A Hop Over the Pond

A Hop Over the Pond

Long Weekend in Paris

First of all, I would like to apologize for the long delay. I am officially back in Kansas, but this past week has been so hectic. I’ve been to Paris, turned 20 years old, flew across the Atlantic, and have started work all in the past week! I planned to update my blog day by day in Paris, but I had no internet access, which made that task impossible. So, I will just give you a recap of my adventures in Paris while they are still vivid in my mind.

 

My first day in Paris, last Friday, was entirely dedicated to exploring the Louvre. After wandering the streets of Paris for an hour and nearly getting killed by a moped racing down the sidewalk, we (my friends, Carolyn, Kylene, and I) finally found the Louvre. The museum was really a spectacular sight. The seventeenth-century architecture of the art museum was starkly contrasted by the modern glass pyramid which stood in the center, surrounded by fountains. Once entering the museum through the pyramid, the ticket line surprisingly moved quickly, and we were off to see the Italian paintings. Our goal was to see the Mona Lisa, but we ended up being distracted by the Greek sculptures and Mesopotamian statues. When we did finally spot the Mona Lisa, she was surrounded by hundreds of eager tourists, who also wanted to capture a glimpse of this iconic portrait. After taking a very blurry photo of the painting, we continued to wander through the Italian painting section and finally, through the French paintings. We saw “The Consecration of Napoleon” as well as “Viva La Vida.” After spending four hours in the Louvre, we decided to purchase our dinner at Forum de Halles, a place where local vendors sell baked goods, fruit, meat, etc. We purchased a baguette as well as some fresh strawberries then headed back to our hotel to eat our goodies, relax, and watch French television.

 

Day two in Paris was definitely the most exhausting, but it was perhaps my favorite day. Our goal was to hit most of the major iconic spots along the River Seine. The morning was spent at the beautiful gothic cathedral, Notre Dame. It was mind-blowing to think construction had began on this cathedral in the 12th century, and it is still standing today. The stained glass windows, glowing candles, gargoyles, and vaulted ceilings gave me goosebumps as I wandered freely throughout the cathedral. Perhaps the most amusing part of exploring Notre Dame was the recorded “Shhh!” which was played over the intercom, reminding people to keep their voices low. From Notre Dame, we headed straight towards the Eiffel Tower, which was quite a long jaunt. When the tower was in close proximity, we decided to stop for lunch at a café to rest and refuel. After our brief break, it started to rain, and we decided not to go to the top of the tower. Instead, we just stood underneath it in awe of its enormity. The French sure knew how to commemorate their country’s centennial as a republic in a grand way! We snapped a few photos around the tower, then walked through the maze of streets to the Arc de Triomphe. Honestly, we did not spend much time there due to the fact it was extremely crowded and it cost a fee to actually go underneath it. We briefly admired it then followed the Champs-Élyseés to our final destination, the Place de la Concorde. This elegant plaza truly has strong historical significance. It was the place in which Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were executed by the Jacobins during the French Revolution. I was immediately reminded of one of my favorite novels, The Scarlet Pimpernel, where Sir Percy bravely rescues French aristocrats from the blade of the guillotine. After walking around the plaza, we took the Metro back to our hotel and fell asleep.

On the third day, we took a day trip to the Palace of Versailles. It took nearly an hour just to get to Versailles. The lines were incredibly long, but the weather was perfect! It was about 75 degrees, and the sky was a bright blue—certainly the best weather for snapping photos of the palace. Unfortunately, we had to wait two hours just to enter the palace. Once we began our tour, it was very stuffy and uncomfortable due to the large crowds. However, I was still able to enjoy the beauty of the bedchambers, the Hall of Mirrors, and the gardens. Despite the large crowds, visiting the palace for the day was totally worth the extra effort.

 

The following day was very relaxing. We bought some French pastries, strolled along the River Seine, and visited Notre Dame one last time. One Eurostar ride, two planes, and a short drive later, I was back in Lindsborg celebrating my 20th birthday with family. I am still in shock of all that I have seen and done. Although I am back in Kansas, I hope to post one last time to give some concluding thoughts and reflections regarding this life-changing experience.

 

Alyssa

Crossing the Border

Once again, it is a cloudy, dreary morning at Harlaxton. However, the weather is somewhat pleasant compared to the cold, unpredictable weather of Edinburgh. From my last post, you were aware that I was ecstatic about taking the trek across the border to Scotland, the "Motherland." I must admit that Edinburgh is my favorite city I have visited thus far, though New York City is definitely my favorite in the States.

My long weekend began early Friday morning when all twenty of us boarded the coach. It rained intermittently over the course of the six-hour drive from Grantham to Edinburgh, but the views were truly breathtaking. Once we reached the English-Scottish border, the hills became much larger and steeper. Sheep dotted the vibrant green pastures and fields were no longer separated by wood and wire but by mossy stones. Bubbling streams seemed to slice through nearly angle of the landscape. Although I am not a botanist and unsure of this particular plant's name, there were rusty yellow shrubs that grew near every stream and contrasted greatly with the rolling green pastures. I could not believe I had crossed the border and was driving through the land of my ancestors! It was an indescribable feeling!

We reached Edinburgh about 2:30 that afternoon and after hopping off the coach, we were greeted with the sound of blaring bagpipes in the distance. Though bagpipes are iconic Scottish instruments, this greeting was very ironic. After dropping off our luggage at our hotel on Princes Street, a few girls and I went exploring Princes Park and the Royal Mile. The Sir Walter Scott memorial happened to be right across the street from our hotel. Though it was constructed in the nineteenth century, it is a very gothic structure with a steeple spire. A very pensive statue of the author of Ivanhoe and other famous works sits under the spiral. From the monument, we walked through the park, catching a beautiful glimpse of Edinburgh Castle and the city skyline. After passing the National Gallery of Scotland, we walked towards the Royal Mile. This is the street that Scottish kings would parade down once they were crowned at Holyrood Abbey.

If you ever visit Edinburgh, just follow the Royal Mile and you will see nearly every famous site the city has to offer. We wandered aimlessly through some touristy shops, claiming they had legitimate clan tartans. However, we also visited an exhibit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at the National Library and explored St. Giles Cathedral. By the time we left St. Giles, it was pouring outside, and we ducked into Deacon Brodie's Tavern to shield ourselves from the rain as well as grab some dinner. The atmosphere was very family-like, but also had a pub feel to it. The tavern was constructed near the spot where Deacon Brodie, a clever thief, was hanged in the mid-18th century. This man supposedly influenced the writing of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

After getting dinner, we were completely exhausted, so we headed back to the hotel for the night. However, the next morning, we arose early to climb to the top of Arthur's Seat. Though we were lost for about 45 minutes and asked for directions three times, we finally found the steep hill. We took a very scenic route to Arthur's Seat, passing by Calton Hill, Scottish Parliament, and Holyrood Palace, the residence of the Queen when she visits Edinburgh. The walk was tremendously difficult, but the views were worth the soreness afterward. While we did not make it completely to the top due to time and exhaustion, one could see a panoramic view of the city. The gothic, medieval city was in the foreground with the towering highlands and the misty sea as its backdrop. It was definitely a memorable view.

Once climbing down from the hill, my roommate and I decided to make the journey in the opposite direction to Edinburgh Castle. Before taking another difficult walk, we stopped for a panini sandwich at a café along the Royal Mile. When visiting Edinburgh, you must absolutely visit the castle! There is so much history there from the ancient Picts and Scots to the recent war in Afghanistan. We spent a couple of hours touring the museums there as well as viewing the Scottish crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny.

We were pretty tired from exploring the castle for a couple of hours, so we decided to browse the shops along the Royal Mile to find gifts for our families. I purchased a scarf with my family's tartan, a mug with my family's crest for my dad, and a University of Edinburgh t-shirt for my brother. After having a picnic of Subway sandwiches in Hunter's Square after our shopping excursions, we made the trek up to Calton Hill to take some final pictures of the city before we left.

On Calton Hill, there are Roman-like structures which you can explore as well as see an awesome panoramic view of the city. From the top, we could see the spires of cathedrals, the castle, the Sir Walter Scott Monument, Holyrood Palace, and Arthur's seat. We watched the sun set over Edinburgh, and it was truly beautiful. However, the sun set was soon covered by gray storm clouds, and it began to rain heavily. So, we darted down the hill and headed towards our hotel, where we spent our final night in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is a city unlike any other I have visited. The architecture is impeccable, and I love how it does not take much of an effort to explore the sites of the city. I definitely would like to take my family some day, so we can all explore it!

These next few days I will be busy taking my final, seeing Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part I, and packing for my journey to Paris! Exactly one week from today, I will be at home! I have mixed feelings at this point about returning home, which I wish I could expand on, but I think I have written enough!

Until next time,

Alyssa

 

Embracing My Scottish Roots

I can't believe I'm posting consecutively two days in a row. This is a new record for me, but I thought in this post I would express my general excitement for the next couple of days. Tomorrow morning at 8:00 I will be leaving for Edinburgh, Scotland. Why am I so ecstatic about this trip you may ask? Not only does Edinburgh have tremendous historical significance due to it being the home of great writers and intellectuals such as Sir Walter Scott and Adam Smith, but just stepping within Scottish borders is truly significant for me. My surname, Crawford, has ancient roots in Scotland. Through my own personal research, I have discovered that the Crawfords were cousins to the great leader of Scottish independence, William Wallace, or Braveheart. Supposedly, Wallace's mother, Margaret, was a Crawford.

Although I am not able to trace my family tree back 800 years to Wallace's fight for independence, I am able to trace my Scottish roots to my fifth great-grandfather, Sampson Crawford, who was born in Scotland in 1768. While I do not know much about Sampson's life, I am for certain that he married Nancy Campbell (obviously another Scot) and had a son, William, in Pennsylvania in 1793. So, sometime between 1768 and 1793, he made the difficult voyage across the Atlantic to seek a better life in America. Reflecting on this research, one could say that I may be the first person in my family to step foot within Scotland's borders for over 200 years. As a history buff and amateur genealogist, I would say this will be a very powerful and emotional experience for me. I would not be surprised if I shed a few tears.

I only wish I knew more about Sampson, such as where he lived and who his family was. I know Edinburgh is somewhat near the county or province in which the Crawford clan was generally situated. This experience only triggers a desire to research further into this side of my family. While I will only be in Scotland a few days, hopefully I can return to continue this journey in discovering my Scottish ancestors. It is surreal to think that I will be in my homeland sometime tomorrow.

 

Alyssa

An Afternoon in Shakespeare's Hometown

Friends and Family,

These past few days have flown by so quickly. It seems like I was just posting about the Chatsworth House and Oxford on Sunday, and now, it is "hump day." At Harlaxton, Wednesday signals that it is almost the end of the school week and time for another adventure. However, I thought I would give you a brief synopsis over what has occurred in the last few days.

The Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations officially ended yesterday, and although I did not directly participate in the festivities, I have stayed updated through the internet and newspapers on campus. While traveling through various towns over the past few days, I have seen the tremendous amount of patriotic spirit among the British. Union Jacks were strewn across clotheslines, children were decked out in red, white, and blue, and barbecues were held in nearly every neighborhood. I watched portions of the concert held at Buckingham Palace as well as the floatilla which occurred on Sunday, despite the downpour. Though I was not in London and did not really wish to be there in the midst of all that choas, I could still sense how truly significant this event was to the British people.

On Tuesday, I spent my last day of the Jubilee celebrations in Stratford-upon-Avon. While I loved the quaintness of Stratford, the pouring rain dampered the whole ambiance of such a historic town. I went with a couple of my friends to Shakespeare's birthplace as well as a museum which gave a very brief history of Shakespeare and his family living in Stratford. Honestly, I do not think paying 12.50 GBP was worth the experience. Yes, it was amazing to walk in the footsteps of Shakespeare, but the tour through his house literally took 15 minutes, so I was slightly disappointed.

After browsing the shops and dodging in and out of the rain, I sat down with the rest of my class at Red Lion Inn, a family restaurant and pub. I had the traditional fish and chips, which was very good. I have to admit that I was a bit depressed by my experience and was ready to attend Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company. What was intriguing about this particular performance was the fact that Julius Caesar's cast was entirely black, and there was a strong African influence in the music as well as the cast's accents. Through one of my classmate's presentations the day before, I learned that Julius Caesar is a play that is very dear to the African people. The people of African nations, who have lived under countless dictators, can identify or relate to this play. There are specific parallels between Shakespeare's play and Nelson Mandela as well as his efforts to dissolve the Apartheid government in South Africa. Supposedly, Mandela read Julius Caesar in prison and used it as his inspiration. This is subject matter that would be very interesting to delve deeper into.

In regard to the performance, the actors were passionate and spoke clearly and fervently. The man who played Brutus had wild and crazy eyes. At times, he seemed possessed and was truly an interesting character. Caesar looked like a typical dictator, with his very stiff and clean military uniform. He spoke of being the only "constant" star in the sky, which only forshadowed his fate. The set also hinted of the oppressiveness of dictatorships. A cement bunker stood as the focal point, with a giant statue of Caesar standing proudly behind it. Though I was hoping to see a more traditional Shakespearean play, I was so excited to see this rendition of Julius Caesar. It was definitely an unforgettable experience.

Next week, I have the opportunity to view Henry IV, Part II in Stamford, which I am looking forward to. At this point, I think the actors will be in traditional Shakepearean costume, but I have been pleasantly surprised by the numerous productions I have seen here. So, I really don't know what to expect. These next few days look somewhat busy. Today, my class is touring Tolethorpe, a theatre in Stamford and then attending The Final Test, a brand new play, in Lincoln on Thursday. Friday morning, I'm off to Scotland to see its beautiful and historic capital, Edinburgh. While I have less than two weeks in the United Kingdom, there is still so much to see and do!

 

Until next time,

Alyssa

Weekend at the Chatsworth House and Oxford

Hello, once again! It is a very dreary and drizzly morning here in the UK. Today will most likely be spent indoors, writing, and catching up with friends and family. I am completely done with my class assignments! My four response papers are handed in and both my presentations are over. I'm so excited because last week was very stressful. I was battling a terrible cold, while writing papers and preparing for a group presentation. I now feel as if summer can begin, and I can actually enjoy my trips without worrying about assignments.

This weekend, my roommate and I went on our first independent excursion. We had originally thought about leaving the UK for Dublin, but when crunching numbers, the trip was going to be very expensive. Instead, we opted for a day at the Chatsworth House in Derbyshire and a day in the university town of Oxford. Our journey began early on Friday morning when our cab driver arrived at the Carriage House at 6:15 to take us to the Grantham train station. We traveled by train from Grantham to Nottingham, then took a connecting train from Nottingham to Matlock, a small town in Derbyshire. After trying to figure out the bus system in Matlock for nearly an hour, we found a bus from Matlock to the Chatsworth House. The mansion or "palace" as I call it is a 17th-century house nestled amongst rolling green hills and timber. It has been inhabited by the Dukes of Devonshire for over 300 years.

Perhaps its most famous resident was Georgiana Cavendish, the wife of the 5th Duke of Devonshire. A biographical drama was made recently called The Duchess, starring Keira Knightley, which tells the tale of Georgiana's love affair with Lord Grey, while she was married to the Duke. The Duke also had a string of affairs, often neglecting Georgiana, and fathered multiple illegitimate children. Wandering in and out of the gaudy, heavily-embellished rooms, I could see how this extravagance only encouraged feelings of distance and separation. From the dark woodwork to the painted ceilings, the rooms seemed very gloomy and lonely to me. However, the house was absolutely beautiful. Works of art from all over the world were on exhibit, and the Dukes had a whole room dedicated to Roman statues. This room in the house was used in the more recent film adaption of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, when Elizabeth comes to visit Mr. Darcy at his house, Pemberley. Scenes were also shot around the house's exteriors. Though it was a cold, wet day, we were still able to enjoy the well-groomed gardens, which were truly magnificent. I would definitely return to the Chatsworth House.

After taking in the expansive gardens and taking countless pictures, my roommate and I were ready to head to Chesterfield, where our hotel was located. Finding our hotel was definitely the worst part of this entire trip. We caught a bus at the house which was supposed to take us to a stop, which would then connect us with a bus to Chesterfield. Instead, we accidentally missed our stop because it was not clearly marked. So, as a result, we ended up going to Sheffield, which is about 12 miles from Chesterfield. Once in Sheffield, we caught a bus to Chesterfield after waiting for nearly an hour. A thirty-minute bus ride to Chesterfield was then followed by wandering aimlessly through the town for an hour, trying to find our hotel. We were tremendously relieved to find the flashing neon "Chesterfield Hotel" sign.

While our night at the Chesterfield Hotel was not pleasant due to chest congestion as well as a high school dance occurring down the street, we did manage to get up at 5:30 and catch our train to Oxford. Once arriving in Oxford, we were slightly disappointed to discover that Christ's College was closed due to final examinations and the Queen's Jubilee. This was going to be the highlight of our trip; however, we were still able to experience the college life of the town. Oxford students were dressed in their traditional gowns, headed to examinations. Through our wanderings, we discovered a Charles Dickens exhibit at one of the Bodleian libraries, which I truly enjoyed since I just completed research over Dickens. Oxford's all-male a capella group, Out of the Blue, happened to be performing on Cornmarket Street. They were actually on the show, Britain's Got Talent, in 2011 and will be touring California this summer. The group sang some familiar upbeat hits by groups and artists like Queen and Lady Gaga. Although we were not able to see all that we had planned, it was a very relaxing day filled with awesome surprises.

As I wrap up this post, I would like to conclude with some lessons I have learned while traveling independently:

1. When planning trips, always book your hotel before your train, so you don't have to pay an excessive amount for connecting transportation.

2. Don't live by the map. Wander off the beaten path. It's completely okay to not follow a set itinerary.

3. When riding a bus, tell your bus driver to let you know you've reached your desired stop, because not all bus drivers are helpful and friendly.

Though I only have two more weeks at Harlaxton, I still have a few more adventures ahead, including Stratford-upon-Avon, Edinburgh, and Paris, so stay tuned!

Alyssa

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