Saturday, January 12, 2013

Home Sweet Home

Well, we're home.
The Delta group made it home. If they have travel stories, I hope they share them.
Becca and Sydnee went on to further European adventures. I hope they both have wonderful trips.

The United group had a trip home that was almost the complete opposite of the trip to England.
We arrived at Heathrow and sailed through security. All the workers there were wonderful and pleasant. There was a machine after you had passed through security where you could rate your experience. Many of us happily pressed the smiley face button.

We had a long jaunt to our gate, it felt a bit like doing a transfer on the tube. We settled in at our gate, in a quite little wing of Heathrow and waited for our plane. The plane loaded quickly and was only about 70% full, so we had room to stretch out -- Caitie even got a chance to nap across three empty seats. Dinner was served, was hot, and tasted good. We even got a snack just before arriving in Chicago.

There was not a single issue as we moved through customs and rechecked out bags on the other side. We made our way to our gate, some got some coffee, and settled in to wait to load for home.

Phones were turned back on and people were calling and texting. That's when we began to get messages from Duluth that the weather was bad. Freezing Fog advisories, rain, sleet... They announced over the loud speaker that our flight was on time -- phew.

Moments later, they announced they were going to load us early because there was low visibility in Duluth. They would "attempt" to get us to Duluth, but if they couldn't land once they flew to Duluth, they would turn around and come back to Chicago. (I knew this trip had gone too smoothly!) We loaded on the tiny plane and prepared to take off. Then the captain made an announcement that we were 1700 pounds overweight due to the extra fuel (in case of needing a return trip to Chicago). They wanted 9 people to volunteer to take a flight tomorrow.

After a few tense moments, the offer was made of $300, a free hotel, a meal and trip to Duluth the next morning and 9 people very quickly volunteered. We were shortly in the air and on the way home. The captain kept giving us updates on visibility, we were very near the minimum threshold for landing. A wind out of the East apparently pushed enough fog away and we were able to safely land in Duluth!

Success! We traveled to London and back. Caitie's bag however was not on the baggage carousal. A quick search of the area proved futile. We checked with United and her bag was still in Chicago.
Somehow it had missed the plane. It arrived safely in Duluth this morning and was delivered to her this afternoon.

Thanks for following our adventure! Happy to be home safe and sound.

Friday, January 11, 2013

London. Oh, London

January 10, 2013

London. Oh, London

“In people's eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June.”--Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)

Though it is not June nor the year 1925, I cannot imagine a more fitting quotation to sum up such a London excursion. As a group of 25 strong, we have been immersed in a culture that historically represents all of us in one way or another. From the hands of Britain our country emerged and now we return on a pilgrimage to our mother land. Perhaps on this journey we seek to get a better handle on our past as a collective people, or to seek the paths famous feet once walked upon, and see what great minds created, to feel the power, or give into our intrigue of such a great nation, or maybe just to buy a London souvenir (made in china). No matter our individual reasons, we came (although it took much longer than anticipated), we saw (perhaps a few too many museums in a span of two weeks), and we conquered (our American voices are all that can be heard from tube stations away).

To be immersed in culture, history, and the grandness of both, I set out on the adventure of a life time. London welcomed with a brief nod, not particularly in my direction, and swiftly moved ahead not caring for my person nor the red crossing man. This reception was as standard as any to be received. Forgiven too, I might add, every time words drop from such beautiful sounding mouths (Yes, it has been two weeks and it must be said I still swoon over their accents).

The ancient power the city of London still oozes between the loose bricks every once in a while; I could feel it nip at my toes in a museum corner—sometimes I could taste it in the water—but these things tend to hit you in the middle of a museum or one of Eleanor's tours in the milky part of dream when one is not quite sure where the line of reality lies and imagination takes over. So many years of history and one is left to put together the million piece jigsaw puzzle to see a picture of life—a picture of London past, present, and future. Each one of these pieces (now I am picturing one of those puzzles where each piece is a different picture of a moment in London life all adding together to make one big picture) adds to the intricate design and feel of the city. If you miss the piece of the fire of 1666 or the blitz in the 40's you lose a piece of London—both figuratively and literally.

For Mrs. Dalloway, and perhaps myself as well, it is the monotonous sounds of daily life that makes London feel like home. One is able to find this in any city, really, but in London, in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, in this moment in January, London represents life for us all—and I quite like it.

Now our group of 25 will branch out in many directions over the vast expanse of the world—some to grad school, some back for a last semester as an undergrad, some to Paris—but I would venture a guess that none will forget such a London excursion as this. It is not the china-made souvenirs that will be a reminder of such a city, but the pilgrimage we've made and the individual meaning it has taken on. To inspire, awe, mystify, or intrigue, London has left something upon our breast. An invisible tattoo of sorts that marks a worldly change. Yes, yes, America is my home—everyone here knows that—but if 'home is where the heart is' then so is London.


By Sydnee Burud Erickson
Sydnee is the most recent BA graduate of the College of Saint Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota. After studying literature and philosophy for 3 ½ years, she is excited to travel Europe for 2 ½ weeks after the London Study Abroad concludes. She hopes to gain a more worldly perspective and furthermore pursue her passion for travel. Perhaps a more worldly perspective will lead her to uncover a hidden future, but of that, she cannot be sure.

Our Final Day

January 10, 2013

Hello! I am Lee Bongey, a PSEO student at the College of St. Scholastica. I intend to double major in Asian Studies and Cultural Anthropology when I leave for college next year, so learning about the culture of London has been a fascinating experience for me! Today was our last full day in London, and tomorrow we head back to the United States where we shall have to return to reality.  Although our last day was inevitable, I think that the way it was spent couldn’t have been better!

The day started with a trip to the Victoria & Albert Museum; a decorative arts museum with a variety of exhibits ranging from sculptures and tapestries to theatre and fashion. Eleanor, our guide for previous tours around London, took us through the museum, pointing out key artifacts and giving some additional commentary and explanation about the exhibits; my favorite was the theatre exhibit displaying different kinds of masks used in Greek theatre.  After Eleanor’s tour of the museum, we were free to look around. Many of us went directly to the clothing in theatre exhibit, where we could try on costume replicas from famous plays.

For lunch, I went to a pub called Crowns and Scepters, where I tried the traditional Fish & Chips for the first time, which I actually enjoyed, much to my surprise. After lunch, we went to Hyde Park to meet with some more people from our group, where we visited the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain and walked around Hyde Park to the Peter Pan statue. After encountering a very unusual man in red sweatpants who tapped one of our party on the shoulder after whispering at us, we continued cautiously to the train station.

We took the Tube to Leicester Square where we went directly to M&M World. As you would expect, there were more M&Ms and M&M merchandise than I had ever seen before. The four-floor store kept us busy, and when we finished buying our bags of mixed M&Ms and key chains, we returned to the hotel for a little bit of rest before our final dinner in London.

For dinner, the literature and theatre groups went together to a French restaurant (where I had a very good pork cutlet and some extremely chocolaty, but delicious, chocolate mousse). Claire very kindly gave us each a group photo from our trip, as well as a postcard for us to write down what we want to remember from this trip, which she will send to us later in the year so we won’t forget our experiences from this trip. It was a great to get together with everyone for one last dinner with the entire group!

I have loved being in such a diverse and historical city, and meeting all of these great students in our group. This has been a wonderful experience that I have truly enjoyed!

Here’s hoping that our flights tomorrow will go more smoothly than they were coming here!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Dickens Walking Tour

January 9, 2013

Hi there. My name is Mary Taylor. I am a second-year student at the College of Saint Scholastica, where I mainly pursue Global, Cultural, and Language studies. It has long been a goal of mine to travel internationally, but I’d never traveled outside of the United States before this trip. Because of this, I was eager to go anywhere, but the program in England was particularly appealing to me due to its literary and theatrical nature. So far, it has not disappointed!
Today, the literature group had the morning off—a welcome prospect after yesterday’s early departure for Stratford. My friends, Emily and Laura (also literature students,) and I decided to use this free time to go wander around the National Portrait Gallery near Trafalgar Square. There, we saw many famous faces. Many of them were royals, scientists, artists, and other such figures of public admiration. We even saw portraits of two of the authors we studied during the fall semester—Robert Louis Stevenson and Charles Dickens.
Afterwards, we went next door to the National Gallery. There, we saw many remarkable paintings, though the one that was most exciting to me was Leonardo da Vinci’s second Virgin of the Rocks. I remember studying this particular painting in high school, but I had not known that it was in London. I was both surprised and pleased to walk into a room at the Gallery and come face to face with this gorgeous work of art. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed in either the Gallery or the Portrait Gallery—hence the conspicuous lack of photos so far.

           In the Charles Dickens Museum, though, photography was encouraged. In the afternoon, the literature class headed over to Doughty Street to visit Charles Dickens’s former home, which has since become a museum paying homage to his memory.  Here we saw many original and recreated artifacts from the man’s life. For example, here is the writing desk at which he most likely penned such works as Oliver Twist and A Tale of Two Cities

               We also got a glimpse of the Dickens family structure. Apparently, Dickens referred to this particular house as “the hospital ward,” as it is where he and his wife began to have their ten children. There, he also experienced the traumatic sudden death of his 17-year-old sister-in-law, an event that greatly influenced his writing. Finally, we were able to learn a bit about the household structure. Of particular interest to me was the use of hedgehogs in the house. Apparently, hedgehogs were kept in order to eat any bugs that might infest the kitchen.

   As the owner of bug-eating hedgehog, I approve.
               We then left the museum, but remained in the area. After a brief respite, we reconvened for a Dickens-themed walking tour of London. Though the tour was long, it was also extremely informative. We saw many Dickensian landmarks, such as the square in which his publishing career began, an office in which Dickens chose to fling cherry pits at pedestrians rather than work, many places that feature prominently in his novels, the house in which he wrote The Pickwick Papers, and much more. We even saw some non-Dickens-related literary landmarks, such as the alley off of Fleet Street that would have held the barbershop of one Sweeney Todd (see also: demon barber.) 

               It really does live up to expectations.
               In short, I would say that today was an exciting, interesting, and productive day for the literature group.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Royal Court, Shopping, and Richard III

Hello from London!!!
My name is Alicia Roles I am a third year student at St. Scholastica. I am studying Exercise Physiology and plan on doing my doctorate in Physical Therapy. I also dabble in the theatre department at CSS and have been in a few productions. I have always wanted to study abroad and that is a difficult thing to accomplish as a science major. When the London trip showed up I was immediately excited to go -- it was both travel and theatre, what an awesome way to spend winter break!

            Our morning started off with a split of the groups. Being in the theatre group, we started our morning at 9:45 to travel to Sloane Square for a script analysis workshop at the Royal Court Theatre. With today being the London Tube's 150th anniversary, we appropriately traveled via tube to our destination this morning.  The first thing we saw after coming out of the Tube station was a public toilet.  This particular toilet allows you to do your business for only 50 pence.  Insert your money and the door will open, allowing you to use the facilities for 20 minutes.  However, it would be in your best interest to finish before 20 minutes is up otherwise you become exposed to everyone when the door reopens!

 We began our tour in the larger theatre of the Royal Court, seating 400 people. The seats here were the most comfortable seats I have found in a theatre, this may be due to their design being based on a 1950's Chevy. We learned about how the Royal Court Theatre runs and I found it most interesting that they perform only new shows. This allows the literary department of the theatre to receive and read 3500 to 4000 scripts a year to consider for productions. This means that members of the literary department could read up to 1000 scripts in a year. The shows make their way through a selection process where shows are set aside or moved forward.

The last stage of this process is called a script meeting. In this meeting three shows are discussed a week. Those in attendance include an associate director, producer, visual director and others. All those in attendance would have read the scripts in consideration and they then discuss them in the meeting. These meetings ultimately lead to the decision to produce a show or to set it aside.

Our workshop also allowed us to work through a particular script that is up for consideration. We had our own script meeting discussing our thoughts on a particular script. We used the same “grading sheet” that those at the Royal Court use. This sheet provides options for grading that include immediate production, production with revisions, meeting with the writer, a rehearsed reading, a flat out “no” and also “over my dead body”. What was surprising was that the opinions of the script were all over the board. Although no one chose “over my dead body” in the rating process.

Me, Becca, Caitlin and Deanna getting a glimpse of the sun after the Royal Court workshop for only the third time the whole trip!! J

Following our workshop the theatre group had free time until Richard III in the evening. A group of us decided to head to Pret a Manger, one of our favorite spots for lunch. It was here that we met up with Dan because he is lost without his theatre friends... poor Dan.  We all had a bite to eat and then wrapped up our afternoon with some shopping. 

Tonight we attended our last play in London, Richard III, at the Apollo Theatre.  The theatre was beautiful, with four levels of seating and intricate painting and woodwork it was like sitting in a piece of art.  With our seats up in the clouds, we had a birds eye view of the show.  This particular rendering of Richard III was performed true to the way it would have been done when first introduced, with all male actors and proper costumes to the time period.  While the show was not my favorite, it was still an insightful experience allowing me to feel like I had stepped back into time.

Caitie, Me, Becca and Deanna at our performance of Richard III.

That’s it from London for me! Toodle-ooo everyone!! 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Paintings, Photos, and a Play

January 8, 2013

My name is Becca Vaughan; I am a junior at St. Scholastica, an art major and sign language minor.  I chose to come on this trip because I have never been abroad before and it was the perfect opportunity! This trip is the start of my 5 month adventure of studying abroad. When everyone else comes home from London, I head to Germany and then to Ireland for the CSS semester in Ireland.

Over all, we ended up having a very relaxing, but productive day today. Starting off with a trip to the National Portrait Gallery, which was amazing!

After, we wanted to see more paintings (remember, I’m an art major) and went over to the National Gallery. This is where more of the more “known” artists are. I loved it! Having just finished an Art History class, I have studied many of the artists. Knowing the artists makes the works so much more inspirational when seeing them in person. Most of the works that are “well-known” paintings weren’t featured in the gallery, which made the experience kind of odd. Although I recognized many of the artist’s names and the style of their work, I had never seen many of the paintings before and that showed me many new works. It would have been fun to see more “famous” paintings, though.
Next, we wondered over to Trafalgar Square, where we saw this awesome street performer who would pose people as matrix moves. Then we had an adventure trying to climb up on the lions because they were just cleaned and sprayed down with water which made them slippery. But we made it up!

We spotted a Gold mail box, which means an Olympic Gold Medalist lives in that part of town. Eleanor Jackson, our awesome tour guide told us that on the first day, so we were very excited to finally spot one.

While walking back to the hotel for a short refreshing nap, we stopped and took pictures with Big Ben! 

Since we are in London, only for a few more days and we love to shop, we decided to hit up Primark. Primark is a four level store, super cheap clothing. Not having much time between shopping and our play, we went to the local grocery store and had a picnic in our lobby! Delicious and cheap!!

Our play performance for the night was War Horse and it was phenomenal! If I hadn’t gone to Wicked, this would be my favorite play! Multiple people crying, the horses looked so real, and after the show we got to go talk to two of the actors who we met previously at a workshop! We got to ask them any questions we wanted to -- a really neat experience.

Ending the night by topping it off with some great ice cream!
Two days left, let’s make it a great trip, one to remember and never forget!


January 8, 2013

Hey! My name is Hannah Roy and I am senior biology major/chemistry minor at CSS. This semester I had the opportunity to finish up my honor’s credits in London. My freshman year I did a similar trip to London but it was purely soccer based. Every day was structured around practice and games. This time I came to learn about more of London’s history and culture with a literature group.
Today the literature group broke away from the theater group and ventured outside the city of London, two and a half hours away to Stratford-upon-Avon. This is a small English town with a population that seemed to be much older than one sees in the city.

Our first stop was Anne Hathaway’s birthplace. Now, this is not the Anne Hathaway that has starred in the recent Les Miserables, but William Shakespeare’s wife and the mother of his children. The house was rather large with 12 fairly sized rooms. Alison, our tour guide explained that the house started off with two simple rooms and eventually two chimneys were added and later the upstairs. She opened our eyes to what life might have been like for Anne during this time. We literally were able to walk on the same floor that Anne and even William during their courting, walked on regularly.

The floor that William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway once walked on

The next stop was Trinity Church where both Anne and William are buried. Gravestones filled the lawn, and a small door, no taller than five feet let you into a small stone church that still functions today. A 12th century door knocker remains and it was once said that touching this door knocker would give any individual 37 days of sanctuary. Sadly, most of us missed this because we were too caught up in getting to Shakespeare’s grave.  At the front of the church was where William and Anne lay, next to other individuals that were a part of the church at some time. Along side the grave stood the same stone bath (font) in which William was baptized.

From here we walked along the river to our last stop on the tour, William Shakespeare’s birthplace. Today in the area where William grew up, main streets run through the city along the river. This is about a 25 minute walk from Anne’s house. The house was similar to that of  Anne’s but with small differences, like the addition of William’s dad’s glove shop.

William Shakespeare's birthplace

After a quick lunch in one of Stratford’s little cafes and some small shopping in the candy store and then we headed back to London in order to catch the 7 o’clock play of War Horse. Most were leary of watching a play whose main character was a horse, due to prior experiences with animal movies and how they typically end. Yet, we all watched and marveled at the play’s ability to capture war and create a realistic horse, all on stage. And to most people’s surprise the horse lived!

Now it is back to the hotel to catch some rest before having to wake up and run about London again tomorrow!