You Call This a Shower?: Part 13

The view from London Bridge.

So, I finally gave up on finding a memory card for my camera by the time we got to London. The first chance I got I went to a little convenience store and bought two disposable cameras because that was about all I felt I could spend of the euros I had left. By that time in the trip we had two days left and I figured I would just take as many pictures as the cameras would afford me and hope they came out alright. It’s funny to think back on it now, but those photos I took were probably the most authentic of the whole trip, which in some small way makes London the most authentic place we traveled to and through. Perhaps it was because I couldn’t see and analyze them, deleting the ones I didn’t like. Once I took them they were there to stay, for better or for worse, and I never saw them until I got back to the States and had them developed. It turned out to be a good choice.

Loved this statue.

We went on a bus tour of the city early that next morning and I took pictures through the bus windows, photos of Big Ben and the Tower Bridge. In fact, I recall us driving over London Bridge, and I was thinking, “This is London Bridge?” The bridge itself was pretty ordinary, and it made me question why anyone would write a children’s song about it. Then our tour guide explained to us why London Bridge was so ordinary, how it was a far iteration from the original bridge that was as wide as a city street, the one that did indeed burn down a long, long time ago. He told us that the bridge that’s there now is just functional because it costs too much to keep replacing the bridge, and the latest one was shipped to a town in Iowa, or some other midwestern place (I wasn’t really listening, so fascinated was I by Tower Bridge, that I could see on the left as we drove across).

Then we were dropped off the bus outside of Buckingham Palace right around the time for the changing of the guard, which is one of those things you can’t really describe unless you see it. Continue reading “You Call This a Shower?: Part 13”

You Call This a Shower?: Part 12

The Tower of London. Uh, not really a tower.

It dumped buckets the entire bus ride into the city of London early that next day, making me remember that we should have packed umbrellas. Oops. I joked that London was the Seattle of Europe, to which no one laughed, but my group had something else in store for me. They were finally talking to me again after the Oxford “incident,” and the type of talking they were doing was dreadful. You see, they all decided to affect a British accent just in time for London, and it was only the members of my group. Suddenly everyone was “bobbies,” “gits,” and “wankers,” and man, those accents made me cringe they were so horrible. But apparently they were planning to embarrass me to death in front of the other members of our party. It succeeded tremendously.

We pulled into the city in mid-afternoon with the rain still coming down in sheets, a perfect shower to clean us off after yet another filthy bus ride (I’m kidding. The buses we used were always immaculate). When we got to our hotel to drop off our bags, we were all exhausted. A trip like the one we were on takes a lot out of you, and we could all see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we were definitely going to have to crawl there in order to reach it. London was our final destination, though, and we were going to enjoy it if it killed us. The hotel was right across the street from the new Wembley Stadium, which was seriously cool, but I had no more memory in my camera card, and there were no more photos I wanted to delete, so my first priority was finding a shop and getting a card if I could.

Look at the little house!

Just like with London we had some free time that first day, but a lot of us ended up doing the Jack the Ripper tour, with the others staying at the hotel. We took the tube into the city, and I was finally treated to those lovely signs that said “Mind the Gap,” and yes, they were plastered everywhere at each tube stop. There were eight stops between Wembley, where we were, and the city center, where the tour was going to start. When we emerged from the underground station we were right across the street from the Tower of London, which was quite surreal. After hearing so much talk about the tower, it was just so odd to finally see it up close and personal right in front of us. Then the tour started. Continue reading “You Call This a Shower?: Part 12”

You Call This a Shower?: Part 10

Commercialism reaches Shakespeare’s Birthplace.

Part 10, in which I get lost again. I know, I know. I was in charge of making sure the students never got lost, and here I was getting lost again. But luckily none of the kids ever got lost, so I accomplished my purpose. And hey, we were finally in England, so there was the excuse of “I’m allowed to get lost once in each major country.” But before all of that happened there was a larger problem I had. My camera’s memory card was getting low as I had taken tons of photos in Ireland and Wales and I didn’t want to delete any of them. The countdown had begun, and my camera’s screen told me I was down to 20 photos left to take, and I was starting to hyperventilate because the best parts of England were still to come, including our first stop in Stratford, Shakespeare’s Birthplace.

Now, I taught Shakespeare for eight years and several of the students on the trip had taken my ninth grade English class at some point, so they knew how I felt about the Bard, that this was the absolute highlight of our trip. Before Stratford, though, we made a quick stop at Anne Hathaway’s house. No, not the actress who so pleasantly portrayed the new girl in “The Devil Wears Prada,” although that would have been interesting, but instead the erstwhile wife of William Shakespeare himself. Of course the students asked why they lived separately, but the ones who had me knew that Shakespeare had a few possible reasonings for that, not the least of which was his life in London while his wife remained in the countryside. As we entered her bedroom it was interesting to note the bench that looked as ancient as the house itself, and our tour guide explained that it might be the same bench that Shakespeare himself sat on when he came a’ courting.

Of course I had to sit on it.

I also learned about the word “threshold” and from whence it derived, which was very interesting. In fact, I told my students in summer school about it just this past summer, so chuffed I was from the experience. The threshold literally was there to hold in the threshes that were placed on the floor to stop the mud from taking over everything. It was difficult for me to navigate the rooms of the house, though, because I’m 6’5″ and the people in that time period must have been 4’11” or smaller. I have absolutely no idea how they did it, but after being stooped over for some time I had to get out of there and enjoy the sunshine. Um, I mean enjoy the rain, because it had started to shower while we were inside. Luckily I had my hat and I placed it on my head so at least it didn’t get in my eyes while I waited. It was beautiful there, but the next stop was the one I had been waiting for. Continue reading “You Call This a Shower?: Part 10”

You Call This a Shower?: Part 9

Raglan Castle. Wales.

I’ll be the first to admit it was really sad leaving Ireland behind because I’ve always held an affinity for that country, its history, its culture, and even the Gaelic language (even though I don’t speak it). Although I knew it was coming I had talked myself into believing that we would be Irish forever, but Great Britain waited for us, and after the lovely, eh hem, ferry trip, we were in the place called Wales. I’ll also be the first to admit that Wales wasn’t really on my original itinerary for the group, but it was added in when the package deal that included Wales was cheaper than the one that was just Ireland and England. Some decisions are based solely on money, and I figured, “Why not?” Wales turned out to be more interesting than I had originally thought it would be.

We had one day to travel the width of the tiny country, but that day was more than enough to soak in the atmosphere. The highlight of the day was Raglan Castle, one of about a million castles we passed by in Wales. Our tour guide told us that there are more castles per acre in Wales than anywhere else in the world, a fact that I had no idea about until we toured the country. Raglan castle was quite unlike many of the other castles we had seen because instead of being so tall in the air with a tower and all, it was large around, with a huge area in the middle that was really quite like a park, open to the air. We spent the entire afternoon enjoying the castle grounds and searching through its nooks and crannies. Continue reading “You Call This a Shower?: Part 9”