Last year my sister was fortunate enough to spend a semester studying abroad in Bath, England. While she was there my husband and I were lucky enough to visit (which you can read about here, here, and here), but she had the opportunity to see SO much more. She also happens to be great with words, so I have asked her to put together a post for my blog.
The time that I spent in England seems like a dream when I look back on it. It has that slippery feeling to it that make you wonder if it actually happened or if it was a creation of your own mind. I think that sometimes my brain has difficulty believing that some of the fantastic and foreign pieces of England were images that I saw with my own eyes. My semester in England was an event I had been anticipating for years, and it became a dynamic sliver of my life.
Some of the most exciting things I did in England of course involved seeing England, traveling to uncharted territories. But today instead of talking about the grand prize winners I am going to talk about the honorable mentions because they aren’t given enough attention when I talk about my time in England.
One of the very first trips my program took in England was to a little place called Cotswold. The trip to this lovely little place was one of my worst traveling experiences only trumped by my night flight to England on which sleep was unattainable. We road on a bus through the winding country roads and my stomach was rolling. I spent most of the ride concentrating on not throwing up on the floor. When we finally stopped I just wanted off the bus, so I sat down on a bench, had an embarrassing crying session in front of one of the program leaders, and was thankful for my considerate housemates who were nice enough to stay by me while my stomach settled.
This horrible bought of car sickness prevented me from bringing anything off the bus which was a fact that I mourned when we arrived to the Cotswold tower. I can’t remember the history of the tower, but I believe it was built by a wealthy man in order to view his land. In truth the history of in wasn’t what interested me. It was the aesthetic of the place. It was a lone tower on a hill that could have housed Rapunzel. I would gladly have lived it the tower if I had the opportunity. The view from the top was amazing you could see for miles, and it had the lovely patch work fields that I find so charming. The tower felt like you were in the Grimm fairytales or Legends of King Arthur. It felt like magic, ancient and powerful. It was a place that could tell a story and stories are my favorite kind of magic.
If stories are magic then I found a magician in an old manor house. The house was passed down through the family and the old man who owned it seemed to know every story that it held telling each of them remarkably. I don’t remember many details of the stories, but I remember being enthralled by the way he spoke. He knew which words to speak and which tone to use to get the audience’s attention. I made sure to sit by him when we had tea, just so I could keep listening to him. Before we left I made sure to tell him what a lovely story teller he was. He asked me to kiss him on the cheek which was one of the more awkward things that I have done, but his stories were worth a little awkwardness.
The third and last adventure I am going to talk about is my class trip back to Oxford. I say back because one of the first trips we took in England was to Oxford. Going back was intriguing in and of itself because I knew where we were as we went through the city. I recognized a foreign city in a foreign country, and that still amazes me even now when I left the country months ago.
The Story Museum was a someplace that I had not seen yet. The Story Museum was just as it sounds. It was filled with rooms that had different themes to them and in these rooms they had pictures of authors dressed up as their favorite characters from literature. Every part of the place had something to do with books and words making it into a librarians dream.
My three favorite parts, though everything was amazing, were the story machine, the children’s bedroom, and the wardrobe room. The story machine was in a room filled with costumes and had a red carpet leading up to a throne. If you approached the throne holding a story made in the story area next to the costumes trumpets would sound and a voice would read the story to you. The story machine itself was a contraption made of random odds and ends, and resting on this contraption is a story of an author who had lost the skills to write. So this author invented this machine that runs on children’s imagination and wrote the stories for him.
The next room was the children’s bedroom. It had multicolored canopies hanging from the ceiling and children’s books on shelfs and best of all in the middle of the room was a gigantic patchwork quilt covered bed. It was an awesome place for bed time stories with dim lighting and some nighties to wear hanging on the walls.
The wardrobe room was one of those amazing places in the world that actually feels like magic. The entrance is a wardrobe filled with fur coats and as you step through it you find your feet landing on powdery snow. When you look up trees with twinkling light surround you and not too far away a sleigh is settled in the snow next to a glowing lamp post. After you’ve noticed all of these details you find that there is a chill in the air and you know that you have stepped into Narnia.
The Story Museum was a place made by people who love literature and you could tell in the small details like the giant playing cards stacked next to the stair case and the portrait of a wizard down an ivy covered castle hallway. It didn’t have as many rooms as it needed, but it was still in progress when we visited, so there is sure to be more to come. Soon the Story Museum could be on par with the Magic House or the City Museum.
My time in England was full of adventures and experiences that I never would have had if I had stayed in the United States, and I am so thankful to have gone. I grew as a person so much that semester and I feel that that is something we forget that we need to do. So go take an adventure and learn something new. Experience life because why not. It’s there and you don’t need dragons and knights to have an adventure.