Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Green space: how to find a bit of quiet in a global city

September 19th, 2010 · No Comments

The thing about a city is you always end up missing the country and the thing about the country is you always end up missing the city. This paradox is one of the reasons I’ve been happily tucked away in a suburb for most of my life (I was born in Culver City, but we left Los Angeles before I had turned four)- give me access to the things in the city that I want but with the quiet and amenities only the country can provide.

London, however, has found a better solution to the need for getting away from the city: the plethora of parks and green space that dot the metropolis like a leaky pen on super-absorbent Bounty roll. I don’t understand the psychology of it, but there’s something about having a park, “a bit of earth” as the musical The Secret Garden says, that calms the human mind. Having somewhere to walk your dog, go for a run, bicycle around, take the kids roller-skating, have a picnic, read a book, whatever you wish, somehow relieves the pressures of city life.  How the park-goers cope with inclement weather, I’ve yet to observe, but I know just finding “somewhere that’s green” (again, a musical reference – Little Shop of Horrors- I’m just on a roll tonight!) is seemingly vital to the psyche of any Londoner.

I began to feel this pull toward the park myself when I was heading over to visit the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace. I exited the Tube at the aptly-named Green Park station and discovered myself to be in the midst of an enormous, sprawling park, heavily populated with people (mostly families) spending the day outside and enjoying the weather. Touched by the idyllic scene, I snapped a photo and then starting heading over to the Palace. After turning one or two corners, it was as if I had travelled to a different world instead of only walking further away from the park. The peace and tranquility of the community park was replaced with loud, overexcited tourists, all eagerly clamouring for a photo of the Palace and/or the guards. People continually bumped into me as I tried to get to the Gallery and I had to look around me at all angles to make sure I didn’t step into anyone’s photos.

Viewing the gorgeous art at the Gallery refreshed me slightly but, after fighting my way back through the crowds around the Palace gate’s, I stopped in Green Park to take a breather before heading into the congestion and confinement of the Tube station.

Where to find peace? Green Park!

A young woman might have once needed a room with a view in Italy, but I began to understand just how much the English need their room and green views [see what I did there?]

Tags: 2010 Elizabeth

Tell Me you Will Open your Eyes

September 8th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Upon entering the Sir John Soane Museum, I had a preconceived idea that it would be boring, and a complete waste of time. I had heard it was very small, and somewhat strange; meaning it would have absolutely no appeal to me. I refused to do research on the topic, so I walked in completely blind to the subject and unaware of what I was soon to see.

Lets just say the word “acquire” gained a new and more powerful meaning as I walked though the restored home of Sir John Soane. I can’t tell if I had the same feeling as I did when I first saw the Colosseum in Rome or Buckingham Palace here in London, but the feeling is in some way comparable.

[ Insert negative opinions here]. I won’t go into my thoughts on ego and pride.

How beautiful is it that a man of such stature would create a museum in his home to be of some help to those desiring education. What I found to be most interesting was Soane background in architecture, a talent which led him to build this home. Through out the house, alongside different statues, books, paintings, etc., there are few of Soane’s sketches and plans for different buildings in London, including Parliament. I also enjoyed the variety of artifacts in the museum. It was just so random, but strangely they all complete one another.

Museums, stores, and restaurants like this are what I believe to make London so unique and eccentric. These small parts of British history and fun hole in the wall joints make the city exciting. I am disappointed that I allowed what others thought of the museum influence my first impressions, however, I am glad that it was required so that I was able to develop an opinion of my own.

What are we missing in London? Do we notice every little cafe, charity store, Lebanese restaurant, or historic home?

Could you live here forever and never really see anything?

Tags: Museums · Patsy

“We are all worms. But I believe that I am a glow worm.”

September 4th, 2009 · No Comments

Since I am beginning to feel the crush of pressure to visit all the required museums while in London, I spent an afternoon in the Cabinet War Rooms/Winston Churchill Museum.  In truth, I was not particularly moved by either.  I think I lack a lot of the personal feeling involved in seeing such an important aspect of British history simply because I am not British.  Churchill as a national icon means much less to me, an American, than it might for my English counterpart.  Still, I most enjoyed listening to portions of Churchill’s speeches and writing down bits that inspired me.  I also was interested in learning how he constructed his speeches, and found it endearing that he used notes only after he “dried up” at an important event.  In the Cabinet War Rooms, I was struck most by learning that the lights in one of the most important rooms were literally never shut off for six years because of the war.  I also felt badly for the people who worked such long, tedious hours in the bunker without much sunlight or rest.  However, it’s also somewhat moving  that these women and men cared so much for their country that they were willing to put forth so much time and effort, and I wonder if I would do the same for my own country.

After the museums, I stumbled upon St. James Park and decided to wander through.  In doing so, I ended up in front of Buckingham Palace leaning on a wall, and it was there that I first truly FELT that I am in London.  I was standing in the midst of a series of tour groups, many of which were not speaking English.  I looked down upon the water moving, people walking alongside, a field with people sitting and relaxing, and a little coffee shop, all of which were surrounded by trees.  Out of the trees rose the London Eye and the very top of Big Ben.  It was the most picturesque view I’ve encountered thus far, and I don’t think that I’ll be forgetting it anytime soon. To me, it really captured the essence of London as I currently see it: a vital place with small tranquil spaces mixed throughout, the importance of tourism, national pride surrounding the royal family, history mixed with the present, and an ability to feel at home even for those not native to London.  I wasn’t able to take a photograph because my camera is broken, but I would definitely be interested in seeing the places that have most inspired everybody else in their travels in the past two weeks.

Tags: Amy

Westminster Abbey, Tower Hill and St. James Park

August 26th, 2009 · No Comments


After an early breakfast at the Arran House and a short walk through a light mist back to Trafalgar Square I had a chance to cross some more major sites off my list today. The first of these was Westminster Abbey.  The entire class was taken on a thorough tour of the Abbey by John, a knowledgeable, excitable man who made the tour a captivating experience throughout despite the fact that my feet were aching terribly by the end of the two hour experience.  Prior to the tour starting I spent a few minutes gazing at the magnificent building from the outside and found myself immediately in awe by both the innate architecture and simply the sheer size of the building. This feeling increased tenfold once we entered.  After walking past the courtyard we entered into the nave where I was once again impressed by the beautiful architecture. The tour consisted of a little bit of everything including the tombs of past monarchs, the Grave of the Unknown Warrior and a section dedicated entirely to writers of England. All of these sites caught my attention and stuck with me but my favorite part of the Abbey by far was The Lady Chapel. The many Saints delicately carved into the sides of the room was miraculous. Each one was designed so intricately that even the smallest features were easily discernible. The thing that fascinated me the most inside The Lady Chapel was the Order of the Bath. Each knight in the Order had their own individual flag and seal which they displayed prominently over their seat.  Each and every  flag was unique and told a different story about the individual that they represent.  I found it interesting that knights are sometimes forced to wait a number of years  to have their flags  displayed because they are required to wait until the person who holds the spot before them passes away before their spot is opened up. After walking through The Lady Chapel I had a sudden urge to design my own flag and copper stall-plate and maybe even start my own Order of the Bath. We will see…

After  a pub lunch at the Red Lion, located just a few minutes from the Abbey, Alli, Becca, Chelsea, Kim, Mara, Sarah and I headed to the Tower of London. Heading in with “great expectations” I have to say I was a bit disappointed overall.  It was interesting to walk through the ancient monument but I had no idea it would draw the massive number of tourists it did. All ages were represented but I was very surprised to see a large amount of  young children walking through the tower, a number of them unaccompanied by adults. The highlight of the Tower of London experience was the Crown Jewel exhibit. After being instructed to put our cameras away we were taken into a room with pressurized doors where we examined crowns that  monarchs wore. In addition to the crowns we saw diamond laden rings, sceptors and golden cutlery that made our jaws drop.  The most amazing object I observed was a giant punch bowl made entirely out of gold and must have weighed over 18 kilograms. Completely and utterly unbelievable! After the Crown Jewels exhibit my time at the tower went South. Due to the amount of loud, rambunctious children present and a subpar exhibit on torture in the Tower we walked through I was ready to leave after about two hours. Overall my experience was not a completely negative one. Being inside the grounds was breathtaking and the architecture amazed me.  However I do not see myself returning here during the rest of my time in London.

After our time in the Tower Alli, Kim, Mara, Sarah and I decided to get an early start on our walking tour project. Since our general theme is parks in London we decided it would be a good idea to visit a couple of the major green spaces in the area. We hopped on the tube and took the central line to St. James Park station. Upon arrival we spent some time moseying around Buckingham Palace and Victoria’s Memorial before getting down to business and taking a stroll through Green and St. James Park. Nothing too exciting was going on at Green Park. At one point we sat down in light green lawn chairs only to be told that we had to pay a fee in order to sit.  We quickly dismissed Green Park as a space that we would focus our project on. St. James however was a different story. We immediately spotted water and wandered over where we discovered a multitude of birds including ducks, geese and pigeons. These birds were not afraid to come close to humans at all and we saw many eating out of the hands of children who were offering them bread despite the numerous signs that clearly read “don’t feed the birds”.  We wandered through most of the park, passing beautiful lush flower gardens along the way. Overall St. James seemed more alive then Green Park and we definitely plan on heading back to take another look when the Park Office is open and we can receive more information about it’s history. 

Today was a very rewarding day overall. I am happy to say that I was able to visit some of the most historic places in the country in one day and ecstatic that my experience at Westminster Abbey went so positively. I’m amazed at just how much I have been able to see in one week here and I know that I continue to see more and more incredible places during my time here in London. Next up: Stonehenge!

Tags: Churches and Cathedrals · Henry

Tea with the Queen: Victoria

August 21st, 2009 · No Comments

Goodge Street warren street victoria

After purchasing mobiles, we ventured to Goodge Street tube station at 14:55. After swiping our new oyster cards, we became intimidated by two massive elevators that seemed to lead nowhere. We were confused, so we asked an elderly British bloke which route we should take. Under the heavy accent we were able to discern the word “one”. After going down the elevator, and fiercely searching for our stop, we realized “one” actually meant “Warren”. We got off of the Northern line at Warren (which we later learned, was only a few blocks away from the Arran House). We wandered aimlessly through Warren Station, only to arrive at the southbound Victoria line just as train was pulling away. We studied our A-Z map, as we waited for the next train, to familiarize ourselves with the Victoria area.  After two stops on the Victoria Line, we followed the “way out” signs toward what looked like a central area. The entire trip on the tube took a mere twenty minutes. We soon realized our destination would include a stop at Buckingham Palace. We used our A-Z map to navigate ourselves towards the Palace, only to realize after about fifteen minutes that we had been walking in the opposite direction. By turning the map we suddenly oriented ourselves and made our way back up past the tube station and continued on to the Palace.

Naturally, we chose to use Buckingham Palace as our monument. The building was constructed in 1703 as a local home. After many additions and renovations, Queen Victoria became the first monarch to reside within its walls. We also came to the conclusion that this is why the Tube stop is named Victoria. We were excited at the possibility of viewing “the changing of the guards” however, we were angry to have found a sign that said the next change would occur the next morning at 11:30. after crying for about a minute we pulled it together and took a few pictures……

DSC00034 DSC00029 DSC00033

We sat on the steps of Victoria Memorial and gathered our thoughts and studied our map. We took a walk over to St. James Park and found a bus route back to Tottenham Court. Our trip back was approximately thirty minutes and we arrived back at the Arran House at 17:00.

Observations: The city of Westminster, where the Palace is located, seemed like a high end area. There were many business men and women walking swiftly through the streets. We also realized the differences in architecture between the old shop buildings, and the new modern high rise hotels. Upon arriving at Buckingham Palace we noticed a stark difference in the type of people surrounding the monument. The monument attracted tourists of all nationalities and classes. After observing St. James Park and Green Park, which was nearby, we came to the conclusion that there was a lot more green space than we were used to for major cities. It was also much cleaner than many of the most popular attractions in the U.S.

It was an easy and fun adventure and a great way to learn the ins and outs of London.

Tags: Henry · Patsy