Seeing a play, we thought, ah, finally something that will be more relaxing. No more trying to catch trains and planes and such.
Not that this was exceedingly difficult, but at least on spring break our planes were later in the day and we never had to get up earlier than 8. But noooooooooo. Ithaca College London Centre trips always start out rather early. We had to get to the Centre by 7:15, which meant a lovely 6 o’clock wake up call for me the day after a St. Patty’s Day hangout/birthday party for me. Yeah, it was marvelous. (Don’t fret mother, I wasn’t drinking that night, we were just up late hanging out).
I kind of wish they had pushed it back a week or something, because I have barely recovered from spring break (read: our flat is still chaos from unpacking), but turns out it was a pretty great weekend.
Except for the rain. Yes, England in its exceedingly excellent geographic location seems forever destined to rain on perfectly lovely school trips. So when we stopped in Oxford, none of us wanted to get off the bus because it was pouring. It was just as bad as in Barcelona. Silly me didn’t pack my rainboots (I’ve been told that people don’t actually wear them much for walking around, unless you’re going to be in the countryside. Who knew?) so my first pair of shoes got absolutely soaked. Which made my feet numb because it was cold. Which made walking around Oxford pretty miserable, if not for the awesomeness that it was. Seriously. It was really lovely and nice, and I can only imagine that increase with the amount of sunlight that may happen to come through patches in clouds most days. Cause that’s really all you get in London, sunshine through cloud patches.
Anyway, we visited Christ Church but couldn’t go inside cause of a special service, so we wandered around the hall and outside instead. Supposedly some Harry Potter scenes were filmed here, and the inspiration for Alice and Wonderland was here as well. Pretty cool stuff.
Heading up to be sorted. you know.
Apparently they filmed some quidditch scene here. And by that I mean the learning to fly scene
Sarah and I decided to then explore Oxford on our own, so we found some old bookshops (she’s looking for a Lord of the Rings book with character, hence all the bookshop stuff we do). We even looked in Blackwell’s, which was pretty cool.
Found the UK editions of The Hunger Games. I am such a dork
All in all, despite the rain, Oxford was a great place to visit for a couple hours. We got back on the coach and headed to Stratford.
Or so we thought. Bill had found another place to make a short stop: Winston Churchill’s grave. Now, I don’t know about you, but I never thought I would see something like that in my life, so that was a cool 5 minute stop (literally, the coaches had no place to park so we had 5 minutes to see it and get back). It was a fun time.
There it is
Now we headed to Stratford. We were staying in Bed and Breakfasts this time, not a hostel, which was a great change of pace. Sarah, Liz and I got to share an adorable room, so we hung out there for a bit, changed clothes (as my pants were still soaked from Oxford) and got ready for the night ahead. We decided to wander around Stratford for a while, and it was fun seeing all the modern buildings next to the Tudor style and uh, other earlier styled buildings (I’m not taking British Art and Architecture, so sue me, I don’t know the names). Lots of them were named after characters in Shakespeare’s works or other literary characters, like the Chaucer’s Head bookshop where Sarah found a nice copy of LOTR for 3.50. Not a bad find, my friend!
We then wandered down to the river where we admired the swans and geese, plus a strange looking one that was getting too close for comfort (keep in mind that in Ithaca, the geese are rather vicious. I think Liz and Casey have been chased at least twice by them) so we maintained our distance. Deciding we were hungry, we headed back up to a pub called the Rose and Crown for a delicious, yet again HUGE, helping of fish & chips. Seriously, that’s my go-to going-out meal. We then decided it was time to head over to the theatre to check out the production of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Romeo and Juliet.
I needed a break
WHY ARE THEY ALWAYS GIANT FISH???
So many Shakespearean characters have shops here...
This one thought he was the boss. He got really close to us. Kind of adorable, right?
To my surprise, Sarah, Liz and I ended up in the front row, albeit to the right side of the stage. I was worried that this would be an issue, but the stage is a thrust stage, meaning it comes out into the audience and is surrounded by them on 3 sides. I thought the actors might only look forward, but they did a great job of giving all 3 sides attention.
Literally this close. No zoom or anything. I could have reached out and touched the stage
Speaking of attention, I didn’t know the front row would be so interesting, or so dangerous! The fight scenes were intense. Guys were getting set on fire, chains and swords were whipping around, there was fog and smoke and I couldn’t see. Liz and I clutch each other for fear of an actor falling on us or a sword finding its way into our area. Thankfully, none of this happened, but it didn’t stop us from fearing for our lives. Other than that, they interacted with the audience a lot.
There’s a point in the show where Benvolio tells Romeo to look at other maidens. Be Romeo was in modern dress and had a camera (probably to separate him and his more modern ideals from the others who cling to age old ideas of the feud, as well as to represent the timelessness of the story) and Benvolio grabbed it and turned to snap a picture. Of us. I think he was pointing it at Liz and I, because we were in the middle of a section of girls from our school. More Liz, but I think I was in the picture too because Romeo was talking about it and gestured to us. He pointed at me and we made eye contact. My heart stopped. Mostly because Sam Troughton, the actor, played Much in the BBC version of Robin Hood, which Sarah and I love (if you haven’t seen it, it’s great!). So I was super stoked. Then, later, Friar Lawrence was talking about flowers and their deceptiveness, and how some smell sweet but have poison inside. He walked over and held the flower out, right to Liz! He asked her to smell it, she was like ‘uuuuuuhhhhh’ and did, then he asked her “how about a taste” and she shook her head no and he laughed. It was so awesome and she was blushing so furiously. She didn’t expect attention twice in one show!
Later, during Act 3 Scene 1, the scene where it all starts going downhill for Romeo and Juliet, there was a huge sword fight. I have no idea how this happened, but a chain from one of the actor’s costumes or weapons or something was broken during the scene and slid across the stage quite rapidly, hitting Sarah and I and landing on my arm. We are keeping it as a souvenir. Sure, it’s a chain, but it’s a chain from the RSC’s Romeo and Juliet. SO COOL.
The show was excellent and heartbreaking, as intended. Romeo was my favourite of the pair, partially cause I loved the actor and partially because I think he was just better. He had this awkward, light-hearted dorkiness in his Romeo that I haven’t seen before, as it is so often presented as rather serious. It made his despair in the end so much more sad and real, because in the beginning he was so joyous and free. Juliet played very well, but had some moments where I wasn’t impressed. No matter, I wish you all could come to Stratford one day and see the Royal Shakespeare Company, it truly was a treat.
This is the theatre
Afterwards, we headed over to a pub called the Black Swan, more commonly known in Stratford as the Dirty Duck. Again mother, don’t be alarmed. We didn’t go to drink. It is a common hang out place for the actors after the show. We successfully met Mercutio (his name is Jonjo. So cool) and Sam Troughton, who we did get to tell we loved his work as Romeo and in Robin Hood. It was a great night and we were all on top of the world.
No idea how I ended up NOT looking at the camera. Oh well. I met him. That's what counts (this is Sam Troughton- Much from Robin Hood)
Till we got back to our B&B. All was well until Liz was in the middle of a sentence and stopped suddenly. There, above the closet, rested a giant spider. Now, I usually have no problem with spiders. I kill them for Cesca all the time. But this one was in my “too big to kill because it is now in my range of fear” size. We spent a good 20 minutes shrieking, cowering, watching and waiting for the spider to finally get to the floor, where our teamwork combined vanquished the spider (Liz) made sure it was dead (Me), got it into toilet paper and into the bathroom (Sarah) and flushed it (Me). Terror, thy name is B&B Spider.
please note: If I had my camera, there would be photographic proof of the spider. However, mere minutes before I had put my coat (with my camera in the pocket) into the closet. Therefore, it exists only in our memories.
Luckily the B&B redeemed itself the next morning with a shower that wasn’t sketchy like some hostel showers, a lovely hot breakfast and a nice host. First, he put hash browns on our plates because, as he said “Americans. Hash Browns. See, I know!” because apparently all Americans love hash browns. I do. I’m happy! Then as we were leaving he was talking to some of the boys and something he said was really funny so I was laughing, and he looked at me and said “You have a beautiful smile! You are really beautiful. I mean, you are all beautiful. But you should be a model. You have a great smile, it is so cheeky!” I was so flattered!
The next day was also Shakespeare filled, as we visited Holy Trinity Church, were he is buried. It was really kind of amazing to be standing only a few feet away from the poet of England. We then ventured up farther in Stratford to his birthplace, which was cool to see, especially juxtaposed with the touristy area that sprung up around it.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones
And curst be he that moves my bones
Shakespeare= Bad. Ass.
I was craving a milkshake so we stopped by Moo Moo’s, which has like 100 choices for a milkshake. I got Cadbury Dairy Milk cause I am in love with the stuff, and Sarah got chocolate brownie and peanut butter, but wasn’t thrilled with it. Being the selfless, valiant friend I am, I volunteered to drink it as well. The ensuing sugar rush was most entertaining, especially for my friends who know of my eating habits (that I don’t eat much in one sitting) and how my stomach doesn’t like when I overdo it on dairy. I actually didn’t suffer as much as I was expecting. I guess Stratford milkshakes are magic.
These are all the choices. The fact that I got only two is a miracle.
My two milkshakes. Delicious.
Me: Hey let's go get ice cream from that boat!
Liz/Sarah: Christina, you're holding two milkshakes!
What a beautiful day!
To take advantage of the beautiful, gloriously sunny day, we took a boat ride on the river. Liz was a pro and paddled/rowed the whole time while I helped her out by yelling Port and Starboard at mostly appropriate times. We then just basked around a bit before we had to get on the buses and head back to London. Liz, Sarah and I won 5 pounds for answering a bunch of Shakespeare quiz questions right, and Bill gave a bunch of us buttons that had Shakespeare phrases on them. Mine said “And though she be but little, she is fierce.” Bill knows me well.
The boats were all famous females from Shakespeare!
Our boat, Helena from Midsummer Night's Dream- thought Cesca would enjoy that!
Our pro rower, Liz. Isn't she cute!
I loved Stratford. It is one of the first places here that I could actually see myself living in, rather than just visiting. It just had a great atmosphere and was so lovely and peaceful. Plus, I could then catch all of the RSC productions, which would be amazing. I hope Cesca and I can come back together sometime.
The rest of the evening was spent relaxing at home and attempting to still catch up on life and get back to normal. I counted today, and I only have 50 something days left here. My how the time flies. Casey and Andrea return from Greece today, and I am really excited to hear about their trip!
More later, probably next weekend because we are seeing Les Miserables! Can’t wait!