London, Bath, Jane Austin and French lessons

What a perfectly adequate first trip to London I had! I did not dare leave England without visiting that great city. I have to say, it is one of my favorites, minus the rain. If London came with sun and pleasant weather more often, I would undoubtedly move there. As it is, I think I may opt for France or Spain for a post graduate job, or somewhere with a pleasant clime… not to say that I wouldn’t jump at the chance to live in London any day!

Since my travels this spring I have gained many things: a different perspective on the world, greater understanding of different people and governments, and appreciation for European culture and British intelligence, just to begin… I know I will travel more, but now I have no doubts about moving somewhere where English is not the first language. I would really like to go live somewhere for a year where I have to learn the language. That is what many young foreigners I have met do. They move to England for a year or so just to practice their English and they work in the meantime and engage in a culture not their own. I am through with being part of the narrow-minded American society of bigots and experience absorbing another culture, no matter how similar or different from mine, rather than expecting everyone conform to us.

I have been questioning the uses of becoming a homogenous society like America claims to be. How much would be lost from each of the distinct cultures! How much has been lost already because of British and American influence and technology. But that is not a question to wear out on this blog… I think I will relate some of my favorite things about my 3 day stay in London, and my subsequent trip to Bath, from where I am writing this. Tomorrow’s plans are to go to see Stonehenge, the famed ancient stone monument.

Because of my decommissioned camera, again I will be relying on Google images or friends’ photographs.

London: May 29-June 1

  • Uneventful bus ride from Leeds to London. As expected, I slept most of it.
  • Proper London welcome: pouring rain when I arrived
  • Had to call Rachel in Leeds to give me tube directions to my hostel.
  • Finding a location in London is a mission, especially when streets get split up and half of the street with the same name is a block away, surrounding another square of grassy park.
  • No one in my hostel room snored – always a relief.
  • Met two other Americans I toured the city center with.
  • Walked across all the important bridges including Millennium Bridge and London Tower Bridge on the River Thames.
  • Met a lady from NY at the Globe theatre. Didn’t get tickets for a play that night, but gained a friend to spend a lively night with.
  • Danced to a street musician’s music, singing and snogging until the tube had closed. Whoops.
  • Next day, I met two French students also in my hostel I practiced my French with and went to the theatre.
  • Saw Les Miserables at Queens Theatre in Piccadilly, with my two French friends.
  • Had a really neat conversation with the African hostel cleaner who I thought hated me because he yelled at me the day before for not washing my mug. Discovered he is actually a very brilliant man with a Masters in Business Management, and we have something in common: we both have lived in Boston.
  • Tasted the sweetest cider ever in a Piccadilly pub.

Bath: June 1-3

  • Met my old time NM neighbor Catherine and her daughter and two daughters for high tea at the Royal Pump Room.
  • The fountain was filled with bubbles when I arrived.
  • Bazaar Bath tour: no history, just comedy. Real British comedy: dry, cruel humour.
  • Stayed in an amazing flat which Regan had rented in a posh Bath lane and imagined all the people who lived here during its popularity during the 18th century.
  • Jane Austen!!! Visted the Jane Austen Museum and the town houses and flats in which she and her father, mother and sister had lived after her brothers had all gone away.

  • I ought to mention some of the other 18th Century lit in which Bath the setting: Defoe’s Moll Flanders, Burney’s Evelina, Austen’s
    Northanger Abbey and Persuasion
  • Visited the Roman Baths: relics from a Roman city there over 1,000 years ago, where the hot springs were seen as a miracle from one of their gods.
  • Therma Spa: modern-day version of the Roman baths – Catherine generously treated me to go with her.

Stonehenge, June 2:

  • It’s a mystery who built it and why. These prehistoric Britains have been dubbed ‘the Beaker’ people, probably of Celtic or Saxon origin.
  • What is most impressive to me is how they managed to transport those massive stones from Whales, chisel them to fit together, and hoist them up into position. After more than 4,000 years, half of them are still standing.

Laycock, June 2:

  • We visited the little village of Laycock on the way up to Stonehenge, where many films were shot, including Pride and Prejudice and Harry Potter.
  • We saw Harry Potter’s parents house, Professor Sloghorn’s house, and the street from the first scene in the first film.

On the way back:

  • I did manage to miss my bus from Bath, so I was forced to buy a train ticket which was much more expensive, but got me to London to catch my next bus faster!
  • I can’t wait to spend time with Regan’s little girls again when I return to London; and I will have to, in the next month, to see a ballet and more theatre.
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