England and Wales News Updates
June 2, 2008
On May 9 our group of 9 met in London for a 10 day tour as part of our study of British Literature. We went to the Tower of London soon after checking in to
our hotel. Seeing the crown jewels and seeing the place on Tower Green where two English queens lost their heads gave us all a sense of historical reality
unrelated to other experiences. That evening we experienced one of the highlights of the tour. We attended a performance of Shakespeare's "King Lear",
arguably his greatest play, in the new Globe Theater, a reconstruction of the original Globe Theater built to produce Shakespeare's plays. None of us will
forget the play's intense plot and tragic characters, especially King Lear whose pride resulted in horrific consequences for himself, his daughters, and
all the rest.
We spent the first three nights in London and made short trips by train during the days. Canterbury Cathedral is extraordinary and we focused on the
historical event of the murder of Archbishop Thomas a Beckett in the 13th century. We have read Chaucer on the subject in his Canterbury Tales and
also T. S. Eliot's verse play, "Murder in the Cathedral."
Another day, we visited Jane Austen's house in Chawton. Seeing the very table on which she wrote several of her novels was a thrill for us Austen fans.
After 3 days we took the train to Dorchester where we visited Thomas Hardy's thatch roofed cottage. Our hotel there in Yalbury had a wonderful 5-star chef
who had been to Buckingham Palace the day before to have lunch with Her Majesty and a few other chefs. Our dinner that night was unique beyond any other meal
we had on the trip.
We were soon on our way to Swansea in Wales, a beautiful place on the sea, famous for Dylan Thomas the poet, and then traveled to Exeter where we attended
Evensong services at the glorious cathedral of Exeter. Our worship experience was beautiful with the music of the world-recognized Exeter's men's voices,
and the scripture.
A long train journey then carried us down to the tip of southwest England in Cornwall to the little village of St. Ives, just possibly one of the most
beautiful places in the west. We stayed at a hotel on the sea where the waves washed up on the rocks just below our windows, a truly poetic experience.
We took one evening away from the shops and galleries and beaches of St. Ives to discuss "King Lear" as we listened to the surf.
After a last long train ride, we arrived in London once again, giving us a last chance to tour this exciting city before leaving the next day for home.
Now that everyone is home again, there are some papers due on the poetry, fiction, and drama by writers we visited from the 13th to the 20th century. Ten
days was not enough to experience it all, but we had a great time trying.
May 21, 2008
We are all back in the states after a most wonderful tour. The trip went incredibly well. Here's how it went.
Saturday: We started off with a tour of the dreaded Tower of London where hundreds upon hundreds of people floated on barges through
its ominous gates and never returned. We actually saw the grounds where the execution of Anne Boleyn occurred (Elizabeth's mother).
The crown of jewels were also present at this ancient fortress. After this we had a ride on the London eye which was a great starter
to the trip since it gave us a sky view over much of London.
Sunday: We got to walk the Jane Austen mile, which ended up being over two miles (whoo!) to see one of the places where she lived.
We toured her house and then had cream tea (a pot of tea, and two scones with jam and clotted cream) at a cafe across the way.
That evening was an appointment with King Lear at the globe theatre, my personal favorite event on this trip. The acting was superb
and I mean, really, it was the globe theatre. I think that says it all.
Monday: Today we all took our pilgrimage to the legendary Canterbury Cathedral where Thomas Beckett was martyred and where
Chaucer found his source for his Canterbury Tales. The architecture and interior decoration, tombs, and relics were overwhelming.
The sights were vast and numerous but very intriguing. That evening the girls had a little saunter in the Kensington Gardens and
enjoyed the queen's swans and the mystical forestry.
Tuesday: We left our hotel in London to go to Yalebury cottage which ended up being a completely spectacular experience. The land
was rolling and lush, the cottage was quaint, and the food was five star. Our purpose was a visit to Thomas Hardy's boyhood home.
Again we back-packed to its location which afforded us succulent views of the countryside. His house was adorable and furnished
with era appropriate pieces, and the garden and forest around it were so inviting. We had a good long ramble through the woods
searching for a path we never did find. Instead we had our senses filled with warm spring breezes loaded with bud-laden trees
and blossoming flowers. A cream tea followed our navigation out of the woods.
Wednesday: Mumbles Wales included a walk along the coast and a hike to the ruins of an ancient castle.
Thursday: Next stop, Exeter! Other than a visit to St. Olaf's Cathedral, we shopped. I think everyone found some kind of little
treasure either as a gift or a personal souvenir.
Friday: Our last stop before returning to London was St. Ives, a charming little fishing village. The first day was more of a
relaxation since we had been packing and lugging bags and riding trains here and there every day. We pretty much just explored
the area and took in the smell, sight, and sound of the ocean all around us. The next day we had a big adventure. After the rain
stopped, we went exploring on the rocks at the base of a hill that bordered the ocean line. We climbed all over them and up to a
small sea man's chapel at the hill peak. Later we had a group discussion with Mrs. Anthony about King Lear, and then we were off again
seeing the town.
Sunday: We had a long ride back to London but we didn't take a moment to recover. As soon as we got off we headed out to see our last
bit before the dream ended. We made it to Big Ben and the House of Parliament, West Minister Abbey, and Buckingham Palace. Of course,
we had to have our last British meal, and then we called it a night.
The rest was the usual, coming home, sigh. I think all who went would agree, this was a truly insightful and AMAZING trip. I have a
fuller understanding of parts of history and literature I've been reading about for years and I made oodles of precious memories.
May 16, 2008
Hi. We are all doing wonderfully. We are in Saint Ives. We have lovely rooms in our hotel with the surf beating on the rocks under
I have to tell you a funny story. Geoffrey Vance bought a meat pie for lunch and a sea gull swooped down and took a hugh
bite out of it as he was holding it in his hand. You should have seen the look on his face.
We are doing well. Nobody is sick. Nobody has lost their passport or credit card yet. We will be here today and tomorrow.
May 14, 2008
Everything is going well, and the weather has been fabulous.
May 12, 2008
We all arrived in England safely. Everybody arrived on time. The group visited the Tower of London and heard the gruesome stories
about people who got their heads chopped off. The hotel is very nice.
Everybody is doing fine; but very tired, as we had to get up at 7:30 this morning.
May 5, 2008
The pre-tour classes started out with excitement as everyone entered the classroom to find a colorful folder filled with information and
reading material. Mrs. Anthony gave us the run through of each day of our trip and the activities there in. After this we all scuttled
down to the Dambach chapel to do some tour training. This consisted of a ten minute brisk walk (in the air conditioning) around the chairs.
After lunch we started watching a video of King Lear which is the play that we are going to see at the Globe theatre in London.
Unfortunately, it was an old video tape and it decided to die on us, so we were forced to switch over to a movie about Thomas Becket, the
archbishop of Canterbury. He is the main character of the other play we are reading for the class, Murder in the Cathedral
by T.S. Elliot.
I personally am feeling a little overwhelmed and all I can think of is how am I going to be able to pack everything in a garment bag.
Considering all the traveling we are doing on this tour and that most of the transportation consists of trains and the tube, a garment
bag is the most practical way to go. These are the moments when I envy the minimalist nature of men. I expect this to be a wonderful,
exciting, whirlwind tour!