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.



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,



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.



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,


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, the Anthropolgist: Taking a Closer Look at British Culture

Now that I have been living in the UK for about three weeks, I feel like a have a general grasp of the British culture, though I feel I would need to live here much longer to have a deeper understanding of the people. Through traveling and interacting with the British people over the last couple of weeks, I have actually been surprised by some of the behavior I have witnessed.

Before arriving at Harlaxton, we were told to keep our voices low and not make eye contact because the British people are very reserved and like to keep to themselves. However, I have been surprised by how similar they are to Americans. From their convenience stores to their shopping malls, much of British life seems very "American." When going into Morrison's in Grantham, I feel as if I am shopping for groceries in Dillon's in Salina. Two days ago, my class went to Nottingham, and I went with a couple of girls to Nottingham's shopping mall. The layout of the mall was nearly identical to the mall in Dodge City, Kansas, where my family shops when we visit my aunt and uncle in southwest Kansas. My friends and I often feel as if we never left the States because everything seems so "Americanized."

In examining the general behavior and actions of the British people, I feel as if they are not as proper and reserved as popularly portrayed. The British people are extremely passionate in their relationships, and they are not afraid to show the world they are in love. Over the past couple of weeks, I have seen countless couples making out in public, whether it be in the park or in the theatre. During intermission of a production I was watching at the National Theatre in London, I went to the coffee bar to get a drink. There were about twenty kissing couples blocking my way to the bar, so I just gave up on getting a coffee and headed back to my seat. I don't wish to create stereotypes of the British people, but these are just a few of my observations.

The British culture has also become very diverse, with multiple ethnic groups from Asia and Africa moving to England to pursue more prosperous lives. Two weeks ago, my class traveled to Leicester, which has a large Indian population. We attended a Bollywood musical, which was a totally different experience for me, but I loved it. The United States is truly a melting pot, but I was surprised to see how racially and culturally diverse this island is. While so many individuals from other nations are flooding Britian's borders, it seems as if the nation is adjusting well to incorporating these multiple cultures within British society.

I have truly enjoyed interacting with the British people, and I am still in awe of their amazing accents. I'm looking forward to over two more weeks of traveling throughout the UK!




More Excursions

Hello, Friends and Family!

It is a beautiful Sunday morning, and there is not one cloud in the sky! We have literally been experiencing a "heat wave" in the UK as it has been in the mid-70s for nearly a week now! I'm not complaining because the gloomy weather was truly depressing. However, I think cooler weather is coming our way later this week, so I'll have to break out my cardigans and jackets once again.

This weekend, I was able to take advantage of the gorgeous weather. On Friday, I traveled to York, perhaps the most historic city in Great Britain. Before going to York, I knew very little about this charming town. Everytime someone mentioned York, I thought of the line from Braveheart, "Wallace sacked York!" However, I now have a deeper understanding of this town, and this line is historically inaccurate as I later found out. Once entering York, you are immediately "smacked" with history. Many of the shops located on The Shambles date back to as early as the 12th century. There is also a castle wall which winds throughout the whole town which is approximately 800 years old. Portions of a Roman wall still can be found. This once again emphasizes how truly vast the Roman Empire was, extending past continental Europe into ancient, "Brittania." Perhaps my favorite stop in York was the iconic York Minster, the largest gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. I was not only struck by its enormity, but by its architectural beauty. It is truly amazing how something so old can withstand so much war and turmoil. York is definitely a town I would like to return to visit!

On Friday, I made the jaunt south to Cambridge, known for its American cemetery as well as its university. The morning was spent touring the grounds of the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial. Over 3,000 American soldiers from World War I and World War II are buried there. Our tour guide told us stories of American soldiers who were stationed in Great Britian during World War II and gave the ultimate sacrifice as they left to fight in continental Europe. There is also a wall for those missing in action. Some famous names on the wall included Joseph Kennedy and Glenn Miller. The tour nearly moved me to tears and made me slightly homesick as I was reminded of my grandfather, who is a veteran of World War II. It was a great way to spend Memorial Day weekend in the UK!

After touring the cemetery, I entered the bustling town center of Cambridge. King's College Chapel was on the very top of my sight seeing list. This past Christmas, I watched the BBC broadcast of the King's College Boys Choir performing in this chapel, and I knew I had to see it. The fan-vaulted ceilings were breath-taking. I would almost say the celing was mroe beautiful than the ceiling of Westminster Abbey. The stained glass windows were also stunning. Each panel told a story of the Bible through images and of course, Latin, which I could not translate. It was truly an unforgettable experience! The rest of the afternoon was spent browsing shops and people-watching. Cambridge has so many posh types, and I felt as if I was being glared at by a few of the students there. However, I did what any American tourist would do and bought a Cambridge t-shirt.

By late Saturday afternoon, I was ready to head back to the manor. I have had so much sun these past few days, which has made me very exhausted. Today will be spent wrapping up a presentation over playwrights, which is due Tuesday, watching my church's online streaming of their morning service, skyping with my parents, and relaxing. Tomorrow, my class is headed to Nottingham, home of Robin Hood and the Sherwood Forest! I'll be posting another update in a couple days' time! (Once again, photos of York and Cambridge are posted on Facebook, so check them out!)

Take care,


Weekend in London-Part II

Hello, again!

Today has been very low-key. My class lasted only 45 minutes, and I have no meetings or excursions planned for this afternoon. Though my theatre class is attending a play tonight, we only have to travel to Grantham, which is about four miles from the manor. We are seeing Grantham Dramatic Society's production of 39 Steps, a comedy, based on Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 film. I'm very excited since I'm somewhat familiar with Hitchcock's work. After the show, my class will probably go out for coffee or drinks at local pub, so it will be a very relaxing evening.

If you read my post from yesterday, you are aware that I spent this past weekend in London. Today, I plan to give you a brief "synopsis" of the second half of my weekend. Saturday morning, after eating a breakfast that consisted mostly of carbs, my roommate and I headed to the Tower of London. If you have watched movies such as Elizabeth with Cate Blanchett, Lady Jane, and Braveheart, you know the Tower was a place where traitors spent the last few days of their lives. Fortunately, we had an excellent "Beefeater" who gave us an indepth, but gruesome history of the Tower. We walked the path of traitors who were led to Tower Hill to be executed and were shown the very spot in which Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey were executed. Our Beefeater, Mark, told us some dreadful tales of clumsy axemen, praying lips of severed heads, and brutal torture. Though his stories made me terribly uncomfortable, I was just amazed to be in a place with almost a thousand years of history! Most of my knowledge of the Tower came from numerous films I had watched, but this tour made history come to life!

After completing our tour of the Tower and purchasing some panini sandwiches at Starbuck's, we wanted to catch a glimpse of Buckingham Palace. After a short ride on the London "tube," we were disappointed to find Buckingham Palace was under construction for the Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 Olympics. However, we did get a few decent pictures of the palace despite the huge crowds of tourists and construction workers. I guess this experience only gives me an incentive to come back to London to see the palace in all of its glory! The rest of the afternoon was spent on the Embankment, which is a hip theatre district located along the Thames. We had excellent views of St. Paul's Cathedral and the London Eye from this area. My theatre class was attending Moon on a Rainbow Shawl  at the National Theatre that afternoon, so we stayed in the area, browsing through book stores and the international food market. While many of my classmates did not enjoy the play, I believe it had the largest impact on me in comparison to the other plays we have viewed. It dealt with a Trinidadian family, suffering under dire economic circumstances, with the leading male protagonist deciding whether or not to leave his family to obtain a better career in England. The acting was so passionate and realistic!

My theatre class decided to go to a pub located near the Embankment to have "real" English pub food. I had fish and chips and mashed peas. The fish was very good, although I think I accidentally swallowed a small bone. After dinner, my roommate really wanted to go to the market in Camden Town. In the back of my head, I was thinking, "This used to be a poor section of London. Charles Dickens labored in a workhouse in Camden Town. I wonder if it's still a little sketchy." My preconceived notion regarding Camden Town happened to be true. The streets were packed with mumbling homeless people and pickpockets. Carolyn was almost pickpocketed. Two men surrounded her and tried to reach into her front purse pocket, and I barely noticed. However, she was wearing a money belt around her neck, so their attempt failed! She was extremely fortunate, and after that experience, we decided to head back to the hostel for the night.

However, our "fun" for the night did not end there. Once in our beds at the hostel, many of our fellow European "hostel-mates" decided to hold a techno party outside at midnight. We made two noise complaints, and Carolyn yelled out the window, telling them to turn off the music. The clerk at the front desk said she would not call the police because that was a "last-minute" option. So, from midnight until two in the morning, I sat up in my bed, patiently waiting for the party to end. The next morning, I felt like I had been hit by a truck.

Despite feeling completely exhausted, Carolyn and I decided to take in some artwork at the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square. While there, we saw paintings by Da Vinci, Degas, Cezánne, and Van Gough. It was so relaxing in comparison to our other experiences. We then grabbed lunch at King's Cross Station and headed back to the hostel to meet our coach. I was ready to leave London! Though I am disappointed I didn't get to tour the Houses of Parliament and see Kensington Palace, I've realized that you cannot possibly see everything in one weekend.

My very long weekend in London led me to one conclusion: While it is nice to visit London, I would never want to live there. I am most content living in a small, rural area away from smog and pickpockets!

P.S.-If you are my friend on facebook, I have just posted my pictures from the London trip. Once again, I am sorry I cannot post pictures on this blog!



Weekend in London-Part I

Friends and Family,

I can't believe it's been five days since I last posted. However, I did not have computer access for three days while I was in London, and I've been working on papers and a presentation for the last two. As I am writing this, I'm sitting under the shade of a cherry blossom tree near the Carriage House. There is a heat wave in England this week! It reached about 75 degrees this afternoon, so I am taking advantage of the beautiful weather before it goes away. The weather in London was absolutely dreadful, but the time I spent there was truly unforgettable.

Last Friday, forty students and faculty boarded the coach for London. After arriving at a our slightly sketchy hostel, I purchased my London Underground ticket, and a group of us headed straight towards Westminster Abbey. On the way to our destination, I spotted Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and the London Eye. I was completely enthralled by my surroundings, and I could not believe I was actually amidst the hustle and bustle of London! Once I stepped into Westminster Abbey, I was in complete awe. Exploring the Abbey by myself with a guided audio tour was so relaxing. The architecture gave me chills. The stained glass, mosaic floors, and glowing candles created an extraordinary ambiance. I could literally imagine monks chanting and kneeling in silent prayer, their words reverberating off the ancient walls. This experience was like a giant step back in time. I still cannot believe I saw the tombs of Geoffrey Chaucer and Elizabeth I! It was heaven for a history nerd like me!

After exploring Westminster Abbey, a couple of my newfound friends and I boarded the London Underground and headed towards Piccadilly Circus to grab some dinner. While riding the "tube," we were rubbing shoulders with some of London's great financiers and businessmen who were headed home after a long day of work. Their suits were immaculate, and their shoes were polished to a high sheen. I felt underdressed in my flats and wrinkled dress. When we reached Piccadilly Circus, we found an Italian tapas restaurant. I tried my first calamari, which was absolutely delicious, despite it being fried squid. Vegetarian lasagna and tiramisu completed the rest of my meal.

Friday evening was wrapped up with the play, One Man, Two Guvnors, performed at the Royal Haymarket Theatre. The story was set in 1960s Brighton and was packed with slapstick comedy. I was very impressed by the actor's endurance over the course of the show. Once the final curtain closed, I was completely exhausted, and instead of heading out to the clubs, like many other students, I headed straight to our hostel to catch up on sleep...

I think I will leave you with this first portion of my weekend in London for today. The second half will be posted tomorrow!



First Encounters

The last few days have been quite uneventful. Classes began Monday, and I have been searching online databases as well as the Harlaxton Library for sources regarding the English Renaissance. However, I do not mind researching this subject, since I've been passionate about this period in history since I was little. It has been a typical, dreary English day with rain coming and going, and this weather only encourages reclusiveness. I've decided to stick with research as well as updating this blog for "time-filling" activities.

On a lighter note, I finally left the manor to make a quick stop at Morrison's in Grantham to pick up some laundry detergent. This quick trip turned out to be the highlight of the last couple of days. My roommate, Carolyn, and I boarded the shuttle to Grantham at 8:10 Tuesday morning  We had great conversation with our driver, Tony, as he weaved through the narrow streets of Harlaxton village towards Grantham. Numerous times, I thought we were going to crash since we hit morning traffic. When I told Tony my name and where I was from, he said, "You Americans sure are adventurous with names." I really do not understand how the name, "Alyssa," is adventurous, but through staying in a country so steeped in tradition, I guess "Alyssa" is a strange name in comparison to "Catherine" or "Elizabeth." I guess my mother thought she was being creative when she saw the name on a bottle of perfume in a drug store over twenty years ago.

As our drive continued, Tony told us his 27-year-old son was in the British military police and had served two tours in Afghanistan. I instantly felt a connection with him as my father just retired from the National Guard earlier this month after serving 20 years. It's amazing to think soldiers from Britain as well as the United States are serving in Afghanistan, both defending their homelands from the threat of terrorism. It's amazing what you can learn in just a short 10-minute shuttle ride.

Tony dropped us off at Morrison's, the UK equivalent to Dillon's. Morrison's literally smells like a Dillon's and has a similar floor plan. I loved watching the people shopping in the aisles. Many high-school age kids were dressed in "Hogwarts-esque" uniforms, buying muffins and pastries before they headed off for school. Old blokes were perched on benches near the cash registers, reading the news and watching the school kids as they flew in and out of the store. I felt I stuck out like a sore thumb in my bright red coat. Everyone else was dressed in heavy winter coats in neutral colors to fend off the 40-degree temperatures. After snatching up my cheap detergent, I approached the counter. The cashier immediately asked me if I was studying abroad, and I told her I was at Harlaxton for the next five weeks. I nervously handed her 5 pounds, we wished each other good day, and then I headed to the shuttle stop.

While a trip to Scott's in Lindsborg seems so insignificant and uninteresting, I enjoyed every second interacting with the British in Morrison's. They are no different than Americans and have the same needs, worries, and desires. We just live on opposite sides of the pond and have different governmental systems.

I'm really looking forward to tomorrow because I will be seeing my first Bollywood musical in Leicester, a city with a large Indian population. Talk about culture shock! I'm excited to learn a little more about Indian culture and perhaps mingle with the public. I'm also headed to London this weekend, and hopefully, Carolyn and I have everything planned out. There is so much to look forward to but so much to plan for!

(I hope to add pictures on here soon, but am experiencing some difficulties. If you are friends with me on facebook, I hope you are enjoying the pictures!)


Until next time,



I've Arrived!

Hello from Harlaxton Manor!

Today is actually my second day at the manor, but I spent most of yesterday catching up on sleep (a full 13 hours, which was greatly needed) and unpacking. My plane ride was very long and tiring, and being a light sleeper, every little cry and cough kept me wide awake. Fortunately, I had a very kind travel companion from Oregon who was flying to London to visit her daughter and grandchildren. She was literally like a surrogate grandmother, giving me grapes, cheese, and other snacks over the course of the flight. We had great conversations regarding travel in the UK. Though the flight was not terrible, I breathed a sigh of relief when my plane landed in Heathrow Airport. After making it past the British immigration officers, who were perhaps the sternest people I have ever encountered, I successfully located my luggage and met my group.

Though most students studying at Harlaxton this summer are from the University of Evansville in Indiana, I was surprised to meet students from California and Georgia. We were all completely exhausted while waiting for our coach to Harlaxton. My flight arrived at 5:45 a.m. at Heathrow, and the coach did not arrive until 10:00 a.m. However, I had an interesting wait. While sitting with our luggage, a sketchy man with a thick "cockney" accent tried to make conversation with us. He immediately recognized we were American, and then tried to coax us into going to the pubs with him. While we didn't take up his offer, he was our source of entertainment during our long wait.

Our ride by coach was absolutely beautiful. A crop called rapeseed is in full bloom right now. (I know, the name is terrible!) It is a yellow flowering plant, which is supposedly a large source for vegetable oil. After a two-hour drive past quaint villages nestled in the countryside, our coach pulled up to the grand entrance of Harlaxton Manor. I was immediately shocked by its enormity. The Elizabethan architecture is simply breathtaking, and our first day could not have been any better. It seemed like taking a step into the setting of one of Jane Austen's novels, specifically Mr. Darcy's home, Pemberley, in Pride and Prejudice.

Yesterday and today have been packed with mandatory orientations and exploring the manor and grounds. Right now, I am blogging from my bed. Classes start tomorrow, and I am looking forward to learning in such a historic setting! Tonight, Carolyn, my roommate, and I are planning a trip to Dublin for our free weekend. Hopefully, everything works out as planned. I'm trying to experience all the UK has to offer, while still establishing new friendships and keeping in contact with loved ones at home.

Take care,



Trip Anticipation


Hello, Friends and Family!


I cannot believe the time has come for me to embark upon this journey! As many of you know, I will be spending five weeks in Grantham, England, studying at Harlaxton College. While there, I will be taking a theatre course, where I will travel throughout the United Kingdom, viewing various theatrical productions. Though one purpose of this blog is to keep you informed of what I will be doing over the next several weeks, it also fulfills the requirement for one of my honors experiences for Bethany’s Honor’s Program. I promise to keep my writing interesting and reflective although I may occasionally go off on a tangent and share some “intriguing” historical facts that I pick up along the way.

Life leading up to this trip has been a whirlwind. Not only did I have some demanding classes this last semester, but I worked three different jobs in order to cover all the expenses for this excursion. I still am not sure how I survived, but somehow I managed. With only a few days before I leave, I have mixed feelings of excitement and apprehension. I am definitely thrilled to see places I have dreamt of, but I am also anxious about flights, managing money, and being in a strange country, living with people I have never met before! However, this uncertainty also makes this journey very thrilling. I have no set expectations, which will make the trip that much more exciting.

While I am not typically viewed as the adventuresome type, I have had numerous opportunities to travel, which I am extremely grateful for. I know many have not been as fortunate as I have in terms of travel experiences. I have taken the subway from the Bronx to Manhattan at midnight, swam in the Baltic Sea, ridden a streetcar through Chinatown in San Francisco, and sprinted down Pennsylvania Avenue in the pouring rain (which is a long story). Though it seems as if I am an “accomplished traveler,” the fact is many of these adventures were taken with my closest friends and family, and I merely followed others like a lost sheep. Days were planned out from sunrise to sunset, and I simply followed the established itinerary.

            In taking this journey, I have more control over what I see and do. This freedom is not only frightening, but very exhilarating at the same time! As my friend Kara told me a few weeks ago, “You never really grow until you’re forced out of your comfort zone.” This statement is very true. In addition to gaining academic knowledge, I hope to gain a new sense of confidence.

The next time I post I will be in a historic manor in the English countryside. Stay tuned for more updates!




P.S.-Below are a couple of pictures from past trips.


Old Town, Stockholm, June 2008

Lincoln Memorial, June 2009


My brother and I in San Francisco in July 2010.


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