Saturday, June 27, 2015

{England Trip} Part 4: Ruins + Countryside

It's time for me to share with you some of my favorite parts of my whole trip! In this post, I'm going to tell you about our visit to the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, and to White Horse Hill in Uffington, both of which are interesting historical sites and are absolutely stunning.

First up, here are some of my favorite photos from the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, which was destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries during the Protestant Revolt. I won't give you a whole history lesson here, but you should look up the history of Glastonbury Abbey: for Catholics, it is a tragic story, and in general, the abbey holds historical significance. One important point of interest (that's on a happier note) is that the legendary King Arthur's (supposed) grave is located at this abbey.

     


As you can see, we had so much fun exploring and climbing these stunning ruins. (And there were so many nooks + crannies that were perfect for sitting in!) Glastonbury Abbey ended up being one of everyone's favorite parts of the trip.

Next up, here are some of my favorite photos from White Horse Hill, which is where the famous White Horse of Uffington is located, as well as Uffington Castle (which isn't actually a real castle). Again, I won't give you a history lesson, but this place is also of interesting historical significance. The figure of a horse that lies in the side of the hill, formed from chalk, has been there since the Bronze Age. It is also the horse that G.K. Chesterton's "Ballad of the White Horse" refers to.

We hiked up the steep (very steep) hill to the horse and the castle, and took in the breathtaking views. You could literally see for miles, and it felt like we were on top of the world. Though it was chilly and windy, we had an amazing time up on that hill.

part of the Uffington White Horse
just to give you an idea of how steep this hill is...
sheep!

Thanks for keeping up with my posts about England ~ I hope you're enjoying them! Stay tuned for a couple more to come!

God bless,
~Stephanie

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

{England Trip} Part 3: Highlights of London

my sister and I in front of Big Ben
it was a rainy English day
crossing Millennium Bridge
Our first time in London was a day-trip from Oxford on a chilly, rainy day (in typical England fashion) which we spent sightseeing at different tourist attractions. We visited Westminster Abbey, toured the Churchill War Rooms, and saw Big Ben + the Houses of Parliament. Then we crossed Millennium Bridge to go see Shakespeare's Globe and the Rose Theatre. Lots of cool sites! One of my favorite moments of the day was visiting Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey, where many authors are buried ~ including Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and others. My literature major self was freaking out.

We got to experience a lot more of London during the last segment of our trip, when we stayed in London for our last three nights in England. Our adventures in London during these days included exploring the British Museum, sitting on the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral ("feed the birds, tuppence a bag..."), shopping at Harrods, seeing Buckingham Palace, and touring the Tower of London, where we saw things like the Crown Jewels of the British Monarchy and the Royal Armouries.
St. Paul's Cathedral
on the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral ~ "feed the birds, tuppence a bag..."
Buckingham Palace
the Atrium in the British Museum
I look just like him, don't I?
approaching Harrods
Tower Bridge
outside the Tower of London
my sister and I outside the Tower of London
at the Tower of London
At the Tower of London we also experienced the most special part of our time in London (and perhaps one of the most special parts of the whole trip). We were able to visit St. Thomas More's prison cell as well as his tomb, both of which are located in the Tower. To see these places is a rare opportunity that we were incredibly fortunate to have, as these are not places open to the general public. In fact, our guide told us that in his two years working at the Tower, this was only his third time giving a tour of these sites.

Visiting these places, especially St. Thomas More's tomb, was a powerful, once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget. As I knelt before his tomb, tears just poured out of my eyes.  It was so moving being in the physical presence of such an amazing, remarkable saint.
a sign inside St. Thomas More's prison cell
me inside Thomas More's prison cell
St. Thomas More's tomb
I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures in London! Stay tuned for more posts about England ~ including posts about some of my favorite experiences of the whole trip!

God bless,
~Stephanie

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

{England Trip} Part 2: Shakespeare, Tolkien, + a Palace


During our stay in Oxford, we took a day trip to the adorable town of Stratford-upon-Avon, home to Shakespeare's birthplace as well as his grave. There we toured his Birthplace (pictured in the first four photos above), and then visited Holy Trinity Church, where his grave is located (pictured in the last four photos). Since my high school puts on a Shakespeare play every year, this was a special day for everyone in my group. Shakespeare holds a very dear place in each of our hearts, so it was exciting, unforgettable, and quite an honor to visit the place where he was born, walk through the town he lived in, and pray at his grave site.

Our day became really special when some of the kids in my group had the opportunity to perform at the Birthplace! There were a few actors in the courtyard outside the Birthplace performing scenes from Shakespeare plays on the spot + by request. At some point, it came out that our group had just put on a production of King Lear in May, and the actors invited us to perform some scenes, if we wished. I of course was not in King Lear, since I graduated two years ago, so I did not perform, but I excitedly and proudly spectated as the kids (my sister among them) acted out four of their scenes. How cool for them to get to perform Shakespeare, right there outside his birthplace, in Stratford-upon-Avon! It was a pretty unforgettable experience. 

Earlier this same day, on our way to Stratford, we made a quick stop at Blenheim Palace, home of the Duke of Marlborough. There we had lunch and had time to explore the beautiful grounds. Though it was a blustery, chilly day, we had fun burning off some energy while wandering around outside the gorgeous palace.


Oh, and I almost forgot. At the beginning of this same amazing day, we visited J.R.R. Tolkien's grave. Yup. :)

As a perfect end to a perfect day, I had some of the most amazing fish + chips of my life at a restaurant in Stratford called Loxley's, accompanied by a delicious rose wine and followed by a divinely delicious brownie + ice cream dessert. I still can't believe it, but I ate every bite of it all. And I even got to dine with Shakespeare.

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more tales of my adventures in England!
~Stephanie
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