30 January, 2010

Bathtime and Sheephenge

Hello folks. Sorry I haven't updated in awhile. I've been pretty busy. This weekend was our Bath trip, in which about 80 students in our program hopped on a coach bus (a Mercedes-Benz bus, nonetheless. A long way from the ones we took to NYC in high school...) and spent the entire day driving to Bath, home of the Roman hot springs and some pretty sweet architecture. On the way, we stopped at Avebury, Glastonbury, and Wells, and on the way home earlier today we stopped at Stonehenge. Don't worry, I'll get to it all in a little more detail.

AVEBURY
 Pretty much a lesser-known Stonehenge type place, it's got a lot of big upright rocks. Like, huge ones. Like, really huge, guys. You don't even know. There was a little footpath along the hillside, nothing more than dirt, but it was white! And wet, so I suppose it was more like white mud. It was strange and slippery, and got all over our shoes. But seriously, the big rocks were not my favorite part of Avebury. The little historic town, on the other hand, was awesome. Idyllic, rustic, beautiful, complete with a pond, some beautiful little cottages, and lots of moss. A little church, hundreds of years old, with crumbling gravestones in the yard. As weird as you may think me, I've always found cemeteries and graveyards fascinating, and this was no exception. Old headstones, with names barely legible from erosion or mold, and a few newer ones. It was beautiful. The inside of the little church was small, but no less gorgeous. Lots of big Gothic arches and windows, high ceilings, stone walls, tapestries, the works.

GLASTONBURY
By far my favorite of the places we visited, Glastonbury is home to the Tor, a big stone tower on top of a GIANT hill. Home of many Arthurian legends, and basically a British Ithaca, the town was GREAT. Lots of magic shops and shops selling big cloaks and medieval style dresses. It looked like everything could have come straight out of Middle Earth, especially since the geniuses who designed all the signs in the town decided the best font to use would be the elven looking one from the Lord of the Rings movies. So good.

We went to the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, which has basically been around forever. And ever. I'm not even kidding. The place was HUGE, until Henry VIII decided to be a jerk and destroy it. All that's left now is a few outbuildings and the ruins of some of the bigger buildings. It's where Arthur and Guinivere were supposedly buried, although their tombs have long since been destroyed, and if the place was this gorgeous in ruins, I can't even imagine how it looked when it was complete and functioning. Huge stone remains, some only half standing. Wood markers on the ground plotted out where the rest of the Abbey once was. The place must have been absolutely MASSIVE. Every piece of stone above the doors or windows was carved into these intricate, beautiful pictures, depicting stories from the Bible since most of the people coming to the Abbey back then couldn't read. It was incredible.

After we were done touring the Abbey we decided to climb the Tor. Now, the Tor, as I previously mentioned, it a big stone tower at the top of a hill. Only I think the term mountain would be more accurate here. I thought the hills in Ithaca were bad, but imagine South Hill where IC is located, only three times as high and five times as steep. Wooden stairs cut into the earth, sometimes extremely steep and treacherous, and usually covered in sheep poop. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention them. Herds of sheep roam the hill that the Tor is on, just chilling out wherever they please. No fences anywhere, and they basically just hang out in groups on the hill. At one point when we were climbing the thing, the entire herd of sheep decided it was time to move on, and they stampeded across the hill toward us. I don't know if you've ever seen a stampede of sheep, but it's a lot more intimidating than you would think. It's like being charged by a cloud, only with a lot more mass. We joked later that it would have been like getting run over by a pile of sweaters. Well anyway, we got out of the way of the sheep brigade, and continued climbing. And let me tell you, once we got to the top, it literally took my breath away. And not from the physical exertion. You could see for miles and miles and miles. I could see the sun in some areas, and clouds in other directions. I could see the rain in some far off town, although it was dry in Glastonbury. We could even see our next location, in Wells. Everything was so green and bright and beautiful. Quite possibly the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life.

We wandered through the town after we left the Tor, and that was awesome too. Basically a British Ithaca, with just as many hippies and more magic. There were mystical shops everywhere you turned (including one called The Magic Box! Like in Buffy!) and it was just the most laid-back, beautiful place ever. About 50% of the shops we saw had dogs in them, including a beautiful shop set back in a tiny courtyard garden, where there was a friendly black lab. We played fetch with her and she gave me kisses. She was beautiful and friendly and I loved it. Dogs all over England are great. Most people don't use leashes here, their dogs just walk alongside them, even in the city. It's amazing, and they're all really friendly and well-trained. (Note to Mom: we should get Rylie to England, maybe it's magic and she'll catch on?)




WELLS

Until recently, the biggest, most fabulous cathedral I'd ever been in was St. John the Divine in New York City. I swear, Wells Cathedral blew it completely out of the water. Huge, and ancient, and absolutely stunningly breathtaking. A giant 12th century Gothic cathedral, complete with gargoyles, arches, lots of stairs, stained glass windows, and lots of castley looking bits, it was a lot of fun to be in. I couldn't help but wish that my high school chorus could travel there to sing, because it would have sounded absolutely spectacular in that space. Wells Cathedral has this big clock that, on the hour, chimes and moves into motion, with horses going around on top and a little mechanical man who rings the bell. It was fantasmic. The video will be up on Facebook, along with the rest of my pictures, as soon as we get our damn internet connection.

The rest of Wells was just as cool. The whole town was just so... British! The cobbled streets, the little pubs and buildings, the houses, the castles, the tiny doors that are far too short for even me to walk through...

BATH

Bath, our actual destination, was snowy when we arrived. None of us were even remotely prepared for this, and so the walk to the YMCA hostel sucked. We got some dinner, went to bed, and in the morning we went to the Roman baths for which the city is named. It was pretty cool to walk around a big structure that old, and I've always loved seeing Greek and Roman artifacts. It was great, even though we weren't allowed to touch the water in the baths. (The pipes that delivered the hot water from the springs to the enclosures were made of lead, and the water looked gross anyway. But we still wanted to touch it.) It was about this time that my camera batery started dying, and I wanted to save some battery for Stonehenge, so I unfortunately didn't get many photos of the bath house.

We then went to the Costume Museum in Bath, which was really amusing. We got to try on corsets and hoopskirts! Lauren, the silly thing, is so skinny she could actually tighten hers enough so her waist was smaller than the span of Geoff's hand, which was the idea back in the day. It was so funny to see all sorts of fashions throughout the ages. J-Lo's famous green dress was even on display there! And the building where the museum was was beautiful, too. We toured the ballroom, the tea room, and a sitting room, all with the original crystal chandeliers and molding on the walls and doorframes. It was awesome.

STONEHENGE

Sometimes, when there is a particularly bad thunderstorm or I hear talk of tornadoes or earthquakes, I always have this imagined situation in my head in which the apocalypse comes and Stonehenge just falls over. Like dominoes. I don't know why, but that's what I imagine when I think of it. Needless to say, Stonehenge did not fall over while I was there. Nor did anything particularly magical happen, as I secretly hoped. But there were sheep! (Sheephenge!) And lots of rocks! Geoff and I wanted to cross the forbidden rope so we could touch the rocks, but that is apparently not allowed. So I took lots of pictures instead.

All in all, this was a really awesome trip. The next trip is to Liverpool in a few weeks, and I would like to go, but I don't think I can afford to pay for it. It's not even February yet, and I need to make my money last until June! (Donations accepted. Amounts of at least $1000 preferred. Please make all checks out to Emily A. Krempholtz and mail them to the London Centre ASAP. Thanks. The European economy and my landlord thank you. I do too.)

We're watching The Princess Bride right now with the rest of my flat, and tomorrow I'm going on the Beatles walk around London. (Abbey Road picture coming up just for you, Dad!)

I'll try to update more often, and with some photos!

Love you all,
Em

2 comments:

  1. bahhh!!! So jealous! I want to travel to all these lovely places!!!!!!

    I am living through your blog. shut up. I know I have no life. I'm still living through you right now. Lets take a picture and photoshop me in, mmmkay??

    -Julz

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  2. They probably have those huge ropes around Stonehenge because people everywhere for hundreds of years have been trying to eat it.

    No, really. If you didn't know this already, medieval peoples believed the Stonehenge rocks were "magical", so they chipped off pieces of the rocks to use as lucky amulets. A lot of the chipped-off pieces of rocks were ground up and put into drinkable potions and given to the sick. This practice continues today.

    /end art history rant

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