On Monday the 17th, we arose at 3:00 a.m., getting ready for a 4:00 a.m. taxi cab pickup to take us to Heathrow Airport. Once there, we processed through many security checks, taking over an hour to get to our departure gate. We had a short flight (55 minutes) to Dublin Airport where we spent another two hours in long lines passing through customs and security checks. The G8 conference of world leaders was happening in Dublin, so we are sure that some of the slow lines were due to extra security.
Our trip across the Atlantic went well, and eight hours later we were in Chicago, awaiting pickup by WLC staff members.
It’s good to be home, and we are thankful to God for many blessings of good health, good weather, and excellent experiences.
Thanks for reading about our class, “The Best of Britain.”
Our last full day in London included a much-anticipated trip to St. Paul’s Cathedral, the second-largest domed church in the world. We planned our day to include our attendance at Evensong, a mid-afternoon service of hymns and readings. My students spent time gawking at the ceiling, as well as listening to the young boys choir voices.
We then took our final stroll across the Millennium Bridge, observing the tidal waters of the Thames below us and The Shard’s magnificent height above us. Many of our pictures will reflect these final views of one of the world’s greatest cities.
We spent the evening packing our suitcases and cleaning our apartments, turning in for an abbreviated night’s sleep.
Today our quest to see Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth of England, was fulfilled. We arose early and caught an early train into London. That journey is about ten miles from our Glenthurston lodging, since we are staying in the southeastern part of the metropolitan area. Upon arriving at Charring Cross station, near Trafalgar Square, we noticed the crowds beginning to swell, hours before the Trooping of the Colours was scheduled to begin. We walked halfway down the road to Buckingham Palace and found our spot to claim for a good vantage of the parade and procession. Waiting two hours was not bad since we could observe the London police (Bobbies) and the Queen’s guard in full military uniforms stationing themselves in formations along the route.
The Brits are so precise and prompt, a trait that is not shared by all Americans. Exactly at 10:30 am the parade begins. Marching bands, horse riding soldiers, and delegations of troops from each United Kingdom country (Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England) marched past us, each bearing their own “colours.” At the end of the procession, the royals wave to the thousands of viewers, and we saw Prince William and his wife, Kate, Prince Harry, Prince Charles, and then Queen Elizabeth herself! She rode in a horse-drawn carriage, but because it was cool and windy, the roof was up and she could not wave at us directly. Still it was a thrill and a moment remembered for a lifetime, just ask my students.
After the Trooping of the Colours was over, we split up into our pre-planned final touring of London. Some went to museums, some took off to Wimbledon, and some went shopping for the final time. It was our intention to meet back at our lodging place for a meal together, but some of the groups were delayed in transit, so we just met informally to discuss our final day (Sunday) in London.
Unfortunately, the internet access was unavailable so many of us feel out of the communication loop with which we have been familiar for most of this trip. Oh well, we will have to mail these final blogs and messages, as well as our Fathers’ Day greetings (tomorrow) at some other time.
Toward the end of our literary pursuits and specified places now, the students were allowed a “free day” in London. They divided into groups and planned their schedules (pronounced “shejuals”). Some went to Wimbledon, some rode the London Eye, some toured the Tower of London, some shopped, some visited museums, and some attended a West End musical production (“Once”). Some ate their packed lunches, others snacked on train depot food, and a few ate out a nicer restaurants. The students will have to tell you all about their flexible Friday.
Saturday will be an early rising, early train trip into Charing Cross station, then a walk past Trafalgar Square, a stroll down the flag-lined road toward Buckingham Palace, and the obtaining of a treasured spot to watch the Trooping of the Colours, Queen Elizabeth’s official birthday celebration. We will see a most regaland royal parade, and the British do these things extremely well.
More details tomorrow. Tune back to this blog, Yanks.
Well, today was interesting in several ways. Our weather varied from rain and wind and clouds to sunshine and blue skies. This island country can change its weather quickly and often. Fortunately, we were not impeded in any way on our visit to Bath, the home of Jane Austen for six years of her life. We took a train from Paddington Station to the west toward Reading and beyond to Bath, a resort village since Roman times. It gets its name from the hot thermal pools of water which have been used for 2,000 years.
Once we arrived in Bath, we had several options to pursue, including the Jane Austen Center, the Roman baths themselves, an ancient Abbey, a walking tour, and shopping. In spite of rain, we succeeded in doing many of these things. Some of us even attended high tea at Jane Austen’s house, a real thrill. It was a real Jane Austen day, and we all loved it.
Taking train, tube, and train again, we reached our Glenthurston apartment by 8:00 p.m. tonight. Tomorrow is a flexible, “free” day, in which we are all planning to check off things from our London bucket list. No one will be traveling alone, and these students are very cooperative in keeping me posted on their plans. Saturday is the Queen’s official “Trooping of the Colours Day,” the day we intend to watch the royal parade and see Her Majesty in person.
Our group of travelers made the most of our stay in London today. We started out with a fascinating walking tour, led by David, the owner of the tour company. He was originally from Wisconsin, moved to London 40 years ago to study Charles Dickens, and never left. His Ph.D. was written about Dickens, and we were given a dickens of time during his two-hour tour walking through the alleys and churches and hidden gems that remain from before Shakespeare’s time. David would take us to a site of something from a famous Dickens novel and then recite the very passage about the place that we were seeing. If that isn’t good enough, we were told many interesting Shakespeare stories by this expert on London. (David is my new best friend.)
As the tour ended, we walked past St. Paul’s Cathedral, the second largest domed church in the world. Our group then crossed the Thames River on the Millennium footbridge in a bit of a drizzle. The light rain didn’t matter to us, however, since we were looking at the great landmarks on the banks of this famous river in both directions.
One of the landmarks on the river is the replica of the straw-thatched Globe Theatre, looking exactly as it did in Shakespeare’s day, over 400 years ago. We headed straight for it and made our way to our wooden-benched seats to watch “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” starring Robin Goodfellow, Puck himself. If you can’t appreciate the Bard by watching his plays in the authentic Globe Theatre, then you are a saucy lad or lass, and you should never visit London.
After a delightful viewing of the play, we headed back to London Bridge Train Station to go our various ways. By now, everyone is familiar with the Tube (subway) stations and the overland train depots so we can all maneuver our way back to our Glenthurston lodging place. Remember our rule is to never travel alone, so all of us have a buddy or two or three on every journey we make.
Some of the group went over to the Tower of London to see that ancient castle (built in 1066), some went “home” to shop for groceries and do laundry, while some of us paid the admission price to travel to the observation deck on the Shard, the tallest building in Europe. Even in the rain, the view from “up there” was fantastic!
This group of eleven ladies and one male fellow have made me happy and proud. They are noble travelers, not afraid of daily “adventures” and always prompt and polite. While the weather has not allowed us to wear our shorts very often, we did not come over here to get tan or lounge around. It’s a class of literature lovers, and we are loving it.
After that busy day, we gathered in the lounge area to hear another student lecture about Jane Austen and to work on our original sonnet writing. I saw happy faces, and I heard good original poetry from my students. Tomorrow we will be taking an early morning train to Bath, a Roman spa city with 2,000-year-old buildings, built over hot thermal springs. This is the city in which Jane Austen visited and vacationed often during her life.
God has been good to us, and we are so grateful for this opportunity, planned and prepared well, experienced and enjoyed well, as well.
If you could visit the oldest-English speaking university in the world, the oldest English museum, and the place where hundreds of famous Oxfordians have schooled themselves, wouldn’t you go to Oxford? Well, we did just that today.
Our train ride over to Oxford took us through Paddington Station and north for an hour or so on a fast-paced train. While it was raining in London when we left, the weather in Oxford was very comfortable in the cloudy 60s. This helped in our walk around the city, and nobody got soaked. Our noon meal was spent at a famous pub, The Childe and the Eagle, the very place where two Oxford professors, J R R Tolkien and C S Lewis, used to meet and talk about religion, politics, philosophy, and literature. The theme of being there where the literature was comprised or contemplated was never so obvious. After lunch we toured the world-famous Ashmolean Museum. They had an exhibit of da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo drawings that was awe-inspiring. After two hours of drooling, we walked a few more blocks to see Christ Church College and the Alice Liddell candy store, site of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” inspiration. Not done yet, we walked over to the Oxford replica of the famous Bridge of Sighs in Venice, and then over to the covered market in the middle of town to shop.
After a full day in Oxford, we rode the train back to London and hit the later rush hour on the Tube. My fine students handled the crowded “carriages” just fine, and we all arrived safely back at our lodging by 8:00 p.m.
Tomorrow we will take a two-hour walking tour featuring Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare sites. Then we will attend a matinee play at the Globe Theatre. Perhaps you’ve heard of it: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
G’day to you. We spent Monday the 10th in pursuit of Sherlock Holmes and Lord Byron. If you have been noticing, this class makes a point of discovering great British (and Scottish) authors by visiting their homes, graves, workplaces, schools, museums, and countryside. We are not just touring England, but rather learning about the literature of their land. After all, these students are earning three credits in English for this experience.
Our morning began with a train trip into London, our usual routine. Then we switched Tube stations in succession, heading toward 221B Baker Street, the fictional home of Sherlock Holmes, the great detective. We found it, toured the museum shop underneath it, and took pictures of this tourist site, realizing of course that this person never lived there.
Leaving Holmes’ home, we headed “downtown” where we saw the London Eye (2nd biggest Ferris wheel in the world), the Shard (tallest skyscraper in Europe), the Thames itself, Big Ben, the Parliament building, Trafalgar Square, 10 Downing Street, and much more. We did not get to attend a Parliament session due to too long queues (note that spelling!), but we did get to attend Evensong, a service of prayer at 5:00 p.m. in Westminster Abbey. Of course, this is the famous facility where Prince William and Kate were married so my students were very excited about being there.
After supper, we split into groups and did different things. Some shopped at Harrods, some went back to the Parliament building, and some attended a showing of “The Taming of the Shrew” at the replica of Shakespeare?s Globe Theatre (that’s how the Brits spell it). Don’t worry, moms and dads, these students have been very well oriented on how to use the Tube, and I never let them travel alone. All of them got back safely to our gated, private, protected apartments.
Tomorrow we will take the train to Oxford, the oldest and most prestigious English-speaking university in the world. There we will study and pursue the memory of J R R Tolkien, C S Lewis, and Lewis Carroll. Should be fun.
We began today with a worship service, including all 13 of us sitting in a circle in the lounge area of our common use building. I led the service with some singing and readings and prayers. The neat thing about it was that we used all Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley hymns, and then we went out to the Bunhill Cemetery and found their graves. We also visited the Wesley Chapel, site of John Wesley’s original church of Methodism.
From there we took the Tube northward to Hampstead, a wealthier area of northern London where John Keats lived and wrote. We had a picnic lunch in the Hampstead Heath, a big public park near his house, and afterward walked over to his house and took a tour with a knowledgeable guide named Clive. We read the famous “To a Nightingale” in the very spot that Keats composed it.
After a couple of Tube rides today, our students feel pretty confident about getting around. We reunited tonight for three more student presentations (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Lord Byron, and J R R Tolkien). These are authors that we will discuss and discover in the next two days.
Tomorrow is another busy day in London, and I will write more about our travels and explorations at another time.
Keep tuning in to read about us, and tell others about it too.
We had a busy Saturday in England. Upon awakening from our lovely bed and breakfast inn, we were served an authentic British breakfast of toast, tea, eggs, sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms, beans, and muffins. It was delicious. We then walked about a half mile to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s theatre, situated right on the banks of the Avon river. There we were given an hour-long presentation by three actors and a director. They showed us “Shakespeare Unwrapped” (“From the Page to the Stage”). It was so interesting to see them act out scenes in differing ways, then have the director stop them and comment.
After the Shakespeare presentation we wandered about the city, had some tea and scones, and made our way back to the Avoncott Inn to pick up our luggage and walk back to the train depot. (Have you been paying attention to the amount of time and distance that we are walking? The British are walkers!) Before long we were on our way by train to the giant metropolis of London, the largest city in Europe. The two-hour train ride gave us a chance to catch up on our journals, send emails (internet service exists on British trains), and listen to music from our iPods.
London travel is always interesting. More than a million people use the Tube (their subway system) each day, so it pays to be alert, cautious, aware of destinations, and adaptable. We now have Tube passes and maps, and with a little guidance (from the professor) we can learn how to get around this huge city. One of my rules is to never travel alone, so our students will always be in the company of others on our trip. Of course, God is our constant companion.
We are now settled into Glenthurston, our gated and secure lodging quarters for the next eight days. These Victorian houses have been turned into apartments with bedrooms, kitchens, and family rooms. We went grocery shopping in order to buy food and supplies and make our time in London less expensive with self-made breakfasts and packed lunches. Some of us used the laundry facilities because we have been on the road for eight days already.
Tomorrow we will gather for a little chapel service, and then head north into Hampstead for a John Keats house tour. Along the way, we will visit the Wesley Chapel, original church of John and Charles Wesley, as well as the Bunhill Cemetery where several noted British people are buried.