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5/11/10

This past weekend was my last trip outside London, to Paris! Friday, Meg and I visited the Palace of Versailles which was magnificent! The rooms were elaborately decorated, just like Windsor Castle, and the paintings were beautiful. Each time I walked into a room, I was overwhelmed with so much to look at, but usually directed my attention toward the ceiling first which was detailed with colorful, heavenly paintings and gold adornments. Then there was the Hall of Mirrors, which was spectacular of course! There was also a hall of battles with paintings so large I felt as if I could jump into the scenes, and I was overcome with emotional feelings as the images were so intense, exhibiting the victory, violence and death associated with war. The gardens were also impressive, so expansive I was sure a person could get lost! All the vegetation was a rich green and trimmed to perfection, surrounding the fountains and statues. We spent a good three hours there, then turned in for an early night at our hostel to get an early start the following morning.

Saturday, we went to the Louvre, Orangerie Museum, Père Lachaise Cemetery, and the Sacré-Coeur Basilica which has spectacular views of the city. Naturally, I saw the Mona Lisa while at the Louvre, in addition to hundreds of other art pieces! We were there for three hours and I still didn’t see everything, but looked at artworks from each floor and felt quite accomplished when we left. I saw famous pieces such as The Nike of Samothrace, The Seated Scribe and Liberty Leading the People, along with a plethora of works previously unknown to me and equally impressive. The Orangerie Museum also housed some great art pieces, including two circular rooms of Monet paintings. Later that afternoon, we visited the Père Lachaise Cemetery, one of the most famous cemeteries in the world. There are hundreds of famous people buried there, such as Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt and Gertrude Stein, and it is the site of three World War I memorials. After spending some time searching for graves on Meg’s list of famous people she wanted to see, we returned to the hostel to relax for an hour before heading back out to the basilica. Although we didn’t go inside, the outside of the church was beautiful and the view was great, despite the clouds and light rain. The weather wasn’t the greatest while we were in Paris and quite cold, but we didn’t let it dampen the mood!

Sunday, we visited the Eiffel Tower, which Meg concluded was beautiful, but I personally find the St. Louis Arch more appealing. All the crisscrossing iron work looked cold and threatening, not exactly the definition of beautiful. Nevertheless, it was magnificently enormous and I’m sure it’s brilliant lit up at night. After this brief encounter with the icon of Paris, we headed to the Musée d’Orsay, another art museum with works by famous painters such as Van Gogh, Degas, Cézanne and Renoir. Then, our final destination was the Notre Dame Cathedral, where we were able to go inside and watch a service. We had a great time in Paris, but three days there was enough as we were exhausted by the end from all our travels.

Today, I completed two finals and have one paper to complete before I’m finished for the semester! Then I get ready to go home Saturday, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing my family. I’ve had a fantastic time in London and made many new friends, but I miss American culture and will be happy to return to my home country. This is my final blog, so I hoped you enjoyed following my adventures this semester!

5/3/10

Back from Croatia and Montenegro, the most beautiful places I’ve seen yet! Luckily today is a bank holiday so I have a day off from my internship and can recuperate from a busy week and weekend. Monday, I saw Macbeth at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and unfortunately it was extremely disappointing. The groundlings (audience members who stand around the stage) were covered with a black sheet where there were holes to stick their heads through; thus, they became part of the set which was simulating hell. In the beginning of the play, a few blood-smeared actors popped up from among the crowd themselves, groaning and swaying in agony. Although the scene should have been stomach churning, it was hard to take it serious as the groundlings, mostly teenagers, couldn’t stop from giggling or screaming every time an actor brushed by them. Overall, the play seemed focused more on violence and sex than the actual story, and the main characters were flat and unimpressive. The most memorable lines, such as Lady Macbeth’s “unsex me here” soliloquy, were presented with the wrong gestures and emotions; sometimes the words trickled out of the actors’ mouths so that you could hardly hear, and other times the actors splattered you with passion that did not fit the moment or the character. Furthermore, our more expensive seats proved to be terrible, at least from my perspective which was blocked by a nice large pillar. During intermission I went to stand with the groundlings for the second half of the play so that I could have an unobstructed view. And no, I did not stick my head under the black sheet, but stood around the perimeter of “hell” instead. There was a groundling who fainted during the first half of the play, and people have been known to get sick so there are stains on the sheet, gross! Tonight I will be returning to the Globe to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream so hopefully it will be better!

Tuesday, I went to a mosque with my Contemporary Britain class and the people were so welcoming. The individual who spoke to us about the Islamic religion was very informative, but he talked about terrorism so much it was exhausting! He kept saying suicide bombers are not true Muslims and explained how Islam teaches people to love their neighbors, no matter what religion; therefore, terrorists would not be following this practice and should not represent the entire Muslim population. It was sad that he had to put so much effort into convincing us that he, his family, friends, and other followers were not terrorists! Nevertheless, the visit was interesting, and they fed us a feast after the talk. There were ten of us and twenty bowls on the table of food, which was spicy and delicious, followed by ice cream!

Wednesday I saw the play Women Beware Women, which I really liked, minus a few things. Unfortunately, the director omitted a humorous section from the play and changed the ending, but I enjoyed it despite these alterations. The plot is quite complicated, but I’ll attempt to give you a synopsis of this Jacobean tragedy: A poor agent, Leantio marries Bianca, a wealthy heiress, without her parents’ blessing. While Leantio is away at work, the Duke sees Bianca and requests her presence, eventually resulting in rape and an infuriated Leantio when he returns home to find his wife so closely attached to the Duke. Meanwhile, at the Duke’s court, Fabrito has chosen a foolish Ward for his daughter Isabella to marry and when she consults her aunt, Livia for advice, Livia falsely tells Isabella Fabrito is not her real father. Therefore, Isabella does not have to follow his commands, but better yet, she now believes she has no blood relation to her uncle which results in a secret relationship between the two. Eventually secrets are discovered and the characters become thirsty for revenge and death. The ending was especially fantastic due to the revolving stage and violent dance that resulted in a massacre. Because of the play’s dark nature, the black angels that appeared enhanced the shadowy mood and their unearthly movements were synchronized with live jazz music.

Thursday was class as usual and Friday I left for Dubrovnik, Croatia! We arrived at sunset and the view from the bus taking us to our apartments was stunning. The sun looked like a glowing red cherry, reflecting across the Adriatic sea and lighting up the sky miraculously! Once we got settled in, it was already dark so found a place for dinner and walked around the area for a bit before heading off to bed. The next morning, we walked around the city walls and toured the area until lunchtime. Then we were off to explore on our own, so after some souvenir shopping, Katie and I took a short boat ride to the island Lokrum, which is a nature reserve. The area was beautiful and there were peacocks everywhere! Plus some rocky beaches (including a nudist beach, ha!) and a lagoon for swimming. The views were also fantastic and we dipped our feet into the clear turquoise water before heading back. Later, we had dinner on the water at a nice restaurant with a live saxophone player and pianist.

Early Sunday morning, we took a bus to Montenegro which was even more breathtaking than Dubrovnik with magnificent mountains in the background. We had a good tour guide who told us a lot about the country’s history and I learned there are only a total of 700,000 people living there! This became evident when we got off the bus to walk around and realized the area was very quiet, but tourism is just starting to return to the country after its borders were closed during the war between Bosnia and Croatia. For lunch, we ate at a “five star” restaurant which was set in a lovely area, but unfortunately the service was lacking a bit. The food was very good, but we did not get to see a place on our itinerary due to the slow service, so that was a bit disappointing. Soon enough we had to make our way back to the airport and I couldn’t believe the trip was already over! I had a great time and would love to go back someday, especially to Montenegro so I can climb the 1250 stairs to the Illyrian fort, Castel St. John!

4/27/10

This weekend’s trip was Edinburgh, Scotland, but let me first touch on the play I saw last week and my visit to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Tuesday evening I saw Enron, an exciting musical that tells the true story of the Texas corporation, Enron’s fall into bankruptcy. Although I was at first skeptical the production would succeed in making economics interesting, I found myself awed and more knowledgeable by the end of the play. The playwright Lucy Prebble smartly wrote the play so that the average person could understand the complexities behind what caused the corporation’s downfall; her creativity pared with director Rupert Goold’s imagination and an impressive performance by the cast resulted in an unforgettable evening. The lighting effects were fantastic, setting the mood with cylindrical lights which changed color, rising and falling between each scene. There was even a dance with light sabers and an eye popping electrocution scene. While some felt parts of the play were anti-American, the images seemed truthful and I only found myself uncomfortable when Enron’s downfall was compared with the falling of the Twin Towers.  However, I discovered this was an actual comparison Enron made when commenting on its decline into bankruptcy which put the corporation in an even darker light for me. Overall, I liked the play and would probably see it again if I had the time because I don’t think I caught all the details of the production. There was so much involved in each scene, I found little time to reflect on what was happening before a new issue or complexity arose! On a final note, the play is coming to Broadway so it will be interesting to see what America thinks. The accents will certainly be better!

Thursday I visited St. Paul’s Cathedral with my Contemporary Britain class and unfortunately I forgot my camera. We climbed to the very top (over 300 stairs) and the view was stunning! I was able to see an amazing 360-degree view of the city and there was a nice spring breeze which made me want to stay there until sunset! The cathedral doesn’t open early or close late enough for visitors to see sunrise or sunset, but the view is memorable just the same and also the highest point in the city. Inside the architecture is beautiful and at the east end of the Cathedral, behind the High Altar, is the American Memorial Chapel which commemorates the American soldiers stationed in Britain who lost their lives during WWII. After seeing the Cathedral, I returned to my homestay and got ready for my trip to Edinburgh!

I took an overnight bus that evening, which was a nine-hour ride but not as bad as it sounds. Katie and I arrived at 8:30 Friday morning and after dropping off our bags at the hostel, we headed toward the castle. It was enormous and there was a lot of interesting information and exhibitions set up inside the castle, but I found the wax representations of people somewhat eerie. Fortunately there were real people there too, and we learned a lot about war in Scotland and the reason behind wearing kilts from an enthusiastic volunteer, who was dressed in the traditional kilt outfit.
After spending a few hours there, we met up with Katie’s friend Nic so he could show us around the city. Unfortunately it was freezing and rained all day Friday, so after borrowing some coats and umbrellas from Nic (we had left ours at the hostel), we headed out into the pouring rain and decided to spend some time in one of the National Galleries. There were paintings from your typical famous artists such as Monet and Van Gogh and I enjoyed everything I saw, though I admit I could not understand the purpose of many the pieces. I’m also wondering why it was so difficult for artists to paint babies. I came across numerous works with normal people dressed in colorful clothing, but would find my eye drawn to the large, lumpy and disfigured naked baby at the center of the painting! Maybe the artists didn’t find babies perfect nor beautiful, and I’ll admit most babies have squashed little faces when born along with sweet rolls of baby fat; however, the ones in the paintings looked as if they had rocks or muscles protruding from their bodies instead!

So the castle and gallery were the main sites we saw that day due to the rain and we headed back to our hostel to rest before going out to dinner. Nic took us to a place with traditional Scottish food and I tried haggis, which is a sausage dish made of a sheep’s heart liver and lungs, minced with onion, oatmeal, suite, spices and salt, and mixed with stock. Oh, and did I mention it is traditionally simmered in the animal’s stomach for three hours? Now it may sound gross, but you never know until you try, and I thought it was delicious!

Saturday we woke up to sunny skies, so Nic jumped on the opportunity to take us on a hike up a mountain, Arthur’s Seat. Now I assumed this would be like a hike up Tinker Mountain, no big deal right? Wrong! It was quite steep from the start and took us a lot longer, but we met our reward at the top. The view was wonderful and I felt so refreshed and accomplished! Then we headed back down, which was much quicker but not any better on my knees. To say the least, I felt like I had just played a game against Ferrum the next day. So the mountain was our big site and we walked around the city some more, did some tourist shopping and had Mexican food for dinner! Katie and I had both been craving it since we left the States so we were thrilled to eat our quesadillas and tacos.

Our bus left at eleven Sunday morning and we awoke to more rain. The bus ride back seemed much longer, but that may have been due to the fact that I was sore and wet! Nevertheless, I had a fantastic time and the people were extremely friendly. On our way to our hostel we had two different people point us in the right direction without us even asking. We must have looked really lost!

4/14/10

Back from a magnificent spring break in Italy! Sorry it’s been longer than usual since my last blog, but I needed a few days to recuperate from the trip. For an entire week I spent my travels roaming the streets of Rome, Florence and Venice, all which were fantastic in their own ways. Each city was extremely different and I’m not sure I could pick a favorite, but we definitely had the best weather in Venice. Sunshine for three days straight! Since I’ve returned to London, the weather hasn’t been bad here either but still cold.

My adventure begins at the Gatwick airport where I waited six hours for my morning flight, which consisted of me trying to sleep and watching a movie on my laptop. I was relieved when my gate finally opened and slept the two hours on the plane. Once I arrived in Rome, I retrieved my luggage and met up with the eight other Hollins ladies who had taken a flight from Heathrow airport (for some reason I flew out of a different airport although we all flew the same airline and even arrived at the same time). It took a while for the others to retrieve their luggage and then we had to stand out in the rain for about fifteen minutes before we boarded the bus to the city. It seemed the London rain had followed us to Rome!

We eventually found our hotel. By that I mean we roamed the streets for what seemed like an hour before we finally found the place, only to discover the next day that it was just ten minutes from the train station! After getting settled in, we walked around a bit to visit some churches and looked at some ruins. The next day we woke up early to visit the Sistine Chapel only to discover it was closed because of the Easter Monday. So instead we toured St. Peter’s Basilica where we walked past the tombs of previous Popes. The next day we visited between ten and fifteen sites, but I can’t remember exactly because we were walking around for a good ten hours that day! Of course, one of the major sites we saw was the Colosseum which was well worth the trip! The pictures may speak for themselves, but it was an experience to breathe the air inside the arena and imagine all the battles and activities that took place in history. I also learned a lot from the displays, such as the fact that the average gladiator participated in a dozen fights before he was defeated; in other words, they had a very short lifespan once they came into the sport. This was the last place we visited, and I wish we could have had another day in Rome, but I’m determined to return someday! Oh, and how could I forget, I had gelato for the first time and it was delicious! I have to admit we had gelato everyday in Italy, sometimes twice or even three times! Basically we lived off that, pizza, pasta, and bread. A healthy diet of sugar and carbs, yum! But I don’t feel too guilty because we did visited a couple fruit markets and I had blood oranges for the first time in Florence.

We took the train to Florence on Tuesday, which took four hours but the tickets were cheap so we weren’t complaining. The first site we saw on our way to the hotel was the Duma and it was stunning! This ended up being a good meeting point when our group split ways and was only five minutes from where we stayed. Also close by was the leather market, so naturally we explored this area filled with stands selling shoes, clothing, scarves, leather purses and wallets and jewelry. The shopkeepers were extremely friendly and if you were tough, you could bargain down the price with some. The next day we saw the David, which was much bigger than I had imagined at 14 feet, and at night went to a high point that looked over the city.

After Florence, we spent a relaxing three days in Venice. We got really lost on the way to our B&B, but we eventually found it thanks to Alex! By the last day, we knew the area better and zig-zagged our way through the alleys with ease. The second evening we went on a gondola ride and were able to bargain down the price so that it was twenty euros cheaper per boat! The ride was beautiful and fun, despite the smelly water. While we were there, we also ate in a few restaurants along the canal and I had gnocchi for the first time. I’ve decided this is my new favorite pasta and am determined to make some when I come home (or convince my mom to cook it, ha!). There were various markets and little shops we walked through, but our favorite spot was the “beach”. There wasn’t any sand, but it was on the coast and we were able to dangle our feet over the edge of the pier which was wonderful! We all were a little sunburned and I was reminded of how soon summer will be here. Only one more month and I’ll be home!

4/2/10

Is it possible spring break is already here? I’m halfway through my semester and I can’t believe it! Well these past weeks haven’t been too jam-packed with activities, and I already touched on London Assurance, but last Friday I left for Stratford-Upon-Avon to see Romeo and Juliet. Before the play, we met at the Dirty Duck for dinner and drinks. I had some delicious tomato soup followed by a pudding desert, yum! Then we rushed off to the theatre with five minutes to spare.

The play was phenomenal and the actor who played Mercutio was definitely my favorite. Typically the most comical and animated character, this actor took the role even further by establishing an unforgettable presence. Romeo and Juliet were also good of course, and it was interesting as they were the only two characters dressed in modern clothes, which enhanced the image of their naivete and innocence. Juliet successfully acted as if she were barely fourteen which was impressive considering many times directors only convince the audience of Juliet being sixteen or seventeen. As for the costumes of the remaining cast, they were intense, dark and fantastic! In one of the scenes, Lady Capulet was dressed in a dark corset with a full golden skirt extending from the waist, decorated with skulls. The men were typically dressed in black and gray garments, with the exception being Mercutio with his white open shirt and bleached- blond hair.

The scene in which Romeo sees Juliet for the first time was lively and unique compared to the typical masquerade and ballroom set up. They moved to the music in a sort of tribal dance, circling about and throwing their hands in the air spiritedly. Juliet was at the center of the dance and the most animated of them all, showing off her wild energy and youth. Naturally, the ending was less enthusiastic and expectedly dramatic, but the roles were flipped as all the characters appeared in modern clothes while they looked upon the two dead lovers who were dressed in medieval wear. I’m unsure of the significance of this directing move and believe the play would have been just as wonderful with or without this added direction.

After the play we headed back to our lovely bed and breakfast and went to bed at a decent hour. The beds were extremely comfortable and we had our own bathroom, along with a wonderful full English breakfast in the morning. The next day, most of the students bought a pass to visit four or five sites attributed to Shakespeare; however, Meg and I decided to just walk by Anne Hathaway’s cottage and take the early train back. Although the day was overcast, we didn’t get rained on too much and were able to sit for a few moments by a stream. There were a few ducks waddling about in front of the trail and one kept getting closer, most likely expecting food to come flying from our hands, but eventually gave up and scooted back into the water. When we returned to London, I met up with the girls to celebrate Brett’s birthday and had my first cookie log which was amazing. We devoured that pan in minutes! So Sunday I slept in and finished up my theatre reviews.

Monday I saw an American play, Six Degrees of Separation, at the Old Vic theatre. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, the play, inspired by a true story, is about a young black man named Paul (Obi Abili) who takes advantage of others and has a desire to become part of their upper class society. A married couple, Flan and Ouisa Kittredge (Lesley Mannfield and Anthony Head) have made successful careers as art dealers in Manhattan and one evening the couple are entertaining a guest, Geoffrey, who Flan hopes to get two million dollars from them to buy a Cezanne. However, they are interrupted when Paul arrives at their door with a knife wound and the story that he has been mugged and needs to get off the street. Claiming he is an old friend of their children, whom he went to school with, Paul is invited inside and Ouisa allows him to clean up his wound and gives him a clean shirt. He offers to cook a meal for everyone and the couple insists that he spends the night, also giving him fifty dollars to get home. When Ouisa discovers him in the morning with a naked man, he is thrown out of the house and the couple soon find out they have been conned. (And yes, we saw two fully nude men during this scene which was quite an experience considering we were in the front row!) After this discovery, more is discovered about Paul, who remains genuinely charming, but his mental instability becomes more apparent as he seems to actually believe that he is the son of the famous actor, Sidney Poitier, and he clearly wants to be a part of the Kittredge’s rich world.

Although I found the opening scene of the play confusing and difficult to follow, everything became clear in the end and I really enjoyed the play. We even had the opportunity to speak  with Obi Abili, who Susy invited to come to our class Thursday. He was really a laid back, funny individual and his passion for theatre was obvious, as he takes play and movie productions quite seriously. We even learned some inside information on upcoming movies since he tried out for a role with Ben Stiller and another for Pirates of the Caribbean!

Yesterday was an exhausting day with my Shakespeare midterm in the morning, followed by Obi’s talk, then our meeting with Sara, more theatre class and then going straight into Contemporary Britain until 6:30, all without a break! Needless to say, I slept soundly last night. And now I’m doing some last minute planning for my trip to Italy. Hope everyone has a happy Easter!

3/23/10

I had an amazing time in Ireland this weekend, but let me begin with the plays I saw at the beginning of the week. Tuesday, I saw Eigengrau at the Bush Theatre, which was extremely small and since I was sitting in the front row, the actors were only a foot away! It was fun to be so close, although I didn’t fall in love with the play. Susy, our theatre professor, had promised this play would make us uncomfortable and I’ll admit, it was quite shocking. Ha! But nothing made me want to shut my eyes or turn away; however, one of the audience members passed out twice and the show had to be stopped briefly so she could leave! The title Eigengrau stands for “intrinsic gray” in German and is described as the color seen by the eye in perfect darkness, fitting enough since one of the characters blinds herself at the end.

The four main characters include Cassie, a passionate feminist; her flatmate Rose, a woman who believes in true love, signs and fairy tales; Mark, a man obsessed with money and marketing; and Mark’s flatmate Tim, a lazy man who works at a chicken place. To cover the basics, there’s what I would call a love quadrangle. Although Mark fails to answer her calls and avoids her after a one night stand, Rose remains extraordinarily optimistic, believing she loves him and can win his heart. She is set on gaining a rich boyfriend because she’s short on money herself and cannot pay her bills, including the rent which begins to infuriate Cassie. Then Cassie meets Mark and immediately attacks him with her feminist beliefs; however, he eventually charms her and she becomes confused about what she wants. Well Mark ends up getting what he desires and Cassie seems content after deciding Mark must actually love her, but then she discovers he used the exact same charms on Rose. And let’s not forget lazy Tim, who loves Rose and tries to get her to come to the apartment by convincing her that Mark will be there. To sum it up, Rose and Cassie think they love Mark, Mark just loves sex and money, and Tim loves Rose. In the end, Rose is rejected and becomes insanely upset, causing her to gouge her eyes out with the heel of her shoe ! This results in Tim’s dream coming true as Rose permits him to take care of her. As for Cassie and Mark, Cassie gets pregnant and Mark leaves her. Quite a drama! The acting was good, especially the actress who played Rose; however, I wasn’t impressed with the story line because I found the plot unrealistic and associated it with a typical soap opera.

The following night I saw the Shakespeare play Measure for Measure, which is a darker comedy and some might define it as a tragedy. The main antagonist of the play is Angelo, who has been empowered by the Duke of Vienna to rule as he leaves to find out the cause of the moral decay throughout his land, disguising himself as a friar. After the Duke’s departure, Angelo immediately imposes strict punishment for moral misconduct, sentencing Claudio to death for having pre-marital sex with his fiancee. Claudio’s sister Isabella, a woman soon to be sworn in as a nun, asks Angelo to have mercy and her pleas arouse him. Angelo takes his power further by attempting to blackmail Isabella to sleep with him in order to save her brother; however, the Duke discovers the situation and devises a plan to bring down Angelo. In the end, Angelo unknowingly ends up sleeping with Marian, a woman he was engaged to until her dowry could not be provided. Despite his assumed success, Angelo orders for Claudio to be executed, but the Duke prevents this of course and Claudio lives. The play ends with a surprising proposal from the Duke to Isabella, who fails to respond to his request but looks away as if rejecting him.

Overall, I enjoyed the play and thought Ben Miles (the Duke) and Rory Kinnear (Angelo) portrayed their characters very well,  but I didn’t like  Anna Maxwell Martin’s (Isabella) performance. She is a wonderful, talented actress; however, I found her character too aggressive and masculine for her position as a nun. Having read the play beforehand, I envisioned a strong-willed woman with charms and a feminine countenance, but she was constantly shouting and her pleas sounded more like demands. She lowered herself to her knees often, which I found out of character considering her aggressive stance, but I enjoyed the insinuated refusal at the end of the play, considering I assumed she accepted the Duke’s hand when I read the text.  Additionally, the set was amazing and there was a rotating stage which allowed for smooth scene changes.

Wow, those summaries ended being much longer than I intended! But I suppose some of you have already skipped down to this section to hear about Ireland and see the photos! So Meg and I began our journey by taking a bus at 1:00 am Friday, which was about an hour ride to the airport where our plane would take off at 6:30 am. So I dozed for a bit during the four-hour wait, but was too excited to get a significant amount of sleep. The flight took about 45 minutes and because we arrived so early, we had breakfast and waited around for a while until we could check into our hostel. Surprisingly, the hostel we stayed in was very clean and the staff was friendly and helpful so we lucked out! After locking our stuff away, we headed out into the city and walked around for a while before stopping at the Guinness Storehouse where we learned all about the making of beer. The historical information was very interesting and the top of the building had a 360° view of the city. In the evening, we experienced Dublin night life and discovered the friendliness of the Irish! Compared to London, Dublin is nearly its polar opposite as the people are very open and laid back in contrast to the private and reserved nature of the typical Londoner. They even walked about ten times slower! It was an adjustment to say the least, but I loved the atmosphere and hope to return someday.

Dublin

Waterfall inside Guinness Storehouse

While the city itself is interesting, it’s not near as lively as London, and I am glad we took the opportunity to see the countryside on a bus tour Saturday. Although it was a long day with us leaving at 8 am and returning at 7 pm, the trip was well worth it and the weather held up for the most part. Our first stop was in Glendalough (pronounced Glen-da-lock and meaning Glen of two lakes) which is a glacial valley in County Wicklow. The area was absolute beautiful as we walked along a path around the lakes, with an amazing mountainous backdrop that reminded me of Virginia. Then we hopped back on the bus and waited a half hour for some latecomers, two of whom finally showed up and the another two we actually left behind! The tour guide was extremely frustrated and said he never had to leave people before, but they eventually called someone on the bus and claimed they had misheard what time they were supposed to be back at the bus. There was another bus that would return to Dublin, but it wasn’t leaving Glendalough until 5 and we left before noon, so I’m not sure how they got back!

Glendalough

Once the bus started rolling again we drove for a while through the Wicklow mountains where scenes from Braveheart was filmed. The hills were beautifully green despite the fact that most of the trees were still bare and we saw hundreds of sheep! I’ll admit, I awed at every baby lamb I saw and there were lovely horses too. Eventually we stopped to stretch our legs at the Brownshill Dolmen, which is a single-chamber megalithic tomb dating back to prehistoric times and the largest dolmen in Europe. Its capstone weighs over 100 tonnes, which converts to 220,462 pounds! Essentially it’s a big rock, but impressive considering the prehistoric people were able to move something so heavy onto the smaller stones beneath it.

Wicklow

Dolmen

Our final stop was in Kilkenny, which is a small city with the main tourist attraction being Kilkenny Castle. We ate lunch there around 3 and wandered around until we had to get back on the bus at 4:30. From there, we took the less scenic route back to Dublin. We could still see the countryside, but the road was straight and more of a highway which would be a relief for anyone who is prone to motion sickness.

Kilkenny Castle

Sunday morning we headed for the coast to Howth, which was a small fishing village and we had the perfect day for it with a sunny sky and comfortable breeze. There was an elderly man playing the accordion which provided a wonderful background to the natural music of the swishing waves. After sucking in and savoring the fresh air, we had seafood for lunch and eventually headed back for our last night in Dublin. We ended up at a pub with really good live music, which happened to be performed by a really cute Irish guy!

Ireland coast

Naturally, we were sad to depart on Monday and I didn’t have time to make it back to my homestay before the play that night! Although I was a bit travel weary, I loved London Assurance! The play’s first production was in 1841, so the actors were dressed in the appropriate costumes and as a comedy, their speeches were hilarious! As a quick overview, Sir Harcourt Courtly (Simon Russell Beale) visits the country to make Grace (Michelle Terry), who he has been told is rich and beautiful, his bride although she is young enough to be his child. He is impressed when he sees her; however, his son falls in love with Grace and fools his own father into believing he is someone else. Meanwhile, Lady Gay Spanker (Fiona Shaw) schemes with the son to charm Sir Harcourt Courtly, despite being married and having no interest in the man. Mark Addy, known for his role in the show Still Standing, played Grace’s uncle. The acting was magnificent and the play is my new favorite!

Hopefully I didn’t wear anyone out with the descriptions of the plays and Ireland, but I promise the next entry will be shorter!

3/15/09

Last week started off slow, but picked up on Wednesday when I went to see The 14th Tale at the National Theatre. This play was a one man show by Inua Ellams who narrated the story of his mischievous exploits during childhood, born in Nigeria and then moving to Dublin and finally arriving in London as a young boy. He captured the audience by combining comic dialogue with poetry and prose, which was quite impressive as the poetry rhymed without sounding out of place or being too difficult to understand. Although I enjoyed the show, I wasn’t wowed and I think Ellams has the potential to create something more memorable by addressing a bigger theme or sending a stronger message. He’s only 25 so he’s got plenty of time to reach stardom!

Thursday, I went to the Imperial War Museum for my Contemporary Britain class which was fantastic! Unfortunately, our visit was interrupted by a fire alarm and I didn’t even view half of the museum; therefore, I’m hoping to go back soon. The portions I did see were impressive, including the massive tanks and bombs, and the information was surprising and heart rendering. The Children’s War was very emotional, even with hyper kids running through the exhibition and shouting crazily! I don’t think a war museum is really suited for toddlers considering most cannot grasp the serious impacts of war and from what I observed, parents don’t attempt to inform their children of the significance. Aside from that, I learned so much myself and visited the Holocaust exhibition briefly before the museum closed, which was set up somewhat differently from the museum in D.C. Rather than hitting you right away with the emotional aspects, the exhibition begins with information leading up to the Holocaust and sort of eases into the horrific outcome. Afterward, I hurried back to my homestay (an hour from the museum via tube and walking) to get ready to go out for Katie’s 21st birthday. That was a fun night!

Imperial War Museum

Friday I slept in and later went to a cinema to see Shutter Island. It was filled with twists and turns, and I was exhausted from trying to figure out what would happen next. In other words, I thought it was great!

Saturday we all left for our weekend trip to Bath which was highlighted by sunny, warm weather! Taking a bus there, we drove past Stonehenge which was cool, but not all that exciting to tell the truth. Some were more excited about the flock of lambs behind the site than the enormous rocks! We didn’t stop there due to lack of time and not wanting to spend the extra money, so our first stop was at the Longleat House. This mansion was completed in 1580, set within 900 acres of landscaped parkland and is now the home of the 7th Marquess of Bath. It was magnificent from the outside and even more exquisite inside, with all the high class furnishings and life-size portraits.

Stonehenge

Longleat House

After touring the house, we got back on the bus and headed for Wells, the second smallest city in England. Despite its size, this city is a popular tourist attraction due to its Cathedral Church of St. Andrew. This medieval structure contains more than 500 figure sculptures on the west facade, which towers 100 feet high! And the inside is just as grand, with beautiful stained glass windows and arched ceilings. We perused a small market afterward and then hopped back on the bus, headed toward our final destination, Bath. It was late afternoon when we arrived, so we didn’t do any sight seeing but just got settled into our nice hotel and went out to an Italian restaurant for dinner.

Cathedral Church of St. Andrew

Cathedral ceiling

Stained glass windows

In the morning, we had breakfast at the hotel and stuffed ourselves with everything from the buffet. It was definitely a full English breakfast! Then we went to another beautiful church, Bath Abbey, but I didn’t get to see the inside because services were being held in the morning and I wasn’t around during the short time it was open to visitors that afternoon.

After the architecture professor gave us a brief introduction on the Bath Abbey, we headed to the Roman baths which were very green and smelled like sulfur! But it was very interesting and I learned a lot from the audio guide while walking through the different bath houses. After that, we toured some more of Bath for about an hour and then were free to go wherever we wanted until we had to meet for the train back.

Bath Abbey

Roman bath

Both Katies and I decided to make a hike up one of the higher points in Bath so we could look out over the city. My calves were burning at the end, but it was definitely worth it. We even saw some palm trees in someone’s front yard! After heading back down, we walked around for a bit and I had gelato for the first time which was delicious. Creamy chocolate hazelnut, yum!

We were all exhausted when it was finally time to leave and the train was packed! Even though we had reserved seats, many passengers were already seated in them. Of course Sara took charge and told us to reclaim them so we all had seats in the end, but it was a long hour and a half journey to say the least.

And my plans for this weekend… Ireland!

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