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!