Thursday, June 30, 2011




Stratford Part 1, Oxford, Blenheim Palace, and Hidcote Garden

Alright, so I'm not a huge fan of Shakespeare. I like a few of his plays, like the Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing, and maybe Macbeth, but the rest of it is just- meh. Because of my lifelong indifference to Shakespeare, I wasn't nearly as excited to visit Stratford-Upon-Avon (Shakespeare's primary home) as the rest of the Brit Lit Pilgrims. But, oh my goodness, it was AMAZING! It is an adorable and beautiful town. We also stayed in the best place in the entire universe:

I officially love B&B's. This one was run by this really awesome Tunisian man named Imed. The house was beautiful, the food was delicious, and our room was absolutely beautiful! The bast part of it was that  I was in the same room with the three girls I was close with on the tour- Kaity, Becca, and Emily. Even better than that- we were the only people in our group staying in the Hollies. It was like a vacation from our vacation. Being with 47 other people all the time was getting a little tiresome. I'm pretty sure that Brother Waddell has us spend so much time in Stratford to help all of us get a little jump start. 

The food really was amazing. I wish I would have gotten a picture of some of it. The only meals we ate here was breakfast. YUM. Every morning we were served a Full English Breakfast- a fried egg, english sausage, english bacon (more like ham that bacon, but it tastes 10 times better than normal ham), baked beans, a broiled tomato (a magical creation that single-handedly cured my hatred for tomatoes), and LOTS of toast. I know it sounds a little unconventional, but it's very traditional in England. Imed also got us a few surprises some mornings- like grapes and bananas and prune yogurt, which is way more delicious than it sounds. We ate our dinner every night at a neighboring B&B, and the food was just as incredible. We had spaghetti and meatballs, quiche, yummy chicken, etc. They also gave us the most incredible desserts of my life, including trifle. YUM. Peaches, some sort of cake, and cream. Soooooo good.

Our beautiful room at the Hollies. You know those moments in movies where  some underprivileged person goes into  this fancy suite that they'll be staying in and get all excited and hyper and happy? We totally had this moment. The pictures don't do it justice. We felt like Victorian nobility. :)

Our first night in Stratford, we got to see our first production by the Royal Shakespeare Company! Huzzah! The play we went to, the city Madam, was very interesting and a little uncomfortable in places, but it was really really funny!

These two were the best part of the whole show. They had hilarious expressions. The old guy was like the Jack Sparrow of RSC.

 The next morning, we went on a little field trip away from Stratford. Maybe "little" is the wrong word. This day was super cram-packed. It was kinda crazy and a pretty overwhelming. Our first stop of the day was in Oxford. We only had an hour there. An HOUR to see OXFORD. I was so excited for this and we kind of just blew over it. The problem with Oxford is that it doesn't have a campus. There are different colleges of the university all over the city. So basically, we had time to see the center courtyard of the library and the outer gate of the gardens. It was definitely cool to be there, but I felt pretty gipped. I didn't even have time to get an Oxford sweatshirt. :(

As you can see, the architecture in Oxford is absolutely beautiful.  I'd love to tell you more about it but that's all I had time to see. I don't know if you can tell yet, but this was my token bad attitude day. Pretty much the only time I had a bad attitude the entire time. It was a lot of other people's bad day too, so that didn't help anything. Especially after we went to Blenheim Palace... EEEEEEEEEEVVVVVVVVVVIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIILLLLLLLLLLLLLL! I hated this place. At first glance, it's really beautiful. The grounds are really beautiful. There are gardens everywhere with a train connecting them. We had about 3 hours here to give us time to see both the palace and the grounds. Unfortunately, about 2 1/2 of those hours were spent on a forced tour of the house with a tour guide that had the softest voice ever and so many rules that pretty much ensured that if we breathed wrong we'd be kicked out. I think this palace had the most oppressive and controlling atmosphere of any place that I have ever been. By the time we got out of that wretched tour (which Kaity and I managed to do a little earlier than we were supposed to >:), it was too late to see any of the awesome grounds. We still had to prepare and eat lunch, which took up the remainder of our alloted time at Blenheim Palace.

This little guy was the best part of Blenheim. He hung out with us while we ate our sandwiches we fed him. :) He liked to jump up at our hands for bites. It was cute, in a creepy sort of way.
Hidcote Manor was our last stop of the day, and it was by far the best. It was kind of like the gardens at Thanksgiving Point, except more English, and older, and better. :) The problem was that we only got 45 minutes here. We barely got in before they closed. It was so beautiful though.

This moment was the happiest I felt all day. It's amazing what a good hug from a tree will do for me! :) You can ask anyone who was on this trip- I love the English countryside and it's AMAZING gardens. It's definitely where I enjoyed myself the most in England.

That's all for now! Coming up next, The Many Adventures at Warwick Castle and Our Stay at Stratford, Part II.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Lake District and York

My Brit Lit shoes! This is what they looked like early on in the trip. When we started they were brand new and pure white. Later I'll have to post a picture of what they looked like by the end of the trip. 

Our last day in Yorkshire was amazing! We drove through the Lake District, a National Park named for it's many lakes, and got to see a lot of really cool sights along the way- some of my favorites, actually. Our first stop was Rydal Mount, the place William Wordsworth called home for the later part of his life. He had great taste! The house was cool to see, but what really got to me was the property the house was sitting on. His garden was HUGE.

It had several wandering pathways like this one, some low and a few really high up that gave you an excellent view of the entire property. There were flowers EVERYWHERE! And the smell...mmmmmm. 

It was absolutely breathtaking!
This little hut, the Summer House, was awesome. It sat on a hill and overlooked all of the amazing gardens. In the summer Wordsworth would write his poetry there. His surroundings provided a lot of inspiration. I'm not a huge poetry fan, but I have always loved Wordsworth. Now I understand why. He was so influenced by and dependent on the beauty of nature!

 Rydal Mount was also amazing because it is where I had my first taste of British ice cream. It is SOOO much better! YUM-MY.
 After we left Rydal Mount we made a quick stop at Wordsworth's grave in Grasmere, where we stood under the "church-yard tree" and read my favorite poem of his, "We are Seven." I highly recommend that anyone who has never read it reads it post-haste. It's adorable. :) It was also near his grave that I tasted real ginger bread for the first time, which was a very pleasant experience! British (well, European) sweets- especially chocolate- are  about a gazillion times better than the processed nasty crap we have here. I'm having Cadbury withdrawals.

Anyway, from there we went to the other side of the Lake District to Hill Top Farm, the home of Beatrix Potter (the author and illustrator of Peter Rabbit- the most famous children's story of all time- and the tales of his friends). It was pretty amazing as well. Here the house was much more interesting than the grounds. The majority of Miss Potter's stories take place on Hill Top. I saw the doll house that Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca broke into in search of a meal! With the original plastic food in place. :) I also saw Peter Rabbit out in the garden. It was a good day!

Pardon the sideways nature of a couple of these pictures. I'm a little too lazy today to fix it. ;) Anyway, something I loved about British cottages and houses was the Wisteria growing off everything. It smells amazing and is really beautiful. 
We did some really cool stuff on our way from Bradford to Stratford the next day. We got visit the original York, which was amazing. I've never been to New York, but I have a feeling that when I do get there I'll definitely prefer the old to the new. The coolest thing about York is its history. It is OLD- thousands of years old. It was originally the military capitol of Roman Britain. All the architecture is medieval, which gave the city a really cool atmosphere.
That's me standing on York Bridge
I love this place! There's York Minster in the back.
 The Shambles were my favorite part of the city. It's this really skinny street/alley crammed FULL of shops. Fun trivia of the day: the Shambles were J.K. Rowlings inspiration for Diagon Alley, which makes complete sense. I halfway expected to see little British children gawking at a Nimbus 2000 through a store window. It was pretty sweet. :)

Yes, those are graves -- randomly on the side of a building. I <3 York.
Me and my buddies on York Wall.
The York Wall surrounds the city. It pretty much looks like a mini Great Wall.
York is where I partook of my first Cornish pasty and British eclair. Sooooo delicious.
 We only got to spend like an hour and a half in York, and we were all really sad to leave it. We didn't have enough time to see any of the historical stuff. :( But, after that we went to the Sherwood Forest, so we were still pretty excited.

 Up to this point, all of the places we had visited had more of a serious tone to them- almost spiritual to me. But Sherwood had a very different vibe- much lighter and more playful. Which is appropriate for Robin Hood and the Merry Men. :) It was an absolutely beautiful forest, but it was pretty silly at the same time.
I don't know why, but for some reason I feel as though Tiffany will appreciate this picture.
The Major Oak!!! How I loved this tree! It's actually like four oak trees that grew together. The branches are so big and heavy that they have to be held up with stilts, as you can see. The scaffolding system has been there since Victorian times, and the tree itself is somewhere around 800-1000 years old, which is MUCH older than that tree I loved at Skipton. It was like visiting the Great Grandpa of all trees. He was really cute. I wish I could have hugged him, darn it!

There was also a little museum off the gift shop that was pretty sweet. I didn't get many good pictures of it, but it was legit.