On Quills, Jane Austen, Pendulums, and Stonehenge (Need I Go On?)

Hey there, internet people! I’ve got exciting news–the blog just passed 2,000 page views! Which, if you happen to follow me on Twitter (as I know you do since my every insignificant thought is essential) you already know. So once again I’m extending you many, many thanks for supporting my writing, story telling, and ranting.

Now, on to my latest tale of adventure and excitement…

This past weekend, I went on our school trip, hitting up Oxford, Bath and Stonehenge in an epic bus tour the likes of which I wish I could repeat time and time again. I got up bright and early, threw some things in my carry-on bag, had a hasty breakfast and then hopped on a coach headed for Oxford, catching a quick nap on the way there.

Oxford was an amazing town. We were only there for four hours, so I don’t know that I can say I really got to know it in any deep way, but the surface scratch revealed a lot of things I’d like to get to know better one day, if I can. We had tea and scones in an adorable little Cafe and then headed around to a few different shops–one of which sold a bunch of really fancy (and expensive) quills and leather-bound journals. You can imagine how hard I had to work to keep my wallet from leaping out of my purse and emptying itself on the counter there, but I DID manage it, even if a part of me was promising to come back for each and every one of those quills and journals when I become rich and famous (as, obviously, I intend to do).

From there, we made our way to Blackwell’s Bookshop, which is apparently famous in some way. And for good reason. It was the BIGGEST most AMAZING book store I have ever seen–hundreds upon hundreds of books, stacked up several stories high. They had an entire building devoted to research topics and then one devoted to classics and poetry and fiction of other varieties. Naturally, I ended up leaving there with several books, but they are these really adorable little books with ribbons to keep your place and gold-guilded pages, so I can’t say I’m sorry it happened. After a brief panic about losing track of time, we made it back to board our coach and head off to Bath. Another nap (and a lot of All American Rejects, since I haven’t been able to stop listening to them since I found out they’re going to be on tour this summer) and then I was opening my eyes to Bath. Up, up, up a big steep hill and we were at our hostel, unloading and getting ready to trek out with some classmates to find a pub for dinner.

Bath Youth Hostel

One of the things I love about the study abroad experience is all the new people I’ve been able to meet, and been brave enough to talk to while I’ve been here. Something about being in another country means it’s that much more okay to just TALK to people. And I don’t just mean people who are studying at Harlaxton, either. Once we got back from dinner (which was a delicious Tuna and matured cheddar panini), Shannon and I decided to have a seat and have a drink in the common area, which naturally led us into conversation with some of the other people who were staying at our hostel. There was a middle-aged man who teaches in Denmark, a mother and daughter from the Netherlands, an older man from Germany, and a guy about our age from California, and suddenly we were all just sitting around in one big circle talking about culture and politics and telling stories about everything you could imagine. It was one of those really amazing experiences that, even while it’s happening, you sit there in amazement and disbelief. 

Anyway, eventually that conversation had to end and we went to bed, ready to rest up for our day trip to Glastonbury and our afternoon in Bath.

Glastonbury was amazing. I’ve heard a lot of my classmates say that it was the weirdest place they had ever been, and I have to say that I agree… and that I loved it! It’s officially on my list of places I want to live, even if that gets me a raised eyebrow or two. You see, Glastonbury Cathedral was allegedly the place where some monks dug up King Arthur and Guinevere’s bodies. The ruins were gorgeous and of course Shannon and I ran around among them, touching the little bit of history like maniacs, and that was fantastic. But, as you can maybe guess from the connections with Arthurian legends, Glastonbury wasn’t your average tourist town. It wasn’t even your quintessential British town. Glastonbury was a town that was full of the most random array of people, and the most concentrated Wiccan population I have ever seen (not that, admittedly, my personal experience has been all that great). We popped in to several shops full of crystals and spell books and pendulums and other such things that I’m sure a lot of people would find creepy. But as someone who prides herself on an open mind, and who, more to the point, has always had a fascination with Wicca and similar nature worship religions, I was in heaven (do you see what I did there?). Although I didn’t want to leave, we did eventually have to climb back on the coach and head back to Bath.

Not that, of course, I was anything less than ecstatic about being in Bath. As a Jane Austen fan, naturally I’ve always wanted to go there. So it was a bit surreal when I found myself standing there, and then I found myself in the Jane Austen museum, learning much more about her life than I had ever known. The thing that makes me happy is, I think Jane and I would have gotten along quite well–she was a strong person, and a very independent woman, especially for her time. It’s sad to think the author of so many happy endings never got one herself, but I like to think she was content with her lot in life most of the time. Anyway, we got to browse through an exhibit, watch a video about her time in Bath, and lastly we got the chance to try on bonnets, which was a lot of fun (even if I learned definitively that bonnets are NOT my thing). From there, we had a quick wander, took a peek at the Pump Room, and made our way back up the big hill to our hostel to chill until dinner. Did I mention that somehow a fountain pen made its way home with me? Yes… the second time I could NOT resist, and now I’ll have to figure out a way to transport it safely home with me so my journal writing can make me feel like Jane Austen from now on.

Anyway, Shannon and I spent the night in, making a quick excursion to Tesco (convenience store) for dinner provisions, such as bread and a hunk of delicious mature cheddar that I accidentally left in the hostel fridge. We spent a little time socialising with our classmates, and then, weary from the long day of so much awesomeness, we hit the hay.

Woke up to head down the big hill to see the Roman Baths! Which, sadly enough, you cannot actually bath in anymore. Bath still has hot springs, mind you, but they have nice (expensive) spas set up ’round them, and we decided to skip on the expense for this time. Still, it was pretty cool standing in such a well preserved Roman bath house and, yes admittedly, touching the water a little bit. We even tossed coins into the sacred well and made a wish or two, then spent a probably disturbing amount of time trying to get pictures of pigeons bathing in the water. When we got tired of tormenting the wildlife, we grabbed a spot of tea and headed back for our coach to leave Bath behind.

And then, the trip home, stopping on the way at Stonehenge–THE Stonehenge–and Salisbury Cathedral. Stonehenge was both exactly like I pictured and totally different. It was a little sad that we weren’t allowed to walk up and touch it, but we were allowed to get pretty close, considering people have tried to carve their names into it. Honestly, I worry about people sometimes. On our way out, we ended up having a short conversation with one of the druids from the area, and he told us how they were allowed to go in to the ruins on the equinoxes and the solstices to do their rituals. Then, he invited us to come along! We both got really excited, only to remember we already had plans that weekend, but it’s still a nice thing to imagine getting to do one day. From there, we (fittingly, somehow) headed to Salisbury cathedral, where we looked at your usual gorgeous Christian splendor, and I left feeling very well rounded and adult.

One four hour nap later, and it was home sweet manor home, and back to the sad reality of all the homework that is mounting up around me even as I type this. An amazing weekend, and many more to come yet… but in the end, it IS still school, one of the things that is sometimes hardest to remember.

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One thought on “On Quills, Jane Austen, Pendulums, and Stonehenge (Need I Go On?)

  1. Hello there Amanda just surfing as per usual and came across your blog and glad you made a trip out to Bath and was wondering if you would like to join us on the Jane Austen Centre's Online Forum as a member. Updating us on whatever you are writing about or your experience in Bath.
    Our moniker on twitter is JAConlineforum
    Stella G
    Senior Member Recuiter
    http://www.janeausten.co.uk/forum/

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