June 2018

Jane Austen Dancing: Take Seven (Fin)

Jane Austen dancing has been one of the best experiences of study abroad, so we were incredibly thankful to get to have one last session during our last week.  My favorite dance that was introduced this time involved weaving underneath arches that other dancers would form with their arms and skipping about to a fun fast beat.  The organizers were very gracious and played some of our favorite dances, including the  Duke of Kent’s waltz (the sophisticated and slow dance), the Ship’s Cook sea shanty (weaving around in a circle, and featuring the creative and fun male sea shanty arms!), and the College Hornpipe (aka the stomping dance!).

It was somewhat bittersweet to dance our last dance (and tiring) but we had such a lovely time this semester.  Bea organized a thank you note signed by the regular dancers from our programme, thanking the Jane Austen dancers for welcoming us and putting up with our giant learning curve, which we presented at the halfway point break.

It was a fitting end to a great experience.  Jane Austen dancing will always be some of my fondest memories from study abroad.

The Spring Break Crew Goes to Bristol

It was wonderful to meet Renee over Spring Break, and we were fortunate enough that she was also based in the UK for the semester.  So we were determined to meet up at least once more before we parted countries.  Renee decided to spend the weekend in Bristol, a port city 15 minutes away from Bath by train, allowing Becca, Maddie, and myself to meet up with her for a fun last daytrip.

Having been planning this excursion for a while, I had taken the opportunity to consult with Andrew about places to see in Bristol (he has never led me astray).  He naturally recommended some churches and suggested a route to the port, which was very helpful in giving us a bit of direction for our excursion.

So our first stop was St. Mary’s, a beautiful church just minutes away from the train station.

From there we found some stands selling all sorts of wares, and we simply had to sample some desserts.  We then made our way to the Cathedral, an incredible towering structure.  Its tolling bells were an interesting contrast to the Ed Sheeran music playing nearby.

Renee suggested we make our way to a tower that provided far-reaching views of Bristol.  At the top were metal plates indicating various international cities, including nearby Bath!

Renee than suggested a scenic route taking us past some colorful graffiti, harkening back to our spring break days of following Renne’s guidance.  We eventually reached the famous Bristol suspension bridge.

Nearby was a natural slide of smooth stone.  I think it’s primarily used by children, but we had a fun time sliding down too.

After getting some food (I tried my first Scotch egg), we took some time to simply sit in a nearby park and chat, introducing Renee to the concept to Greek life in the States.

Eventually we continued on our way, carving a path to the docks and the water.

We ended our time with more chatting and Maddie introducing us to what is now my favorite New Zealand cider, Old Mout.  It was wonderful to see Renee again, and it was the perfect last hurrah in the UK for our spring break crew.

Stratford-Upon-Avon

Stratford week (or more aptly, The Three Days in Stratford) was a chance for us to take a break before finals in Shakespeare’s hometown.  Our programme put us up in bed and breakfasts with random roommates. Luckily my roommate for Stratford was Maddie’s roommate Kinaya, and we got along just fine.  The B&B itself was quite nice.  We had lovely rooms that reminded me of proper hotels, complete with a kettle for warm beverages and chocolate.  Breakfast was customized to our particular preferences and waking times, and was so filling that I was never able to finish it all.

For our first day, we visited the birthplace of Shakespeare, the highlight of which was getting to see Shakespearean actors act our pieces from plays suggested by the audience.  It was great spontaneous fun.

That night we saw our first piece of theatre for the week, the Duchess of Malfi.  It was a particularly tragic and bloody performance (the stage floor was literally covered in a pool of stage blood) and featured a giant carcass ominously present for the duration of the play.  It emphasized very timely themes of the consequences of toxic masculinity and trying to control women’s sexuality.  This was particularly well done, and was probably my favorite play of the week.

We had several hours to explore Stratford-Upon-Avon, including finding a beautiful trail along the river.  The town itself has a distinct architecture, much older and distinctive from the Georgian work we’re used to seeing in Bath.

We then had the chance to visit the house of Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife.  The grounds were beautiful, and we were able to wander about and frolic for a while.

Our second play was a period comedy called The Fantastic Follies of Mrs. Rich.  The costumes were sumptuous, and I loved the intro of saxophone wielding musicians in period dress.  The comedy itself was not necessarily my type of humor, but I could appreciate that it was still a good production.

For our next day, we got to visit Kenilworth Castle, another example of a structure that had been partially demolished.

We were given free reign to explore the historical grounds and ruins (Queen Elizabeth I herself had visited).

After visiting a pub that claimed to be the oldest in Startford we saw our last play, the classic Romeo and Juliet.  At this point I’ve become quite good at following the plot and dialogue, having seen many different versions over the years.  This performance specifically aimed to highlight issues of knife violence in the UK (a fascinating problem from the lens of an American used to gun violence being the topic of conversation).

This ended our time in Startford, and we took a late night bus back to our flats in Bath.