On The Road (Again Again Again Again)

Yesterday (the 17th), we had the joy of waking up at eight o’clock for a nine o’clock breakfast and any remaining time left to explore what bits of Bath we may have missed. With a train at 11:30 instead of 9:30, we split into a couple different groups and wandered our ways to the train station for a couple hours. One group found a little shop with masks of different celebrities, including the Queen and One Direction. (I bought the Queen mask, which Courtney later used to taunt Amara.) Amy, Courtney, Christina, Jessie, Andrea, Gretchen, and I found a little spot of grass (which was actually just turf, much to our disappointment) and took a little time to relax before meeting up with the group for our train.

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We all made it to the train station on time and found seats for the train ride, using our BritRail passes for the last time. An hour and a half later and we were stepping onto the Paddington station in London! Dr. Clark purchased some Oyster cards for us so we can travel the underground and use buses without paying for a new pass everyday, and then we were on our way to the hostel. Thankfully, our hostel is less than a block away from St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is only a block away from the tube (subway) station. Yay for simple travel! We dropped all of our heavy bags off in our rooms, took a little time to cool down, and headed back into the tube to head over to King’s Cross station. After a fairly long yet entertaining queue wait, we each got our pictures taken in front of Platform 9 & 3/4, the famous platform from the Harry Potter movies. Because of our long wait and the time we were able to spend in the nearby gift shop, we didn’t have time to make it to the portrait gallery. Instead, we took a train to the Trafalgar Square area and went to an extremely posh grocery store. And by posh, I mean the Queen gets her groceries there and I was scared of breaking things just by looking at them. The street views are amazing though, considering the older architecture mixed in with more modern bits.

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With all the bus, train, and underground rides we took throughout the day, we saw a pretty decent amount of London (and what lies beneath it), but it also drained us of any energy we started the day with. By the time we had all settled down into our designated hostel rooms, most of us were ready to sleep or lie in bed and just relax. We gathered enough energy to wait downstairs for some dinner from the hostel and sing Kesha in our rooms, probably earning a groan from the other group on our floor. To the dismay of room 10, the bells of St. Paul’s Cathedral ring every hour on the hour, including the wee hours of the morning. With a six o’clock wake-up call from these bells, we started our first full day in London.

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Day 4: Let’s Not Stay Outside

Today we had another early morning, most of us waking up around seven and heading down to breakfast at 7:30. An hour later, we were all climbing onto a mini-bus in the cold, foggy, rain-filled parking lot for the hour-long drive from York to Whitby. The driver, Daniel, kept most of us occupied during the long drive, telling jokes and stories and little bits of history. After passing through a few little towns (and an “Authentic American Food” restaurant, which apparently resembles everything from ‘Man vs. Food’), we finally made it to Whitby. We stepped off the bus into the cold England air and shivered in wait while Dr. Clark got our passes for Whitby Abbey. Fortunately, we went through the warm museum bit first and learned a bit more about the Abbey. Then we put our warmth aside and went outside, but it was totally worth it. The Abbey is absolutely beautiful, despite it’s deteriorating exterior. Christina gave her presentation on Bede and Caedmon, then we all ran around and took pictures of the Abbey, some of us walking a bit further and getting photos of the North Sea nearby. Amara started her presentation on Dracula and the novel’s relations to the Abbey before we took a brief warm walk back through the little museum.

Just a bit further from the Abbey was St. Mary’s Church, another location referenced in Dracula. We wandered around, admiring the grounds and building while Amara finished her presentation. We reluctantly left the warmth of the building (if you haven’t caught on yet, it was really cold), and took the 199 steps leading from the church to the main portion of the city. Dr. Clark, Gretchen, Christina, Jessie, Jessica, Amara, Tara, and I went to Trencher’s for fresh fish and chips for lunch – the fish was literally caught either that day or the night before. I had a turkey sandwich, but those in the bunch that had the fish said it was the best fish they’ve ever had. Most of us had some tea with our food, partially to warm up from the wet and cold and partially to just try some new teas. Fun fact: Toms aren’t good footwear for wet grass.

We had an hour left to wander the town and explore a bit. Other than Dr. Clark, the bunch from Trencher’s scavenged for decent-priced jet: the black gem made popular by Queen Victoria, since she wore black for approximately 8000 years (an extreme over exaggeration, of course) after her husband died.

Bus driver Daniel met us outside one of the grocery stores and gave us an equally interesting drive back to York. A little group of us started singing some songs, varying from a sing-along to “Come On, Eileen” to an a cappella rendition of “We Go Together” from ‘Grease.’ When we came back, about half of us went to Evensong – an evening chorus service at church – and the rest went back to the hostel to relax and/or nap. Now, other than one person who’s journaling, two who are discussing comics (guess who one of those is? Hint: it’s Natasha), and me, everyone is playing Catchphrase in the lounge of the hostel.

Despite the bitter cold of the day, we all had a really exciting day. We only visited two places in particular, but everything we do is fun with this group. This is going to be such a cheesy ending to this post, but I love this group and couldn’t ask for any better people to spend the month with.