Following a week of culture galore, I wasn’t willing to ease up on the gas yet. Classes were very much in swing, but the four hour duration of each session carried a heavy weight. What cures the “I’ve had a four-hour class” blues? Fun. On Tuesday night, it was time for fun. KJ and I set out to the River Thames to ride the London Eye. The sun started to set as we entered our glass encasement and the sky became painted with color. Although we had seen the Westminster area of London, we had never seen it like before and it was beautiful. The only regret that we faced when our trip was over was that the ride on the Eye was a bit longer.
Studying abroad is characterized by culture, academics, and spontaneity. Some decide to travel to a strange place, explore town, see an operatic performance…but I decided that my spontaneity would involve running a half-marathon while in London. In all honesty, this decision was not completely spontaneous. I’ve always aspired to run a half-marathon and I’ve been itching for the opportunity. The Run to the Beat half-marathon is the first opportunity that met me while here in London. On October 28th, I will be running 13.1 miles from O2 Arena through one of the greatest cities in the world. What could make it better? A banging sponsor, a cool theme, and a meaningful cause. Yes: this is sponsored by Nike so that means that there will be awesome gear. Yes: there will be a live band at every mile of the race. Yes: I am running this race to raise money for Leukemia and Lymphoma Research. Please help me reach my fundraising goal here: http://www.justgiving.com/andrew-hartman.
Amidst the running and the anticipation, we had some time to fit two day trips in one weekend and affectionately called it our Jane Austen experience. Early on a saturday morning, we set out on a monotonously long bus ride to the villages of Bath and Avebury. The M4 is undoubtedly the most boring motorway in the world. Fortunately for us, the little country roads opened up our eyes to a world that we had never seen before. There was life outside of London…and a color other than grey wasn’t so hard on the eyes either. We made a bee-line for the Roman Baths immediately because our traffic-ridden bus ride gave everyone a tiny dose of cabin fever. Like the tourists we were, we respectfully followed the self-guided audio tour…but we abandoned all hope when we were halfway through the baths and motored through the antiques, restored stone, preserved bodies to get to the water. At first, we thought that we would have fight the urge to touch the water…but they lovely algae was the only deterrent we needed. Although we intended to eat our posh lunches of panini sandwiches and botanical sodas in the beautiful park, the STEEP charge of 1.50 pounds made us comfortable with sitting on a bench in town instead.
After departing the oasis that is Bath, we set out to Avebury…without much knowledge of what we would find there. We drove even further into the beautiful countryside and pulled into what looked like an overcrowded RV vacation destination. Allegedly, Avebury features a circular stone wall around its outskirts that predates Stonehenge. The wall is hardly for defensive purposes because it could barely keep the sheep in one area, but it is pretty amazing to fathom moving these huge outlying rocks. We had just enough time to walk through the poop infested sheep pen to get our photo op with the stone giants and get a spot of tea, but that was all we needed.
The next day, we set out in the rain towards Stonehenge with sleep still in our eyes. Bearing our rain jackets, wellies, and umbrellas, we manned the weather with our audio guides in hand. I was generally interested in the way the ancient people made these rocks notched in order to keep them in place so I strictly followed the audio tour, but I gave into peer pressure and took the walking tour at a faster pace. Taking pictures and wresting an umbrella in the rain and wind is an art for the record. We can say that we finally saw Stonehenge in person, but I may just have to come back during the summer to camp amongst the stones instead of admiring them from behind a rope. After marveling in the beauty of Stonehenge, we bought what was most likely the best warm beverages that we had ever experienced before setting out for Winchester.
Winchester was a sleepy little town…especially when the rain was also deter any forms of life from showing their face on a Sunday. Winchester = Knights of the Round Table. Needless to say, we rushed up through winding roads to find the site of Great Hall. After standing before the immense suspended table, we made our way back to visit the magnificent Winchester Cathedral. Despite not being able to get in to the cathedral, we spent the rest of our time wandering into specialty stores and shopping areas in what turned out to be a pleasant day.
After this eventful week, and weekend to be specific, I concluded that I will return to Bath at some time to visit on holiday sometime and that hot chocolate Stonehenge in the rain was worth the 1.750 pounds I paid.