Thursday, March 4, 2010

Fancy some countryside?

The past few weeks have been incredibly challenging for me in terms of communication and adventures. Not only do the English accents confuse and daze me, the American boys I have hung out with are just as difficult to understand. Apparently it is considered cool to mumble...agh! Some days I have felt like a loner, trying to figure out what people are saying and deciding that it isn't worth all the effort and trouble to aggressively follow certain conversations. These experiences are not new to me, I have had to deal with this all my life. But this time, I do not have a deaf world to fall into. I have learned a lot about myself in terms of how I identify myself as a person. On the brighter side, I have made friends with some of the most interesting people and they are awesome.

The English countryside has been fun exploring. Bath, Cantebury, and Salisbury all have unique characteristics. Each place provided different historical aspects of England and the world.

Bath was the first time I really felt like I stepped into Europe, there was so much architecture and quaintness in Bath! The Roman Baths are located there (hence the name Bath...), Jane Austen spent some time of her life growing up and writing some of her brilliant books there. The Royal crescent (I am jumping in front of it) is located near the Jane Austen museum and it was phenomenal! Many people do not realize that the Roman Baths are one of the best preserved Roman sites north of the Alps. It was not discovered until the late nineteenth century and the city of Bath actually developed and flourished above the Roman Baths for years.

My most favorite day trip to countryside England was the trip to Leeds Castle. It is hidden through a small forest and it is located in the middle of a very beautiful landscape. I fell in love with this castle, I considered moving here actually. The lakes reminded me of home, the sun was shining, and birds were chirping...I do realize how corny I sounded just then, but that is exactly how I felt. I felt free and happy, it was good to be away from the business and stress of London. Surrounding the entire property were peacocks, ducks, swans, and geese. It was so much fun watching them. Leeds Castle passed into royal hands in 1278 and for 150 years, it was held by six medieval queens and during the reign of the Tudors, King Henry VIII visited frequently with his Queen notably, Catherine of Aragon. Eventually, the castle was passed down to one of Henry's couriers for his services. Since then, the castle has been in private ownership. The last owner of the castle was Olive, Lady Bailie who had interesting taste and left an indelible mark on the place. Lady Bailie had a fascinating collection of birds and waterfowl, zebras, llamas, and the more usual horses and dogs. On the property, there is a zoo and a maze for visitors. The maze was fun, but confusing haha. I got lost a few too many times and at some points, I felt like I was competing in the Triwizard Tournament. Cantebury was similar to Stratford-upon-Avon. I was not particularly fond of the town, probably because my head was still at Leeds Castle, nothing could beat it.
Stonehenge was.....interesting. It is listed as one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, so I got on the bus, expecting some sort of immaculate feeling from this trip. Two hours later, we get closer to the site and all of a sudden, people are pointing and snapping pictures. There it was, one of the 7 wonders of the world right off the highway. I was disappointed, I expected some sort of hike and hills would be involved with this trip. Nope, it was right there. Yes, it was interesting and yes, I had to be there to see it all. But seriously, I was disappointed. I now have 6 more wonders of the ancient world left to see. Hopefully, the others will not be quite as disappointing as this one was. It really was just a pile of rocks.

Salisbury was a quaint town, I was able to explore on my own and do some serious reflecting. It was not one of my best days. I had been working so hard at trying to keep up with my friends' conversations and I felt completely and utterly lost no matter how many times they repeated themselves. It just was not my day. So, I just went off on my own and looked around. It is absolutely beautiful and I loved watching the swans and ducks swim in the river (I have noticed that I am becoming a bird watcher....don't really know if that is a good thing haha!). In Salisbury, there is a cathedral that holds one of the four copies of the Magna Carta! I must admit, I heard about this document quite a bit in high school but I never really understood why it was simply so important until I saw it. Apparently it is the first legal document and the US Constitution is based off of it....whoo, quite the important piece of paper. :)

Each country side had its own tourist attractions. I enjoyed every trip and do not regret going on any of them. However, I feel like I have been stuck in England for too long. I am looking forward to my weekend trips out of the country! My next trip is to Dublin, Ireland :)

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