Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Jane Austen Land!!! But first Salisbury...

I forgot to mention Salisbury as part of my Stonehenge/Wilton House day! So, real quick:

This is Salisbury Cathedral. It used to be the tallest point in England- which is not so any longer. :)

It was really pretty! And... that's about it... I don't remember anything particularly special about it. But none the less, it was cool.
 Anyway, the next day we got to go to two of the places that were a big contributing factor in my decision to go on Brit Lit: Winchester Cathedral and Chawton. Why was I so excited to visit these places, you ask? What could possibly make them so special? Well, here's one reason:

Behold, the final resting place of Jane Austen: my dear friend and hero. I truly wonder sometimes if she and I were dear friends in the heavens. :) The point is, I love her! She really was one of the things that ultimately helped me decide that I was supposed to go on this trip. I don't know if you can read the eulogy on her grave, but I think that it is quite beautiful! If you can't read it, you should look it up. :)

Besides the Austen factor of Winchester, the building itself has some pretty cool history. It was built on a really poor spot for a cathedral. Half of the ground it was built on was built on normal ground, but the other half was built on really soft, marshy ground. So half of it was slowly sinking lower and lower until the crypts of the cathedral were completely underwater. So this guy:

got to go in underwater and  build the foundation  under the catherdral,
from the ground up...
brick by brick.

Fun job, huh? Well, it worked, and now he's the hero who saved Winchester Cathedral, which is really good news, because it a really beautiful place: 

This picture was taken in the crypts of the cathedral. It still floods for about half the year down there. You can see all the moisture on the floor. The statue always has water in his cupped hands, symbolizing the beauty and blessing of water.

This was in the crypt too. I just thought it was cool. There weren't any bodies down there, though there used to be supposedly. I can't remember where the curator said they went.
 After Winchester it was time for Chawton, the location of Jane Austen's home for the last eight years of her life! We were slightly delayed when one of our girls on the trip got lost and couldn't find the coach. I was so worried that we would have to skip Chawton... in fact, I may or may not have become a little infamous with some of my fellow pilgrims for saying that if Sara made me miss Jane Austen's house, I would turn her into a leprechaun... Not one of my finer moments... but it lightened the mood a little. She was lost wandering around Winchester for the better part of an hour- I felt pretty guilty after that. But all was well, because I did not have to miss out on seeing this much anticipated, yet understated, building of such importance!

I thought this was funny. That's all. :)

Behold, the simple, tiny table that served as Jane's home as she finished Pride and Prejudice, and wrote such wonders as Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Mansfield Park, and Northanger Abbey. Such a small little home for such marvelous works!

The collection in the rest of the house was small, but impressive- first edition copies of Sense and Sensibility, locks of Jane's hair, and couple of manuscripts in her hand, etc. It was amazing! I came out of my adventures at Jane's house with two bookmarks that contained pressed flowers from her garden. I am pleased. :)

Thus concludes my adventures in the English countryside. I must say, I thought it an extremely unfortunate thing to have to depart from all the splendors and gaieties of such sensational lands. But, despite my great hesitancy and sorrow, it was time to embark upon a great journey, through the perilous lands of London and Paris...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lyme Regis, Thomas Hardy, Stonehenge, Wilton House

Sorry it's take me so long to post another update! I've been super busy. But here goes some more awesomeness! :)

One of our next stops in the following days was Lyme Regis. If you're familiar with Persuasion by Jane Austen (which happens to be my favorite Austen book ever), Lyme Regis is a pretty prominent location in the story. As is the Cobb, which is located at Lyme. It was AMAZING!!! We were there on a beautiful day. It was pretty perfect. And it was amazing to get so close to the ocean. Besides Inishmore, this is the only opportunity we got to explore a beach.

Isn't is cute? 
This boat harbor fills up with the tide, but when the tide is out it looks like a boat graveyard. It thought it was cool. :)

The Cobb!

Those things jutting out of the side of the cobb are called granny's teeth. They're really scary to walk down.

The home where Jane Austen supposedly lived during her stay at Lyme Regis.
 After we spent the morning at Lyme Regis, we explored Thomas Hardy country. He wrote such books as Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Under the Greenwood Tree, and Jude the Obscure. His books are really depressing, and not very many people on our trip liked him. In fact, I don't think anyone was very excited to go to these sights, but there was still some cools stuff, like his grave- well half of it. This is where his heart was buried, with his first wife. His ashes are in Poets' Corner at Westminster.

This is the D'urberville window, in a church in Bere Regis, which is part of Thomas Hardy country. If you've read or heard of Tess of the D'Urbervilles, this window is featured in the story.

We went to three of four places in Thomas Hardy country, but like I said, no one really cared. :) So my buds and I spent our time at one stop playing at a music store. It was fun to compare it to the Piano Gallery. :)

The next day was fantastic! We started off at Stonehenge... no biggie...

...except that it was AMAZING!!!! 

I couldn't believe I was there. It is much more impressive in person than it is in the pictures. It was incredibly windy, but the lighting was perfect. It made all the colors stand out more.

No, Juan is not on a cell phone. Those are the audio guides that teach you about Stonehenge. They were pretty boring after the first 20 markers... 

I loved Loved LOVED this place!
 We were all kind of bummed to leave Stonehenge. Especially since we were going somewhere that none of us had heard of or cared about: Wilton House. We were expecting it to be like Blenheim Palace, the least enjoyable place we visited. But we were all very mistaken...

This place was incredible! It's occupied by the Earl of Pembroke. He's only 31 years old and his wife is like 27, and you could tell that they actually welcomed visitors. This place had amazing, and huge gardens. A lot of movies were filmed there, most notably Pride and Prejudice (the Keira Knightley version), Sense and Sensibility, Young Victoria and Johnny English. There's a big long list. Kaity, Mary, and I toured the house together, and at the end of the tour this really friendly curator started giving us all this information about the house, including what had been filmed there. She let us go beck through the house backwards to see it all again, and she pointed out all the amazing things we had missed the first time. You know the scene in Pride and Prejudice when Elizabeth is touring Pemberley and she peeks in on Georgiana playing the piano, then Mr. Darcy shows up? They showed us that door and let us walk through it. It may seem kind of dumb, but I was excited. :) The lady in that room told us a lot about how they filmed that scene and everything, and even offered to send us pictures of the shoot (we never got them, but that's ok). We felt like VIP's. No one else got our extended tour. It was great!

Everything else about this place was amazing, too. As I said, there were lots of beautiful gardens, and some really big beautiful dollhouses on display. Plus, the Earl's personal car collection, which is quite extensive. One of my favorite things on the grounds was the whispering bench, pictured above. It's a bench shaped like a big semi-circle. The way it's shaped and the height of the walls create amazing acoustics, so if there is a person sitting on both ends of the bench, one can whisper into the wall and the other person can hear it is if the person who said it was right next to them. It was a useful tool in many secret courtships. :)

As amazing as everything was, the absolute best part of the Wilton House was the adult playground. SOOOO fun. It had ziplines, as you can see below, which were addicting, these huge boat swings, monkey bars, and MASSIVE tree houses with rope bridges and slides. It was pretty legit, and pretty dang fun.

They also had a big trampoline, which Kaity and I used to practice our King Fu (and ballet) skills.

...I won... :D