An Irish Spring Break

After leaving for Ireland bright and early one Saturday morning, there was no stopping! Arriving in the early afternoon, I had just enough time to grab a quick bite before I rushed off to a group tour. Unfortunately since we were so rushed lunch consisted of a few bites of whatever Starbucks had. What started out as a “walking tour” of the city quickly devolved into a history lecture since our tour guide was a wannabe professor. We learned a lot about the political tensions that built Dublin but not a whole lot about the landscape we were walking through.

After the tour, I went back to the four courts hostel for a two hour nap before dinner–traveling is so exhausting! Dinner was lovely, if American in flavor, we found an Eddie Rocket’s. Eddie Rocket’s is a little bit like Johnny Rocket’s in the States, complete with burgers, onion rings and milkshakes. After a long day of walking in the rain a little greasy comfort food was exactly what the doctor ordered. Elizabeth, Rebecca and I quickly realized that we’re not very adventuresome when it comes to food—the week after Ireland we got McDonalds in Spain! (more on that to come)

On Sunday I went to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College. I’m a complete book nerd so I was right at home looking at the manuscript exhibit for about an hour. Toward the end of the tour, you go through the Old Library where books with beautiful bindings fill the walls from floor to ceiling. My friends made fun of me for inhaling the scent of the place! I was in library heaven. Unfortunately, we eventually had to come out of that place and make our way back to the hostel to change for the class dinner and pub-crawl.

The dinner was lovely and we all ate far more than we should’ve—what? It was on Kenyon’s dime! The musical pub crawl was less than stellar so we skipped out as soon as our professor went home to bed. In our defense, we did go on our own musical exploration of Dublin. The pub we ended up in had great music and a wonderful atmosphere.

Monday afternoon I took the train from Dublin to Galway. Galway is a beautiful little town and the B&B we stayed at was precious! Each morning we were there, breakfast was amazing! The first day I had a traditional Irish breakfast, the second porridge with raisins, the third potato waffles and the last day a combination of all three! There wasn’t much to do on the first night there since it was raining, but I quickly settled into the very comfortable beds and tried to rest up for Tuesday.

The next morning the bus left at 9am for hiking on the Burren. Though it was raining all the way up, the hike was still gorgeous. I’ve never been much of an outdoor-loving girl, but this year has converted me to a definite hike fanatic. There was no rest for the weary as we went straight from the Burren to the Cliffs of Moher. Another beautiful natural site and another climb. Logan and I were a little too damp, cold and sniffly to climb all the way to the top in the rain so we opted for a little retail therapy in the museum’s gift shop.

Wednesday would’ve been a day to rest, but one of the girls on the program found great horseback riding nearby. We all piled into the bus at 9:15 for a second long day of the great outdoors. The horses weren’t used to new riders and a few of us in the group got a bit scared, myself included, but it was our first sunny day in Ireland so we tried to make the most of the great weather.

That night, I went out to the Spanish Arch Hotel for a little traditional Irish music. The band, Alale, was absolutely amazing! I’ve never seen anything like it. Check them out at my YouTube video:

The next day we went on a trip to the Aran Islands and for the first time on the Ireland trip, it was sunny! . Most of the group took bike rides around the island but we decided to explore on foot instead. The coastline was beautiful and I had a lovely time wandering out to the seal beach with some friends and then lunching along the seaside


(We bought matching Aran Island sweaters)

After the jam packed weekend, I took the bus back to Dublin for a little R&R. Our last night in Dublin, Rebecca, Elizabeth and I decided to treat ourselves to a nice dinner out. We’d been so frugal the whole time in Ireland that we had  a lot of our food stipend left-over for the meal. Walking around the city, dining in style, eating cupcakes and watching silly Irish television was a great end to my Ireland adventure.

Shakespeareland

Sorry that my blog has fallen by the wayside! I kept meaning to update this as I finished out my year abroad, but somehow it just didn’t happen.

In April, I embarked on a four-day trip to Stratford-upon-Avon. The supposed birthplace of the most famous English writer, the town is full of Shakespeare sites and memorabilia. Though we had plenty of time to wander around the cute town, we quickly realized that for those who didn’t like Shakespeare kitsch the town was a little bare. We found a few cute shops, but most of the stores were chains that had branches in Exeter. Bummer!

We went to Stratford to see plays at the recently re-opened Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Closed for renovations for a large part of our time here, it was interesting to be in a relatively new building for all of the plays. Our seats—I must admit—were not always the best; building a theatre in the style of The Globe has its drawbacks. However, the performances more than made up for uncomfortable neck craning!

Thursday

We arrived mid-afternoon with enough time to check into the hotel bed and breakfast. Because we took up nearly every room in the B&B it felt a little bit more like camp than a tourist trip. Samantha and I were lucky enough to stay in a room with a fabulous window. The Elizabethan exteriors of the hotels across the street were lovely to look at as we attempted homework. We felt a little rushed to get food so we settled on one of the first places that we saw—an Italian diner called Carluccio’s. I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t be able to eat much, since I don’t eat wheat, but lo and behold they had a gluten-free menu! I’m sure that I’ve talked about this in previous posts but it never ceases to amaze me how celiac/allergy friendly this country is. Most places that I’ve been have gluten free options on the menu and are very aware of what allergy sufferers require. Our meal was lovely! I had the basil pesto corn pasta, followed by an espresso &chocolate drink. I gave into my cravings for dessert as well and ordered vanilla gelato with amaretto on top. The restaurant provided the best meal most of us had eaten out in a long time!

When the check came hilarity ensued. English majors trying to split the bill never goes well, but when all eleven of us ordered three courses the task became much more difficult. I brought out my trusty iPhone calculator and between it and some great detective work we finally knew how much each of us owed.  After our meal we headed to the first of the weekend’s four Shakespeare plays: Romeo and Juliet. For such a clichéd love story, this production took a very cynical take emphasizing the age of the lovers and the physical passion they felt for one another. This created a more sexually charged atmosphere but also took away from the “timeless love” aspect of the play—not that it was a bad thing. The main actors were mediocre but their supporting cast was exquisite! Mercutio was more bawdy than I’d ever seen Shakespeare, but dressed like a rock star he was compelling. Juliet’s nurse seemed less world-weary and far more knowing, helping Juliet rather than doing her bidding. Overall the performance was good!

Friday

Trying to avoid the weekend crowds we visited the Shakespeare sites on Friday. Because I’d been to Stratford on my Paris/London trip with my mom, I decided to just visit his birthplace and grave and save a little money.

After wandering in search of the tourist office for upwards of twenty minutes, my friends and I found Shakespeare’s birthplace instead. We found ourselves very frustrated throughout the tour by all of the supposedly concrete evidence about Shakespeare. Having grown up in a time when the writing of Shakespeare was still contested we found it odd that there was no mention of the controversy. The whole experience felt very fake and commercialized, which of course it was, but I was appalled at the lack of reality in that place.

While in the gift shop one of my friend’s was injured when an employee dropped a box on her foot! Luckily the damage wasn’t too severe and we quickly set off for Shakespeare’s grave. The grave of Shakespeare isn’t what I had expected. He’s housed in a huge chapel with stained-glass windows, high ceilings and a pound for admission. I shouldn’t have been surprised after the Disneyfication of his birthplace, but I couldn’t believe that they had created a display to the baptismal font where Shakespeare “may have been baptized”. Such lunacy!

After visiting the requisite sites we wandered around town until our second play of the weekend. Before this trip I had never seen or read Antony and Cleopatra so it was an interesting experience. The play seemed to be set in the modern Middle East, bringing a whole new level of understanding to the text. The actress who played Cleopatra was fantastic! She was very believable as a manipulative seductress while still being a joy to watch.

Saturday

On Saturday morning we attended a performance of The Tempest that was geared toward children. The songs and costumes were a welcome change from the adult Shakespeare plays that we’d seen the previous nights. There were even puppets involved. A puppet Caliban was a little much to get used to, especially after a recent viewing of Julie Taymor’s movie.

The afternoon was gorgeous so we enjoyed the day sitting down by the river, drinking tea outside and visiting the local butterfly farm! The butterfly farm has species from all over the world contained in a relatively small greenhouse. The butterflies seemed particularly attracted to my hair which made it hard to take pictures with them. Overall it was lovely to wander among the beautiful insects and attempt pictures for an hour or so.

All of the boats picture above were named after female characters in Shakespeare’s plays.

After frolicking outdoors we were ready for our last play of the weekend King Lear. The same cast who performed Antony and Cleopatra performed Lear making for a strange evening of who’s who! Lear is one of my least favorite of the plays so I was unenthused to see it performed. The play was interesting enough when taught by my favorite professor (Perry Lentz) but on stage it was a bore chore to watch.

Sunday

Because we had time on the way back to Exeter, the bus took a detour to Tintern Abbey. Did I mention that’s in Wales? It’s easy to forget how close together things are over here. We didn’t go more than a few kilometers out of our way to visit the gorgeous ruins.

We had a beautiful day to wander around and it was nice to take a brain break after such a scholarly few days.

Cheating on 30 for 30: London Weekend

I spent this past weekend in London (where I saw this play) and
has a blast! We stayed at the Harlingford in Bloomsbury which has allowed us to
really get to know the area–almost like a home away from home!

Friday.

On Friday we explored Kensington Gardens and found the Peter Pan statue.

Peter Pan Statue

All great lovers of J.M. Barrie’s story, we had a great time frolicking around the statue and taking
a lot of pictures. We frightened more than a few locals but the pictures we got were priceless!

After getting our fill of the park, we headed into Kensington Palace to see a new art exhibit
Enchanted Palace.

A creepy exhibit depicting the childhoods of many of the palace’s princesses, the art reminded
all of us that being a princess was neither fun nor easy! The above picture is from the Victoria
portion of the exhibit.

(This is me in one of the more creepy rooms of the exhibition.)

Friday night we saw Greenland at the National Theatre and while it was a thought-provoking
play about global warming, it wasn’t exactly spectacular.

Saturday.

An uneventful day for the most part, Saturday was spent trolling around London. I managed to
find a “must-have” coat and decided to break my 30 for 30 shopping fast since it was the last one
in the shop and it was handmade! I’ll post my review of Maribou later this week.

Sunday.

Sunday may have been the highlight of the trip–at least for me. A Tudor history junkie I was so
excited to spend a little time in Henry VIII’s notorious castle–Hampton Court Palace.

Hampton Court Palace

The palace was everything that I expected and more. Courtyards with gorgeous fountains, gardens that
rivaled the ones at Versailles and the most beautiful tapestries I’ve ever seen–and that was just the beginning!
The palace had board games from the time period, velvet shawls to put on, and a maze to get lost in. In short,
it was Tudor Heaven. While he may have been one of the most hated monarchs, he sure did know how to fix up
a house!

( The dining room)

(The gardens)

(Another view of the palace)

While we were there, I got the chance to model my new coat.

See how well I would’ve fit into the Tudor court!

That’s all for now folks!

A

The Children’s Hour

Warning: Non-fashion post below!

I promise a re-cap of my London weekend is coming sometime this week
(when the weekend is actually over and I have pictures uploaded!)

However, I feel the need to write about the performance I saw today ASAP:

The Children’s Hour

(starring Keira Knightley and Elizabeth Moss)

For a play whose central theme is gay love, there isn’t much mention of it in Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour! Much like Knightley’s film Atonement a devastating lie ruins the lives of many in ways that cannot be reversed. Set in a 1930’s New England boarding school, the play attempts to show the effects of accusing someone of homosexuality. In the small town of the play, the repercussions are innumerable but the devastation, unfortunately, isn’t felt by the audience.

The script was a bit dry though the actor’s did their best to make the characters come to life–the only problem was, they never did. Between the stiff opening scenes. and Knightley’s constant accent slippage the characters failed to worm their way into the hearts of the audience. The detachment of the audience was furthered by the script’s odd focus on developing non-central characters throughout the first act. Little changed when the second act moved forward, despite the insight
into the central women’s lives. When Moss’s character commits suicide, instead of feeling intense sadness the audience feels nothing.

 

I would love the chance to see the 1961 film version of the play starring Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine to see
if the acting or the script was the essential flaw of this play. Here’s a clip of the movie to pique your interest:

 

Post more tomorrow,

A

“Oh! Who can ever be tired of Bath?”

Last weekend my friends and I ventured to Bath on the train. We were expecting a day of looking at a pretty church and maybe having tea but we go so much more!

Stepping off the train we found a church we though was Bath Abbey—we ended up being sorely mistaken but the building was so beautiful! After the case of mistaken identity we followed the street signs to the real Bath Abbey and were even more in awe. For a building that has been standing since 1499, it’s in amazing shape! Inside, there are ornately carved pews, stained glass windows and vaulted ceilings. The highlight of the Abbey was when we went on the bell tower tour.

212 steps to the top, the tour is not exactly leisurely. We were shuffled up a tiny spiral staircase and given nothing but an old bell rope to hold onto. Once we completed the first portion of our climb we were treated a viewing of the topside of the vaulted ceilings and the inside of the clock face. The ceilings are very thin to keep them from collapsing—a marvel of architecture for sure!

Interestingly, the clock does not belong to the Abbey but to the citizens of Bath. Because of this from the time it was installed—in the Victorian era–the clock had to be lit from the inside to allow the people in the square to see it. Men, in twelve hour shifts, would sit with gas lamps in a room with no windows—wow, talk about a terrible job!

When we finally got down the spiral staircase it was off to the Roman Baths. Knowing that the city has been a center of commerce and leisure since the Roman times, it was unsurprising to find such wonderful ruins! The baths are—for the most part—intact and there is a lovely museum showcasing how the people of Aquae Sulis (the Roman name for Bath) lived.

The museum had a beautiful reconstruction of a temple face and a projector to show how it would’ve looked way back when—how awesome!

After lunch at the Pump Room we tried our hand at Victorian dressing with a visit to the Fashion Museum. Hilarity ensued as we realized that hoop skirts are much larger than we imagined.

 

The rest of the day was spent wandering around Bath and grabbing tea to stay warm!

 

Ta for now,

A

Settling back in to life in Exeter

Friday I made the journey from Rome to Exeter- a much more difficult task than it sounds! The morning began with me standing in line to check in at the Easyjet counter, which contrary to its name was not easy or fast. Nearly two hours later and with the single bag I was allowed in hand, I set off for my gate.

Much to my chagrin I was in gate H12 at the other end of the airport! Hauling all of my stuff down the corridors of the airport I passed many expensive shops and cute boutiques. Though I had no room to carry more things–or money to buy them–it was nice scenery for the walk. After arriving at the gate I quickly got in line to “board” the plane. Just like the check in fiasco, this was neither easy or fast.

We got onto a bus that took us over to where the plane was sitting and then climbed up the stairs into the plane. The very irate Italian woman next to me could not understand why the bus was going so slow or why it took them so long to open the doors so we could leave the bus and get onto the plane–it made for a very interesting ride over! Once on the plane I was unfortunate lucky enough to have an adorable baby sitting behind me….who kicked my seat the entire way to England. Maybe it is a cultural difference but those parents were letting the child go wild!

Arriving in London I was greeted with a pleasant surprise: for the first time the line for “Other Passports” was shorter than the “UK/EU Passports” line. I felt bad for all of the EU residents but walked through quickly and easily to get my baggage and catch the next train to Victoria Station. In luck (with the train was leaving  ten minutes after I arrived) I boarded with my massive luggage. A cab to Paddington allowed me to view parts of London I’d never seen before; I made notes of all the pretty parks to visit next time I’m there.

Once at Paddington I revised my essays for 45 minutes until my train. British transport is problematic at best and this train ride was no different. About half-way to Exeter the rear engine broke down and we had to stop to detach it. Running on only one engine, the train got into Exeter St. David’s about an hour late but thankfully in one piece. Rather than try to climb the hill and walk the 1.5 miles to my dorm, I caught a taxi and ended my journey in comfort.

Now, two days later I am happy to be back but not so excited about my finals! I’ve spent the morning in the library with friends writing papers and soon it will be time to begin again.

Off to Costa for more paper-writing goodness,

A