Day 19: Patience Among Oddities

Today we were entirely at the mercy of the Bath public bus service to transport us to Glastonbury so we could visit the abbey and climb the Tor. We were originally supposed to take a 9:10 bus to Wells and take another bus to eventually reach Glastonbury, but due to a misunderstanding about the bus’s arrival, the bus left without us. We were forced to wait another hour for the next bus to come. This set us back on our originally scheduled tour of Glastonbury Abbey because we arrived over an hour late.

However, Glastonbury Abbey did not disappoint. A bit of information to better help in the understanding of the rest of this entry—Glastonbury is extremely eccentric. The entire town is full of “weirdies” as the elderly night watchman from Night at the Museum might say. Our tour guide was no different. He was dressed scholarly in a dress shirt, vest, and tweed trousers, but his most eclectic and eccentric accessory was his beloved dog Rex. This isn’t strange until I mention that Rex is a toy dog on wheels that our guide led around on a leash. As one might imagine, the uneven terrain of the abbey grounds upset the poor canine many a time. This never fazed our guide; he merely chuckled and helped right the toy. It was just weird.

Glastonbury Abbey itself was beautiful. The ruins and extensive surrounding gardens were excellent for exploring. Before we explored, Amy gave an insightful and interactive presentation on the Arthurian legends we had read for today, and as a class we discussed the permeation of the Christ motif in the story of Arthur—his birth’s prophesy, his actions as king, etc. Amy also planned an entertaining skit about the discovery of Arthur’s and Guenevere’s bodies under the supervision of Henry II.

Perhaps the most strenuous part of our time in Glastonbury was when we climbed the Tor, a gigantic, steep hill with a stone tower at the top. Almost the entire group reached the top and took epic selfies individually and as a group with the amazing view. We could not stay up there forever, though, and eventually we climbed back down and headed to the bus stop.

We caught our bus back to Wells, but to our dismay, we discovered that we had missed our next bus by four minutes. Thus, we had to wait another hour for the next one. During this time, many of us were lucky enough to pet a calico house cat that had wandered over to the bus stop area. This one was a bit more cautious than the other cats we have encountered since arriving here, but our American charm placated her long enough for some pets and adoration.

When we did finally arrive back in Bath, it was about 7pm. We decided to buy some supplies at Sainsbury’s and then head back to the YMCA. Gretchen and I had beforehand decided to eat dinner at a Thai restaurant a block from the Y. The atmosphere was fancy, but the food prices were fairly reasonable. I ordered the spicy fried rice, and she ordered the green curry. We both loved our dishes. After a bit of sweating and the aid of a half pint of milk, I was able to finish my food. Gretchen had no trouble with hers due to its medium heat rating. The flavors of bith dishes were unique and flavorful, and I would recommemd this place to anyone looking to try Thai food. I believe the name is something like Thai Tapas.

We are headed to London tomorrow! Less than week from today we will be back in Iowa. That is why I am cherishing every day here, even the ones that are stranger or require more patience.






More Costumed Fun

Today we continued to learn about the rich history of York. Waking up early to walk to the York train station, we reserved our train tickets for upcoming journeys and then proceeded to walk along the city wall. Many of us enjoyed photographing the beautiful York cityscape as well as taking the ever-popular selfie. As we walked, we imagined the various operations that would have gone on when the wall was still functional. The height of the wall was meant both to keep out invaders and to keep in the townspeople. While many of us were alarmed by the precariousness of the steep stone steps, we all managed to complete the walk without falling off (there were gates in some sections but not everywhere).

Next on our itinerary was the Micklegate Bar Museum. This museum is dedicated to the history of many of York’s famous royals including, Richard, the Duke of York. In the two upper levels there were informational exhibits on the medicinal properties in some herbs and spices, the head of the Duke of York on a spike, and various parts of a knight’s armor. For almost half an hour we were like little kids playing dress-up, trying on chain-mail, helmets, and other cumbersome pieces of clothing (I’m sure these pictures will end up on Facebook).  Needless to say, the armor was not one size fits all, and some of us could not see out of the too-big helmets. There was also a copy of Shakespeare’s Richard III on display. Having read this in Dr. Clark’s Shakespeare class, many of us were able to connect that text with the history we were learning about. It was an educational but fun experience.

After a short detour in the charity bookstore Ox-Fam (English majors rejoiced), we were dismissed to find lunch on our own. One group went to a Japanese restaurant while another went to a French restaurant. On other walks, I have personally seen restaurants for Turkish, Chinese, Indian, Italian, American, and Indonesian foods. York offers a wonderful variety of foods to choose from, and I look forward to exploring more of these cuisines.

The rest of our scheduled afternoon was spent at Barley Hall, the former home of William Snawsell, a very well-to-do English businessman. The tour was highly interactive and enjoyable, and most students in our group were able to do some playacting to learn more about the everyday life of Tudors (while laughing at the poop jokes, too, of course). What struck me as particularly interesting is that Snawsell, a very important rich man, was illiterate. He relied on his steward, who was literate, to aid him in everyday business transactions. I had always thought that it was the poor who could not read and the rich who could, so this was an eye-opening experience for me. I am sure many others in our group could say the same.

After touring Barley Hall, we broke up into smaller groups to find dinner and enjoy free time. Courtney and I wandered through the pedestrian shopping and as we were heading back to the hostel, we saw that we were just in time to attend Evensong at York Minster. As Catholics, we appreciated the differences and similarities in the short service. For example, the large choir that sang all of the hymns and other parts of the service was made up largely of men and young girls. There was kneeling, standing, and sitting, and we were surprised that there was not more participation by patrons, most of whom simply sat during the 40-minute service. However, Courtney and I both enjoyed the service and plan on attending more if we get the chance. What a great way to experience a different aspect of these majestic religious buildings!