Sunday, 27 May 2012

Day 13: Tell the world I'm comin home...

Today was our very last day in England. We got up early and took the train to Gattwick after being driven by a very frazzled cab driver. After this we waited around for our gate number; for awhile we thought the flight was delayed, then boarded the plane and settled in for the nine hour flight. Three movies, a nap, and in depth conversation with the person next to me we were home.

Day 12: Return to London

We took the return six hour train ride to London, which just seemed kind of sad and drab after being in St. Ives. It was surprisingly warm when we got back and we were got to wear shorts for the first time on the trip. We said goodbye to Katie and Mary at the train station and the rest of us had one last dinner together. We didn't do much that night except pass out as soon as our heads hit our pillows.

Day 11: St. Ives Part 2

 Today we walked around the town and made our way down to the coast to board a boat that would take us to Godrevy Island.  On this island is the lighthouse that Virginia describes in To the Lighthouse and Hyde Park Gate News. We were taken to the island by a boat called Dolly P. and a man named Derrick who was very opinionated and very much in love with Cornwall (he "circumnavigated the globe seven times").  We got to take a ton of great pictures and found that the lighthouse is still operating, although people no longer live there.  We went in to town for to eat and I had some delicious fish pie and a decadent brownie while looking out at the sea.  We also visited the St. Ives Museum which was full of fabrics that looked like those Duncan and Vanessa made for the Omega Workshop. Another thing on our agenda was Talland House. The gardner was kind enough to let us in and we got to see the garden that Virginia described as "full of nooks and crannies."  It was full of water features and secret passages.  After all of this we had some Cornish ice cream, scones with clotted cream and tea. Caroline, Joslyn, and I walked along the beach at low tide and climbed some rocks where we had a great view of the estuary.

Day 10: St. Ives Part 1

Today we took an epic six hour train ride to St. Ives.  Luckily the train went through some beautiful scenery and we all got some much needed sleep. Once we got there we checked in to an adorable bed and breakfast run by the nicest couple ever. Bev and Ian were so warm and welcoming and their dog Ollie was precious.  We explored the town and looked and the cute shops that were full of wonderful art. We also observed the drastic change in the tide. That night we went to the grocery store, bought some wine, and spent the night chatting.

Day 9: Cambridge

The trip to Cambridge was the second day I planned. Going back was so exciting. I felt like I was coming home and kept trying to go back to my old room at Queen's. Today was one of the coldest days of the trip. Everyone was freezing and we had to buy extra sweatshirts just to keep warm. We took a bus tour of the town and learned that Cambridge was founded by students who fled from Oxford after accidentally killing a townswoman while practicing archery.  We walked along the backs and saw the entrances to the colleges, many of which were closed to visitors.  Unfortunately we could not see the library at Trinity College because it was closed during exam time.  We did however get to see King's Chapel and Newnham when two nice girls let us in to the grounds. We missed the turn to the college just like Virginia did.  Following the walk she describes in A Room of One's Own we wound our way around the grounds being careful not to get reprimanded by the beadles for walking on the grass.  After today we all added attending Cambridge for grad school on to our life plans.

Day 8: Knole/free day

Knole...Today we were supposed to go to Knole, but we decided since we were all so tired that we would just take the day off. We all finally got to go shopping and admired the stores on Bond Street.

Day 7: Kew Gardens and Hogarth House

Today we started out at Richmond, but decided to cut our time there so we could spend more time at Kew Gardens, and I'm glad we did. After looking at what used to be Hogarth House which is now a Boots pharmacy sadly, we took the train to Kew.  The gardens were gorgeous. We got to see Japanese style pagodas that Virginia saw when she walked through the gardens and went up to the tree top walk where we could see all the way to the London Eye.  Each part of the gardens had something different to offer and the sheer number of plants was mesmerizing. We also got to see the lily pond that Virginia loved and the inside of the green house was about as humid as Clemson. I bought my mom a beautiful print and a book that shows what the gardens look like during each season which I might end up stealing before it's all over with.

Day 6: A Man for All Seasons: Hampton Court

Today we dedicated the whole day to exploring Hampton Court. Virginia liked to walk by the river here and mentions the palace in her novel The Waves. All of us found the wooden statues of drunk people by the wine fountain highly amusing and took lots of pictures of them. We also took pictures with the stone "spirit animal" statues at the entrance to the palace. One of the coolest and nerdiest things about Hampton Court was that we got to wear velvet cloaks while we took the tour, I think we pulled them off quite well. "Henry VIII" called us bold and saucy and we discussed gun laws in South Carolina with his companion.      The audio guide led us around the court and we got to see everything from Queen Caroline's rooms to the kitchen.

Day 5: The Most Interesting Man in the World

Today was one of our free days of the trip where we were on our own to explore London. The Tate Britain was having a Picasso exhibit so we went there first. Seeing the original Picassos was amazing. Personally, I preferred his sketches and costume designs to his more abstract works, but they were all beautiful and unique. After this we walked down the Thames to the Globe. Unfortunately we didn't have a lot of time an it was rather expensive to get in so we just looked at the outside. We took pictures in front of an iron gate decorated with masks and other theater themed items. That night was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the trip.  If you thought the Dos Equis man was the most interesting many in the world you would be's Cecil Woolf.  We all went to a delicious Greek restaurant where we stuffed our faces with delicious food and drank too much wine with Virginia's nephew and his wife.  Cecil Woolf was a bit quiet at first, but once he had some wine he began to tell all kinds of stories about Leonard and Virginia. The last time Cecil saw Leonard before he had his stroke was when Leonard was eighty-nine and was running to catch the bus. He also told us that Virginia was pleasant company and actually very funny. Jean was the author of one of the books we read, Virginia Woolf Life and London.  She told us that Leonard was like a father and a husband to Virginia in the way he took care of her when she was ill. The whole time we talked I was in awe of the fact that I was talking to one of Virginia's relatives. Everyone talked about this night for the rest of the trip and agreed that we would take up Jean's offer to stay at her house when we returned to London.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Day 4: Monk's House and Charleston

Today was the first day we were out of the city. We rose early again and took the train with the intention of going to Lewes. We didn't know that we had to change trains so we ended up in Brighton and had to back track a little, but it worked out in the end. Being out in Rodmell and Firle was so refreshing. Being able to see the sun and breathe the fresh air made everyone feel better. Our first stop was Monks House where Leonard and Virginia lived out the later parts of their lives. The house had a traditional rustic feel, but there were bits of Virginia's personality stuck in. There were books by Thomas Carlyle and Clive Bell on the shelves and Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell paintings on the walls. The gardens were gorgeous and we couldn't stop taking pictures of the flowers and statues. I can see how Virginia would have been inspired there and been able to relax. On a slightly more morbid note, we eventually found our way to the river Ouse and saw where Virginia drowned herself. The mood was lightened a bit when we got to talk to some men who were fixing the erosion problems by the river. They suggested some places to eat and we joked about Virginia Woolf. Lunch was at the Abervagenny Arms which was whereLeonard ate when he lived at Monks House. The fish and chips were amazing and just what we needed to help us get through the rest of the day. We also visited Charleston which was where Vanessa, Clive, Duncan, and their children lived. Every surface had been painted in some fashion giving the house a quirky yet beautiful look. The rooms were full of books and I was really upset that we couldn't take pictures of the inside. The last room we saw was the studio where everyone let out a collective gasp when we entered. Once again there was art everywhere and the smell of clay was still in the air. The paintings that were there were beautiful and the space was full of light and inspiration. Unfortunately we had to catch the the train so we did not get to spend a lot of time in the gardens, but they definitely rivaled those of Monks House. We all agreed that if we lived in England we would have a country home like one of these where we could escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Day 3: "The City"

Another full day on the itinerary. Beginning with a walk through the Bloomsbury squares which took us through Fitzroy and Gordon. It was easy to see why Virginia like living in these places. While still in the city they were quiet and had nice views onto the square which was a small green space. From here we walked to the Bloomsbury Workshop where a man showed us his collection of Carrington, Vanessa Bella, Roger Fry, and Duncan Grant works of art. They were all very beautiful and unique and we all agreed that some day when we were rich and famous we would fill our houses with them. The next thing we did was going to the British Museum. Lunch was delicious and we got to look at sculptures from the Parthenon which hardly seemed real. After this we made our way to Charing Cross where we visited the National Portrait Gallery and saw paintings of many members of the Bloomsbury Group. By this point everyone was extremely tired so we went to the alleyway that was the model for Rowling's Diagon Alley and looked in some used book shops. The old leather bound books were beautiful and I wished I had unlimited money to spend so I could bring boxes of them home. We all decided that this was a satisfying end to the day and headed home. My literary senses were over loaded with all the cool sites and the old books. Overall another fulfilling day.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Day 2: Mrs. Dalloway Walk

Today was another very busy day here in England.  We started out following the path of Mrs. Dalloway. We walked the winding streets of Westminster where we visited the Dean's Yard and saw the boys from the choir school playing "football". Everyone thought they looked adorable in their suits but not as classy as their high school counterparts.  The original plan was to go inside the Westminster Abbey, but the line was practically wrapped around the building so we decided to skip it. From here we walked down Victoria and saw a statue that perfectly embodied the spirit of Mrs. Dalloway: a woman's face with flowers bursting out of her head (according to us she only thought about flowers and parties and stopped at Subway and Starbucks on her walks).  The next stop was St. James park which was full of yellow-capped school children taking a tour. The view of Buckingham Palace was supposed to be wonderful from the bridge, but unfortunately the building was covered in scaffolding in preparation for the Games and the Jubilee.  From here we followed Malboro St. to Picadilly, which apparently used to be full of gentlemen's clubs. Green Park was next on the tour where we stopped an admired the Bird Cage Walk. (I conjecture that she liked to walk here because of the paradox of being free and yet being in cage at the same time).   In the distance we saw the changing of the guard at Buckingham and I gave a smashing reenactment if I do say so myself. We also walked by Queen Anne's Gate and got buffeted by the Oxford Street "tide". To finish off our day a visit to Regent's Park and the British Library gave us a grand finale. The British Library was full of treasures like the Hyde Park Gate News, Woolf's notebook for The Hours,  Jk Rowling manuscripts, the Alice's Adventures that were given to Alice Lodell, Wordsworth, Beehtoven's music, To the Lighthouse and so much more. The Wastelands to Wonderlands exhibit was a great way to end another great day.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Day 1: Kensington and Chelsea

I am counting today as our first day because we got into the meat of things.  We rose early so that we could have plenty of time for our first big adventure. Our day began with a walk through Kensington to follow Virginia Woolf's path and to see Round Pond, where she spent a lot of time as a child. We went down the Flower Walk which was filled with beautiful blooms in an array of colors.  Although I didn't come up with any ideas for a great novel I was able to see how the gardens inspired her.  We also got to see people sailing boats on Round Pond just as Virginia and her siblings did when they were children.  After this we visited one of the many homes she lived in, 22 Hyde Park Gate.  Just looking at the building made us realize how one could go mad living in such a place.  Next on our agenda was to visit the Victoria and Albert museum where we saw beautiful jewels and sculptures. To finish up we walked along Chelsea Embankment and went to the Physics Garden to have tea and enjoy the flowers.