Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Seeking Connections: Museums, Readings and Exploration

August 24th, 2009 · 2 Comments

Being an individual who thrives on organization and cohesiveness I have been very pleased with how everything in this course is beginning to connect. On Sunday I was part of the Docklands group that went through the museum and saw the African slavery/triangle trade exhibit.  Viewing the exhibit was a very moving and captivating experience and I was very pleased to see it brought up today as part of our discussion. We have been given ample opportunities to take what we have seen on our adventures outside the classroom these past few days and bring them into our formal class discussions and today we took advantage of that opportunity. In my perfect world this is what all learning should be like. From learning through each others blog posts/thoughts in class we will not understand everything about London but we will get a greater understanding of London than if we were all charged to study everything about the place. Receiving information in small concentrated doses has been a great way for me to really focus on one subject at a time and absorb that material. I hope that continues.

 On a completely different note, Aidan, Brandon and I went on a wonderful walk around the Thames on Saturday night. We took the Underground from Goodge street to Embankment and walked around that area for a bit. During our stroll we saw a lot of people dressed up in eclectic garb, singing, dancing and gyrating. One of the most entertaining moments of the night was when a group of five women dressed in matching skimpy maid outfits climbed on a boat and headed down the river. Four of the women were in their 20’s and one was about 60. One thing i’ve noticed here is that People here don’t seem to care much about age differences when it comes to social life. In the five days i’ve been here I’ve seen people from vastly different generations laughing together at pubs, sharing personal stories in a park and walking hand in hand.  Regardless of their age everyone seemed excited about the weekend and the prospects of a good Saturday night.  The streets were packed and it was hard to move more than five feet without bumping into someone.  Overall we sensed embankment to be a fairly touristy area with many American style/fast food restaurants lining the streets.

After our walk uptown we headed down to the waterfront where we made our way across the Thames by way of the Hungerford bridge. While walking over the bridge we got some fantastic pictures of the London Eye. When we finally reached the other side of the bridge we took some time to observe the variety of buskers/street performers lining the streets. While observing a jam band I was nearly “roundhouse kicked” in the face by a man who was either very intoxicated or was missing a few marbles. At this point I decided that I had heard enough of the jam band and moved on to observe a magician locking himself in a suitcase and a man break-dancing with a bicycle helmet on. Both were very talented and entertaining. I like that London requires these buskers to receive licenses in order to display their  acts. This ensures that only the cream of the crop are given the chance to perform . From my own brief busking experience back in high school I know all too well that not every busker is worthy of the limelight. 

After hanging around County Hall for a while we decided to head back across the Thames. We completed the loop and took Westminster Bridge back just as the sun was setting, snapping some fantastic photos of Parliament, Big Ben, County Hall and the London Eye. After walking back to Embankment We got back on the Northern Line and headed to Leicester square where we decided to grab dinner at “The Spaghetti House”. Despite the overall quality of the food we decided we would probably not go back again. The reasoning behind this decision was twofold.  The first reason was the food was a bit too expensive for its quality and the second was we had two waitresses taking care of us. The latter may sound like a good thing but neither waitress knew that the other one had us covered. This simply created confusion and left us with multiple bills at the end of the night.

From this walk I took a couple things that will stick with me. I became better oriented with the waterfront and the monuments that are set around it. I also learned about both the Westminster  and Hungerford Bridge and would love to learn more about the history of bridges over the Thames. Another thing that stuck with me was the vibrant personalities I experienced during our walk. Between the street performers, the eclectic characters we saw in the streets and the man that almost knocked me out with his shoe I quickly learned that London has such a variety of personalities and life experiences to offer. There is an amazing cast of characters that lives within this city. We have now become a part of that cast as well. The million dollar question is where exactly do we fit into London’s present plot both as Americans, as young people and as students? This is something I will continue to explore during the rest of my time here.

Tags: Henry · Museums

Romans, Writers, and Wharfs… oh my!

August 24th, 2009 · 2 Comments

When I first left Tower Hill Tube station and looked out over the road to the Tower of London, my first thought was “I really wish those cars weren’t driving on the road so I could get a clear picture.”  Then I managed to get over my disappointment, reminding myself that I will be going there eventually and will be able to take pictures in abundance, I looked around and noticed the section of Roman Wall standing less than 100 feet to my left.  I admit, knowing the importance of the Romans and the impact their wall had on the development of today’s London, I feel kind of silly for letting my eyes slide over it to the prettier and more picturesque Tower.  That written, I think that my mistake of dismissing the wall as nothing but an unimportant ruin happens to countless tourists and even the people of London every day! 

The Roman Wall section that my eyes skimmed over in favour of the Tower of London

Roman Wall my eyes skimmed in favor of the Tower of London

What I found most interesting about the Roman Walk was the idea that London is a modern city built on top of several stages of ancient city.  The fact that the basement of a hair salon can house Roman ruins is difficult to fathom.  However, the knowledge that people in the medieval ages recognized the brilliance of Roman engineering and decided to fortify and expand the existing wall is even more incredible. 

Medieval section built on top of Roman Wall - complete with pidgeons!

Medieval section built on top of Roman Wall - complete with pigeons!

  When I started my second of two walks of yesterday, I didn’t know very much about the area or the people who have lived there.  Although it was really neat to see where this writer and that philosopher worked and played, I was much more interested in the buildings and how they related to the history of London.  There was one section of the tour that particularly captured my attention.  When standing in the centre of one of the green spaces, you could look to one side and see original row houses, with the dark brown brick and white window frames, and to the other side you could only see bright red brick houses that seemed to have been completed in the last five to ten years.  The original houses that still stand were only cosmetically damaged during the Blitz; while the red brick homes had been completely annihilated.  What shocked me was that only a small span of grass and trees separated the barely injured and the completely destroyed.   

Original rowhousees that were barely damaged in the Blitz

Original rowhouses that were barely damaged in the Blitz

New red brick rowhouses where old ones were destroyed in the Blitz

New red brick rowhouses where old ones were destroyed in the Blitz

 Today at the Docklands Museum, the City and River: 1800-1840 exhibit really stood out.  I’m not a huge fan of taxes and duties, but there was a section on customs and why the docks had to be formed that made a lot of sense to me.  It explained that there was so much illegal shipping into London through unauthorized channels that something had to be done by the government to try to control it/use it to their advantage to get more money through taxes.  What I found particularly interesting was that the proprietors of the different docks were paranoid of each other to a fault.  They didn’t trust the police to look after their docks and warehouses, so they hired personal security forces to keep out anyone they didn’t want around.  After seeing the different wharfs and how close they were to each other when I went up to Greenwich the other day, I completely understand the paranoia of the businessmen.

Even though I’ve been in London for only four days, I feel like I’m slowly beginning to understand that there is much more the London than I could have possibly imagined.  I’m learning that I need to keep my eyes open because you never know when you’ll turn a corner and find the next nugget of history, culture, art, or architecture.

Tags: Kelley

Green Zucchini and Naughty Bikers

August 21st, 2009 · 1 Comment

From the moment I woke up this morning, the song “London Calling” has been swirling between my earlobes. Appropriate?

We began the day with such an uplifting activity. Our quick boat ride down the Thames was a perfect introduction to each aspect London offers. I feel as though traveling down such a central location allowed each of us to fully understand the development of such an industrial city over an enormous amount of time. Each and every structure, from tower bridge to the egg shaped business building, contains a story and all of which contribute to London’s evolution over time.

This day really initiated continual thought about time. After visiting the Royal observatory, and listening to Qualls explain how his son could not completely comprehend how an 800 YEAR OLD CASTLE was really really old i became interested with how each park, castle, and home, was once home to those who died hundreds of years ago. I view these structures while I recreate a story in my head . I enjoy exploring the endless possibilities of what type of people the Tudors were or how the seamen behaved while staying in the area for just a night. Its fascinating to look beyond the building and search for what lived, dined, and slept within the walls.

After lunch in the pub (Goat cheese Heaven), we explored the market. I believe i have developed a new found obsession with these markets. Coming from phoenix I’m not used to many cultural or funky shopping areas, however, I was completely blown away. I want to see, smell, and observe every single one! After walking around a bit more and visiting the Queens home, we ventured through the walking tunnel, where people DID NOT follow biking rules and which almost killed Amanda.  After the walk, we go on the railway. We made our way back to the Arran house, and began to work on our projects.

As 7 pm rolled around our stomachs began to rumble. Megan, Amanda and I wanted to walk around and compare our options. What we did not know, was that many eating establishments decide to clothes at 8!!! So as we continued to look around, the shops we previously viewed were closed as we returned. We finally found a restaurant called The Spaghetti bar, which was fabulous!

Everything I expected of London has for the majority been incorrect. I have really enjoyed the food, I love the walking, everything is clean, and I really like the people. I almost feel empowered each time I have to find my own way on the tube. I have never had such an immense amount of independence, and I’m learning so much more then I ever thought i would.

London is an incredible place, i think I’m already falling in love…..

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Tags: Patsy · Uncategorized

Greenwich & Time

August 21st, 2009 · No Comments

     The boat ride was a really great way to see London, today. It was incredible to see how much the Thames has stayed the same over the years  (in that it is still a major waterway for transportation purposes) as well as how much it has changed (in that it is, luckily for us,  no longer a cesspool of human and industrial wastes). The museums at the Royal Observatory were fascinating. I really thought a lot about the concept of time and what it means to our culture. That watches used to be a symbol of wealth and status, I think, is particularly poignant. The wealthy are, in essence, the ones who own time in that they own time of their employees, and therefore, to an extent, the employees themselves. Greenwich is an absolutely beautiful area and I plan on going back. I particularly enjoyed wandering around the market; I’m now especially excited for our East Street Market assignment tomorrow.

Tags: Anya

second full day in London

August 21st, 2009 · No Comments

Today ended up being a long day of walking after our boat ride down the Thames. It was a beautiful day for both walking around the city and being out on the river. The boat ride, for me at least, was a nice introduction to some of the more touristy sites I relate to London in my mind. I particularly enjoyed the fact that it was a perfect spot to appreciate the bridges of London and the architecture along the Thames. Greenwich was a wonderful experience, especially since I have wanted to visit there since I was about eight years old. The museums concerning the clocks and observatory were wonderful. I especially liked the layout of the clock museum and how it presented the problem of telling time at sea and how they finally developed the solution for it. And the planetarium was very good. The presenter had a wonderful sense of humor, while still being very informative.
After lunch, I went to the market with Mara, Sarah and Alli. It was a very diverse market with numerous stalls and items for sale. We ended up spending a few pounds on henna tattoos. After this we walked to St. Alfege’s Church and even though we couldn’t go inside the church it was worthwhile to see the architecture and look at the old gravestones. From here we decided to make our way under the Thames and find a rail station to come back to the hotel. Well, we found a park, Millard Park, by the station and thought that it was a good idea to go into the park and investigate. Well, we ended up finding a farm. There were loads of animals there: pigs, cows, goats, sheep, chickens and horses. I especially appreciated the equestrian center we found with the farm. I knew that there are numerous stables and equestrian centers throughout the countryside, but I wasn’t expecting to find one in Greenwich. After walking through the farm, we decided to make our way back to the hotel on the train from the Mudchute Station. Overall it was a long day of walking and exploring, that lead us to find many different aspects of London and how this city is unpredictable.

Tags: Kimberly · Uncategorized

The First Full Day

August 21st, 2009 · No Comments


Well…let us know what you thought. You have already travelled broadly across the city from your tube exercise yesterday to Greenwich today. What were your impressions of London before you arrived and have they changed or been challenged in the last 30 hours? I want to see you blogging at least every other day. Keep a notebook with you at all times to jot down ideas that you can make into a thoughtful post when you get back to your computer.

Tags: Professor Qualls