands Airport. Trains often run directly to the airports, but sometimes a taxi can even be the better choice of transportation from Harlaxton to London. If your flight is very early or very late, you may not be able to find a train from Grantham to the airport.

To get to Stansted Airport in London, Street Cars will charge a flat rate of 90 pounds, which is sometimes a better alternative to a train if the cost can be split between four or so people. Allow yourself plenty of time between your arrival at the airport and your flight departure. Also, in order to save a little money, buy a railcard for discounted train tickets, and use Street Cars taxi service in Grantham as much as possible because they guarantee a flat rate of 6 pounds to get to Grantham train station from Harlaxton.

2. Accommodation

Whew! Now that you’ve finally found a flight at the perfect time, on the perfect day, for the best price possible, let’s talk about where you’re going to stay. The ideal hostel, hotel, or airbnb apartment would be within walking distance or a short taxi ride from the train station or airport, as well as the center of the city you’re visiting. If you don’t get that lucky, then it’s time to prioritize.

Decide if you would rather be further from the train station or airport or from the sites you want to see. Being near an underground or bus station is a good factor to consider as well. Usually, a hostel will be the cheapest option, but if you’re traveling with a group of people, splitting the cost of a hotel room or airbnb apartment is often cheaper than the price per person to stay in a hostel (and will probably be a bit nicer accommodation too).

3. Map It Out

Once you have booked your hostel, hotel, or airbnb, it’s time to plan the fun stuff. There are apps that can almost completely do this for you. Tripomatic is my favorite, which lets you choose what you want to see, on which days, then creates a printable itinerary based on the places you choose.

If you decide not to use an app to help with your planning, you can also print a map of the city you’ll be visiting, use a highlighter, and map it out for yourself. Doing it yourself will help you better understand the layout of the city and how to get around once you’re there. Ulmon CityMaps2Go is an app that allows you to download city maps when you have wifi, then navigate them later using GPS when you don’t have wifi. If you plan on using underground trains to get around, it is a good idea to print a map of the underground system for the city, research which stations are closest to the sites you want to see, then go ahead and mark those stations on your printed map.

4. Relax

Most importantly, realize that no matter how much you plan for your trip, something is bound to go wrong. It happens – almost every time. This isn’t to say that planning beforehand is useless. Planning your weekend trips can save you precious time when you’re actually in the city. Even ten minutes trying to navigate an underground system are ten minutes you could be spending at the sites you have always dreamed of seeing. The perfect balance of planning and learning to go with the flow will result in some incredible weekend trips!

Written by: Casey Rice

Friday, 16 October 2015

Not Your Average Tourist

There are tourist destinations in every town, but if you’re like me, you probably enjoy finding the amazing mom and pop shop around the corner from the London Eye. When travelling, I plan on going to typical tourist destinations, but I find walking around more fun. In my opinion the best way to travel, whether it be in Europe or your home state, is by walking around and observing the people and places around you. Tourist destinations provide people with a great way to learn about history, but I also want to learn about present day life in Great Britain.  So far I have travelled to London, Scotland, and throughout Lincolnshire and have found some great places that are not filled with tourists. Here are some of places I have found while travelling:

·         Fiori- this little sandwich shop in London on Cranbourn Street near the M&M Store
·         Jenny’s Bakery- this pastry shop is a great place to stop for afternoon tea, or hot chocolate, and pastry when you’re near the London Eye on Belvedere Road
·         Food trucks in Jubilee Gardens in London

·         The Jabberwocky- a tea shop in Stamford

·         Fayre Earth Gift Shop- this store in Falkland, Scotland is filled with handmade crafts
·         Hugh’s Gallery- a shop filled with photos of London near Convent Gardens
·         St. Mary’s Antiquarian Books- an antique bookstore in Stamford, England

·         Russell Gardens- a small park in London
·         Southall, London- a part of London that is largely influenced by Indian and Pakistani cultures
·         New Media Museum- a place to learn about photography and it’s a fun place for children too
·         Harrogate, Scotland- a little fishing village in the Land of Fife where you can either go the local fishing museum, grabs some fish and chips, or walk out on to the beach and watch the sunrise

I hope this helped you find some not so touristy places while traveling in England and Scotland. And remember, when you’re travelling leave some free time to just walk around and observe your surroundings.

Written by: Vickie Huber

Monday, 12 October 2015

Do's and Don'ts of European Trains


Purchase a Railcard
It costs 30 pounds to buy a railcard for 16-25 year olds, but it pays itself off. Each time you buy a train ticket online and indicate that you have a railcard; it saves you 1/3 on all ticket purchases. If you take trains to and from the airport frequently, that can really add up!

Take trains whenever possible
Taking trains is a super easy way to get to and from places in Europe. They are fast, efficient, and almost always on time. Tickets are relatively cheap, and they will take you to pretty much any big city.

Get there with plenty of time to spare
Sometimes a train will leave one or two minutes earlier than scheduled if it is a smaller stop. Make sure you give yourself enough time to get to the train station and find your platform so you don’t miss it!

Bring snacks
Because who doesn’t like snacks?

Pay attention to the stops
Pay attention especially if your stop isn’t the end of the line. It’s easy to fall asleep on the trains, so make sure to set an alarm when your stop will be close so you don’t miss it!

Book tickets ahead of time
Train tickets tend to go up in price the closer it gets to the date. Booking weeks or even months ahead of time will ensure you the best rates. You could save up to 50 pounds per ticket by booking in advance.

Give yourself at least an hour and a half after your plane lands to book a train home
Missing your train home is the worst feeling after a long weekend traveling. Give yourself more than enough time so you don’t have to end up buying another ticket to get home after an expensive weekend.


Get off at the wrong station
There are almost always several stops in between locations, so make sure you don’t hop off the train at an intermediate location.

Try riding the train without purchasing a ticket
It’s very tempting to hop on a train without a ticket and hope they don’t check for them. If they check and you don’t have a ticket, you will end up having to pay more than what a regular ticket would cost. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Sit at a reserved seat
Most trains have reserved seats on certain tickets. Don’t try to sit at someone else’s reserved seat-they will ask you to move.

Forget to bring your printed ticket
Having your ticket to show the worker is very important so you don’t get charged extra after you stop. Double-check before you leave that you have train tickets for your departure and return trip to save stress and money.

Throw away or misplace your preprinted tickets from the station for your return trip
It’s easy to forget about your return trip when you travel to another country because of the excitement to get there. Make sure to put your return train tickets in a safe place that you will remember when you need them for the ride home.

Panic if you miss your train
This happened to me this weekend because my plane was delayed from Rome to Stansted. I explained to the train worker where I needed to go, and she directed me to a different train route that would get me home in about the same amount of time! Thankfully the trains run all day, about every hour, so you can always catch the next one if something happens! 

Reliable Train Websites:

Written by: Kylee Kaetzel

Thursday, 8 October 2015

You Can't Do Everything, But That's Okay

It seems like there’s so much time.  An infinite amount of possible adventures.  A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Thirteen weekends just waiting to be filled with travel to the places you’ve dreamt of going.

Then you get here.  Immediately you are swept away by the splendor and excitement of where you are and what you’re doing.  You’re floored by the magnificence of Harlaxton itself, in awe of the life you’re leading, and so eager for what’s ahead.  But then, almost as quickly, you also realize it’s not just travel.  Your time here isn’t a semester-long vacation.  And even though your classes are taught by awesome professors in an amazing place, there’s still work to be done.  You may soon start to feel overwhelmed and even guilty because you have an incredible opportunity at your fingertips for a limited time and you don’t want to waste any of it.  You may feel like you need to spend every available second soaking in all that you can, while deep down you really just want to spend a weekend sleeping in and watching movies.
I’ve come to realize, especially after the past couple weeks with several tests and assignments to prepare for and complete, that I’m not going to be able to travel as much as I originally planned.  But that’s okay.  Those weekends that looked so empty before the semester started really aren’t as empty as they seemed.  Sometimes a weekend (or two or three) of not traveling is the best thing you can do for yourself.  Sacrificing a long weekend of far-away travel for a long weekend of sleeping late, getting homework and laundry done, and taking a Sunday trip to London to see The Lion King may just turn into one of your best weekends yet.
It’s easy, for me at least, to feel like I’m not taking full advantage of this experience if I don’t travel as much as possible while I’m here.  I don’t know if or when I’ll get the opportunity to come back to Europe, much less the opportunity to be here for three and a half months.  I’m slowly starting to realize though, that it’s better to take a few wonderful trips I can really enjoy than going somewhere every weekend but being stressed and exhausted while I do it because I haven’t given myself downtime.

So don’t feel bad if you don’t get to go everywhere you once planned on going.  Prioritize your list and pick out a few places you know you definitely want to see while you’re here.  Tackle those places first, and if you get to the others, great.  But if not, don’t beat yourself up.  This truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but let that be encouraging rather than threatening.  Enjoy your time here and don’t stress.  After all, you only Harlaxton once.

Written by: Ashley Marshall

Monday, 5 October 2015

Violet Van der Elst

If I’ve learned one thing while being at Harlaxton, it’s this:

How to be grateful

I’m so grateful to everyone who supported me in coming to Harlaxton. In the long list of people I have to thank are mostly my relatives, but there are some people I’ve never met. Coming to Harlaxton would never have been possible without its previous owners.

We all know of Gregory Gregory who built the manor that we get to call home. However, not all of us are familiar with perhaps the most iconic owner of Harlaxton.

Violet Van der Elst, born Violet Anne Dodge, purchased Harlaxton, which she renamed Grantham Castle, in 1937. She saved the manor from falling into disrepair and possibly demolition. When she moved in, she introduced electricity to the manor and added many bathrooms. Her iconic status in the public eye was due to her lavish campaign against capital punishment.

During her campaign, she hired planes that carried banners such as “Stop the Death Sentence” to fly over prisons. She would also ride through the streets of London in her white Rolls Royce chanting, “Abolish capital punishment. These men must not hang,” into a microphone.

When asked about her passion for the abolishment of the death penalty, she often stated that she was carrying out the passion of her late husband, Jean Julien Romain Van der Elst. This same late husband was the one she attempted to contact during séances.

In her time, she was known for eccentricities. Her interest in the black arts and the occult was one of them. Some of these séances were even performed in Grantham Castle. Mrs. Van der Elst had a number of psychics who she consulted over the years. She was discerning about whom she let in. She could pick out a fake after one session.

Her interest in the occult began years before her husband’s death. In her book, The Torture Chamber and Other Stories, Mrs. Van der Elst writes a personal account of when she lived in a haunted house. During her time there, she said that she felt an evil presence in the house as well as heard mysterious crashes only to find that nothing had moved.

The same book also contains reminisces of her travels. Like many of us, she had the opportunity to travel. Among the many places she visited was Notre Dame in Paris. However, she was rather unimpressed for she was fan of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and the actual building did not live up to her expectations.

It’s really not surprising that she was not satisfied. She held a deep love for the arts and wouldn’t settle for anything less than perfection.

She composed music, although she couldn’t read or write the notes. Mrs. Van der Elst was a fan of Shakespeare’s tragedies and could quote them word for word. She shared a love of art and painting with her second husband, Mr. Van der Elst. During her stay at Grantham Castle, she filled the Grand Hall with statues. Her favorite was a bust of Napoleon dressed as Julius Caesar. These statues have long been sold, but the chandelier still remains.

Her interests also spread into business, which is how she amounted most of her fortune. She started the company Shavex, which produced the first shaving cream that didn’t require soap or water.
Mrs. Van der Elst didn’t spend all of her money on her lavish campaign. She also gave money to orphanages and was apt to giving to the poor.

She would be happy to know that her previous home was turned into a school. When she decided to sell Grantham Castle, she said that she would like the Castle to be used as a school where “a new generation of gentlemen can be reared.” This came to be when the Jesuits used Harlaxton to train priests. We’re fortunate that her wish was granted even to this day.

The next time you look at the chandelier in the Great Hall, take a moment to be grateful to the woman who bought it for Harlaxton Manor. She died in a nursing home with little money to her name, so in her honor, the least we can do is keep her memory alive.

For more information on Violet Van der Elst, check out her biography The Incredible Mrs. Van der Elst by Charles Neilson Gattey, which can be found by request in the library. Her books On the Gallows and The Torture Chamber and Other Stories are also available by request.

Written by: Sarah Richie