Friday, May 24, 2013

The End

Well, the students have all headed home (and should by now be safely with their families).  I hope you have enjoyed reading about our adventurers and the students' experiences.  This blog has now ended.  But there will be a new one in May 2015, the next time the course is taught.  So stay tuned. . . .

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Official Post: Bye Bye Britain ( and Wales)

Wow... All I can say is wow.  What an experience this has been.  From the day arrived every experience  here has been new, from the food to the landscape, to the history, its all been amazing.  I think that the best way for me to Dow final reflection. Would be to go over my favorites from the entire trip.
First, i've really enjoyed getting to eat so many new types of foods.  While I did find somethings that I didn't like, like pasties,  I found a lot more that I did!  I got to try all kinds of new weird crisps (chips) flavors too and by far my favorite was smoked ham and cranberry.  Super weird sounding but amazing!  A close second was sweet chilli kettle cooked crisps.   I'm not as much a fan of the chips (French fries) since they're so thick but they are still filling and yummy.  I also got to try anew kind of cuisine, Indian!  Most of it tasted similar but so dishes stuck out for me, tikka masala and a bright red chicken dish that was cooked in a type of yogurt.  They were both great and I'd eat them again at home.  There were also lots of new candies to try.  We found Terry's chocolates, which are normally only sold during Christmas.  We also found bon bons and mega sour balls which are AWESOME!  I'll miss those two especially.   I'll also miss Jaffa orange cakes.
One of the main things ill miss here though is the scenery.  Getting to see the rolling hills and mountains, and the Welsh shoreline too has been a great treat.  My favorite spots of the trip have been in Wales.  Ill be most sad that I didn't get to stay longer to take it all in, it's just so beautiful here.
I've really appreciated getting to visit so many historical sites as well.  My favorite activities were listening to the herbologist and the barber surgeon.  being that I am a biology major I really enjoyed getting to listen to them explain how people during medieval times would have dealt with all their medical issues.  I think I may have to do a little research of my own on herbology  when I get home.  Lastly think that it was also a good move to visit two of the biggest cathedrals at the beginning and ends of trip.  The two really contrasted each other but work together to start and end the trip wonderfully with York's  bright white ornate architecture and Salisbury's darker more colorful and simple design. 
Overall it's been an amazing experience and I'm glad I was blessed enough to get to go.  I'm going to miss it here but I'm really glad to be going home.  

Leaving the UK.. :( Official Post 4

I am sad to leave, but happy to be home. I have enjoyed every part of this trip. Castles and Cathedrals has been the best class I have taken at Wartburg.

Obviously, Arsenal has been on of my highlights, and going to London was fantastic. However, those are things that I can do at any other point in my life.

A month long trip would be completely unaffordable at any other point in my life. This trip will be one to remember for a long time. I have experiences and memories to last a lifetime. I only hope that when I get back home I'll be able to relate my experiences to all of my friends and family.

Without being on this trip, I may have never visited Wales and known what the country has to offer in terms of beautiful countryside. The Welsh red dragon is really cool!

The trip has shown me a lot more about Medieval England. Experiencing the architecture and climbing many a spiral staircase is not something that can be seen through a computer screen. There is a certain amount of satisfaction derived from climbing a tower, much like to get to the top of the mountain and see everything in the surrounding towns, countryside, and other mountains. This was an experience that is not easily replicated. It will be many years before I am able to return to this country. (Hopefully with a lot more money!)

This trip has been absolutely fantastic. I love this country! The love of football is fantastic!! I enjoyed being in pubs and mingling with the public and fellow Arsenal fans like myself.

The cultural experience of this country is incredible and i was happy to be able to absorb as much as i could. I've loved seeing border collies everywhere! they're my favorite dog. I noticed that all of the dogs here are very well trained and hardly ever have to be on leads. Dogs are welcome in many shops, parks, and other public places.

Once my stomach adjusted from the first few days being here, and feeling sick, I was able to eat breakfast and more fried food. I think it all came as a shock to my system. Jet lag, lack of sleep, and entirely too much fried food

This trip has taught me a lot about route planning and has been a growing up experience. Throughout the trip, I was in charge of where we went on free days and what we ate. Being in charge wore me out quickly and I apologize for being short with Adam and Cassie at times. This gave me a greater appreciation of what my parents go through to plan vacations. THANK YOU MOM AND DAD!!!

 - Tate

Officially My Last Post- Official Post

Officially my last post!
   Oh how time flies when you are having fun! I can't believe it is my last day in England, it seems like just yesterday we made the long trek in rain and hail to our first hostel in York. One of the first differences that I noticed between Iowa and UK was that hail at home, in my head is associated with really bad thunder storms and here hail seems to be a common occurrence when it rains. The weather in both places is forever changing and temperamental. On a serious note I read about the Oklahoma tornado that destroyed a town and took many lives in the Metro paper and my heart goes out to the families effected by that natural disaster.
   Sometimes while being over here you forget that there are things going on back home, time doesn't just stop because your not there. The fact that the world does not revolve around me has been a lesson that I have learned while being here. There is a constant hustle and bustle as the locals try to get to and from work and school. The transportation, the buses, trains, and subways are very popular in most of the places we have stayed. I mean people still have personal vehicles that they drive and very nice rare ones I might add. I'm not a car person but Erin is and I loved when she would tell me about the expensive ones.
   Money, Money, Money, Money...MONEY! That would be my next topic of choice. It is a good thing that I saved up for this trip. The exchange rate is not that great over here so I felt better spending money knowing that I had work all lined up for this summer. Plus I had to bring home gifts for family. I love giving gifts so that's why my suitcase tonight looks like it is exploding.
   Speaking of exploding that would be my stomach! While being in the UK I may have developed a sugar addiction. Not only are the sweets to die for but the food is amazing. Everything is cover in breading and or bread seemed to be served with most meals. I mean what's a girl suppose to do? Needless to say I will be excessively running when I get home. I think that the reason the young girls here can have a diet like this and still be skinny is because they smoke all the time. I definitely will appreciate the smoke free air at home. I feel like a smoker here because of all the second hand smoke I am breathing here in. I've decided I need to have a funeral for the weight I gained while being here. I'm not mad about it though because I might not get here again so I had to try it all! A common sentence that I learned from Grace was, "I need it."
   Over all I have loved this trip! I have learned so much about who I am and who I want to be. What I'm taking away from this trip are the life lessons I've learned. Don't get me wrong I enjoyed all of the castles and cathedrals we toured, and the history I learned about. I've got a lot of work to do. I want to leave an impression on the world and the people who know me when I leave this world. I mean I don't plan on designing a cathedral or castle, but being around all of these structures makes me think about what a person can accomplish. I need to set the  bar higher and push myself to achieve my goals. I don't want to sell myself short. These people we learned about built structures that have lasted thousands of years and its inspiring.
   Lastly I want to thank everyone for following our blog. I hope that we have kept you entertained. I want to thank Erin and Grace for dealing with me for 26 days along with all of the other students and teachers on this trip. I know one thing for sure heading home, we all have great memories that will last us a life time.

Final Reflection - Eric - Official Post

For starters I will clarify that this is not Grace posting but rather Eric (darn google gmail). In considering the past 26 days its hard to decide where to begin. I suppose I will start with the things that I enjoyed the most on this trip which are a bunch of things you can imagine. Obviously I enjoyed seeing all the various castles and cathedrals though specifically I enjoyed such places like Caernarfon, Conwy, and Pembroke, so in general all the castles in Wales, as well as the cathedrals like York Minster and Salisbury. However, there were several more things that I did over the course of the trip that I enjoyed doing as well. I enjoyed going to Eden Camp, a museum dedicated to World War II, I enjoyed taking a train throughout the Welsh countryside and seeing all the lakes and mountains that it had to offer and I enjoyed going to the British Museum on Tuesday and seeing the Rosetta Stone and several other very cool exhibits. As you can see there were a variety of different activities that I enjoyed and that was perhaps the best part of the trip. By definition the trip is set during the Middle Ages; however, throughout this trip we have experienced a variety of different sites that have spanned the entire course of British history, from the pre-historic times, 6000 or 7000 years ago, up through the Romans and the Middle Ages to World War II and Churchill. Having a the trip not being strictly Medieval helped me to better understand Britain as a whole. I saw how the country and the people have developed over time and how the different eras progress and transition into the next period in history.
I have also enjoyed hanging out with everyone on the trip. Since we are only a group of ten we got to know each other and hang out with each other as well. I've gone around England pretty much with Julia and Jenny, sat and ate in pubs with Cassie, Tate, and Adam, as well as played quite a few games of fuseball with Tate (though were both too evenly matched). I've enjoyed getting to know everyone and have many good times and memories with them.
I will make a brief statement about some of the troubles/problems we've had in England. While this is not an extensive list nor are there any major problems that we had there are somethings that I've experienced here in Britain that I will not miss when I go home. First of all is BACON. Now I'm a person who likes ham/pork/bacon and anything in between and one of the main things I am craving is a lean piece of pork. How is British bacon (default term for all pork) different from American bacon you might ask well the answer is the amount of fat. The bacon here tends to have a lot more fat on it and even though it might add some flavor it becomes too much when you scrape of the fat and you're left with a piece 1/3 the size you started out with. I could continue to rant on about some of the minor inconviences (and I mean minor), but I won't, I just wanted to make my case for pork.
Now back to more important comments. One of the things you tend to notice when you're in a foreign country studying history is obviously the differences between the Britons and ourselves. In America we tend to think that our 400 years of history have acheived great things; however, that is nothing compared to what Britain has experienced. Britain has experienced change over the centuries; however, for them that change is much more gradual. In traveling through Wales I have seen great deal of patriotism. I cannot count the amount of times I've seen the Welsh Dragon or St. David displayed around Wales. At the beginning of the trip I probably could not have told you why this was the case. After traveling through Wales and seeing some of the castles and other sites I have grown to appreciate and understand why the Welsh feel so strong about the national identity.
Overall, I have had a wonderful time in England, I certainly wish I could have stayed longer and seen some other sites (Hadrian's Wall comes to mind), but this leaves and opportunity for the future to come back which I think I would. Though I am just as excited to get home as well and see my family.


You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello (to the U.S.) - Official Post

Tonight is our final night in England, so it is time for our last thoughts of our trip across England and Wales.  Ever since our first day in Great Britain, I was struck with how similar it is to the United States.  While there are many differences beyond the amusing accents, including the difficulty of finding bathrooms and the lack of proper bacon, I often felt like I was in a different state - not a different country.  When we were in the smaller towns, like Helmsley, I even thought I could be in the Midwest.  However, the beef is definitely not as good as at home.  I think what really helped was the fact that everyone was speaking English, though sometimes even I questioned whether it was an accent or another language.  I have gotten over being embarrassed about having to ask someone to repeat themselves.

My biggest surprise of this past month was how much I really love Wales.  When Julia and I were walking around the cliffs near the city of St. Davids in Pembrokeshire County, Wales, we agreed that southern Wales was the England that we were hoping to find.  I believe that since Wales often gets forgotten about compared to the rest of the United Kingdom, it has been able to retain some of its identity.  It was fun/amusing to watch the Welsh television channel while we stayed in Tenby.  Out of the many different places we stayed at or visited throughout this past month, I believe the area in and around Tenby (southern Wales) was by far my favorite.  It was the one of the few places I could honesty say I would move to if I ever decided to pack my bags and head across the pond.

Over the course of this trip, I have gained a greater appreciation for medieval history.  I have always preferred more modern history, especially American history, but the beautiful sites we visited have revealed that there are aspects of this period that I enjoy.  I especially loved Fountains Abbey and Tintern Abbey, and I can understand why one would build a monastery in those locations.  They were absolutely gorgeous and peaceful places.  I will take away an interest in discovering more about the sites that we have visited, like Skipton Castle and the castles in northern Wales. 

My favorite aspect of this trip, which I will take back with me to the States, is the great friendships that I have developed and strengthened since the beginning of our travels.  We had an amazing group of people on this trip, and I have numerous stories that I will cherish once I get back home (including Mike from York's laugh).  Overall, I have loved my time in England and Wales.  While I am ready to head back home, I know I will be wanting to return very soon.

Cheers from England!


Ta Ta For Now! - Official Post

       Coming to England has been such an eye-opening and wonderful experience.  The places we visited are far more influential in person than simply reading about them in a textbook.  Now that I have seen things like naves, arrow loops, and Roman mosaics, I can now easily picture these things, and make connections to the places I have been to.  While visiting absolutely stunning castles and cathedrals was awe-inspiring in itself, I came to appreciate something less obvious on the trip.  Whenever we needed to take a long train or bus ride, I always loved watching the landscape out the window.  We often passed gorgeous rolling green hills with sheep or horses peacefully grazing, which will forever be the image that comes to mind when I think of England.  I also loved that on this trip we got to do more than just tourist sites and truly experience the raw English culture.  Another one of my favorite experiences on this trip was simply talking with not only the locals, but also with other tourists and comparing adventures.  I've met people from New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Brazil, France, and Germany, all of whom had fantastic stories to share.  I think one of the most valuable lessons I've learned from this trip is to be willing to talk to anyone. I've learned so much about English culture, where the best pubs and restaurants are, and the best local sites to visit all from the local people.  Coming to England and Wales was definitely a culture shock, but it was equally historically engaging.  We got to be in and touch the very castles that real kings built, where real knights once stood, and shot long bows through arrow loops, where the rich and poor once came to worship in grand cathedrals, and finally where Romans had once bathed in elaborate baths and spas. 
       Overall, I have made so many lasting friendships, learned about Welsh and English history, and experienced so many cultural differences that I'm sure I will never forget any of them.  This has been an experience of a lifetime and I will treasure all of my memories (and photos) forever.  Leaving this gorgeous country will certainly be bitter-sweet. I'm ready to be home in my own bed, with more clothing options, with normal flushing toilets, and American bacon. However, I'm certainly going to miss the sense of adventure I experience everyday while I've been here, the interesting people I meet everyday, and unimaginable amount of history that surrounds me everyday. Well England, it's been fun, one eight hour flight before I'm back to real life. Cheerio!!!

Official Post: Final Reflection

It seems like just a few days ago we were doing our first pre-trip posts on here. It feels like this whole trip has been a whirlwind that only took us two days. It is hard for me to reflect on what we have done because I really haven't had time to collect my thoughts.

Overall, I think I can say now that England isn't just an extension of the United States, simply because we speak the same language. It seems to me that English is literally the ONLY thing we have in common. Everything else seems to be almost reversed. Ordering food is different, the food you get is different from what you expect, and sometimes the people are hard to understand. However, I am very glad to have this experience. I've seen many bits of world history from a different perspective, which in invaluable, as well as dozens of historic sites firsthand.

Of these, my favorite castle was Beaumaris Castle on the isle of Anglesey. This castle was in the best shape, but this is only because it was never finished. Many of the walls and towers were only half the height they were originally designed to be. However, what was finished were great examples of castle architecture and style. I enjoyed how the gates were offset, to make it more difficult for intruders to find their way through the castle. The castle was also very symmetrical, with a very nice moat and even a port to the ocean. This is what made it my favorite. Of the cathedrals, my favorite was the final one, Salisbury Cathedral. It was not the most decorated, or the most beautiful. It was the fact that the massive tower and spire have been standing for over 700 years. The cathedral was built on an open field that is only 4 feet above the water table, with little foundation. Through the years, many small modifications have been added to strengthen the central tower and support. The spire, which stands at 404 feet tall, is the tallest of it's kind in Europe. The fact that medieval architects were able to complete this massive work, and keep it standing, is what amazes me about this.

Of course, as time passes and I am able to look back through the hundreds of pictures that I have taken, I will be able to reflect more on what I have done and learned. I have seen hundreds of things that I would never had seen elsewhere. I can't wait to go through what I have done with my family and friends, who I'm sure will point out things that I didn't even notice myself. This is when I will really know all of what I have learned from this trip.

That's all for now! See you soon back in Iowa!

Check ya later England (Official Post) Grace

Over the course of the past 26 days I have learned and experienced more than I ever could have imagined.  While I am ready to go home and see my parents, sisters, and mainly cats, I really will miss England.  But before I begin telling you my favorite parts and everything I will miss lets begin with some negatives.  Negative number one. Even though I enjoyed everyone on this trip, we spent A LOT of time together.  And for those of you who have been forced to spend large amounts of time with a small group of people for an extended time period you will understand where I am going with this.  Sometimes I needed a bit of separation from the larger group for the sake of my own sanity and I think everyone else will have felt this at least a few times throughout the trip.  Negative number two.  Smoking.  Everywhere.  I think I may have inhaled at least ten packs of cigarettes through second-hand smoke during my time here.  I can't wait to come back to some clean(er) air.
Alright, now that I have my major negatives out of the way lets discuss the positives.  One of my favorite things (and I am sure other ladies on this trip will agree with me) is how nice the men dress.  Suits on Suits on Suits.  We always saw men wearing suits to either go to work or school.  It was adorable to see the small children wearing their little suits to go to school.  And when we rode the train in the morning we always saw large groups of men wearing suits to head to work.  That is going to be something I miss a lot when I go back home and when I go back to Wartburg in the fall.  Boys at school never dress that well.  One of my favorite days we had while in England was fairly recent.  If you have been reading other blogs you will have read that on Sunday we went to Stonehenge and some other sites on a Mad Max Tour.  Our tour guide was fantastic and you could tell he really enjoyed what he was doing.  As part of the tour we went to Lacock Abbey and the surrounding town.  At the abbey and around the town they had done filming for some of the Harry Potter movies and we were able to see the houses and the areas of the abbey they had filmed in.  They had also filmed a BBC series called Cranford in the town as well.  This may make me sound like a super nerd, but I loved Harry Potter and BBC dramas (so the tour and day was basically designed to make people like me happy). 
This trip has helped me to learn about and appreciate the world that I live in.  I think every time people are able to leave their comfort zones and are placed into new situations they learn a lot about themselves.  This trip taught me that I still have a great deal to learn when it comes to my knowledge of other cultures.  That's not to say I don't understand or know anything, but there is always more that can be learned.  Overall, I will be taking back with me the memories of a great trip (and many souvenirs and A TON OF PICTURES).   

OFFICIAL POST- final reflective blog

Hello again everyone!

This is Erin from Grace's blog this time. It's hard to believe this is my final reflective blog already! Studying abroad in England and Wales this past month has been great, and I'm so thankful for the opportunity to have been able to do it. I have learned so many different things academically, culturally, socially, along with things about myself.

As a biology major, this trip was a history overload session for my brain! This was a good thing though. Having not been a huge fan of history related stuff before, I have a new appreciation for it. Everything I learned about English and Welsh history was very exciting, but it also makes me curious to read up on more of my American history and find out a bit more about my own background. Obviously I'm not an expert on the topic of castles and cathedrals now, but I feel like I could give someone who knows nothing about them, a generous amount of information about their designs, uses and history.

Culturally, I learned the British and American cultures have a lot of similarities, but quite a few differences as well. First off, it was very helpful that everyone spoke English here, or that could have made things rather difficult since Welsh sounds nothing like anything I've heard before. The people here are, for the most part nice, but just seem to be not as friendly as Midwesterners sometimes. Almost all of the food I ate I enjoyed, although some items like cockles I have no desire to ever eat again. Dessert shops were everywhere we went! This was awesome, but also dangerous to the waistline at the same time. I would have to say the two strangest things to me here, were that people drive on the left side of the road (which took some getting used to), and that dogs were allowed in many places they aren't in America. For example, we saw dogs in pubs and on trains.

I also learned many things about others and myself throughout this journey. About 10 days in I got homesick for a day or two, but with the limited wifi access, I had to learn to be a "big kid" and deal with that without my parents being there to tell me something comforting right away. In addition to that, being with the same 12 people 24/7 for 28 days straight can wear on a person. I did get tired of being around people sometimes, so I just distanced myself from people for a night, and things were usually better in the morning. I feel like I'm already pretty good at compromising with others, but I got to practice this skill multiple times when doing various activities, like deciding where to eat. In addition, I had to practice patience sometimes too.

My top five favorite sites we visited on this trip were Skipton Castle, William Shakespeare's birthplace, Gloucester Cathedral, Stonehenge, and London. Skipton was a favorite because it was the first castle we saw. It was huge, still intact, and magnificent since I had never seen anything like it before. Since William Shakespeare is such a well-known figure in history around the world, it was so neat to be able to see where this marvelous man was born. Gloucester Cathedral was so beautiful, ornate and detailed that it was hard to keep my jaw from dropping. It was also the site of some Harry Potter filming, which definitely adds to its presence. Then, Stonehenge was so cool to see in person! I never thought I would get the opportunity to see something that old and well-known in person, but I'm so grateful to have been able to. And of course, London was amazing! Westminster Abbey is the most beautiful place I have ever seen in my life. Plus, we got to visit Tower Bridge, Houses of Parliment, Buckingham Palace, London Tower, M&M World, Hard Rock Cafe, and many other great sites along the way.

As this trip comes to an end, I feel so blessed to have had the chance to see and do everything I did in the past four weeks. I also strengthened my relationship with my roommate/friend Morgan, and made a new great friend, Grace. I can't wait now to get back and share all of my photos and stories from the trip with my family and friends. Thank you everyone for reading about our adventures in the UK, and we'll see you all soon!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Final Official Post: Thank You England

The people of the U.K. smoke, a lot.  Every town and city we went to had a smokey smell and I had smoke blown into my face multiple times.  Maybe that is some kind of compliment over here.  Well that's the negative of this trip.  The good news is that all the sites we went to were non-smoking areas so with history came fresh air.

We visited a lot of places and did a lot of things, but a definite highlight of the trip for me was wearing the chain mail and getting to hold a Peregrine Falcon.  Those are two things I never thought I'd be doing when this trip started.  Also going to multiple castles and getting to walk on the walls and even in them was another highlight.  It never occurred to me that you could build passages inside the walls, but many castles had done just that such as Caernarfon and Beaumaris.  I'm fascinated with military history so castles that were built for military purposes are playgrounds for me.  More than once I walked along the top of a wall or in a passage and imagined I was a soldier defending the castle.  Some things from childhood never grow old.

Something I will miss, in leaving, is the hands on approach these historical sites take.  Many of them had clothes and helmets made just so you could try them on and get a better idea of people who lived in the Middle Ages.  I don't recall coming across anything like that back in the States.  In York, at DIG, they let us handle the actual excavations that had been discovered.  It didn't bother them at all while I know back at home no such thing would be allowed.  Of course, my favorite hands on thing was putting on helmets that medieval soldiers and knights would have worn.  I have no idea how knights could see out of some of those tiny visors.

While it has been fun over here, there is still no place like home for me.  I do wish we had castles, but that is not how history worked out.  However, it was fun seeing the land of my ancestors.  I know some of my family came over in 1630 from England and the reason why is unknown to me.  They did leave about a decade before the English Civil War so maybe they just had good foresight.  Still, I got to see castles that were around in their time and cathedrals they might have prayed in.  I'm glad I took this opportunity to come to England.  I got to see more than I ever dreamed I would.  Stonehenge is a place I will always remember.  Seeing those huge stones up close really does make you wonder how they got there.  Lastly, a final highlight to close out my blog was seeing As You Like It in the Royal Shakespeare Company theater.  Great play!  It was awesome to see that Shakespeare could write great comedies along with his tragedies.  I'm a lover of romance and happy endings, and that play certainly fit the bill for me.  Here's to a  happy ending to this trip.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Official Post: May 21, Wells

Today we had the experience of seeing the town of Wells in south central England. It was a long bus ride - nearly an hour and a half, but at least we didn't have to change at all on the way. The roads to Wells from Bath were very scenic. It was very hilly, and the roads were narrow. It still seems odd to me that major roadways here are limited to one lane width with no shoulder for extended lengths. I know for sure that I would never want to drive here!

We arrived in Wells at around 10:30. To begin, we had a scheduled tour of the Wells Bishop's Palace. We were greeted by a pair of swans on the moat surrounding the palace. The swans had seven cygnets, which they were teaching how to ring a bell for food. When the swans were hungry, they would pull a rope next to a window in the palace, and a worker in the palace would throw food out the window to them. The Bishops have lived on this site nearly since the cathedral was built - around 1200. There were some ruins of an older great hall, but for the most part, all of the buildings from the early middle ages were well maintained and are still used and lived in. The palace itself appeared to be more of a castle than a place of residence from the outside. There were arrow loops and a large gatehouse with a drawbridge over the moat, with matching outer battlements. However, the actual defenses of the palace were never used in battle. They were mainly to show off how much power the Bishop had.

Within the palace was a mixture of gardens and old buildings, with a beautiful view of the cathedral's towers. The buildings that were still standing had been renovated and maintained well, and when we toured the inside of the buildings, it seemed much more like a 1900's mansion than an 800 year old palace. It certainly wouldn't be hard living.

We also toured the Wells 'wells.' These natural springs are fed by an underground river that flows underground from the hills in the distance until it is forced up through the ground just behind the palace and cathedral. On average, these springs push nearly 4 million gallons of water out of the ground each day, and feed the moat that surrounds the palace. These springs are essentially why the town of Wells exists, and named for. Early neolithic travelers would have settled here due to the natural existence of clean water rising from the ground. These waters may have been seen as a very religious site, and hence why the site was also a site of religious observation for years, and why the cathedral was built so close to the wells. The 'most photographed spot' in Wells happens to be the view of the cathedral from one of these wells, where you can see almost the entire cathedral reflected in the waters. The spring water's flow was carefully maintained, to help provide water for the town and the palace. There was even a pump installed that was powered by the waters, that helped move the water towards town and the palace.

For lunch, we had reservations at the cafe within the Bishop's Palace. We had a soup and sandwich, along with tea or coffee. The food was very good, and was presented very well. In the words of some of the group members, the food was 'very pretty.' I would also add that it was delicious cafe food.

After this, we moved on to the cathedral, where Erin was to give her tour. The view of the front (or west) end of the Wells Cathedral was magnificent. We also walked on Vicar's Close, which is one of the oldest streets that is still in use. The houses that line the dead-end street were built in the late 1300's to house the singers of the choir for the cathedral, and still stand today.

The cathedral itself was also very magnificent from the inside. Unlike many of the other cathedrals we have seen, this one was maintained very well throughout the ages. There was some work done to maintain and add to the cathedral, but the building itself was still the same. The most prominent features of this cathedral included the scissor arches, the chapter house, and the attention to detail. The massive scissor arches were added a few hundred years after the cathedral was built to help support the weight of the central tower. They are both decorative and effective. The chapter house is an octagonal shape rather than square or circular, and has two floors. The bottom floor was mainly used for storage of important objects, while the upper floor was used as a traditional chapter house. The steps up to the first floor were very worn, and helped show the age of the building. The entire cathedral had many small details that I thought really gave the effect of being in a great and ancient building. Tapestries were well maintained, the stonework on the pillars was very clean and new-looking, and many of the ceiling arches were nicely painted. The length of the cathedral also amazed me. Looking down the side of the nave you can really get an idea of the massiveness of the cathedral. It is difficult to put the magnificence of this building into words. Check online for some pictures if you really want to know!

After the great tour of the cathedral by Erin, we had some free time to explore the town of Wells before catching our return bus to Bath. There were many shops that lined the street. In the town center was a fountain that was powered by the underground wells near the Bishop's Palace. On the streets, between the road and sidewalk, was a small stone ditch that allowed excess water to flow down the street. Water would literally be pushing up through the cracks in the street. This amazed me, as it really shows just how high the water table is in the area, even though they were saying that it had been fairly dry. The cathedral was essentially built on water, as well as the rest of the town. Any buildings that had a basement would also have a swimming pool. I imagined digging a hole in the ground, and instantly having it fill with water. The engineering behind building the town and the massive cathedral on top of this water was incredible, especially when you think of how old the buildings are.

Once we were back in Bath, we were free to go do what we wanted in the city. Cassie, Tate, and I ate dinner at 'Ask Italian' and had some very nice pasta dishes, and explored some of the shops. We are still fairly disappointed that many shops close at around 4 or 5, which sometimes makes it difficult to visit some of them.

That's all for now!


(Official Post) To Bath

Mainly a travel day for Saturday, May 18.  We left Tenby and train hopped our way to Bath and arrived about 1:30 in the afternoon.  No problems with the trains except for our last one which was described by Grace as, "an oven."  If it had air conditioning it wasn't using it, and it made for an uncomfortable and sweaty ride.

After surviving this little ordeal to get to Bath, we made or way to the YMCA in town that will be our place of residents.  This is not a YMCA from back home where there is space to play outside and plenty of recreational areas.  There is a small gym which one must pay to use and that is pretty much it apart from a bunch of rooms, a pool and foose ball table, and a laundry room which you also have to pay to use.  This place is more of a hostel than anything else.  The city of Bath on the other hand is an interesting place to behold.  Due to the limestone used to build it, the buildings have a yellowish tan color to them and that goes for all the buildings.  Lots of traffic unless you can find the market streets which are pedestrian streets full of shops and pubs.

Once we put our luggage in our rooms we made our way to Bath Abbey to get a tour of the abbey by one of the local clergy.  He had a voice that would be great for getting little kids to fall asleep at bed time.  I believe he was wise to have us standing the whole time he gave the tour.  Despite that the history of the abbey was still interesting.  One of the highlights was that the abbey, when built, didn't have a roof built because it was too expensive.  That must of made rainy Sundays fun to have services in.  Thankfully it has a roof now thanks a couple centuries ago to a member of royalty stepping into the abbey to get out of the rain and finding himself still getting soaked.  He gave some money and ordered a roof be built after that.

When the tour of the abbey ended we then got a tour of the Abbey Tower.  We had two young guides for this one and they took us up the 216 steps to the top of the tower.  It wasn't all in one go, at 120 steps we stopped and our guides showed us the inside of the roof and the inside of the clock in the tower.  66 steps higher we got to see the bells in the tower and we were present when they tolled 4 o'clock.  Not as loud as I thought they'd be in the sense that we weren't made instantly deaf, but my ears were still ringing after the bells stopped.  We then completed the last 30 steps to the top and got a great view of the entire city and surrounding countryside.

We finally left the abbey and went to the Roman Baths.  These are authentic Roman baths that have been excavated and set up to show off to people.  We didn't go in them, just got to venture through the ruins of the old Roman bath houses and see how the actual baths looked.  We even got glimpses of the draining system the Romans built to keep the water clean.  The source of bath water was a hot spring that the Romans dedicated to Minerva, a goddess, and their drains allowed its watter to flow to the pools and baths, then drain to the nearby river.  Seeing the Roman architect up close really showed how skilled they were.  The fact their draining system is still mainly intact is proof of this. 

Our day pretty much ended after that.  Everyone separated to go eat and rest back at the YMCA.  Most of us ended the night watching Eurovision.  That is best described as an American Idol type show, only it is a representative of every European country participating and they don't only sing, but also have props, lights, and dancing to go with the songs.  The European countries also vote for the winner.  There were surprisingly a lot of songs sung in English and the country that won was Denmark.  It was a nice way to close out the day.  Trip now nearing its end and we will be home soon.


Instead of going to Blenheim palace, where Winston Churchill lived, Cassie, Adam, and I attended an Arsenal match at Emirates Stadium in Holloway, London. The stadium was incredible and HUGE! The architecture amazed me with the high waving seats along the top tier and the huge metal triangle beams above on the roof. The weather was rainy, and being in row two, right next to the pitch, I was concerned that we would get soaked. Luckily for us, the rain fell just in front of us and came straight down, unlike Iowa rain that usually blows around. If we would have been one row closer, we would have been soaked.

Arsenal controlled most of the first half, with Wigan Athletic barely getting a touch to the ball. Wigan made a couple attacks, but the Arsenal defense was able to put a stop to anything that came their way. It wasn’t until about halfway through the first half before the Arsenal goalkeeper touched the ball at all! At the midway through the first half, Arsenal won a corner kick. The ball was delivered in and Lukas Podolski headed one into the back of the net. The entire stadium, 60,068 people (minus the small section of Wigan fans) erupted into a roar of cheers. Being in the opposite corner of the stadium, it was difficult to see the action on the other end, but we had the second half to look forward to, when Arsenal’s offense would be close to us on our side. Theo Walcott made a quick breakaway and put the ball in the back of the net, but the goal was ruled offside, and therefore was not counted. The disappointment and jeers from the fans could be felt and heard throughout the Emirates. Wigan also had a goal ruled offside, preserving Arsenal’s lead for the time being.

Near the last minute of play in the second half, Wigan had a free kick just outside Arsenal’s penalty box. The stadium went dead silent as Wigan took the kick. The ball was deflected off of the leg of an Arsenal defender and was sent into the back of the net. Cheers from the Wigan supporters silenced us momentarily. It was a pivotal moment for Wigan to score, sending them in high hopes to the locker room at half.

Being at the end of the season, Wigan Athletic had to win this game to avoid being relegated to a lower division. This is similar to being demoted to the minor league from the majors in baseball. Arsenal had to win this game to increase their standings in the league to hopefully get into the top 3 teams. Sorry to make things sound complicated, unless you know how the how the league system works in England, it’s difficult to explain in a short blog post.
In short, both teams really needed to win this game, making an excellent contest for the fans.

In the second half, Wigan came out looking sharp. Arsenal barely held off a few of the attacks. Shots came too close for comfort in my opinion. Then, Arsenal’s careful attacking that I came to see stared to develop. We had the perfect seats to see all of the action, behind the net in the southeast corner of the stadium. The players ran right at us. The only thing that could have made it better would have been a ball shot wide and into the crowd! Santi Cazorla crossed to the ball, and Lukas Podolski netted his second goal of the night. Theo Walcott, my favorite football player, scored, and Aaron Ramsey dribbled the ball from midfield down on his own and scored. I could see that the Wigan goalkeeper had lost all of his confidence at 3-1 Arsenal. When Ramsey came down and shot the ball, the goalkeeper had no chance.

The game was a dream come true to attend for me. I had been looking forward to seeing my favorite team play for over 4 months and it was everything I had hoped it would be. We were able to see some of the fancy footwork on the ball that I typically miss while watching on television. Near the end of the game, we could even catch a couple whiffs of the smell of sweat from the players. Gross, I know, but part of the experience that I could never get at home. The chants and songs that I was able to join in on was one of my favorite parts. We cheered on Arsenal with yells of “Arsenal! Arsenal! Arsenal!” sung in unison throughout the stadium. This was an experience I will not ever forget. I hope that I will soon be able to go back and see my team play again.

 - Tate 

Official Post 3 (5/10/13)


Today we checked out of the hostel and took a series of trains to get us to Stratford-upon-Avon. This is the birthplace and final resting place of William Shakespeare. After a walk to the bus stop, and a short ride, we arrived at the newly renovated Stratford hostel. As with all of the newly renovated hostels, this one was incredibly nice!
We took a bus back into Stratford to visit the house that William Shakespeare was born and raised in. We learned about the time period he lived in, as well as how cramped the living quarters would have been with a large family in the small house. One notable part from the tour that I found interesting was that people put their most important and expensive piece of furniture in the “living room” where guests were entertained. It was a way to show off your wealth and awe your guests. This important piece of furniture, in Shakespeare’s time, was the bed. They had a four poster bed in the room where everyone could see it, not just the family and a select few others.
We explored the city of Stratford for a few hours and met in front of the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre at 7:00 p.m. We made our way into the theatre, to the third level where we were seated. The third level wasn’t what I expected when going to a theatre. The rows are stacked on top of each other, in a vertical fashion. This is different from stadium style seating, which I was expecting. The performance, As You Like It, started at 7:30 and lasted around 3 hours with a short intermission. The play was a comedy about four people trying to find love. Each of the main characters went through their own progression to learn how they must act and what they must do to be able to have a lasting relationship with their desired partner.  Due to the production being a comedy, there were many funny sayings and songs throughout. Some parts were difficult to understand, but Dr. Clark, an English professor at Wartburg, was able to explain to us what they meant. It constantly was able to make us smile and feel good. The production was given a more modernized approach. Today’s clothes, and some current references were used, not so much of the traditional Shakespearean clothing I was expecting. Overall, we all liked the play and we thought it was worth attending. As You Like It made us all laugh and we left the theatre in a good mood.
After the play, we walked to the bus stop, rode to the hostel, and went to bed. It was a long and eventful day and we were all very tired. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

OFFICIAL POST- Sunday, May 19th

Hello everyone!

This is Erin blogging from Morgan's account, as mine still thinks I'm trying to hack into it as someone from England. Clearly I don't take enough vacations for it to recognize this and accept it. :)

Anyways, today was jam-packed with new places, English culture, and of course history. We took a tour with a company named Mad Max Tours, which lasted nearly all day. Our driver/guide was John, and he was full of information, fun facts and jokes too. As we left the city of Bath around 8:30 this morning, John filled us in about the landscape we were seeing around the town. Nearly every building is built with limestone, as it sits on a bed of it. This gives the whole city a pretty yellow tint/glow. As we moved into the Downs area, the landscape changed quickly. We could see almost exactly where the switch went from limestone to a chalky pale soil that looked white. We passed a clay hill, which is apparently a 4,000 year old burial site and a current UFO landing and spotting hot spot (if you believe in that sort of thing).

Our first stop was really exciting and a crowd favorite as it was flooded with people, even so early in the morning. It was the historic Stonehenge. This stone circle is nearly 5,000 years old! It's still not clear what exactly it was used for, but it seems to have been used at least in some way for astrology purposes. It also may have been used for religious purposes or rituals of some kind, although nothing is absolute. The way in which the top cross stones are held to the base stones was very smartly designed. It resembles woodworking techniques, obviously making it very sturdy as it's stood this long. This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget.

Next, we stopped at Avebury. These Saxon stones looked similar to Stonehenge, although there were far more of them and they were more spread out. These stones had actually been buried in the ground and were resurrected in the 1920s and placed above ground in the position they are now. Some were not put underground back in the day, and they were broken down and used as stone for buildings in the town, which can still be seen today. According to John, there are still about 40 stones buried, but they are being left alone as they will be safe and unharmed underground. Again the use of this area is unknown, but the most likely use was something related to fertility, because some of the stones resembled fertility symbols.

We then made our way to Lacock Abbey in the town of Lacock. This was a originally a church, but then was inhabited by a family for many years before being turned over to the Royal Trust. A fun fact about this abbey is that in 1837, the first negative of a picture to ever be taken was photographed by a man named Talbot. He chose his subject to be the windows above one of the doorway arches of the abbey. While in Lacock, we took a short tour of the town, where John enlightened us with a lot of information once again. A few things that stood out to me were that there were no electrical wires or TV antennas visible. This is because the wires are buried and the antennas are inside the homes, making the town more likely to be filmed. The technique apparently works, as a few Harry Potter scenes were filmed in the abbey and around town. Although not unique to just this town, another interesting aspect is that if a town has a tannery, it will always be on the east side of town. Since winds are usually westerly, this blows the smell out of town instead of directly into the noses of the people in town.

The final stop of the day was in a tiny town called Castle Combe. It consists of one main street and about 50 homes. Despite its size, it has been named the prettiest village in England, and I agree that it's very beautiful. Since it's so gorgeous, it is also a hot spot for movie filming. The original Dr. Doolittle and War Horse were filmed there. So after exploring the town briefly, we made our way back to Bath, but of course not without the most narrow and winding roads I've ever been on. It's a common occurrence on this trip.

Today was a great sightseeing and informational day. Only a few more of these left, and then we are jumping on a plane and heading back to the land of the free and the home of the brave. Good bye for now!!

May 16th -Official Post

   Hi to all of our followers out there! Today we visited 3 historical sites. We had a private coach pick us up at our wonderful home the Southcliff Hotel. (It is by far my favorite accommodation this entire trip. I would say we are very spoiled in getting to stay here.) We traveled to the beautiful city of Pembrokeshire, which is the smallest city in Great Britain and checked out St. Davids Bishop's Palace and St. Davids Cathedral which Jenny gave us a tour of.
   I'll start with the Bishop's Palace. It was built in about 20 years by Bishop Henry de Gower. The palace was carved with very intricate designs of both faces and creatures. There were over 200 sculptures that once decorated the palace.You can tell that one of the main purposes of this building was to impress its visitors. The great hall porch has two statues at its entrance one of King Edward III and one of Queen Philippa. Along one wall there are big beautiful arches that line the top, these arches were called arcaded parapets. On one end of the great hall there is a big round window, that was carved from sandstone that came from Bath. Under the building lies the under crofts where the servants would have worked. The building is beautiful and there were several staircase that we climbed which gave us a great view of the entire place. (Sorry I haven't had much luck loading pictures onto the blog the computers are a bit temperamental.)
   Next we headed back up the way to St. Davids Cathedral, where Jenny gave us a presentation. The cathedral was very unique its floor slops from one end to the other with a 13 foot difference. The walls also bow out and the roof has been replaced with a wooden roof to prevent the entire building from collapsing on itself. There have been many added memorials over the years and several restorations. The building has been a place of worship for over a thousand years, so you can imagine all of the wear and tear on it. The two things that I liked the best about this cathedral were the round stained glass window on in the side isle of the nave that had been moved up when the walls were made taller, and the six bays that were all carved differently in the nave. They were beautiful!
   Lastly we returned to Tenby and visited the Tudor Merchant's House. The house has been restored to look like a middle class house that a successful Tudor merchant would have lived in with his family. The family would have lived on the first and second floor. On the first floor the merchant would have sold his goods from the from the side of the house that was closest to the street or market. The back and second floor would have been the kitchen, garden, dinning room, and bedroom chamber.
   The rest of the night we had to ourselves and we all split up for dinner and hung out at the pubs and at the beach, which I might say was absolutely beautiful. See you all soon!

The Best of Wales (Official Post -Grace) Friday 17 May

Every time I journal we seem to have a jam packed day.  Today we visited three castles and a palace. The day began when all 12 of us were picked up by a 49 passenger van (you could say that is slightly bigger than what we needed.) However we all were able to have  our own row to sit in so we could stretch out.
Our first stop of the day was to Carew Cross and  Castle.  The castle itself was not open so  we took a foot path that lead us around the outside of the building and back behind it where there was a very lovely lake. The Carew Cross was the oldest and best preserved standing cross in the area.  The cross itself was covered in a Celtic design.
Off topic for a small moment here.  Today of all days I managed to forget to bring my camera, so to my mom and dad (who I know avidly read my posts) I hope you weren't planning on seeing pictures from today :)
Back to the story now.  Next on our tour was Pembroke Castle, which Adam gave us a wonderful tour.  We were able to climb to the top of a 75ft gate house in the castle.  This may not seem very high, but when the stairs are tiny and wind tightly it is quite a long trek to the top.  After coming down from all of the towers and exploring the exhibits, we had a picnic lunch on the lawns in the center of the castle (courtyard).  Once we finished lunch we packed up and headed to our next destination. 
Lemphey's Bishop's Palace was our next stop.  The palace went along with one that we had seen on Thursday at St. David's.  This was the palace that the Bishop of St. David's would have spent most of his time, the palace he had at St. David's was mainly used for entertaining.  
Our last and final stop of the day was Manobier Castle.  This castle was very interesting, unlike most castles that we have seen it actually had a crypt.  Most of the time when we have seen crypts on this trip they have gone along with cathedrals and other churches. 
It is crazy to think that in less than a week we will all be headed home from this whirlwind adventure of a May Term.  I can only say that it has flown by!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Tuesday, May 14- Rain, Romans, and Royalty (Official Post)

Hello from Stow on the Wold! Last night was spent in our very creaky hostel built in the 17th century. We enjoyed an early traditional English breakfast at the hostel of scrambled eggs, bacon, baked beans, hashbrowns, mushrooms, sausage (not a favorite of the group), and a grilled tomato. We hopped onto a coach bus and our driver, Paul, took us to Gloucester, in Western England. On the 40 minute ride, we had the opportunity to see some gorgeous, green rolling hills, the occasional grazing horse and flocks of sheep. I was certainly reminded of Iowa during our trip.
         When we arrived at Gloucester Cathedral, Morgan gave us a great tour and excellent history of the cathedral. The cathedral was built in 687 and has been a place of worship for 1300 years!! King Henry the third was crowned at Gloucester in 1216 at the age of nine. Also, King Edward the second was buried at Gloucester. We got to see his grave, which was quite ornate and we could even see where precious stones would have been placed in the crown on his effigy. The cathedral had some of the best perpendicular architecture, especially on the ceiling, in a of Britain. Lastly, the fan vaults in the cloisters were not only extremely ornate and complex, they were used for many scenes in the Harry Potter films. While Jenny, Eric, and I waited for the rest of the group to head back to the bus, we had a lovely conversation with the honorary chaplain of the cathedral who has worked there for 20 years! As we walked back to the bus, some of us stopped at a bakery for a mid-morning snack. I purchased  'cheese straw,' a long and thin pastry with cheese bakes into it. Next stop- a Roman villa.
      By the time we left Gloucester, it had begun to rain, requiring many of us to use our handy umbrellas. Little did we know, we wouldn't put them away until we got back to the hostel later that night.
      The Roman villa was much more conserves than other Roman sites we have visited. Chedworth Roman villa is considered to be one of the grandest country houses in Britain from the 4th century. It was so neat to actually see and walk around this home that so obviously belonged to a very wealthy person. We could see the surprisingly intact hot and cold baths, gorgeous tiles that made a magnificent floor mosaic, and the pegs that once held up a floor that could be heated from underneath. We also saw HUGE snails that are native to the area and were introduced by the Romans as a food source. We had a quick lunch at the villa cafe out of the rain and then hopped back on the bus to Stow so we could drop off Cassie, Tate, and Adam so they could get going to watch Arsenal play Wigan in London.
      On our way back to Stow we took a very narrow road where our coach bus took up the majority of the road. We often came within centimeters of cars coming the opposite direction. It certainly added some needed excitement to our rainy day.
      When the footballers were dropped off, the bus took the rest of us to Blenheim Palace, home of the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and the birth place of Sir Winston Churchill. The palace was by far the most grand and luxurious place I have ever seen. It was absolutely mind blowing!! We toured the lower floor of the palace which had more paintings, portraits, and gold I have ever seen. The outer gardens were equally awe-inspiring, complete with statues, fountains, and decorative hedges. The entire property covers 800 acres. While Jenny, Eric and I took a short and wet walk in the rain, I am 99% sure that we saw the current Duke of Marlborough's dog being walked by a gardener. After our walk, we made some purchases in the shop and enjoyed some delicious ice cream. Then, we got back on the bus to return to Stow for the night.
      Most of us had a delicious dinner at the Talbot- a pub with wifi only a couple of minutes from the hostel. I ordered a very delicious spinach and cheese soufflĂ© that was out of this world!! For dessert, Eric and I shared a pear and almond tart with vanilla ice cream that certainly satisfies our tastebuds. After we finishes dinner and using the wifi, we went back to the hostel and packed our bags to move on to Tenby tomorrow. I think we are all becoming packing experts, especially with the amount if souvenirs we have all squires over the weeks. We are all excited to be in a non-hostel location tomorrow and finally get to see the beach at Tenby!!! Till next time! Cheers!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Official Post 3: The Cute Cotswolds

Hey everybody!  Again I have to apologize for posting late!  It seems that whenever I need to post the Internet goes wacky at the hostel but here it is!
Today we left Stratford-Upon-Avon and headed to Stow-on-the-Wold.  Stow-on-the-Wold is in t he Cotswolds and is very beautiful!  It seems that I get to blog on the days where we visit the most beautiful scenic places.   After our traveling we did a bit of exploring through Stow-on-the-Wold then we took a bus to do more exploring!  After we got off the bus we got to walk along the countryside and we got to pet some horses after Grace was able to coax them over.  Half way through the walk we ended up along side a shallow, clear stream that led us to a small village, Lower Slaughter, where we found a cute old mill that had ice cream.  After Lower Slaughter, we walked back along the trail and to another cute village, Bourton-on-the-Water.  This village was a little bigger and had more shops to explore.  There was another clear shallow stream that ran through Brouton except this one was full of all kinds of water fowl, there were also lots of mallard, which was kinda neat to see since I thought they were an American duck.  Anyway, aside for the ducks, we looked through a lot of the shops and picked up some souvenirs.   Tate and I also picked up some bon bons which have discovered to be the most delicious candy I the world hands down.  They're these chewy yummy candy balls that come in all kinds of flavors.  My personal favorite is blueberry.  Tate must have noticed me looking at some tea pots in one of the shops because he ended up buying me a really sweet sheep tea set! I'm going to send it home soon though so that it won't get broken.
When we returned to Stow the hostel made us dinner of fish chips.  
Another thing that I'd like to point out is my excitement for tomorrow!  Tate, Adam and I are going to go see an Arsenal game tomorrow.  I cannot wait to get to see Arsenal best Wigan from the SECOND ROW!  Lets go gunners!

Sat. May 11, 2013 - Staffordshire Hoard (Official Post)

This is Eric blogging for May 11, 2013

So one of the books that we had to read for the pre-course to Castles and Cathedrals was a book on the Staffordshire Hoard, a large cache of buried treasure having to do with the Viking age in England. The treasure was buried there, in Staffordshire, more than 1000 years ago. On Saturday we took a train to Birmingham to the musuem there and saw a portion of the Hoard. Now its neat to see the hoard in a book, but it's not until you actually see it in person that you see the true craftsmanship of the armor.
One of the things that surprised me was the size. In the book we saw the hoard blown up a bit, but in reality the hoard is quite small. The stones, which were so neatly cut, were no bigger than the tip of a pen.To see that much attention to precision shows just how devoted to the craft the English Vikings were. Another even more awesome aspect of the hoard was how small they were working with the gold and silver. One of the techniques used to decorate the armor was called filigree, which involved flattening tiny, 1mm thick strands of gold onto the armor that made the bands look like beaded strands instead. I remember thinking at the time that the Vikings must have tiny tweezers and other tools to do such intricate work. In seeing it, it gave me an entirely different view of the Angles and caused me to look at them as craftsmen as well as British ancestors.
While at the Birmingham museum we were also given the time to explore other exhibits. I know that I at least looked at an exhibit on early empires (Roman, Greek, etc.) as well as a couple of art galleries. After we were done at Birmingham we took the train back to Stratford to continue our Shakespeare tour of the town.
The previous day we had explored the home where Shakespeare was born in as well as where he retired to. On Saturday we explored the other two important houses in Stratford. The first was a place called the Nash House. Here we got a look into some of the archeology that is going on relating to both Shakespeare and the Elizabethan era in which he lived. We also got to see the development of the Shakespeare "pilgrimage" of people like Charles Darwin who traveled to Stratford and later helped set up some of the city landmarks. At the Nash House it is easier to see the impact of Shakespeare outside of a literary context. I felt like I got to see how Britons respond to Shakespeare as a national icon, kind of.
The other house that we saw was Halls Craft, that belonged to another Shakespeare descendant who was married to a doctor. At Halls Croft we got to see some of the medical archeology going on in relation to the Elizabethan era. Our final stop of the day was at the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford where Shakespeare was buried. Throughout Saturday and Friday we got to see and contextualize Shakespeare's life in Stratford from his birth, to his career, his retirement, and death as well as how people in his time. It was nice to have a brief break from Medieval England to see how the following era of society lived and developed and drew upon the influences of Medieval England. Furthermore, in seeing the Staffordshire Hoard we saw a different perspective on Medieval English life.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

More photos up elsewhere and the weather.

The Cotswolds are green and very wet.  We time traveled today from the Romans all the way to World War II. Julia will be blogging about that in the next day or so.  I have posted a few more recent group photos on the History Department Facebook page- link on the right.  Tomorrow is a travel day; we head for Pembrokeshire in the extreme southwest of Wales, to the beach town of Tenby.  It will not be beach weather.  Highs in the 50s and strong chance of rain for the rest of the week.  No one has melted yet, but we might get waterlogged soon.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Official Post: May 7, Hereford

 Sorry this post is a little late, but it is still here!

On Tuesday May 7, our task was to explore Hereford Cathedral and other things to see around Hereford.
After taking a bus to the town center from Leominster, our first visit was the Hereford Cathedral. This cathedral was very similar to the York Minster, but much, much smaller. It was still one of the largest buildings in the area. Something that caught my eye about this cathedral was how much of it was still original, and still looked fairly good. There were many tombs that still had original paint and color on them. Unfortunately, almost half of the cathedral had been rebuilt because the west tower fell down in 1786, crushing much of the back of the cathedral. The remainder of the cathedral dates back to  the early 1200's, which holds many of the very decorated tombs, organ, and the choir. I was personally impressed with the kneeling cushions that were attached to each pew in the nave. Each one appeared to be handmade and had symbols and names of people sewn into them. Many had family coats of arms. I was also impressed with the organ, which dated back to the late 1800's. The mechanics behind such a large instrument that relied on wind power was  very impressive. Hanging on the outsides of the choir were also some very old remnants of some flags. I found it very interesting that they were still hanging there, and were not changed to match the current flags. All in all, the cathedral itself was a very impressive example of medieval architecture and style.
Connected to the cathedral, was a long hallway that led to buildings that contained the Mappa Mundi and the Chained Library. The Mappa Mundi is a map created in the later 13th century of the world. It included many interesting locations, such as Heaven, the Garden of Eden, and the path that Moses led the Israelites through the wilderness. It placed Jurusalem at the center of the map, and only included the continents of Europe, Africa, and Asia. Also notable on the map was many references to strange creatures. It was a very interesting map to look at, even though we were unable to take pictures of it and it was not in English.
The Chained Library is very interesting exhibit. The bindings of the books are all chained to the shelves that they sit on, so that they cannot be stolen. The library was kept in the cathdral for many years. It shows how knowledge was valued. To read a book, you would pull it out and set it on the table under the shelves, and read it in the seats that were also included. Among the library is a copy of the book of the Gospels that are at least 1000 years old, and a unique Hereford antiphonary from the 1300's.
After viewing these exhibits, we were free to explore the rest of Hereford. The town was preparing for a carnival of sorts, with many modern rides and attractions lining the streets instead of cars. We visited many local shops, searching for interesting finds. We also visited a few book stores, which had a much different selection of books than I would expect in the United States. Many books I assumed were popular worldwide could not be found, and many that I have never heard of were everywhere.
For our lunch, we had brought sandwiches that we made ourselves, supplemented with a snack from a local coffee and tea shop. Finally, before heading back to Leominster, I got in line at the post office to mail some postcards back to the United States. I just barely made the bus back, but I finally mailed the postcards I had been anxious to send home.
Once back at the hostel in Leominster, Dr. L promised us some Indian take-out food. Our dinner consisted of many entres I cannot remember the name of. I think I speak for the group when I say that much of it was very interesting. It was something to experience, but I am not sure how many of us would get it again soon.
After dinner, some of us busied ourselves with a 1500 piece puzzle supplied by the hostel. Needless to say, we were unable to complete much more than the outside border before our leave of the hostel.

Happy Mother's Day!

The class wishes all the moms out there a wonderful Mother's Day.

We have a free day today, so the students are off doing various activities on their own.  Several were headed for Oxford, a few for London, one for Warwick Castle, and one participated in a fun run in a nearby village.  We are wrapping up our stay in Stratford and are off to the Cotswolds tomorrow.  Hopefully we will have good weather for some rambling.  I've promised the students a downhill walk to a place called Lower Slaughter.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

It's Getting Better All The Time - Official Post

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Today was an interesting day for us here in England, to say the least.  We began our day by taking the train to Ludlow, whee there happened to be a market taking place in the town square.  Several of us stopped to buy some delicious snacks.  Julia, Eric, and I bought some warm white chocolate and pistachio welshcakes, where were amazing!  We headed over to Ludlow Castle for Geoffrey's tour of the medieval structure.  However, we learned that the castle was closed as there were people setting up for a beer festival this weekend.

Our Plan B involved a visit to the church of St. Laurence, where we were able to climb the two hundred step tower and have a bird's eye view of the town.  We also could see the castle that we were supposed to tour.  In groups of three, we explored the church and learned about its history and unique features using children's brochures as guides.  The misericords, which are small wooden shelves on the underside of the choir chairs to allow the people standing for long periods of time the ability to rest, were decorated with fun characters.

The two aspects that stuck out for my group, which was Julia, Eric, and I, were the Jesse window and the flag from H.M.S. Ludlow.  The Jesse window in the Lady Chapel depicted the family history of Jesus starting with Jesse and continuing up to Christ.  The unique element of it was that Jesse was laying on his side and pictured so prominently in the window.

H.M.S. Ludlow, whose flag was hung in the church, originally was an American destroyer by the name of the U.S.S. Stockton.  Built in 1917, she was used in World War I as an escort for the American Expeditionary Force across the Atlantic Ocean and part of the United States anti-submarine force in Ireland.  In 1940, the U.S.S. Stockton was given to Great Britain as part of the fifty destroyers for bases deal and became the H.M.S. Ludlow.  This took me back to Dr. Lindell's History of World War II class I took last May Term.  Dr. Lindell, if you are reading this blog, this paragraph is for you.

Following the tour of St. Laurence, we went to lunch at DeGrey's Cafe where several of us had macaroni and cheese (I think we unconsciously are missing home/food in the States).  We were happily surprised to find that the dish was topped with U.S.-style bacon, referred to as "crispy bacon," and not the regular U.K. bacon that is more like ham.  My mom will be surprised to know, along with the rest of my family and friends back home, that I have developed a taste for tea.  It has to have milk and sugar, though.

After buying snacks for DeGrey's for tea later in the afternoon, we hopped on another train to Craven Arms and saw Stokesay Castle.  It is a medieval manor house.  We experienced our first truly rainy day here in England, so it was nice to tour a structure that allowed us to be mostly inside.  The ceiling in the Great Hall was special because the woodwork was done in a way that enabled it to stand without floor-to-ceiling pillars to support it.  There were even peep holes that would enable women to watch what was going on from another room.  The only time Stokesay Castle saw action was during the English Civil War, when it ironically was saved from destruction due to the surrender of the men defending it.

We ended our day with tea and snacks back at the hostel and enjoying our last night in Leomister.  Some of us even decided to get creative and build various structures out of Legos.  Tomorrow we are heading to Stratford-upon-Avon and will begin our tour of a couple Shakespeare sites.  We hope everyone back home is having a great May!



OFFICIAL POST- Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Hello everyone! This is Erin blogging from Dr. L's account as my email account is being finicky and won't let me log in. Today we returned to the great country of Wales and explored a few places there. But before all of this, we all practiced our cooking skills by making breakfast for ourselves at the hostel. Eggs, toast, yogurt, and fruit were on the menu with orange juice and tea to drink.

We took an hour long train to Newport, then quickly hopped on another train that dropped us off at Chepstow. The weather changed a lot as we moved from sunny Leominster to a misty Welsh countryside. After arriving at Chepstow, we went to explore Chepstow Castle. Dr. L hadn't been there before either, so it was a new experience for all of us. The castle was beautiful of course! From the front it looked somewhat small, but once we entered we found that it extended back much further. There were two groups of school children there with us, dressed in their bright blue uniforms. We searched around every nook and cranny of the castle for about 45 minutes before heading out on the town to eat lunch. Grace, Morgan, and I had a packed lunch, but others in the group went to some sort of cafe shop to eat.

We then took a short bus ride to Tintern Abbey. In its day, this was a Cistercian monastery. Everyone was fascinated with the cows out front, even though we've all clearly seen cows before having come from Iowa! The abbey was so pretty, being tucked away in the bottom of a valley overflowing with beauty and nature. We observed the main cathedral which was more intact than previous abbeys we have visited. We also explored the monks' quarters and other remains of the site, taking many great photos along the way.

Our day ended with taking the bus and two trains back to Leominster where everyone went their own ways for dinner as it was getting late. I hope everyone out there is enjoying the weather and American culture back home, as we sure are enjoying the marvelous aspects of England and Wales! Good bye for now :)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Going to the birds

Wanted to upload some photos from our bird of prey experience in Conwy on the Bank Holiday Monday.  They don't want to load on the blog, so I will put them up on the History Deaprtment Facebook page.  See the link to the right.

(Official Post) Last Day in Conwy

Hey!  This is Geoffrey blogging for the first time on this trip.  Well it was an exciting day on Monday, May 6. We started the day by going to Conwy Castle where Tate gave us an enthusiastic tour.  There was much gesturing of arms as he pointed out each of the 8 towers the castle had.  Tate then took us up to the wall giving us a good view of Conwy and the coast.  He then took the group up Chapel Tower, then again up the King's Tower.  Now Conwy castle is very much intact and its towers can be seen from much of the town and countryside.  These big towers are what we climbed and as with all medieval towers, it was a spiral staircase.  I personally don't mind the climb or the staircases and the way Tate was running up and down them, he didn't either.  Much of the rest of the group would disagree.  Given the choice I think they would prefer to admire towers from the ground.

Well, both towers provided excellent views of the countryside, and the towers themselves were interesting.  The Chapel Tower of course had a chapel within it, and the King's Tower was the tower that would house the King of England, namely Edward I, when he would stay there.  Of course, all the decorations that would of gone with this tower were long gone.

Tate concluded his tour after descending the towers and showing where the Great Hall used to be.  We then turned our interest to the display going on in the courtyard.  That day was a Bank Holiday which is simply a day off work for many people in the U.K. and allows places like Conwy to have events and displays.  In the courtyard were two men dressed as knights and they were the handlers of some birds of prey.  They had a Barn Owl and two Harris Hawks.  One of the hawks was still a little new to training so she was kept away from the people, but the other two were trained and well, I might add.  We were allowed to pet the owl on the head and the hawk on the chest.  The Barn Owl was soft and fluffy, while the Harris Hawk was smooth and lean.  One of the trainers also had the hawk stand on his arm and he would hold her above people's heads and have her spread her wings so that photos could be taken and people would appear to have a hawk on their head.  The knight also let some of us hold the swords he had.  No need to worry, they were very dull, but very cool all the same.

The handlers then directed us to go to the foot of the castle where the rest of their group was displaying more birds.  This we had to see so we went and what an experience it was.  There were three more handlers there and they had another Barn Owl, a Buzzard Hawk, a Bengal Eagle Owl, a Peregrine Falcon, and a European Eagle Owl.  Thanks to Dr. L making a donation to the handler group, we were allowed to hold the birds.  A handler would give us a thick glove and a short rope tied to the leg of the bird so it won't fly away and then they moved the bird to our arm.  The birds were so well trained that they didn't try to fly away and sat calmly on our arms.  A few of our group members are not fond of birds or animals in general, so they observed from what they deemed a safe distance.  It was a blast for the rest of us.  I was one of several to hold the Peregrine Falcon, which is the fastest bird in the world by the way.  Some also held the Bengal Eagle Owl and the finale was the European Eagle Owl.  It was definitely the biggest bird there and Adam,  Julia, Jenny, and Eric all got to have her on their arm.  I'm sure it was a comfort to be told by the handlers that this owl's talons had enough gripping power to crush the bones in their arm, but they enjoyed the experience none the less.

The handlers were also dressed as knights and had their reenactment gear with them.  After we finished holding the birds they let us hold and handle some of their gear, mainly their chain mail.  The chain mail shirt they had weighed 60 pounds and when they said we could put it on I just had to give it a go.  Now, that chain mail shirt was long, for once I got it on it hung to almost halfway down my thighs.  The handler then had me put on a head piece of chain mail that wears on you like a hood.  He then gave me a sword and I was free to stand around in my medieval regalia.

Once wearing it the weight is not so bad though it does restrict arm movement.  However, due to its size and weight I needed the handler's help to get it off.  He had to pull it over my head while I was down on my hands and knees.  Now we know why knights had squires.  I couldn't blame the other members of the group trying on the other chain mail shirt they had which is open at the front and can be put on like a coat.

After all the fun with the birds and gear we moved on to a house in the town of Conwy called Plas Mawr.  It was built during the Tudor Period meaning during the reign of King Henry VII and his family line.  It was st up to look like it did in the Middle Ages and it had audio tour guide remotes which would tell about each room in the house.  The real interest though was in the two interpreters, people reenacting a medieval person.  There was a woman who talked about the herbs and vegetables of the medieval times and how they were used.

There was also a man being a medieval surgeon and he had all the medical tools that were used back then, including a live leech.  He told about how a surgeon would do bloodletting to solve a headache and the way they knew you had lost enough blood was when you go pale from the loss of blood.  It actually had the placebo effect of believing it works so patients would feel better.  He also told about how surgeons dealt with a serious concussion; the brain swelling and bleeding.  He described all of this as if he was doing it, so he would cut the scalp, and drill a  hole in the skull with a drill that will pull out the circle of bone drilled.  He drains the blood until he thinks it looks good, pushes the brain back if it plugs the hole, puts the bone back in the hole, or a silver coin if he loses the bone.  Sews everything back up, and lastly lathers the place with honey as an antibiotic.  Amazingly this actually worked, though the non washing of hands and medical tools leaves a lot of risks for the patient in the way of disease, but such things were unknown at the time.

After Plas Mawr the group went its separate ways, everyone eventually visiting the Aberconwy House which is a 1400's medieval house that has survived the ages of war and progress.  It was small, simple, and the thing the personnel who worked there seemed most proud of was that the house had been prevented from being taken to the U.S.A. in the early 1900's.  Nice to know we almost had a medieval house in America.  Apart from that everyone explored and enjoyed lunch and sweets in the town of  Conwy.  At 2:30 we met up to grab our bags and take a 3:21 pm train to Leominster.  The two and a half hour ride was spent in silence as everyone slept.  We're now in a hostel in Leominster which has a lack of hot water and wooden bunk beds which creak something awful.  Still though, it was a great day and hoping for more to follow.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

May 4th - Official Post

  Greetings from Wales! Today was Cassie's Birthday! We celebrated by taking a trip to Beddeglert. Once there we split up into groups to explore the town. Grace, Erin, and I went on a little stroll which lead us to some cute sheep that were at pasture. There are lots of cute baby sheep running around and hiding behind their moms. It's breeding season here.
      Another path that we explored brought us to an old church with a grave yard a famous dog was buried. Apparently the dog was declared a saint after the dog had been killed. The owner of the dog killed him after he though that the dog injured his child. After killing the dog the man found the snake that had hurt the child and realized that his best friend, the dog had been protecting the child. That's why the dog became a saint and was buried at the church.
   We also discovered an ice cream shop and indulged in a snack. It was so good! The signs in Wales are in Welsh first and then English. This made reading the store fronts a bit difficult at first, but then we caught on.
   One of the main things that we learned today was how to use public transit. In order to get back to our hostel we had to take an hour and a half train ride. The Welsh Highland Railway is a narrow gauge rail run by steam engine. There are certain days throughout the year year where they only run the trains on steam, because it adds to the ambience of the historic railway. The rail is a 25 mile route that travels from coast to coast that was started in 1863. Once we reached the end of the line in Caernarfan we explored the shops while we waited for our connecting bus to Conwy.
   For dinner we ate at a local fish and chips pub. Once we were refueled we made the track up the "hill of death," to our youth hostel. Usually we journal every night and play cards but tonight we decided to take advantage of the roof top terrace at the hostel. The view of the countryside from there is amazing. We are so blessed to be able to take advantage of this experience.
   Ta ta for now, Morgan Rae

Official post 2~wonderful wales!

First of all apologies are I order, internet has been a bit tricky over here so I'm sorry that my post is getting up so late! 
Blog May 3rd
Aw what beautiful day in Wales!  Today our journey brought us from the historic York in England to another historic, though smaller, town.  We woke early at the hostile and took a taxi to the train station and after many buses and train changes we finally arrived in Conway, in northern Wales.  Much like England the country side was spectacular except for more majestic mountains and coast lines.  Despite being tired from all the traveling, I made sure to try to stay awake to see it all.  When we finally arrived in Conway we sent Julia and Jenny up to the hostel with our heavy luggage via taxi and the rest of us made the long trek up the hill on foot.  I cannot get over just how pretty everything here is!  (Probably because everything at home is so flat.)  
Once we got everything into our rooms, we made our way back down the hill to the bus stop so we could go to our first site in Wales, Bodnant Gardens.  At first I was nervous to go because the weather here has been just as strangely cold this spring as it has been back home but my fears were soon quelled.  As we walked I was blown away , first by all the numerous color and flowers and then, as we continued on in deeper into the garden,  just how huge it was.  Tate and I walked through the entire garden, all the way into the valley down to the old mill and then all the way back up to the estate house.  The trails in the valley were lined with rhododendrons trees of all kinds of colors, pinks, purples, oranges and reds and we marveled at the enormous magnolia trees which stay so small back at home.  We took lots of pictures and met many nice couples who took pictures of us together.  When we made our way out of the valley, we came back into the more classic gardens that were elaborately landscaped with ponds, stone work, statues and walk ways.  The walk ways were lined with multicolored tulips and native flowers.  The estate building, which was beautiful in and itself, overlooked the garden, Tate and I wondered about what it would have been like to live there.  (We decided that with all the land, the gardens and the sheer size of the house and upkeep, it was out of any price range we could ever hope to have in either of our life times.)   With all that there was to see, it was a shame that we only had 2 1/2 hours!  Eventually thought, we had to head back to the hostel in Conway.
Once we were back,Tate and I explored a bit in search of some fresh sea food since we we're on the coast.  We ended up eating at a little restaurants called Crissie's kitchen.  After a bit, Dr. Lindgren ended up finding the restaurants too and we invited he to join us.  I tried the ceviche, which was a medley of sea food cooked chemically overnight in citrus and oil without heat,  and Tate had the crab and prawn thermidore, it was served in a scallop shell and he let me taste it.   Dr. Lindgren had a variety of tapas.  We finished our meal with some chocolate cheese cake (which sadly had walnuts in it) and pot au chocolat, which was a thick dark chocolate mousse (I could eat a bucket of it, sadly I only got a small pot.) Everything tasted great!   I can't wait to see what the rest of our travels through Wales brings us. 

Castles, Castles, Castles (official post) Grace

Sorry for the late post (mostly  to my mother who I'm sure is missing me like crazy) we have not had the best Internet.  On Sunday May 5th we took a 12 passenger van around Wales to see four castles. It's been referred to as a referred to as a whirlwind castle tour, which it certainly was. Three of the four castles were those related Edward I.  Our first stop was Harlech Castle, which was built by Edward.  The location was breathtaking, looking out over the Irish Sea on one side and the mountains on the other.  We were able to climb to the top of the SW turret.  The stairs were windey and it got extremely dark at points, so you were not even sure where the stairs were.  Once you finally got to the top you realized that the walls ensuring you didn't fall off the edge aren't really there.  But after the initial shock wears off and you catch your breath from the hike up the stairs, you are able to see just how great the view is from that height.
Soon we were off again, and about 45 minutes later on the bus we reached our next location, which was a break from medieval for a moment. The site we saw was an old Roman fort.  It was originally out in the middle of nowhere, but today sits in the middle of town in Caernarfon.  Today there is not much left of the fort, maybe about a foot high of wall left around each building.
The next sop in Caernarfon was Caernarfon Castle, which Eric gave us a lovely tour.  This castle was bigger than the first one we saw today and was also built during Edward I times.  Because Monday was a Bank Holiday here, many people were out and about at the castle. It was one of the first places we have been that our group did not make up the majority.  There was also some event going on inside the castle.  People were dressed in old Medieval clothing, there was archery, and a pig was being cooked on a spit.  All in all, a much different vibe than our previous castles.
Next on the list we had Beaumaris Castle, which was one the Isle of Anglesey. It was the last Welsh castle ever built and as it happens was never actually finished.  They never built the walls up as high as they wanted them to go. The last stop on our whirlwind adventure was Pemrhyn Castle, which was a 19th century castle. The house/castle was donated to the Royal Oaks Foundation after the death of its owner. He left it to his niece  who was unable to afford the death tax after WWII.  Of all the castles we visited this one was the most homely,  that was for two reason.  One, it was always meant to be a home and two, it was not built in medieval times.  By the end of the day I can say I was honestly exhausted.  It was nice to come back to the hostel and have them make us dinner.  Thus far the trip had been excellent, minus the abundance of birds.  :)