Author Archives: astoldbyrose

Notes On Europe: What it is, and what it is not.

After debating for much time as to what I should write my final in-trip blog about, I finally decided upon a topic about the congenial nature of the European community toward tourists. I would like to first and foremost say that Londoners and Parisians are NOT rude toward tourists, contrary to popular belief. From my personal viewpoint, I have frequently heard horror stories of the European community hating Americans, especially the French with their upturned noses and well-groomed mustaches. However, after two weeks spent in England, and a little time in Paris, I have never once encountered this hatred.

To even take it one step further, I feel Europeans have actually been quite kind and polite toward myself and my twenty-six travel companions. I know it is very difficult to wear a friendly face while encountering large tourist groups. For me, the moment I see those fanny packs and white sneakers step off a coach bus, my blood pressure steadily rises. I see large groups as a macrophaging amoeba of swine flu, engulfing innocent locals and taking up too much darn space. I see them, and I take off in a dead sprint in opposite direction.

From my personal feelings, I fully expected the same reaction from those Europeans who entertained our group. If they were the least bit flustered though, it was not outwardly noticeable. Everyone thus far has welcomed us with patience and kindness, and I could not be more grateful for that. From needing assistance with my Tube pass, to asking for directions as I wandered aimlessly around Bath, to speaking, err attempting to speak, solely French during my time in Paris, European citizens have made my time less stressful for sure!

With that said, I’d like to offer some tips for those Americans traveling abroad.

1. Don’t be loud with an egocentric attitude. Granted, being American is a pretty sweet deal. We are back-to-back World War champs. However, Just as you wouldn’t fondly look upon someone acting superior because of their nationality, Europeans don’t appreciate it either. You are guests in their country, so act like a gracious one. Lose the selfish outlook and the American flag backpack.

2. It’s completely fine to ask for help. Need directions or advice on a good restaurant? Just ask. You don’t have to hide in a foxhole while traveling abroad because as I mentioned, most all Europeans do not outwardly hate Americans. They’ll help you out, especially if you ask in a humble manner. A lot of times, I’d start with, “I’m sorry, I’m American and helplessly lost.” A little humor and humility goes a long way, believe me.

3. Make friends with the locals. It doesn’t hurt to small talk, and you never know the wealth of information they could share with you. One thing I have learned from Europeans is that they are more open to speak with strangers than Americans are with one another (sad, I know). Our new Italian friends we met at our hotel thought it was weird how we don’t talk to random people. One of the boys told us a story of how he needed directions once while in London, so he asked a window washer. The window washing man ended up taking him to his destination, all why telling him about his life. “Yea, he hates his wife a lot,” he said. I think that is such a cool custom to fellowship with someone completely new and unexpected. So, why not make friends with the locals? If you don’t like them, hey, you can go back home soon enough!

Well, that’s all for now. I’ll leave you with a quote from one of our new Italian friends: Cereal without honey is like a sky without stars. (said with an Italian accent of course) Amen to that, my friend. Amen.

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Becoming Jane…’s Stalker

This past Sunday, our group traveled to the quaint, beautiful, absolutely wonderful city of Bath, England. If you can’t tell, I have the fondest impression of the place, and it has arguably been my favorite destination we’ve visited. Bath is filled with culture, history, shopping, and yes, attractive European men. Single ladies: hit it up! However, I think what made the place so meaningful to me is its strong connection with one of my favorite authors, Jane Austen.
As mentioned in previous blogs, my final project for this course is a detailed recollection of Jane’s footprint left upon the cities of Bath and London. In accordance then, my time in Bath was spent as a sort of “National Treasure” explorer. Armed with a map, a list of addresses and a determined spirit, I hastily made my way around Bath to photograph the various places Jane lived and mentioned in her novels. It was a surreal sort of feeling, knowing you were retracing the exact steps of such an influential figure in the literature world.
For those who may lack interest in traveling to Bath I seek the lodgings of Ms. Austen, fear not, there is PLENTY more to discover. The Roman Baths alone are quite a site to see! Actually, the are the main attraction of the city for everyone else besides myself. Other activities to include on your checklist should also include (in random order of personal importance), The Pump Rooms, The Assembly Rooms, The Crescent, Pultney Bridge…The Circus. The list does really go on and on. Even as an amateur travel critic, I would give Bath five whopping stars bursting in flames of magnificent vacation glory, worthy of pagan worship from travel connoisseurs worldwide. That is all.
Rose

If the castle fits, conquer it.

Today was filled to the brim with knights in shining armor, tapestries stories upon stories tall, and years of history layered within the sandstone walls of castles and churches. We started off our day visiting the ruins of Kenilworth Castle. Destroyed by Henry VIII, what remains is an open shell of brick and mortar. Still, to see the enormity of the structure is a real jaw-dropper. I cannot even imagine how beautiful the castle must have been in its hay day.
The next errand on our agenda was Coventry Cathedral. There, we toured the remains of the old cathedral from the WWII blitz attack in November, 1940, as well as the new cathedral, built adjacent to the ruins in 1962. Our tour guide was a lovely soul, excited to share with us all her love and devotion for her church. She shared with us her wealth of knowledge about the stain glass windows in the new cathedral, the tapestry extending from floor to ceiling behind the altar, and the impressive window etchings of angels and saints on the west window (which actually faces south). We were also so fortunate enough to attend the Litany of Reconciliation, held every Friday at noon in the ruins of the old cathedral. What a wonderful and emotional tradition that is, granting forgiveness and serenity to those who harm. The litany was originally given as a granting of forgiveness toward the Germans for heavily devastating the city of Coventry with their multiple air raids.
Just when I thought the day couldn’t be any more exciting, we were taken to Warwick Castle. There, we essentially found an adult version of a doll house. Whether you we’re climbing the tower ramparts, engaging in a secret passageway tour of the castle, or taking awkward photos with the wax figurine royalty replicas, it was an absolute blast! Not only was there so much history to be learned, but we also found ourselves sad to leave because of all the fun we had “playing” within the castle walls!
Tonight, a group of us will be dining at a local pub called the Rose and Crown and possibly catching a football game too! I think I can speak for everyone and say that we are thoroughly enjoying our time here and cannot wait for the upcoming days and their adventures! Viva la England.

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I’m just here for a new profile picture

Contrary to the statement above, I am not, in fact, simply traveling to England for a new profile photo. If one so happens to rise to that status, however, it will only make the trip that much more worthwhile. To be honest, it is just now beginning to settle in that I will be traveling internationally in three days. This could be due to the fact that a minimal amount of packing has been executed. Hey, it’s always the thought that counts, and I’ve thought about packing quite a bit. This past Christmas break, I have been preparing for England by watching as many documentaries as possible (yes, I had a lot of free time on my hands). I checked-out of the library with so many dvds, I could even feel the judgmental stares from the librarians as they admired, and lo-and-behold envied, my nerd-like ambitions to learn more about the history of Great Britain. Today, I can say with confidence that I have retained a very minimal amount of the information from the numerous hours I clocked. But again, it’s the thought that counts.

Now onto what I am most eager to encounter over this upcoming fortnight. This is a difficult question to answer because the best answer I can come up with now is…well, everything! As this is my maiden voyage to the homeland, I cannot wait to engulf all England’s wonders: those weird column rocks in a circle, the steaming pools of spring water, that annoyingly tall clock everyone drools over and the cylindrical, black bushy hats. Side note: Do you think they sell those at gift stores? Even more important side note: If I were so lucky to purchase one, would it fit in my suitcase for the plane ride home? Ah, I suppose I’ll cross that bridge when it comes…the London Bridge of course.

On a serious note (surprising, I know), I am thrilled to have this amazing opportunity. With my final project as a geographical account of the life and novels of Jane Austen, I am anxiously awaiting, just as a 7th grade girl waits for the new One Direction album’s release, to visit the sites of her homes and references in her novels. Maybe even find a Mr. Darcy of my own? A girl can only dream…

With that long-winded personal statement of excitement coming to a close, I better begin my packing process. No really, that is what I am bound and determined to do. Do you think my cowboy boots would be socially acceptable to bring along? They sure are comfy and stylish…and would make for great footwear during an improve flash mob dance.

-By the way, I do, in fact, know the names of those famous England landmarks listed above: Stonehenge, Bath, Big Ben, and palace guard bearskin hats.

One of the greatest things to come out of England: SClub 7.

One of the greatest things to come out of England: SClub 7.