Hello again! I can’t believe it is the middle of February, and that I have already been in London for over six weeks. Part of me feels like the time is flying by, and another part of me feels like it’s been ages since I was strolling the streets of Temple’s campus in Philadelphia. Since I have already been here a while, I have done the majority of the major tourist attractions one typically flocks too upon entering the city. That’s why this week was particularly exciting, as I got to venture out of London and into the English country-side for the first time. My program provider, IFSA Butler, organizes various excursions for program participants including both day and overnight trips. This week, our excursion was to Stonehenge, the mysterious prehistoric monument, and to the nearby town of Winchester.
Our bus departed from Notting Hill at 8:30 on Saturday morning, and we were on our way to Stonehenge. This was my first time leaving the city center of London, and even the smallest things seemed so foreign. About twenty minutes after our departure we saw a gas station, and I realized I had not seen one of those since I arrived. Obviously, I do not particularly miss the beauty of gas pumps and fuel cost signs, but it was strange to realize that something I would normally pass every single day hasn’t been present at all for so long. It made me wonder what other small nuances from home I had long forgotten and will undoubtedly be excited to see come my homecoming in May.
But enough about gas stations and bus rides, let’s talk about Stonehenge! Now I distinctly remember doing a project on Stonehenge in the third grade, but never really thought I would be standing fifteen feet away from the massive structure. Part of me felt like Stonehenge was slightly overrated, as it really is just a pile of rocks, and part of me felt the fascination that others have exhibited over this mystery for years. When I say “massive structure” I really do mean MASSIVE. How an ancient civilization was able to move these insanely heavy rocks, and why, really is an interesting concept to fathom. Unfortunately, my time allotted to marveling at the rock formation was cut short due to the frigid temperatures outside, so after twenty minutes or so of captivation we snapped our pictures and headed back to the warm bus toward Winchester.
Prior to this excursion, I had never heard of the city of Winchester, and I am sure most of you have not either. It is a small town, with plenty of pubs and markets – making it the perfect place to get that typical English feel without the added hustle and bustle of London. The town itself was my favorite part of the day, as it was filled with the warmest people I have met so far in Europe, despite the freezing temperatures. Everyone we talked to was more than willing to tell us where to go and what to see, both in Winchester as well as other parts of England. We all decided that we want to go to as many of the smaller cities in England as we could, as everyone has told us they are definitely worth the trek. We stopped in a pub for lunch, and then decided to see the major sites associated with the area. These include Jane Austen’s tomb in the Winchester Cathedral, and a model of King Arthur’s round table made in the 1500’s on display in Winchester Castle. The cathedral in which Jane Austen’s tomb is located is truly beautiful, with rows and rows of ancient texts and bibles as well as various chapels and historical artifacts.
Here is a picture of Jane Austen’s tomb as it sits in the cathedral
This week marks the fifth week of the semester, and the week I have my first paper due so I must be off to the library! More later!