Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

City and Country

September 14th, 2010 · No Comments

I think that some of my favorite activities we’ve done since we’ve been here have been our day trips to Bath, Oxford, and Stratford.  I don’t think I could ever live in a city permanently; the crowds, the chaos, the push and shove hustle and bustle in London would definitely be too stressful for me to handle on a long term basis.  Driving through the countryside on our way to our destinations was a refreshing break for me, and was much more reminiscent of home than our lives in the city.  Below is a picture I took through the bus window on our way home from Bath.

There are several key differences I have observed between London and the smaller cities of Bath, Oxford, and Stratford.  Let’s begin with visuals.  First is a picture I took from halfway up to the  top of Bath Abbey looking out over Bath.  Next is a picture I took from the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral looking out over London.

Striking difference, isn’t it?  The first major difference I noticed is illustrated by these pictures.  London is extremely chaotic, with Gothic churches next to modern office buildings next to museums next to hotels created in Georgian architecture next to parks with no particular rhyme or reason and  no grid pattern to the streets.  Each of the smaller cities we visited seemed planned.  The streets were laid out in straight lines; coming back from the church to the bus in Stratford we were easily able to just reverse our steps and when John said that the coach was straight down this block, it actually was straight, and the name of the street stayed the same all the way down.  Houses were grouped with houses and businesses with businesses.  You can see this in my photo from Bath – nice rows of houses on the horizon.  Finally, each city seemed to have a unifying theme.  In Bath, it is the distinctively colored Bath Stone.  In Oxford, it is the many colleges.  In Stratford, it is the Tudor architecture and the fact that all the streets, hotels, and pubs are named after something Shakespearean.  (You could argue that that last theme is a bit kitsch, but still, it is a theme.)

You can also see from the pictures that the buildings in Bath are a lot shorter than the buildings in London.  In Bath, the tallest feature is a spire, like it used to be in London.  In London, the skyscrapers on the horizon, each one striving to be taller than the last, demonstrates the individualistic capitalism and commercialism that has touched this city more than others.  Our day trips have reminded me how London truly is the financial and cultural capital of the world, a place which draws people, a place where things always have to be happening.  Bath, Oxford and Stratford seem to be less touched by this globalized commercialism.  I did spot a Ben and Jerry’s in Bath, but I did not see Starbucks and KFC’s on every corner like we do in London.

I think that a slower pace of life and a greater appreciation for people goes hand in hand with the softened touch of commercialism in the smaller cities. I think  a good example of this contrast is seen by comparing busking in Bath and London.  From what I learned from our tour guide in the Bath Abbey, the buskers have their own kind of community.  In Bath, you don’t need a license to perform in the streets, but you are only allowed to stay in the same place for one hour before you have to move 50 metres down the street.  The buskers regulate this themselves; they form their own queues and rotations for different spots throughout the city.  In London, buskers need a license, and they are assigned a specific spot and specific time to perform.  It is doubtful that many of them know each other or even cross paths.  Furthermore, in Bath, people sit around the squares and actually listen to the busker perform for the entire half hour or hour he is there.  In the London Underground, people always hurry right past the performers, barely noticing them.    In the smaller cities, I felt like there were actually people, as opposed to the anonymous mass we have observed in London.

Personally, I prefer the smaller towns and cities to London, but they are not without their disadvantages.  Obviously, there is not as much diversity to be found in the smaller cites, nor are there are many opportunities for arts and museums as there are in London.

A problem with the argument I have made in this post is that the three smaller cities we’ve gone to have also been very touristy cities.  Although I feel as though the observations I have made are accurate,  I recognize that they are limited by the presence of tourists queuing for attractions and buying gifts in gift shops.  I am excited to move to Norwich, a less touristy town and one in which we will actually get to participate in the communitiy, to see if my observations hold true.

Tags: 2010 Kaitlin

“…except for Barron who chose not to go”

September 2nd, 2009 · 1 Comment

Author’s Note: This post was written and live by yesterday at 2:45 PM. Due to systems maintenance back at Dickinson where the servers are, it was mysteriously deleted and all traces ceased to exist on the Internet. Fortunately I managed to find a partial backup of the post with Firefox’s super clutch about:cache utility. Panic attack over.

Okay, so I was the only one who opted out of going to the backstage tour of the National Theatre. Bad call Andrew, bad call. So while I depressively sit in my room waiting for the group to return, I might as well write one big über-post reflecting on the last week or so here in Britain.

To go back a few days, after Stonehenge, we schlepped out to Bath. I experienced some major mixed fellings on the way there. A knowledgeable friend told me that if there is one place to see in the UK, it is Bath. However, it’s a city whose economy is completely reliant on tourism, and I hate tourist traps. The city itself is a sight to be seen. The architecture stands out most clearly, as almost every building within the city limits is built in the Georgian style of the 18th and 19th Centuries.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bath,_Somerset


The first landmark we encountered was Bath Abbey, a picturesque Gothic cathedral from the 7th Century. I stood outside and stared at the exterior for a good ten minutes before entering. It is enchanting, imposing, captivating, and just about any other adjective of the sore fathomable. With that in mind, I was thrilled to go inside. The interior was the mixed feelings I had earlier incarnate. The nave itself is gorgeous, featuring high, vaulted ceilings and intricate stained glass windows reminiscent of Westminster. Juxtaposing the ancient architecture, however, were LCD monitors, postcard stands, and any other touristy accoutrement you can imagine. That made me physically sick to the stomach. It is one thing to have a gift shop attached to historical sites, as long as they are distinctly separated. There is nothing wrong with a tourism economy. But just as the Church and the State should be mutually exclusive, so should the site and the shop. A message to the tourism bureau of Bath: NEVER SHIT WHERE YOU EAT. It is not only offensive to the historical purity of the building, but downright sacrilegious to so blatantly mix shopping with as place as important as Bath abbey.

On a related note, The Tower of London wasn’t any better. Maybe we just chose the worst possible time to visit, but it was absolutely stuffed to the gills with sightseers. We forewent seeing the illustrious crown jewels because the queue was longer than the line for Splash Mountain in Disney World. And I’m sure the main attraction isn’t nearly as exciting. To be entirely honest, I didn’t learn much during my time at the Tower. I know that it is very rich historically, serving as a fortress, a prison, a headquarters, and most recently, a kitschy tourist trap. The most best aspect were the enormous ravens hanging out all over the grounds. They made entertaining noises. Not worth the money. (I took the following photographs.)



Phew. Ranting is cathartic.

Also, I am attempting to embed a slideshow of Bath Abbey into this post, but am failing miserably. I am giving up and posting a link to a  slide.com slideshow instead. Click here to view.

Moving on, yesterday was the world famous Notting Hill Carnival, the second largest street festival on the planet. To give the reader a perspective, imagine a crowded rock concert, complete with all the four essential, ubiquitous smells: food, beer, body odor, and ganja. Now take that crowd and spread it out over a twenty square mile radius, but don’t bother thinning out the population density. This year’s attendance figures aren’t live yet, but in past years the event has attracted an upwards of 1.5 million people split over two days, most on Monday, the main event. Since everything else is closed due to the national bank holiday, about an eighth of London’s population has nothing better to do, so why not get a taste of Afro-Caribbean culture and go to Carnival? (When reading, make sure to roll the R in Carnival for dramatic effect). Everywhere I went was in earshot of calypso, reggae, soca, or any other Caribbean-centric music played at rock concert decibel levels. There were more jerk chicken booths than Starbucks in Manhattan. Red Stripe and Corona quenched the throats of everyone, from the lavishly dressed parade people to the pasty white 20-somethings who can’t dance, in attendance just to escape the vanilla routine of Western life (i.e. me). It is definitely worth seeing, but make sure you arrive in the afternoon. We made the mistake of getting there at 10 AM, and were bored for about two hours.

Slideshow attempt #2

On a completely unrelated note, I have been listening to a lot of jazz lately, namely good hard-bop from the early 70s. I listen to a lot of music and it is by far one of my favorite genres, especially when seen live. As a result, I’ve been craving some raw, live jazz, and what better place to experience it than in the cultural center of the UK. I’ve also been considering writing my research paper on the London jazz scene, so it’s probably a good idea to get out there and experience it first hand. My rabid Googling has pointed me to a place called the 606 Club (click the link to see where the club got it’s name). The reviews are pretty glamorous (“London’s best music venue”), so I’m very excited to go in for a cocktail and listen to some great improvisational jazz, or whatever they have playing that evening. If you have never seen good jazz played in person, trust me on this one and come along to see the show. It is truly the best kind of live music around. Skilled musicians can emanate such powerful emotion from their horns, basses, drums, or voices unheard of in rock, hip-hop, or anything else kids today listen to. Definitely worth the £10 or so cover.

That about does it for now. I’m gonna get back to drinking wine alone in my underwear.

Tags: Andrew B

The Too-Perfect Bath

September 1st, 2009 · No Comments

Recently the Dickinson gang (including those Sciences weirdoes) took a trip to the picturesque town of Bath. Originally a resort town for the nobles of England, the town has thankfully spread out to let us mere mortals in. Situated between two hills with a river running through the center of town, it all seems too good to be true, and in a way is. The commercial center of the town is filled with shops of all variety, from stores like Tesco and Boots, to expensive boutique stores. Additionally, the town market was centered towards serving functional goods rather than souvenirs. After all of the obvious tourist traps in London, I was admittedly a little miffed at not being able to find too many places to criticize (That being said, it was pretty inexcusable to charge 1 pound just to enter the park. I guess I’m just spoiled from the fee-less parks of London… and everywhere else). Of course there were things like the street performers and tourist spots like the Roman Baths, but after hiking to the top of one of the hills through a purely residential area, all of that seemed to slip away. Perhaps this is the actual aim of Bath, to make it a place of recognition but at the same time be able to exist outside of its tourist identity (If only most parts of London could take a note).

Tags: Paul

Stonehenge, Bath and Thinking

August 30th, 2009 · No Comments

I always wanted to visit Stonehenge from the very moment I saw a picture of it.  There was something about its mystical nature which attracted me to it, and I am sure that I’m not alone in that regard.  Naturally, when I heard we would be visiting Stonehenge I was ecstatic.  The bus ride there was the perfect opportunity to ready myself to face one of the greatest human creations.  As we slowly moved away from the hustle and bustle of London to the countryside of England, my mood changed and I became much more relaxed.  The green landscape was a relief to see after so much time in the concrete jungle.

When we finally got to Stonehenge I was beyond happy.  Trying to grasp the fact that this monument was created thousands of years ago without any modern technology to move the massive stones is quite challenging.  Slowly walking around the structure, I had to marvel at the amazing nature of human engineering. Unfortunately, our visit was not that long; I wish I could visit Stonehenge more often since it is the perfect place for contemplation.  Though we saw it during the morning, I would have loved to see it at night.  I think such a structure can be better appreciated under a veil of darkness. To be surrounded by those stones under a starry night sky, deep in thought, would be a dream come true.

Bath was also great, but I found it to be too touristy.  There is amazing history inside the town but I felt like all the people and services which catered to them took away from what Bath really has to offer.  However, I did enjoy the Roman baths very much.  I found the untreated water to be fascinating to look at.  The audio guides were also very helpful and informative, as were the displays inside.  Also, Bath has great parks; I must have spent almost two hours relaxing and thinking.

At the end of the day, I realized how much I had thought that day and how peaceful it was.  I was grateful I had the opportunity to visit both Stonehenge and Bath.  It was a necessary break from London and one I hope to have opportunity to do again.

Tags: Andrew F

Week’s wrap up: Dancing Shivas and Fitzgeralds?

August 30th, 2009 · 2 Comments

This was initially a comment on Audrey’s wall, but I realized I hadn’t written my own blog post yet, and (more importantly) I was getting a bit preachy. So here it is:

I would first like to say that a city devoted to capitalistic endeavors is a beautiful thing. I look around and everywhere I see touristy traps– places trying to make you pay for restaurant seats and churches. Bath was no different, save for its own self recognition.  It didn’t try to be anything it wasn’t. You want to drink our fancy water, you bet your ass you’re paying money. So hats off to you Bath and your unashamed stance, don’t ever apologize!

I, like Audrey and fellow travelers, tried to find the quintessential “Bath.” Far beyond the wrenching grasp of the tourist industry. I wasn’t looking for anything beautiful though, on the contrary. I attempted to walk to streets further into the realm of residential. I found parks with no names, pubs with local patrons drinking at 2 in the afternoon, and shady alleyways with no pretty walls or paintings of any kinds.  It was no landscape shot, but there was a beauty in the simplicity. Sadly, I had no idea how to get home and wondered aimlessly for quite a while until like a beacon of hope I ran into Professor Qualls, who told me I was only a turn away from the church (I swear I had been wondering for a long time).

My love of Celtic heritage made going to Stonehenge cool. I mean the curiosity of the whole thing was pretty cool, especially seeing how the English lady on the head set phrased their speculation on its purpose. Honestly, I thought they weren’t very culturally relative: they kept applying a few modern ideas to the potential purpose. The thought that Stonehenge would be a symbol of power with other purpose seems a bit silly. Further, they kept bringing up concepts of hierarchy, which is complete speculation. Anyway

Next big thing was Borough Market, which was incredible. I have found my new love, sorry Planet Organic. How busy and hectic it was. The mushroom dip was especially delicious. Anything from Kangaroo burgers to a bottle of red wine can be found there.

I can’t exactly remember chronological order, but we saw Troilus and Cressida at the Globe Theatre, and I was quite happy with it. I felt they leaned a little too hard on the comedy side, but I was in a strange mood when I read the play initially. All the actors were fantastic and the visual aspects of the people were quite engaging.  It is always interesting to read works based around the Trojan War.  I remember when I was but a wee-lad, and my grandmother read the Illiad to me, thinking how amazing Achilles was and not really caring about Hector too much, but as I matured and read the work again by myself I began to sympathize more and more with him and less so with Achilles, which I think is the idea.  Both warriors are bound by a sense of honor and fate. After watching this preformance, I felt that Hector was almost more enslaved to his sense of duty than Achilles was to his pride.

The British Museum was pretty cool, and I think I finally get what everyone else has been feeling. When I was at the National Art Gallery, Paul stopped me to point out Sunflowers, by Van Gough, and I wasn’t really sure what to say. Cool? But when I was at the British Museum, I came across something called the Dancing Shiva (http://dustysojourner.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/shiva_nataraja_musee_guimet_25971.jpg). Last semester I had been one tequilla shot away from having the thing on my back (which doesn’t always mean it has any value to one at all but in this case it did). I’m not sure why, but it’s a symbol I have always connected with. The Nataraja is meant to represent the destruction of the universe through Shiva’s crazy dance moves, but it is also meant to show the oneness of the universe. So there I was, standing in front of this bronze statue feeling as giddy as a little school girl, awesome.

The Cabinet War Rooms and the Churchill Museum. What to say? The Brits love their Churchill. One of the first lines in the head set was something along the lines of Hitler and Churchill both had a cabinet, but Churchill never overroad his. Why bring Hitler into this? The other thing that made me chuckle was when they were retelling the story about the hole punch. Churchill basically chews out this secretary because he uses weird words and she couldn’t figure out what he meant, and then the head set said: but he had a lot of pressure, so it’s ok. Not ok Churchill, not okay. Overall, the museum was a giant pat on the back for the Brits and their ability to live in small rooms for a long time. Seeing where they lived was neat, but it wasn’t incredibly informative and despite having creepy wax figures and listening to recordings, I never felt enveloped in the way, I think, they wanted to make the guests feel.

As a note, make sure you ask the ticket guy for a receipt because they don’t give you one otherwise, and there is no way to be refunded without it– your ticket isn’t enough, and the museum isn’t worth the ten quid.

Anyway, cheers

Tags: Andrew R

Amanda has a date, and I am home blogging…

August 30th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Again I have the problem of figuring out what I want to write about. Because there has been so much going on I think this entry will be a more broad entry about what I have enjoyed seeing and doing these past few days.

On the day we went to Westminster Abbey, I forgot my camera. This type of incident leads me to believe that I am aging? Anyways I was very excited to know that we were going to have a guided tour through the Abbey. It was more than I could have imagined. I never knew it was a tomb to so many heroic and talented people. It took me a few minutes to get over the fact that every step I took my foot landed strategically on top of someones eroding body, but I finally got used to it. It was almost a dream to me to see the tomb of Queen Elizabeth I. I have developed somewhat of an obsession with her over the past year and now that I am here, and have the opportunity to see where she ruled i am even more interested.

After Westminster, Amanda and I went to the British museum. The blog concerning that, and a few other museums will be posted in due time.

I also wanted to blog about Stonehenge and Bath. Our trip to Stonehenge was quite quick however, it was truly fabulous to see it in person.  I have to admit, the structure does amount to the size seen in pictures. It really is a magnificent mystery.

On this trip I believe a fell in love with the city of Bath. The architecture and the history is fascinating, and the people are so interesting. Walking through the Roman Baths really allowed for me to imagine Londonium and the early Romans who lived within the country.

We ate lunch in a cute cafe, and I had the yummiest jacket potato! I am obsessed, I will be cooing them in Norwich for sure.

Myself, Chelsea, Sarah and Allie went to the Jane Austin Center. It was so much fun. My mom has been obsessed withe BBC version of Pride and Prejudice forever, and my siblings and I have all had our turns watching alongside her. This center made those characters and the Jane Austin come to life. Her history and her writing was very well depicted through the small but quaint little town house.

I am so glad we have the opportunity to explore outside of the city. I am also thankful that we have readings and other information that prepare us, or rather inform us about what we will see. I love the history in this country, and the more and more we explore, the more I appreciate everything this country has come to be.

DSC00191 DSC00217

DSC00221 DSC00245

Tags: Patsy

Stonehenge Nerd-dom and Bath Exploration

August 30th, 2009 · 2 Comments

When I heard that we would be going to Stonehenge, my first reaction was to check if Stonehenge was indeed the default desktop background for most PCs.  Upon learning that it was, I became even more excited. Is that nerdy?

I absolutely loved Stonehenge.  My mom had originally told me that it was used as a type of sundial, and a friend of mine told me to “enjoy being tortured and thrown into a mass grave” when I mentioned we were going there.  I hadn’t realized that there was so much speculation surrounding its practicality, and I think it’s fascinating that nobody knows for sure what it was used for or how it was created.  To be honest, I wish I was able to attend on my own, perhaps at night.  It’s such a beautiful place, so it makes sense as a tourist attraction; however, I do think the sheer amount of people takes away from the lonely beauty it seems to radiate.   I also didn’t realize that what exists now is not how it once looked.  Trying to imagine what it looked like as a full work proves difficult, but it must have been spectacular.

Bath was also a lovely place.  After many days of group activities, I enjoyed wandering around by myself and exploring the center of town.  The park was particularly relaxing, and the one pound fee to enter was entirely worthwhile.  Since pigs are my favorite animal, I was excited about the flower pigs that marked the entrance…it didn’t even occur to me that they relate back to the founding of Bath until someone told me that they aren’t there for my personal entertainment.  Oops.

To me, exploring the Roman baths did feel like stepping back in time, especially in the indoor displays.  I felt that the entire arrangement was very advanced for a people who lived such a long time ago.  There were even changing rooms and a system of pipes (even if they were lead), which surprised me.  I also didn’t know that the baths were not solely used for bathing, but also for social aspects, sacrificial rituals, and commerce in general. When I had the chance, I felt the water…it was pleasantly warm. Kudos to the Romans for creating such an exquisite spa and resort.

It was also fun poking around little shops, tea rooms, and cathedrals while appreciating various street shows in between (including an opera singer and a violinist).  The nature of the Bath Cathedral solely as a tourist attraction was a bit disappointing, but overall, I enjoyed both the historical content of Bath and simply exploring on my own.

Tags: Amy

Bathing in the Glory of the English Countryside

August 29th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Last Thursday morning at 8 a.m. both the Humanities and Science programs piled on a bus and began our first journey outside of London since arriving almost exactly a week before. Our first stop on the journey was Stonehenge. Going into it I had mixed feelings about this collection of rocks. From what I had seen on television and from what I had read about Stonehenge they seemed so mysterious and fascinating. I guess I was worried that actually going to Stonehenge would somehow sour their mystique to me. I didn’t want something that I had always considered so majestic to all of a sudden lose its aura of greatness. In addition I had been told by friends who had been on the Norwich Humanities program before that Stonehenge did not meet their expectations.

After about a two hour bus ride we pulled off a highway and at the top of a hill we saw our destination in the middle of a field. Upon arrival Aidan and I joked about the famous scene in “This Is Spinal Tap”  where the band accidentally receives miniature Stonehenge models for their rock concert that are about half the size of dwarves that are dancing a jig around them. Once I received my electronic tour device I headed up to the top of the hill where I proceeded to take a multitude of pictures from all angles and vantage points. The tour device was helpful and helped me understand the figure as more than just a pile of rocks. Overall I was not disappointed by Stonehenge and it did not lose its mystique for me but I was glad that we only spent an hour at the site. There really isn’t much to do there once you’ve listened to the tour and used up every picture angle possible.

The next stop on our trip was Bath. Unlike Stonehenge I had heard only positive things about  this part of the journey so I went in with fairly high expectations. At the end of the day my expectations were more than satisfied. The ride from Stonehenge to Bath took us through some beautiful English countryside. We passed some classic country houses and weaved in and out of lush valleys the whole journey. While listening to “Stairway to Heaven” on the bus ride over I attempted to envision Robert Plant and Jimmy Page sitting in the countryside right outside my window, strumming guitars and trying to come up with lyrics for their ’71 masterpiece. As we approached Bath I was immediately impressed by the architecture I observed in the distance. Many of the houses sat on top of a hill separated by a river. A truly remarkable sight. 

Once we arrived a bunch of us headed off to find a place to eat lunch. We decided on a half pub/diner type of restaurant where I ordered the Pie of the Day. Overall the food was mediocre for its price. I’m still having a little trouble distinguishing which restaurants appeal to me and which don’t. When in doubt the Fish and Chips in any pub is usually a great choice for me. After lunch we headed to Bath Abbey before our class trip to the Roman Baths. Bath Abbey was gorgeous. Not quite as remarkable or as massive as Westminster but definitely in the same ballpark. Already sensing that the town of Bath would be a place to remember I bought a few postcards in the gift shop and headed over to the baths. 

Overall seeing the baths was a great experience. It is amazing and a little disconcerting to me to think that hundreds of years ago a multitude of men bathed in the very same spot that we were walking around in casually and taking pictures. The columns and statues of Romans  surrounding the large bath were beautifully done.  The water was an odd colour of green so for anyone that would have been tempted to touch it despite the guides warning, this became the final deterrent. I spent about an hour in the Baths before heading up to the Royal Crescent where I would spend the first part of my afternoon. Once I got my fill of the beautiful Georgian Architecture that makes up the crescent I headed over to the park across the street where a bunch of us layed down for about an hour just talking and relaxing. 

After a quick coffee break Kelley, Grace and I decided to take a walk around the nearby river. This was easily my favorite part of the trip. The view up the river looking into the town was incredibly picturesque. On this walk I got a sense of the true/non-touristy feel of Bath. There were parks, small trinket shops along the river and even a rugby pitch. Maybe most tourists just don’t have the time for it during their excursions to Bath but the path along the river was wonderful and I would head back there in a heartbeat to explore more of the area.

Overall my trip to Bath helped me conclude a number of things. The first is that, as much as I love being in London, I definitely prefer a smaller town atmosphere a little out of the way. The second thing this trip confirmed is that the English Countryside is just as beautiful as people have told me. Despite my need for sleep on the 2 hour bus ride back to London I resisted because I enjoyed observing the landscape so much. If I have some time later in the year I would definitely return to Bath. There is still a lot to see.

Tags: Churches and Cathedrals · Henry

After that hike, Bath was probably the best place for us to be

August 29th, 2009 · No Comments

Let me preface all of this by saying that I am, as my fellow classmates have stated, incredibly grateful for the opportunity to see both Stonehedge and Bath– two great world heritage sites. Both trips were incredible and photograph-worthy (believe me, I took enough pictures for the entire year that day). I, however, do not share my classmates’ adoration of the city of Bath. I doubt a person exists in the world who doesn’t find the city to be one of beauty. That being said, a city built to cater to tourists is one that does not rank on my list of favorite places in the world. I recognize that I am a tourist so begrudging a city for catering to me sounds a bit odd. Truly though I would rather visit a place to appreciate what it has to offer rather than it intentionally enticing me to visit it by being built around what it thinks I might like.

At the Roman Baths themselves, I found myself most attracted to the Bill Bryson audio option on the audio tour. An author of many travel books, he was well-equipped to take me around the Roman Baths in an educational and still humorous manner. He made a comment at one of the corners that if you looked around you would see how much the site has been altered since the Romans bathed there. Following his advice, I looked around. I saw a water fountain out of which you could drink the very water that the Romans bathed in for a low, low price of fifty pence. I saw a newly remodeled bathroom that was made to look like an authentic Roman bathroom equipped with automatic sinks and hand driers. I saw outside of the baths street performers that were both incredibly talented and incredibly good at attracting large amounts of people. I then realized that I was listening to Bill Bryson. Let’s pause. Listening to him was a great way to get through the museum. But Bill Bryson? Such a recognizable name guarantees that the museum is authentic. Right? Maybe the museum was even it was being invaded by the idea of catering to the tourist while still trying to make a pound or two from the endeavor.

Street performers in Bath

Street performers in Bath

Upon leaving the museum, a fellow student and I decided to try to capture the beauty of the city (because, truly, being built for tourists does have its perks when it comes to the overall visual beauty of the city). Deciding that the top of the hill would bring the best result for such a photo opportunity, we began our ascent. Two hours later, we realized that we were not the only one’s who thought the top of the hill was the best way to view the city. All of the residences were placed up there with beautiful views…and walls surrounding their homes to shield nosy tourists away from enjoying those views. The tourists, it seems, were to stay in the valley where they should be content to watch the street performers, shop around in cutesy boutiques, and listen to the soothing voice of Bill Bryson. I have nothing against such things! But it seems to me that if a tourist is willing to venture away from those confines and really get to know the place that is Bath, they should be able to. If a tourist wants to see and experience the landscape that the city sits upon, the true foundation of the city, they should be able to. It seems that those that profit from keeping the tourists down in the valley have other ideas. Our differences aside, the other student and I were able to get the shot (after two hours of searching). We had to climb up on a wall and duck under a few tree branches to get it, but we were successful nonetheless. When a woman who was walking her dog saw us, she rolled her eyes in a way that suggested she knew our kind all too well. “Tourists” she seemed to sigh. And as she continued to walk by, I was for once happy to have that label to hide behind as reason for my seemingly odd behavior.

Only one of many picture taken from 'the view'

Only one of many picture taken from 'the view'

The dedication required to view Bath correctly

The dedication required to view Bath correctly

Just a side note: the following is a link to the criteria for a world heritage site. It’s just interesting to ponder in relation to what the city of Bath has become. List of criteria for World Heritage Sites

Tags: Audrey

What is England?

August 28th, 2009 · 3 Comments

Within the past three days I have visited The Tower of London, Stonehenge, the Roman Baths, and the Globe. Visiting these tourist traps has made me realize that in one respect I actually agree with A. N. Wilson, the author of London: A History, I think that the Disney-fication of these places has drastically transformed and even destroyed their historical significance.

When visiting Bath in particular I had trouble grasping that I was actually looking at the real Roman Baths. Not only is this hard for me to fathom this because I have never laid my eyes on something so old, but I also felt that the way they were presented made the idea of their authenticity completely unimaginable. I fold that the amalgam of the old with the new, the numerous signs, and tourists confused me and made it difficult to decipher the authentic from the fake.

I enjoyed every place that I have visited but I feel that attaching a gift shop to a place like Bath and the Tower of London makes them lose all possible historical value, and makes the places feel like an amusement park. After Stonehenge and the Tower of London I was left feeling a sense of unfulfillable and wanting more, almost as though I had missed something.

In fact, I have had a hard time grasping the fact that I am in England at all. The only time that I really started to comprehend that I am actually in England was when we driving through the countryside on our way to Bath. Unlike Stonehenge, the Tower, and the Globe I found this strangely refreshing and honest. There were no tourists snapping a million pictures, fences, snobby people in suits, or signs telling you which buttons to press on your listening device. For me that was England, not the double decker buses nor the red telephone booths with porn pasted on the inside. I am loving London but am anxious to settle in at UEA.

The Jewel House at the Tower of London

The Jewel House at the Tower of London

Tags: Rebecca