Three Weeks in England

Sep 12

Three Weeks in England

About 10 years ago (I can’t believe it’s been that long!) I spent three weeks in England as part of a study abroad program. I was working on a degree in English and one of the classes I chose to take was British Literature. I had no idea that an English class could be a study abroad course. I thought they were all foreign language classes, so I was thrilled to find out that I could go to England, have a place to stay, immerse myself in a class as well as the country. I’d wanted to visit England for so long and I finally had my chance.

I was a student at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia. The British Literature class studied C.S. Lewis for three weeks – his fiction and non-fiction as well as a field trip to his offices at Cambridge, a tour of Oxford and a visit to his home. I learned a lot about C.S. Lewis’ personal and professional life as well as information about his wife, Joy. That will be a blog post for another time, as she’s a fascinating woman.

There were three places I wanted to go most of all – Stratford-Upon-Avon, Stonehenge and London.

Stratford-Upon-Avon was the home of William Shakespeare. Since high school I’d wanted to visit the town and see where Shakespeare had lived and died. I took the train from Oxford and visited on a rainy afternoon. I’d forgotten my jacket, but I found an open thrift store where I found a wool sweater to wear for the rest of my visit. When the rain got to be too much, I sought shelter in a coffee shop where I shared a table with a local lady. She told me about her son who’d moved to North Carolina and reminded me that I should always carry a brolly with me. You never knew what the weather was going to do.

Shakespeare was buried inside of Trinity Church in Stratford-Upon-Avon. There was a wedding going on, so I waited for a while and explored the church yard and the river. I’ve said before how much I love cemeteries. The church yards in England were always very peaceful and interesting.

The downtown area of Stratford-Upon-Avon wasn’t what I expected. It was a tourist town and people were out despite the rain. I didn’t see Shakespeare’s house because there was an admission fee. But I still enjoyed my time there seeing the town and the beautiful river.

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Stonehenge is a place I will never forget. I took the train from Oxford to Salisbury and there took a bus to Stonehenge. Stonehenge is about nine miles outside of the town of Salisbury. At the the time I went, you could take the tour bus, walk, take a taxi or drive yourself. I enjoyed the tour and learned a lot about the area as we drove. I stayed at Stonehenge a couple of hours and then took the bus back to Salisbury and toured the town.

Stonehenge is near a busy road but you’ll never know it. The National Trust has bought most of the land surrounding Stonehenge and no one can build near it. I’m very happy about that. They even built the ticket booth and concession stand under a hill so you can’t see it from the road.

There’s a trail from Salisbury to Stonehenge. It crosses the National Trust lands as well as private lands. There’s an agreement when you’re out hiking – close the gates behind you and you’re welcome to cross. I crossed the street after visiting Stonehenge and did a short hike onto the National Trust lands. Sheep were grazing in the pasture and I was alone, standing there, and I closed my eyes and listened to the wind blowing through the tall grass. I intentionally imprinted this in my memory, and to this day I can close my eyes and hear the wind blowing and see the stones rising in front of me.

You can’t get to the stones anymore, they’re roped off. There are special ticketed times where visitors be with the stones, but they’re at sunrise and sunset and I couldn’t get there during that time. Even with the large amount of people visiting the stones, I never felt crowded or overwhelmed. I was able to take pictures from many angles and wander around the circle as many times as I wanted. There was a feeling of peace there. It’s a special place and I can’t wait to go back.

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I went to London twice. I ended up going again because the first time didn’t turn out that well. The tube, London’s Subway system, was undergoing repairs at a couple of the stops I needed and I got lost. I tried to take the bus instead, and ended up worse than I had been. I borrowed my mothers’ digital camera and my battery died. I didn’t have a cell phone with me so for a lot of my London trip I only have the memories. Due to getting lost and stuck in yet another rainstorm, by the time I reached the Tower of London they were about to close. The line to see the Crown Jewels was out the door and into the courtyard, so I visited the towers instead where Henry VIII had kept his wives imprisoned and toured the grounds. I asked one of the guards if the place was haunted and he said no. I don’t believe him, though.

I did eat the best fish and chips in the world and discovered malt vinegar. It was heaven!

The walking tour was interesting – I learned all about Guy Fawkes Day – and I teamed up with another American girl that was visiting. After the tour I met a friend of a friend who was working as an attorney in London for six months. She took pity on my soaking wet self (from another rain storm) and treated me to dinner and a cab ride to the train station. The cabbie took me past Buckingham Palace so I could see it lit up at night. I made my train to Oxford at 11:45 pm, which was lucky since it was the last day on my train ticket. After midnight I would have had to buy another ticket.

I wanted to see Notting Hill because I’d loved the movie so much. I had no idea how long the train ride was going to be. It was early evening by the time I reached Notting Hill via the tube and found the Travel Bookstore from the movie. (Not the actual one in the movie, but inspired by it.) I also visited 221B Baker Street, the Sherlock Holmes Museum.

By the time I left England I was homesick, out of money and had a cold. It was a great trip and I can’t wait to go back with Scott, visit Stonehenge and London again, and get to see some of the sites I missed the first time around.

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Other memories:

Meeting the man going to the cricket match in London on the train. We had a nice talk about my trip and other places I wanted to visit.

Seeing the double rainbow from Tower Bridge in London.

Visiting 12th century Salisbury Cathedral, admiring the detail of the craftsmen who built it.

Buying fresh bread, grapes and hummus at the weekly market, then having a picnic in the church yard.

Eating an English breakfast with tomato slices.

To see more pictures from my visit to England, you can view my slideshow in PhotoBucket.

Have you ever been to England? What did you enjoy about your trip? Let me know in the comments or get in touch on Facebook or Twitter.

 

2 comments

  1. I’ve always wanted to go to England. My husband has been abroad with the military and has no desire to go back. I think I’m slowly covincing him that it would be a great adventure for our family.

  2. Tatjana /

    Now I’m homesick for London again… But I’m glad you had such a great time there. Amazing country.

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