Kate Newman/The Student
As spring break nears, many students become excited to embark on a sunny and relaxing vacation in places like Cancun, Fla. or the Bahamas. Spring break is commonly seen as a week to get a tan somewhere tropical and treat oneself to a few cocktails. This year, I, along with six other fortunate students, was able to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience in London, England. We were traveling on a mission to learn not only about the remarkable history found there, but also about culture and travel.
Back in October, Professor Lartigue of the Humanics department posted flyers and sent emails regarding a trip she was planning for students taking a British Literature course. The trip would consist of traveling to London, Canterbury and York. The trip was designed to show the students many of the places they would learn about throughout the course, as well as the history and literature created there. We did not only learn all of that, but so much more.
As our group got off of the bus that picked us up at the airport in London, we were immediately overwhelmed and immersed in a place that none of us had been to before. We hopped on the tube (the subway) and headed to the heart of London. As we emerged, a whole new world grew in front of us. Here we were in a beautiful and captivating place, history lying before us that is beyond anything America could offer. In that moment, we all knew this would be a vacation we would never forget. Traveler Caitlin Dow described it perfectly: “After taking the tube for the first time, we walked up the stairs and when we emerged onto the street level, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben just rose up in front of us. Everyone made a collective gasp, and I’m pretty sure we were all blocking the sidewalk as we stood there in awe, exhausted as we were.”
On our second day, we managed to kick the jet lag and were all feeling like brand new people. We felt rested and excited for what our day had to bring. We ventured to the high speed trains where we headed to Canterbury, one hour away from the heart of London. We saw the death place of Thomas Becket, and the birthplace of Renaissance playwright Christopher Marlowe. We spent a lot of time at the Cathedral and the ruins at St. Augustine’s Abbey. In the evening time, we met up with the YMCA group from SC and had a nice time dining with friendly faces, comparing our experiences.
The high point in our trip came on the third day. We started off at the British Library, where we got to see things like the first written copy of Shakespeare’s plays and original Beatles lyrics written on napkins and the back of envelopes. Next we hit the British Museum, a place so big and so full of history it was near impossible to see it all. By far the best part of a day was our ride on the London Eye at sunset. A type of Ferris wheel holding twenty people to each capsule oversees all of London, and with the backdrop of the sun setting it is absolutely breathtaking. Fellow traveler and student Frank Barbuti was captivated by the sites that were lying before us. “The [London] eye provided an amazing view of all of London, especially Big Ben, the Globe [theatre], and St. Paul’s Cathedral,” he said. From the London Eye sunset ride, we headed to a nice dinner and then a play. The play Comedy of the Errors was a blast for everyone. We all laughed and enjoyed every second of it, taking in the beautiful theatre and the excellent performance unfolding in front of us. On our bus ride back to the hotel that night, I thought to myself how truly blessed I was for the day I just had in London; how surreal. The day in its entirety was a memory I will remember for as long as I live, and one that I will always share with the 11 travelers I embarked on my journey with.
The next morning, we started early with tired eyes but happy faces. Today was the day we would be leaving our hotel and heading to York, three hours away from London. We immediately met up with our tour guide upon arriving in York and were whisked away with her as she gave us a broad tour of the area. Excited and eager to see more, we split off and did some shopping and site-seeing of our own. A lot of our faces went from smiles to expressions of fear and shock when we were brought to our rooms we would be staying in for the next two nights. We were told by our travel agent that the hotel was haunted. YIKES! Each of our rooms had its own creepy story about the hauntings that commonly take place within. Later in the evening, to continue our spooky theme, we went on a haunted walk around York, where a man in a trench coat told fables of haunted locations as we bounced from place to place. As eerie as it was, we were quite brave and everyone made it through their first night in their haunted rooms.
The Yorkshire Museum and the York Castle Museum were the big attractions for our second day in York. We got to check out a lot of Roman artifacts and learn more about the history found in York. After our museum trips, everyone split up, some seeing Clifford’s Tower, touring the Yorkshire Brewery, walking through the York Minster or shopping in the Shambles.
Our last day in London, we were able to separate and meet up with friends studying abroad in the area, or see an attraction we were unable to days prior. We all met up in the evening and enjoyed a dinner together. We had a great time reminiscing on our trip about the amazing time we had together. Professor Lartigue summed up the best how amazing the experience truly was: “It was the nicest bunch of travelers I can imagine, and one of my best experiences in my years at SC. I was just so thrilled to see how much the students learned–not just about English literature, history and art, but also about adjusting to new surroundings and getting around in another country.” As one of the travelers, I must say it was truly a one-in-a-million experience, one that I will tell my children about one day, one that I will never forget.