Thursday, September 29, 2011

Romance in Rome

On Friday the 22nd, I flew to Rome, one of my favorite cities. I arrived at the bed and breakfast Suites Trastevere late that night. The following day, I woke early and walked around the city, visiting the Forum, which was free. I then went to the airport to pick up my wonderful girlfriend Rachel. Rachel and I settled in the hotel, then walked the city, visiting the Campo di Fiore and Piazza Navonna among other things. We had dinner at a wonderful restaurant called the Station, right outside our b and b. The food was the best I've had in years, and it was the only restaurant in Rome we actually went to twice. I knew this was the beginning of perhaps the best week of my life to date.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Last Seminar Tutorial

Today was my last Shakespeare seminar tutorial. The session was on Othello which is one of my favorite plays. I had trouble concentrating. I am completely ready for break, and had printed out my boarding pass and changed money to Euros right before the tutorial (bad idea!) I met my friend beforehand and told her I "wasn't there" (as in had checked out mentally)- a bit like going to school (as teacher or student) the day before Christmas break. At any rate, I did well on my paper, and then had four pound (price, not weight) pizzas- we go every Thursday. They have many varieties- I had the Bombay today, liked the New York from last week better. Tomorrow, I'm off to Rome!!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Day off

While everyone else seems to be scrambling to get their final assignments before the break done, I had a day off (since I submitted my paper early). We had to stay at the house until noon, so eepak could come by for an inspection. I also did something today that I've wanted to for some time- I put a few posters up- giving the room some colour (yes, it's England)!

After the inspection I headed down to London. I had been to the city twice as a kid, and had been by Westminster Abbey many times. In fact, I even got to climb the roof of the Abbey in 1995, during a reconstruction project- but I had never actually been inside. For that reason, my first stop was to go inside the Abbey. Photos are not allowed inside- but it was incredible!! To see so many amazing tombs- Queen Elizabeth, Edward the Confessor, Dickens, Chaucer, Newton, and so on- it was an incredible experience. I kept thinking of the Royal Wedding, just this past spring, and how amazing it would have felt to be there. I also liked how James had to put Mary, Queen of Scots (his mother) in a parallel tomb to Elizabeth- and that Elizabeth is buried on top of her half-sister Mary- such intense rivals all together in death.

I left Westminster Abbey, thoroughly impressed, and walked to Westminster Cathedral. I had seen it from the outside but never went in- not my favorite place- very Byzantine feeling, which is not my favorite style- and the domes are completely undecorated on the inside. I did go to the top of the tower and got some good views of the city. Then I walked through Hyde Park to Marble Arch. I couldn't find my bus stop, so went to the "Museum of Everything" (again no photos allowed)- a nonprofit display of modern art. After that I had dinner at McDonald's (I took the picture because the fries were actually the best "chips" I've had in Britain- not their normal fries, these were potato wedges), and then walked to Picadilly Circus where I took the underground back to the coach station. In the pics I included pics of the chicken korma I made for everyone yesterday.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Finished- for now...

Last night I stayed up late completing work on my Othello paper. I have one more seminar Tutorial on Thursday, but am finished work-wise until Michaelmas Term begins, after the Travel Break. Fells good to be done!

Monday, September 19, 2011


When I was young I visited the birthplace of Shakespeare. I was not impressed at the time, and remember thinking of it as a tourist trap. I returned to Stratford-Upon-Avon to meet Dave, my sister-in-law Kelly's dad, and his wife Ying. It was a nice day. We went to the grave, but otherwise stayed away from the touristy stuff, and just had fun talking and hanging around the town.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Friend, A Palace, A Hilarious Show

Saturday the 17th was my first day trip to London. It was a very long day, waking up at 6:30am, and not going to sleep until after 2am the following day. It was also an amazing day, with three major highlights.

When I was fifteen, I left the States for the first time as part of a 10-day exchange program in Wellingborough, England. We (my high school group) performed "South Pacific," while living with host families. I befriended the star actor of their school, who played Puck for us in a performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Her name is Nadia Shash. Nadia and I became very close friends, and were pen pals for a decade. We saw each other in person twice after that, once in England, and once in the States. She became a professional actress while I planned to be a theatre teacher. I hadn't seen her for thirteen years. Until Saturday.

Nadia and I met at the London Eye, walked a bit of the South Bank, and then took the train to Hampton Palace, home of Henry VIII, William and Mary, and a number of other English monarchs. The Palace was amazing. The best part was actually the chapel, which could not be photographed. I also liked seeing Henry VIII himself. While we were there, Catherine Parr was threatened with imprisonment by Lord Wriothesley, and Henry decided she was honorable enough to be pardoned. It was an interesting show. The gardens and maze were also nice, we actually did the maze twice by accident, not realizing we were supposed to exit near the heart of the maze. I especially liked spending the day with Nadia, seeing an old friend who I hadn't seen in years.

After Hampton, I went alone back to the South Bank. I saw a play called "One Gentleman and Two Guv'nors". Nadia had recommended buying a five pound standing ticket, which I did. The show was wonderful, and absolutely hilarious. It was a retelling of Carlo Goldoni's classic Commedia dell'Arte play "The Servant of Two Masters"- one of my favorite Commedia plays. I laughed until it hurt at times, and had a wonderful time. It contained every important commedia element: improv, audience interaction, slapstick, and ridiculous comedy. Very well done. The National Theatre is also an amazing venue, with live jazz before the show, free performances outside as the show began, and a number of theatres. Took some pics on my (long) walk back to Victoria, and called it a day- a wonderful time in London.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

First Tutorial

England isn't all fun and adventures. Today was my first tutorial. The actual session was fun- there's pictures of our room, which was in Jesus College above Cornmarket Street and apparently dates back to the early 1600s. A few other pics of the past two days, Gloucester Green Market, the Morrocan Street market, a fajita lunch the house and I had today, etc. The actual class was great, I enjoyed learning and arguing. Then I got my paper back and had done horribly! Hopefully I'll do better on the next one...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Today marks two weeks in England, and tomorrow is actually a milestone in itself- it will be the longest I've ever been out of the country at one time. Making this even more exciting is the fact that I won't be back in the States until December 16, which is more than 3 months from now. I do not feel homesick at all, although I do miss my girlfriend Rachel a great deal. Luckily I will see her soon. I do miss my parents and family a bit I suppose, but am having so much fun here that it's hard to tell. No pics for today, mostly did school work (Titus and Othello)- also went to the Gloucester Green market which they have every Wednesday but bought nothing (today was actually my first day abroad that I didn't spend a thing), and walked through a Morrocan Street market that was here for the day.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Medieval England

Today was thrilling. It took four hours to get there by bus and rail, but at last I arrived in the beautiful and magical city of Glastonbury! Glastonbury is a medieval town, a pilgrimage site, and the likely location of King Arthur's Camelot. I have been to Stonehenge, which some people call magical- it's a dead pile of rocks. Glastonbury felt alive to me. Driving through Somerset (middle of nowhere- just sheep) you suddenly see the tor rise up in the distance- my heart skipped a beat. After lunch in Glastonbury, I went on a two mile hike through fields of cows, sheep, and horses (they are literally right there with you) to the summit of Glastonbury Tor. It's a hard climb up- and the weather suddenly got sunny, colder, and incredibly windy. There was heart carved into the hill next to it. The view is amazing, and you stand at the ruins of St George's Tower. I walked down the Tor, and went to the Chalice Spring. This is the supposed spot where Joseph of Aramathea buried the Holy Grail, causing an iron-rich spring to magically sprout. It was beautiful, and very peaceful. I did drink from the spring. Then I went to Glastonbury Abbey and the tomb of King Arthur and Guenevere. The ruins of the Abbey are magnificent- you walk through them and can touch them (nothing like the cold distance of Stonehenge), and the grass and orchards and sun all have a living feel to them- it's really hard to put in words. The entire town is a bit hippie-ish, with pagan and magical stuff everywhere in the shops- but the real sites do feel different somehow... If nothing else, they feel real, beautiful, and accessible . I left Glastonbury far too soon, trying to get back to Wells, which I wanted to also see. I got to Wells at 5:15, so the bishop palace was closed, as was much of the cathedral. I did go in the cathedral and heard the beginning of the evensong service, but did not attend. Picture taking is actually not allowed inside the Cathedral, so don't tell anyone if you look at this blog... Dinner on the fast-moving bumpy train made me sick going home, but it was still a wonderful, medieval-feeling day.


Don't normally post in the morning, but before I go off on another adventure, just wanted to say how good crumpets are- never had em before. My normal breakfast here (I don't eat cereal) has been half a bagel and fruit. Then I bought crumpets. Today I had one crumpet with nutella and one with apple jelly that Jacob (Rachel's husband) brought us from Germany- both were fantastic!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Oxford Opens Doors

Oxford Opens Doors is a citywide program where a number of colleges and other attractions open to the public for free. Christchurch and the Bodelian- the two things I wanted to see the most were still closed. I did go to Carfax Tower, Saxon Tower, Exeter College, Jesus College, the Old Bodelian (including the Divinity School), All Souls College (amazing!), St Edmund Hall (College), Magdalen College (enormous deer parks), and New College (the one I'll be attending).

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ddiwrnod i mewn Caerdydd (A Day in Cardiff)

For about ten years, I've had a huge fascination with Welsh culture, history, and mythology. The Mabinogion is my favorite group of myths. Today I spent an incredible day in the capital of Cymru (Wales) - Caerdydd (Cardiff)! The city is remarkably dualistic: very, very old, and yet newer than anywhere I've been yet in the UK. It is in fact two cities: Cardiff and Cardiff bay, and each has a distinct feel. I got to walk on location where many Doctor Who episodes were filmed (you may notice the diner from "the Impossible Astronaut" or the plaze (Roald Dahl Plas) where the Doctor and Martha had their last goodbye... The castle (Castell Caerdydd) is the BEST castle I've ever been to or seen in my life- and that's in any country! It blew me away- and was stunning. The actual city center was also interesting- formed along "arcades" that flow through the rest of the buildings. Overall an amazing place, and hard to fit into a single day!! I also took more pictures today than I've ever taken in a single day...

Friday, September 9, 2011

First Pub Meal

Tonight I had my first dinner at a pub. I had a pot pie: chicken in cider- which was delicious, and had it with a pint of Strongbow. I went to the meal with the other members of my house, but came home alone to rest up for Wales tomorrow. What better pub to go to than the famous Eagle and Child- the pub where JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis met to drink and discuss book ideas in the writers' group the "inklings"! It was great!


After some studying, I went to the Ashmolean, the huge museum here and the oldest university museum in the world. It was very nice.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Always New Things

There's always something new to discover- today I went to the train station to get tickets for the weekend, and went to the Oxford University Parks after dinner. Also wrote a lot of my first paper! The metal X (a slanted cross) in one of the pics appears all over the city at sites where people were martyred.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Work Begins!

Come to Oxford to relax/party/explore... well no, I may have done all those things (in fact have done all three just today), but technically I'm here to study/learn. Spent the day in Blackwell's studying and working- probably be back tomorrow. On a different note Rachel, one of my housemates, brought a big smile to my face. I headed to a party with a number of other study abroad students, and she called me concerned because I wasn't home for dinner. No other house in the program has gelled quite the way mine has- love these guys!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


One of my favorite things about Oxford is feeling like I have a real home to come back to, and a real family here. My housemates are all wonderful, and we are all friends. We've had a lot of meals here together at the house, something none of the other residences seem to do. Today, on our first day of real English weather (cold, gray, rainy), I made chili for everyone in my house plus Sarah, who is like part of the house. Rachel made us all dessert.

Monday, September 5, 2011

School begins

Michaelmas term does not begin until October. For September, I am in a three person tutorial on Shakespeare, focusing on King Lear, Titus Andronicus, and Othello. My housemates have all started lectures that they have multiple papers for. I spent today reading King Lear in the magnificent Oxford Botanical Garden. It was a lovely day. The St Giles' fair is going on- taking up a huge section of the city- TONS of rides and food, some real amusement-park style rides. I didn't go, had homework, plus it's REALLY expensive. Also annoyed about my shoe- the sole in my sneaker, which is about one month old, came right out today. Guess I need to buy new ones...

Sunday, September 4, 2011


So much going on- I love this beautiful and old city, and my housemates are all wonderful and my friends. The weather's been great so far, and not a day has gone by without a walk into the city. Highlights for me include seeing the town from the top of St Mary's, our first lunch as a house (cooked this afternoon- pancakes, bacon, eggs, yogurt), first Fish and Chips (which was my first dinner), and just walking around town. I've had a beer in a pub, an English Breakfast at a cafe, and even got to walk the stage of New Theatre. This is going to be an amazing semester!!



I'm at Oxford- soooo much going on!