Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

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

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

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