Sunday, April 4, 2010

Northern England, A Roadtrip

MONDAY. Set off from the centre at 7:30am headed for a five day program road trip to northern England. I had the pleasure of sitting next to and enjoying the company of my true and darling friend Mary all day (and Tuesday!) A few hours out we made it to Chatsworth. Chatsworth is another giant house owned by very rich people. If you can’t tell, I’m kind of over giant houses owned by rich people. This one is famous because I guess the Kiera Knightly version of Pride and Prejudice was filmed there. It’s Pemberly, which is Mr. Darcy’s house in the book. It was your basic rich people’s house: portraits of ugly dudes in wigs, curtains that cost more than my life, and lots of naked people painted on the ceiling. It rained the whole time we were there (and most of the trip) and we had too much time (generally the case) but eventually we got back on the coach and headed out.

Our next stop was a few more hours away (during which we watched Pride and Prejudice) at the Bronte Parsonage Museum. I’ve only read Wuthering Heights (not all it’s cracked up to be by any means), but I’m not a Bronte sisters fan. The parsonage was pretty sweet though. The father of the Brontes was a clergyman that ran the church in Haworth, so they lived across from a church. All around the church was a moss covered graveyard, and it was overcast, kind of rainy, and there were crows everywhere. It was a great setting and our guide took us through a couple of Haworth streets and then over to the parsonage house. I learned about the Brontes’ big brother, Branwell. Branwell was supposed to support the family by being a painter or a poet (he had potential in both) but instead he got a drinking problem and they had to take care of themselves and him (which is partly why they started writing). But the dude could write with both hands simultaneously. Think that’s cool? (I did) Well then get this: he could write Greek with his left hand and Latin with his right. At the same time. I can’t even write decent in cursive. So the Brontes may have been good writers, but Branwell was the man.

A poem that I composed at the Bronte Parsonage

Back on the coach and off to York. It was dark and still raining, so we didn’t do much besides go buy food at a pub (I got a burger. Can’t go wrong with a burger) and then headed back to the Hotel Ibis. I wrote the post for my upcoming blog competition (April 13th, I believe. Get ready to vote), then went downstairs to hang out with Kalyn, Margaret, and Sarah Shepherd for a while. Then it was time for bed.

TUESDAY. At 9 we threw our luggage on the coach and headed to York Minster. Most of our walk was along the centuries-old city wall. It was cool and we got over to the church before too long. The cathedral (minster) at York has the widest nave in the country and is built over the foundation of the original Roman church. It faces East/West, which went against the way the city faces (the Romans were organized) and also has the best collection of stained glass in succession anywhere in the country (meaning they’ve got stained glass windows ranging from the 12th to the 20th century. Our guide was an old guy that knew all sorts of good stuff. He had to rush us through a bit, but I’m glad he did because all the information we got was good. One part that I especially liked was the non-religious annex room. The masons were given a bit more leeway in the stone work, so some of it is hilarious. There was a squirrel, a woman nagging her husband, people making faces, three guys coming out of some bushes, Tom and Jerry, and on and on.

At noon we returned to the coach and drove to Fountains Abbey, which was built by the Sistertian (sp?) Monks. Fountains Abbey was a lot like Tintern (ruins instead of a building, sweet landscape, etc) but it’s a little more intact and we were also allowed to roam the extensive gardens. My small group visited the Mill to start. I learned what kind of wood they used for different things (like Elm for caskets) and the signs they used to signify types of food (they weren’t allowed to talk in the cafeteria…maybe anywhere). After that we walked around the grounds. We found a wounded pheasant. I named him Stephen (not a v, a ph) and we fed him some of Macy’s orange (Stephen prefers grapefruit, but he’s not picky). After that we headed over inside the ruins where I took pictures. Hiking back up the little hill to the path the ground underneath my right foot gave out and I proceeded to slip and slide all the way back down. My hands were caked in mud but other than that I stayed pristine. If I wasn’t crazy ninja agile I could have been one dirty mcmurty. I went back into the ruins and washed my hands in a puddle. Then we walked back up the path and got back on the bus, where we finished Pride and Prejudice (the girls just had to watch the alternate US ending [which sucks] but then we were safe). Don’t get me wrong, it’s very well done and I like it well enough, but the joyful squealing and the formation of unrealistic girlish expectations gets old fast.


Around an hour and a half later we got to our final stop for the night: Durham. Durham Castle is where we stayed for the night. You read that right…we slept in a castle. It was so freaking sweet. Durham Castle was commissioned by William the Conqueror around 1066. The Great Hall, where breakfast was, went up in 1284, and the “extensive kitchens” were added in 1499. The students of Durham college generally live here, but they’re on Spring Break so we got to stay one of the towers. Cam was my roommate for the night and our room was one of the biggest, set next to one of the inner hills, and it even had bars on the windows. It’s a pretty big space and the ceiling is high enough that I could jump on the bed (a practice which will never get old). After we got settled we went across the street to Durham Cathedral and listened to Evensong. Evensong was much better in Durham than it was at St. Paul’s last Saturday, mainly because we sat in some of the choir seats and participated rather than being stuck in the nave far from everything.

After Evensong we got pizza, bought junk food at the store, and then headed back to our castle (boo ya). There had been rumors that the place was haunted and so some of the girls were freaking out a bit (and some a lot) about things. Since our room was so big we told anybody and everybody that if they had problems in the middle of the night they could come find us and we’d crash on the floor so they could sleep. Then we spent a few hours hanging out with Kellen, Alyssa, Karalyn, Arrin, Anna, Laura, and Mary. Anna and I quoted Arrested Development and then I asked if I could read her palm. There’s this hilarious joke where you “read” someone’s palm. You start out telling them they’ll live a long time and be successful and then you go “oh, and you’ll have a pool” and then you spit in their palm. It’s great. Anyways, I read Anna’s palm and told her she’d have a pool. She FREAKED. I guess the one thing on Earth that Anna hates it is saliva. I had no idea and I felt horrible but it was so funny. She wiped it on the floor, then on her jeans, then went to the sink, then curled up in the corner. I was laughing so hard my apology sounded fake, but I really didn’t know. That’s one memory she’ll keep for a while. Anyhew, I still can’t get over having slept in a castle. Durham was sweet.

Part of a castle that I slept in. That's right. Slept in.

WEDNESDAY. After an amazing castle breakfast we got on the coach and headed out. Our first stop was Housesteads Roman Fort (Vercovicium in Latin), built on Hadrian’s Wall. History lesson: Hadrian was a Roman general who, in AD 122, built an 73.5 mile long stone and timber wall across the width of what is now northern England. The wall was used less as a fortification (a fortified attack would have taken it out) and more as a customs check (apparently it made cross-border cattle raiding really hard). So anyways, Houststeads Fort was built around AD 124 and it’s up on a hill. We were far enough North that it was snowing, and the wind at the top of the hill was inSANE. It was so cool (no pun intended). Snapped a few pics and then Alyssa and I went on an adventure. I read that Housesteads has the most well-preserved stone latrine in all of England. We had to find it. Everybody except Dr. Cooper had hiked back down and he was off looking at something else, but after a while we found it. It’s great, and there was even a back rest on the thing. We took a couple of hilarious pictures and then…I used it. Yep, I had Alyssa go away, plug her ears, and sing a song while I urinated in a 2000 year old latrine. It had to be done. Dr. Macfarlane gave me a high five when I told him on the bus.

Calvin enjoying the insane wind at Housesteads Roman Fort

Our next stop was Grasmere in the Lake District. Grasmere is the small town where William Wordsworth spent most of his life. At the church in town I went over to see his grave while everyone else was buying the famous gingerbread (I don’t know why. It wasn’t that great). I was bummed because it was fenced off and I couldn’t moonwalk over it. Everybody walked over to Dove Cottage, which is where Wordsworth lived with his wife and his sister for 8 years. He did a lot of his poems there and got visited by cool people like Samuel Coleridge (Coleridge didn’t like porridge and the Wordworths served it two of three meals, so he would send his wife down and then jump out the window and go to a pub for a hearty breakfast. They didn’t find out for years). It wasn’t the coolest place we’ve been, but it was kinda cool. Then we got on the coach for fifteen minutes or so and got to Rydal Mount, where Wordsworth spent 20+ years and then croaked. It was a nice place with a nice view nobody really cared because it was kind of a superfluous site. It’s still used by the direct descendants and most of the stuff there wasn’t even Wordsworth’s. I’ve never been a big Wordsworth fan, so surprisingly I wasn’t stoked to see what his niece’s pocketbook looked like.

Now we’re at a youth hostel out in the boonstickies (a place called Hawkshead). It’s gorgeous and right on a lake, but it’s dark now. We had dinner while the professors worried about Tony (our bus driver, aka employed jackass) and then a few classes were held. I read the X-Men comic I checked out of the library. And I got paid for it. Because I’m a TA. And awesome.

THURSDAY. We started our morning with a good breakfast made by the hostel and then headed to Hilltop Farm. Hilltop Farm was the home of Beatrix Potter, the most successful children’s author ever. She wrote the Peter Rabbit series and stuff. We watched a movie about her life the other day. It was starring Renee Zeelweger (sp?) and Ewan McGreggor, but somehow it still kinda sucked. Anyways, Hilltop Farm was not my kind of party but we got to hike about two miles to get there and the Lake District is just gorgeous. It made me want to go home to Idaho and go fishing, but all in good time.

After Hilltop Farm we got on the coach and went to Preston, where we met our old tour guide Peter (he’s the Mormon guy that took us to Herefordshire weeks ago). Preston was key in the Church being established here in England and our tour was pretty extensive. I thought that the coolest parts were seeing the bridge (over the Ribble River) that two men raced across for the chance to be the first person baptized in England (winner: Brother Watts) and driving by the house where President Hinckley dedicated himself to the work of the Lord after getting the forget-yourself-and-go-to-work letter from his father. The city has a good number of plaques dedicated to the work of the missionaries and the Church and it was a good tour overall.

Next stop down the road was the Preston Temple grounds. I don’t remember the last time I went to visit a temple in my street clothes. The temple itself is simple but impressive and we got some blue skies for pictures. England’s MTC is on the same piece of property. It was nicer than Brazil’s but not nearly as cool.

Our last stop was Liverpool. When original plans were made for the North trip they weren’t planning on coming to Liverpool, but we changed that. Probably by complaining but I really don’t remember. Thursday night we just kinda got there and got checked in to our hotel. Liverpool is the second biggest city in England, but it doesn’t seem as nice. From what we saw from the coach there’s all sorts of cool things about it (5th largest cathedral on the planet, Beatles museum, sweet docks, etc), but we were told we’d have free time for most of Friday so Cam, Aly, Alison, and I went to grab fish and chips (the best fish and chips in England so far) and then grabbed some McFlurries.

FRIDAY. Friday was the last day of our North trip and the first day of my Scotland trip. I spent the morning in Liverpool with my Scotland group: Cam, Katie, and Alyssa. We started at the Merseyside Maritime Museum, which was fantastic. There were a number of fantastic exhibits inside and it put the naval aspects of war into perspective for me. In the same building is the International Slavery Museum. It was very well done and I actually wished that it had been a bit bigger. I’ve learned quite a bit about the trans-Atlantic slave trade in my Portuguese/Brazilian civilization courses, and the practice was much more widespread and heartbreaking than most people realize. Slavery isn’t gone completely, but we’ve come so far (thankfully). After the Slavery Museum we headed to the Beatles Museum. It cost WAY more than it was worth, but we had a good time. The Beatles have some amazing songs (including “Yesterday” which is probably on my top five songs of all time) and a great history. Too bad an ugly woman ended up breaking them up.

Calvin and John Lennon imagining all the people.

Anyways, Liverpool was fantastic and I could have easily spent more time there. But it was time to get our bags and head to Scotland!


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