Sunday, January 25, 2009

5:00 PM: A whirlwind...

...has been what the past few days have felt like. My feet are about to fall off, my legs are sore, and the amount of energy I have is about the size of one of those "dots" in Dippin' Dots ice cream. But it's been great. I've seen so much and had so much fun seeing it. I don't regret the feet, legs, or energy. Well, maybe just the feet...

Five of us girls ventured out early in the English morning to the National Express coach station, where we took a bus cross-country to magnificent Bath. We left the station around 8 AM and were riding for about 3 1/2 hours. I saw the sunrise and the breath-taking beauty of the countryside. It was incredible (especially since the night before we had watched Pride and Prejudice to get ourselves ready). Arriving in Bath, we walked around a bit, and the other four girls decided to tour the Roman baths. I had already seen them--honestly, not that impressive, but worth doing your first time--so I struck out on my own in Bath. I poked around in the little shops and strolled down the cobbled streets. It was more crowded than it had been last time I was there, and no street performers were catering to the crowds. It was different, but I still liked it. Bath is very quaint, very homey, and a bit less expensive than London. I didn't buy anything, though.

Once the girls were done touring the Baths, we stopped to grab lunch at a place I knew from before: the West Cornwall Pasty Shop (is it "shop"? I can't quite remember). Pasties are like smallish to medium-sized calzones, except they're stuffed with potatoes and ham and cheese, or whatever you like, really. You can carry them around while you eat, and they act as hand-warmers in blistering cold (as in Bath that day). We grabbed pasties and, in my case, a cup of hot chocolate, and walked toward Pultney Bridge. The bridge is in a seemingly quieter side of town, and the view of Bath from either side is beautiful, with the early afternoon sun brushing the buildings just so. We saw a dancing pigeon (it looked like it, really, but I think he was limping... I got a picture of him) and explored underneath the bridge and to the other side. About that time, we headed to the Pump Room, the best part of the day.

The Pump Room is an old-fashioned tea room, similar to the ones, I imagine, Jane Austen would have frequented in her day. Doors open to a very large, ballroom-sized venue with a sky-high ceiling and several chandeliers. Two-person tables and long tables for large parties are positioned across the floor, with a raised stage at the end of the room where a grand piano sits. The host escorts you inside, seats you at a white-clothed table, and hands you a menu full of delicate tea treats and a varied list of teas, both English and foreign. You order, and relax. All of us Jane Austen fans were in heaven. We ordered cake, pastries, scones, and, of course, tea. I stuck with what I knew--English breakfast tea (surprisingly strong, but then I figured out you were supposed to add more hot water... oh well). I even got Kristen (who hates tea) to try some of mine, and she ended up finishing off the pot. I was triumphant--another one converted!

We relaxed into great conversation fueled by sweet food and soothing drinks. It was wonderful. We didn't want to leave and brave the evening chill, but we did. Heading for the famous bread shop, Sally Lunn's, we bypassed into a little shop called "Pink Lemons Too," where we found some unique treasures. Kristen found a lovely little dress, but she decided to think over buying it while we went to Sally Lunn's. We bought four buns and returned to Pink Lemons, where the shopkeeper closed 15 minutes early, shutting and locking the door in front of Kristen's pleading, sorrowful face. It was a bitter moment.

"Well," I said, "we'll just have to come back now, won't we?"

We caught the bus home to London and arrived back at the school in a pitiable state around 10:30 PM. Caris and I had planned to take our "walk" around London the next day--this "walk" is actually an assignment for our Literary London class, in which the professor has outlined a path through London with stops for us to make. Knowing this grueling walk was just the next morning, I fell into bed, exhausted.

The next morning came waaay too soon. Caris, Kristen, and I were out the door around 10:30 AM, hoping to hop on the tube to Tower Hill, our starting point. Unfortunately, it wasn't so easy. About half the major tube lines were closed due to scheduled maintenance or to other problems (a loudspeaker told us that the Metropolitan Line was closed due to a "person on the track," which usually means a suicide). It took us almost an hour to get to Tower Hill. We walked EVERYWHERE: Tower of London to All Hallows Church, to the Thames and the HMS Belfast, to Southwark, to George Inn Yard, to Southwark Cathedral, to Borough Market, to The Golden Hinde, to "The Clink," to the Globe Theatre, to "the Wobbly Bridge" or the Millenium Bridge, to Tate Modern Museum, to the National Theatre, to Waterloo tube station.

The answer to your question is "yes." We were unbelievably tired.

I had been to most of these places before, but I enjoyed seeing them a second time. I especially loved Borough Market. We didn't stay very long because we were so tired, and it was extremely cold. I did find a small booth of Turkish foods, including a vast selection of olives (oh, my downfall... tempt me with olives and I cannot refuse) and Turkish Delight. I wanted to try everything and walk around for hours, but my two companions were about frozen, and the crowds were ridiculous because it was a Saturday. I'm going to try to go back this next Thursday. Oh, I could eat my weight in olives. This could be bad. And my mom mentioned something about these amazing grilled cheese sandwiches sold there...

This morning, a group of us got up early (again) to go to the 11:15 AM mass at Westminster Abbey. The weather was worse than the day before--bone-freezing cold PLUS rain--but the service was truly beautiful. It was different than the one I had attended before, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. There was much standing and sitting, standing and sitting, and reciting and repeating, and singing of hymns I didn't know (but I liked them!). My favorite part about the service was what had prompted me to return this time--the choir. Made up of grown men to the littlest boys, the choir and the music it sings are angelic. Because the service we went to was called the "Sung Eucharist" mass, communion was offered. Watching everyone so formally and lovingly take communion or receive a priest's blessing was incredibly beautiful to me. I'm not "Catholic," but I think the beauty and formality of the Catholic mass gives praise and reverence to God. I would really like to go back sometime.

Instead of walking around and seeing the other sights after the service like we had planned, the weather drove us back to Waterloo station. The cold was unbearable, and the rain had picked up to a heavy downpour. We returned to Regent's, ate a hot lunch, and curled up to watch Enchanted, a feel-good movie if there ever was one.

It's been a great weekend, but I'm wiped out. And classes start again tomorrow... at 9:00 AM.



  1. Wow, I'm worn out just reading all the things you did this weekend, much less doing them all!! Sounds like wonderful fun, though. Good shoes, warm coats, and big umbrellas able to stand 55 mph winds sounds in order!! :) Spring will feel nice once it comes......

  2. I second that. I feel exhausted for you. But I'm glad you had such an awesome time visiting all the old places. Bath is so awesome for shopping. But yeah, I have to say that the baths themselves weren't all that exciting...

    mmm...Pasties. :D Yummy. Now I want a pasty.