Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Victoria and Albert Museum, Bath and Stonehenge!

My time in London has absolutely flown by. I now only have 13 days left which makes me absolutely gutted (one of my new London words). I have loved my time in London and I wish it didn't have to come to an end. These next two weeks are going to be jam packed with some last minute sight seeing and making the most of every second of every day. This is the outlook with which I entered this week and this weekend, and I have to say, I wasn't disappointed!

This week in school I was with 7-8 Elementary. By our standards, elementary is considered to be
between beginners and intermediate. So my kids could easily tell me their names, where they were from, and how they were that morning, but they struggled in any other area of conversation. The focus of the week was clothes. It sounds like an odd topic, but we got to do some really cool things. We talked about different types of clothes, patterns on clothes and what clothes are made of. I learned that in Europe they use the words polka dots and stripes, but these words are used interchangeably with "spotty" and "stripy," words that to me, sounded like something a three year old would say before learning polka dots and stripes. But nevertheless, that's what they say here, so that's what my kids were taught. We also learned the difference between clothes you would wear in the winter and the summer (which is also quite different to home considering the large difference in climate). We had them do a lot of writing and speaking about what they and the other students were wearing to help them form full sentences in English. We also did some drawings with accompanying sentences. One of the projects they did was to dress up the teacher I was working with and myself in different types of clothes. It was quite amusing to see them dressing us up. In one of my students' drawings, I am wearing a football uniform!

Our trip for the week was to the Victoria and Albert Museum. I've been here before to visit a friend who works in the museum so I was very excited to go back. I felt that it was a really interesting museum. But, with our focus for the week being on clothes, naturally we spent the entire day in the fashion room. This room had displays of London fashion through the years that provided the museum goer to see how drastically fashion has changed. While for the more advanced group this was very interesting, my group had a little bit of trouble with the clothes. For example, there was a very fancy evening dress in one of the display cases, but trying to explain the difference between a day dress and an evening dress was utterly lost on them. We had a lot of time in the museum so we had them draw a lot of what they saw and label their drawings. It worked quite well, and took up the allotted time for the field trip. We broke for lunch and got to eat in the garden of the museum which is beautiful. We had a nice day for it as well, so the kids got to run around in the warm weather a bit when they finished eating. The trip went pretty well, I want to try and make it back to the museum. There are a few exhibitions that I am really interested in seeing!

Saturday was a really exciting day for my and my flatmate Taylor. We had signed up to go on a trip to Stonehenge and Bath through our visa sponsor and the day had finally arrived! We met in the designated area at 8:30 on Saturday morning and embarked on the trip to Bath. When we got there, we were ushered straight onto a walking tour of the city. I'd always heard about the Roman Baths. That was all I knew about the city however, and I'm almost glad I didn't know a lot about it because it gave me the opportunity to learn while I walked down the streets. Bath is a gorgeous city. To make it even better, here in England we are having some of the hottest few days in a long time. It got up to about 86 degrees yesterday and I even got a tan (and if you know me, you know that's basically impossible)! We walked around the city and learned about how it came to be the way it is. Bath is a World Heritage City. Most people think that's because of the Roman Baths, but actually it's because of the beautiful architecture of the city. Everything was planned so beautifully and the architecture is consistent throughout. There is much evidence of the Roman style in different points of the city. The Circus is modeled after a Roman Colosseum, but is actually a big circle of town houses. They are completely uniform with different columns on each level. The Royal Crescent is located just down the street and is also Colosseum like, but is only a half circle. Along with the canals, these were some of the most famous sites in Bath.

After our tour, we went into the Roman Baths. We had a limited amount of time, but we loved getting
to walk around the Baths. The large on in the middle is easily the most recognizable. We were told in the museum that the water at one point could get to 90 degrees celsius in the water which is almost at water's boiling point and very hot! We walked through the baths, threw a coin in the coolest one and headed back to the bus to make our way to Stonehenge!

Stonehenge is without question one of the most mesmerizing sights in England. The stones that stand there just scream that they are there for a reason, but that reason has been completely lost to us. The audio guide I listened to speculated that there was some significance to the way it was built as a calendar. Each month the sun shines through a different archway. The audio guide also mentioned that the majority of the rocks that went into building Stonehenge are underground making it harder to interpret the meaning behind this English Heritage site. Being before these stones was truely breathtaking. I can't even begin to explain the feeling you get when standing
before Stonehenge, but I would say it's worth a visit. We took pictures from basically every angle before we were ushered back on to the bus and home to London.

Today I went on a walking tour the "The Square Mile" with our Panrimo coordinator, Geoff. The square mile is the original city of London. And technically, the major sites like, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the like, are really in the city of Westminster, and not the City of London. The city of London has been built and rebuilt since the time of the Romans. It was first burnt to the ground when an English queen, Boudicca, watched her husband be murdered by a Roman who then whipped her publicly, took revenge by burning down every major city she could get to in England. She was opposing the roman rule and is thought of as one of the strongest English women that ever lived. She was to be sent to Rome as a slave as punishment, but instead took poison to avoid her fate. It is said that she is buried below platform 9 of King's Cross. It is rumored that J.K. Rowling has the Hogwarts train leave from platform 9 3/4 to pay homage to one of the greatest British women in history.

The city was rebuilt and was again destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. It was started by a
baker who's fires hadn't gone out at curfew. With the way the wind typically blew, the fire that was started would have burnt itself out very quickly, however, the wind that day came from a different direction which caused the fire to spread uncontrollably. It is said to have destroyed 13,200 houses and 87 parish churches. The fire devastated the city. The need to rebuild came quickly and an idea was presented to the King to rebuild the city in a grid-like pattern, the King loved the idea, but the people of London are stubborn and wanted their houses exactly as they had been before. Which is why, the streets have absolutely no pattern whatsoever. There are some streets here that just appear out of nowhere an alley's that you can only see if you make sure not to blink. I found it quite amusing that the city could have had structure, but because of the stubbornness of the population, it is the confusing mess we have today.

I won't bore you with much more history. I just found the things I learned today quite fascinating. Another quick tidbit - we passed a lot of shops and restaurants, but everything was closed. The reason for this is very unique to London. The majority of the people who work in London, don't live in London. They live in residential areas outside the city. Because of this, there is no reason for shops and restaurants to be open, when there are no people. And to further enforce this to me, the only people we saw on our walking tour, were other people on other walking tours! After the tour in traditional London fashion, Geoff and I stopped at a pub to get a pint before going our separate ways. I spent the day enjoying the nice weather and simply walking around the city. I revisited a few of the traditional tourist sights, walked through Green Park and went to Oxford street. This evening I went down to explore my own neck of the woods. Until tonight I had yet to visit the Little Venice area. I'm glad I finally walked down that way because it is absolutely beautiful.  There are about three that spread off from one main canal and stretch for a while in all directions. It was a great way for me to end such an eventful weekend, with a casual stroll around the canals. Today was one of those days where I had to sit back and pinch myself to make sure I really was in London. The city has such amazing and diverse things to offer. I went from the old city of London, to Westminster, to walking through parks, down busy shopping streets and the calm canals of Little Venice. London is truly a beautiful and amazing city.

With only 13 days left, I have a lot to do! I'll keep you updated as I pack the rest of the beautiful city of London as well as the surrounding area into the next two weeks!    


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