Hello! So sorry for the radio silence, I have been very busy here in the UK but have much to report.
Last week was great, lots and lots of reading. Classes are going well, but most of my week days have been devoted to reading and study, with a few hours a day outside exploring, sitting on the Crescent, or getting a quick run in.
One highlight of last week was dinner at the Saracen's Head Tavern, where Dickens himself dined and stayed. After that my friends Ali, Alison and I grabbed a few drinks at this gin and wine bar called the Canary, which I can highly recommend for a fun drink. I had a really nice damson gin and tonic. I am not a fan of gin usually, but I do love damson and sloe gin, both gins distilled with berries local to the UK, and semi-hard to find outside of the UK. Damsons are a bit like plums, which sloe berries are small red berries.
This weekend my whole program hopped on a bus friday morning and headed to Cornwall! I have never been to Cornwall, but have always been intrigued by it. We were not disappointed! Cornwall is a beautiful part of England, with a beautiful coast. It is also covered with hills and moors, sheep, cows, and wild ponies! Gorgeous..
It was a long drive so we broke it up with various excursions. On friday we stopped at the ancient ruins of Tintagel, which all you Arthurian experts with recognize as the alleged birth place of King Arthur. I love Arthurian legend, and was so excited to see the ruin. The little town itself was adorable, with pubs, cornish ice cream stores, and little souvenir shops, all atop a cliff overlooking the sea. When we got off the bus we hiked down to the ruins, had a quick lunch on one part of the cliff, with a nice view of the waterfall and Merlin's cave. After lunch we hiked up, up, up to the castle, and through the meadows around it. The views from the top were amazing, with miles of Cornish cliff coastline in view. Also, the water in Cornwall is as turquoise as the Caribbean. The cliff sides are adorned with hundreds of species of wild flowers, and they were all in full bloom. It was very windy, but also beautifully sunny, and it was great exercise hiking up and down the stone steps.
After exploring for a few hours we hopped back on the bus and headed to Coverack, the town where we were staying. Coverack is a quintessential tiny Cornish town on a hill, with a nice beach at the bottom. We moved into the hostel we were staying in, which was actually pretty nice, and then headed down to the (only) pub for a dinner of traditional Cornish pasties. They were actually seriously good! Loaded with veggies and steak. They say that pasties were created for the coal miners in Cornwall to eat with their dirty hands--they would grip the pasty by the crust and eat it from the top, and then discard the dirty crust when they are done. Pretty smart!
The next day we hiked the Lizard, which is the southern-most tip of England. It is known for its dicy weather and dramatic views, but we lucked out weather-wise, thank goodness. Apparently last year it was windy and rainy and generally miserable. We, on the other hand, had a great guide and a great time! Our guide told us all kinds of interesting Lore about Cornwall and the Lizard in general as we walked the 4 miles on the edge of the huge cliffs. The moors on top of the cliffs, which we traversed, boast the most endangered plant species in the UK, mostly wild flowers, and everything was in full bloom. It was sublime. There were incredible succulents hanging over the cliffs, and all sorts of other beautiful and colorful flowers. Not to mention the vibrant blue of the ocean beneath us. Our guide told us this was the premier "box of chocolates" view that England had to offer, and I cant say that I disagree. Spectacular.
After our hike we spent the afternoon in the town of St. Ives, a lovely beach town. It is much larger than Coverack, and it was cool to explore and grab some lunch. There is a large surfing community and surf school there, and it was fun to see all the Brits enjoying the beach in all their pale glory ;-)
Jokes...I cant say I am the most tan at the moment either.
That night we had a bbq at a local organic farm near Coverack, which was so neat. On our way our road was blocked by three adorably scruffy wild ponies, who eventually trotted down the road out of our way. There was a lot of bonding going on all weekend, but that night definitely cemented our group and broke down any barriers that existed before. Its not a large program, I think there are 50 of us, and over the course of the weekend we all got to hang and get to know each other a lot better, teachers included. One warning to note: beware the Cornish cider.
Yesterday our long drive was broken up by a stop at the historic estate of Nightshayes, in Deven. Kept up by the National Trust, Nightshayes is a beautiful old victorian estate, dating from the 1800's. It was privately owned until 1972, and then was handed over to the National Trust. It has been beautifully preserved with all the original decorating, and we walked all over the house admiring the Georgian and Victorian interiors. It was all beautiful, but the ceilings were particularly cool with amazing molding, engraving, and painting.
We got back to Bath around 6:00, exhausted but happy. It was so nice to be outside all weekend in such a dramatically beautiful place. We truly got to experience the flavor of Cornwall, which is definitely different than Bath. I would love to go back some time and see more :-)
Busy week this week, few papers and presentations. Ill try to be a little more consistent with posts, but I cant make any promises.
ps. please forgive all the photos--I love the minutiae...