Tuesday, April 30, 2013

From Marmite to Sheep - Official Post

Note:  Since we have had problems accessing the Internet, my post is
two days late.  However, I did write this on Sunday night.

Today was our second full day in Great Britain, and it contained so many "firsts" for us.  We were introduced to a traditional English breakfast this morning as we went through the buffet at the hostel.  There was yogurt, beans, bacon (which is more like ham), scrambled eggs, sausage, tri-taters, toast, chocolate croissants, and cereal.  Many of us decided to try marmite, which is a gooey brown paste made from yeast.  I put some on my toast and realized after taking a bite that it is the most disgusting thing I have ever tasted.  Julia did not enjoy it either.  Overall, breakfast was not that bad, though I wish that the food would have been warmer.

After breakfast we boarded the vus (our - Julia and I - term for our bus/van) and traveled to our first medieval sight - Mount Grace Priory - which is located an hour north of York.  Grace gave us a tour of the Carthusian house, which is the best preserved and most accessible of the ten medieval ones in England.  It was interesting to see the reconstructed cell where one of the monks would have lived.  Several members of the group, including your's truely, learned that medieval buildings are not always friendly to tall people.  One is reminded of this fact when walking through doorways and in rooms with low ceilings.  It probably is not as difficult, though, as the life of a monk at Mount Grace.  The rules involved a silent order, no consumption of meat, and limited contact with other monks.  Sadly, we did not see any stoats, which Grace had told us were found at the priory.

The next stop on our tour in Yorkshire was Fountains Abbey near the town of Ripon.  The monastic life at the abbey was not as strict as Mount Grace, and it even allowed laybrothers to do the manual labor for the monks.  This left the monks time to focus on prayer and meditation.  A really amazing section of the site, though, was the water gardens, which had mini waterfalls, a statue of Poseidon, and a friendly swan.  Julia and I started our own mini video of our travels, which highlights some of the wonderful sites we have seen.  I wish we could have had more time at Fountains Abbey, as there were so many different aspects of the grounds to see.

We concluded our first day of visiting medieval structures with a guided tour of Skipton Castle in the town of Skipton.  Our guide, Peter Bailey, was very friendly, especially to our group of twelve Americans.  He explained how the pins on his hat were ones he has collected, including a Windchester rifle and an American jeep from World War II.  Peter even has one of those jeeps in real-life and plans to bring it to the castle one day soon as part of his own exhibition.  It was really moving for us to see his love for the States, since it is similar to our passion for British culture.

Skipton Castle, which has a yew tree that is over three hundred years old and will be able to live to at least one thousand, was a great first castle for us.  We were able to connect what we learned during our course in Winter Term, specifically the elements of a castle, to Skipton as Peter gave us a great explanation of its history.  We were able to see the GreatHall, the private rooms that the Lord and Ladyof Clifton, and even the dungeon where up to fifty prisoners could be held at a time.It was interesting to learn that so many phrases come from the medieval period, including "the upper crust" and "to put in one's place."  One could tell from the tour that Peter loves what he does and is very knowledgeable of different aspects of the castle.

Our second full day in England was eventful, to say the last, and it was great getting to view different parts of Yorkshire.  The most fun we probably had on the bus was getting to see herds of sheep.  I even got my mom a miniature sheep stuffed animal to add to her collection.  We hope everything is going well at home, and until next time, "Cheerio!"


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