My last days in London were a whirl wind of cleaning, handing in papers, packing, and trying to fit in last minute cultural experiences. I went to see Henry V with Jude Law (thanks Grandmom!). It was absolutely incredible. All the London papers gave it 5 stars and I couldn’t agree more. The next day I turned in my final research paper for my History Programme and headed off to Belgium (on which you will hear more but that trip was so important that I need more than a week to draft my thoughts). It was both a huge relief to be done and kind of like losing a part of me that I had been working on for 4 months (wow I’ve been here for 4 months! That FLEW by). That last week I went to see Richard II starring David Tennant. I though it was fitting that I begin and end my semester abroad in London with William Shakespeare. The show was incredible but better yet was stage dooring afterwards when I met David Tennant!!! I was easily one of the greatest nights of my life. After that, London for BU started to wrap up. My core group of friends (minus a few that were busy) went to the Blackfriar Pub for one last night of pub food before we all left our new and beloved home. Blackfriars is the most beautiful pub I’ve ever seen. The inside is gorgeous art deco images with friars everywhere because it was the site of a monastery from the 1200s to the 1500s Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire supposedly held court there and it is suspected to be the location from which Henry VIII’s court dissolved his marriage to Cathrin of Aragon. After that it was a sea of packing and teary goodbyes to London and my new found friends then off to Italy for the adventure of a lifetime.
Claire and I made our way to Dublin on Saturday morning the following weekend. We had a fun day at the Guineas Factory with Jess. The three of us learned all the history of Guinness and hour to pour a perfect pint, which we then got to drink! We then wanted around Dublin, making our way to Trinity College and the Molly Malone statue. We grabbed bangers and mash and traditional Irish stew for dinner, then Claire and I met up with Allison who was studying abroad with Jess in Dublin. The Three of us made our way to O’Neils and then to Doyle’s to catch up. The next morning at the crack of dawn Claire and I wandered through the quiet streets of Dublin to get to our tour bus. We took the bus to Carrick-a-rede bridge which was 100 feet above thrashing water and jagged cliffs. After that mini adventure we hiked for hours along Giant’s Causeway which was exhausting and breathtakingly beautiful. Finally we got a look at the ruins of Dunluce Castle before we drove back to Belfast to hang around the Christmas market for an hour. The market was adorable and even had an entire stand dedicated to all of the different coffees and hot chocolates you could make with Baileys. The biggest down side to this whole trip was forgetting my passport at the hostel in Dublin when we left for our day trip. Although I got it back at the end of the day the whole bus ride that wasn’t spent enjoying the view was spent panicking that I was going to be arrested or thrown out of the country. By far that was the stupidest most terrifying thing I’ve done on study abroad but luckily I made it back to Dublin without a hitch and then back on to London.
The weekend of November 8th Alison, Amanda, and I boarded a plane to Copenhagen. If only that was the whole story. This just happened to be the day that the Tube caught on fire. So all the stations by Courtfield were closed. We walked for an hour to try to find a cab on a Friday at 5 in the pouring rain which was NOT in our favor. Eventually we made it to Victoria station but not before missing our bus. We begged an pleaded and finally managed to pay a change fee to get on the next bus to Gatwick to barely make our plane which was delayed, then magically NOT delayed without warning! Eventually we landed in Copenhagen. We were excited to go to Tivoli Gardens but just our luck it was closed to decorate for Christmas THAT weekend! Not letting this get us down we went on half a walking tour then shopped. The next day we went to the National Museum of Denmark which was super fun. We saw the changing of the guards at Amalienborg Palace, the Hans Christian Anderson Little Mermaid statue, and the famous Nyhavn harbor. We even stopped by Chritiania for a short time. Alison and I went out to a cafe the first night and listened to a band play a really strange but enjoyable mix between jazz and rap while we made up rules to round checkers and tried to translate and play Danish monopoly. The next day we met up with Liz and went to the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek museum. Then we went to the oldest Jazz bar in Copenhagen which was absolutely amazing. We had the BEST time listening to several different bands come together using members of other bands forming impromptu groups and playing impromptu music in a bar so crowded with people you could barely find a place to stand. We said out goodbyes to Liz and attempted to make out way back to London the next morning at 4 am. What we didn’t realize was that the gates to the main train station didn’t open until 5am which was still in time for us to make out flight but not quite soon enough to stop us from freaking out because we couldn’t get into the station for a good 15 minutes. But in the end all was well.
The first weekend in November a few friends and I went on a day trip to the White Cliffs of Dover and the town of Canterbury – home of Canterbury Cathedral, the bishop of Canterbury and the destination for Chaucer’s pilgrims in the Canterbury Tales. Our first stop was Dover Castle. We walked through the secret tunnels carved into the cliffs hundreds of years ago that were re-purposed during World War II by Winston Churchill. They made me a little claustrophobic but were a really interesting way to learn about the defense of Britain during the War. We then climbed up to the old Roman light house and to the very top of Dover Castle for a beautiful view of Calais, the Cliffs, and the city of Dover. Later we drove to Canterbury. We got a great view of the outside of the Cathedral but didn’t have the time to go inside. Instead we went to one of the oldest pubs in the city for a pint and a bite to eat. After an hour in Canterbury we drove 6 hours back to London (as opposed to the 3 it should have taken us) right into London traffic which was by far the worst part of my day.
After a long absence I’ve come back to write this post about my last few weeks of Fall Madness in London. Several weeks ago BU paid for the History Programme to go on a Jack the Ripper tour of Whitechapel. This was probably one of my favorite things I’ve done since I got here; even though Alison, Adena, and I missed the beginning of our tour due to being stalled on the tube for 30 minutes. We secretly joined another tour hoping to find our friends later on. Our tour guide was a perky little British woman who was way to happy to describe the gruesome tale of the Ripper and we absolutely loved her for it. Following the murders through Whitechapel was the BEST possible way to get to know the neighborhood because when we looked at a map in class the next week streets stood out to me from the tour. I’ve never had random alleyways recalled from my memory so vividly and remembering what our tour guide said about the different immigrant communities in Whitechapel came in use when we were talking about the evolution of East London. Our tour guide even got in to the Dear Boss letters and told us that they recently discovered they were actually written by Fred Best, a local journalist. History aside, Jack the Ripper is a fascinating (and grotesque) story. There has never been a more notorious killer to simply disappear into thin air without a trace. The Jack the Ripper tour was terrifying fun on a late October night and when we finally met up with the other BU students their tour guide told us one final fact about Jack the Ripper. Ripper is a 6 letter word. R. I. P. P. E. RRRRRR! (It’s much more effective when you say the first 5 letters quietly and then scream R).
A few weeks after the Ripper tour we celebrated Halloween in London. Here there’s no such thing as too scary and it’s wonderful. We spent actual Halloween night in the dorm carving our friend Olie the pumpkin into a nice jack-o-lantern, baking cookies, and watching Hocus Pocus and It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. It was one of the best Halloweens ever.
Fall break was a whirlwind of excitement! With a few hours of sleep after our finals we woke up bright at early to take a taxi to our 3am bus to Gatwick airport. After our bus ride I took a 3 hour nap in the children’s play section of the terminal for which I got several strange stares when I woke up. We had 15 minutes between learning the gate number and the gate closing to get to the gate so it was a mad dash to find easyjet! The plane ride was easy despite our (mainly my) unjustified freak out over carry on size the flight was easy. We landed and got through customs quickly but our attempt to find the “bus” to our hostel became quite confusing. Apparently the RB14 BUS Google told me to take was actually the S-Bahn TRAIN! My broken German was able to get through to a very confused man who told us where to get off. We got to our hostel then wandered around Berlin for a few hours grabbing some real German Bratwurst before a 3 hour walking tour of the city. Now 3 hours seems like a long time to be walking around but this tour was one of the greatest things I have done since leaving for study abroad! Alex (aka Zabi) was THE GREATEST tour guide ever. He was so into absolutely everything that he told us about. Every place we went to he had a story to go along with it! We saw Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the Memorial to the Murder of the Jews in Europe, the location of Hitler’s Bunker, several cathedrals, the old Luftwaffe HQ, as well as the Berlin Wall! We ended the tour on Museum Island where Alex told us a tear jerking story about the fall of the Berlin Wall. The next day we re traced our steps going to the Tier Garten, the Topography or Terror Museum, and the Stasi exhibition. Berlin was loads of fun but one of the best, and most delicious, moments was the Haagen Daas experience! We even went to Alexanderplatz and then had traditional German food for dinner!
Amsterdam was another early morning flight followed by a 3 hour tour in the pouring rain! We were absolutely SOAKED. We hung out around the city and saw some cool and weird things. The next day we met up with a friend of Devon’s for a tour of the city. We went to the I AMsterdam sign and Centraal Station. The next day it poured again as we made our way to Zaanse Schans to see the windmills. Despite the freezing rain the windmills were one of my favorite things in Amsterdam, we even got a free cheese tasting of traditional dutch cheeses! Sunday night we made our way back to London Heathrow after a long week of traveling!
After 8 straight hours of class on Monday Devon and I went straight to the Globe to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was the absolute funniest thing that I have ever seen. I’m so glad I got the chance to go see it because it closes October 12th. There was not one moment when I wasn’t nearly falling on the floor laughing. Where Macbeth‘s main actors were quite good, absolutely everyone in A Midsummer Night’s Dream was 110% perfect in the role they played. I can’t even think of any other words to say about A Midsummer Night’s Dream other than stupendous and hilarious so there goes my career as a drama critic.
This weekend was an absolute blast! Alison, Claire, Devon, and I went on a Delta vacation to Wales for a horseback riding trip. It started off with an adventure seeing as I got stuck on the Circle Line for a half hour which lead Alison, Claire, and Devon to have a mini freak out and think I was going to miss the train. The train was delayed but even if it wasn’t I made it to the train on time -unfortunately so did everyone else. Despite having reserved seats we spent the first hour of the ride standing because there were so many people on the train we couldn’t even move!
Eventually we got to our seats, made it to Swansea, and got to Parks Le Breos where we had a delicious dinner ready for us. The next morning after our full Welsh breakfast we got a basic introduction to the horses then went on a several hour ride through the woods and up a large hill that gave us a view for what felt like miles. The woman in charge of teaching people to ride had no patience for people who had never been on a horse before which was a bit deterring as she muttered under her breath about a few riders but we didn’t let it spoil the fun because apparently she’s like this every year. Fern and I had a good day as she was the only behaved horse out of the whole bunch.
That night we went to the nearby town of Mumbles. Yes, Mumbles. We found an old castle, took a lot of pictures, befriended a strange ginger cat, and went to a very rocky beach.
The next morning was by far my favorite. Kelsey, who had been on this trip last year, remembered the way to Three Cliffs Bay so most of us went on a beautiful but challenging 3 hour hike to the beach, up some cliffs, and to the ruins of a castle which are now on a golf course. It was the most breathtaking sight I’ve probably ever seen so I’m glad I remembered my camera!
We returned exhausted after our hike to wait for our taxi, and just as this story starts with a mini adventure it ends with one too because the taxi was 20 minutes late. Finally when the taxi showed up we sped through the town making a 30 minute drive in about 20 minutes including a detor we took because of road closure. We got to our train only 5 minutes before it was scheduled to leave. Luckily we got there when we did because the train pulled out of Swansea station a full 3 minutes before it was due to depart! Once on the train we all sighed a breath of relief and waited to pull up in Paddington.