Saturday, November 14, 2009

One Crazy Week!

This past week was a busy one, starting on Friday when my Renaissance Literature class took a trip to Hampton Court Palace in Surrey, outside London.

Hampton Court was originally built by Cardinal Wolsey in the 1520's, but Henry VIII fell in love with the palace, and intended on giving it to his mistress, Anne Boleyn. Wolsey, who was already in hot water for failing to give Henry a speedy divorce from his wife, Catherine of Aragon, happily gave it over. The palace is very beautiful, and inside has many famous works of art from the Tudor period. One of my favorites is below.
The quality of the picture isn't that good, but the painting is of (from R to L) Henry's daughter Mary, his son Prince Edward, his favorite wife Jane Seymour, and his other daughter Elizabeth.

My favorite part of the palace was its beautiful gardens. Some were enclosed in courtyards, but the main sprawled all the way to the Thames river.

Just imagine...Anne Boleyn used to walk here! Oh, and while we were there, Henry was getting married to his 6th wife, Katherine Parr. Here he is...
We had the weekend to relax and get a jump start on papers, and on Tuesday we headed off to Stratford-upon-Avon, the home of William Shakespeare. I was extremely excited, because we were going to see a production of Twelfth Night performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company, which has had had big name actors in the past, such as Sir Ian McKellan (Gandalf), Dame Judi Dench, and Ralph Fiennes. The production was amazing, and Twelfth Night is one of my favorite plays, so I was extremely happy. Afterward, we went to a pub called the Dirty Duck and got to see some of the actors. It was a good night, but we had to get up early the next morning for a lecture and talk back sessions. Always working!

Stratford itself is a quaint little town, with lots of Tudor buildings still remaining and in use. It wasn't as big as Bath, but was definitely very tourist centered.

We didn't go to Shakespeare's birthplace (it was too expensive) but we did go into a church for free and get to see where he was buried. I was expecting something a little grander than this, but maybe it is what Will would have wanted.
We also visited the home of Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare's wife. It was an adorable little cottage! Shakespeare's home in his later life is also pictured below.

On Wednesday night we drove to Birmingham to see a ballet performance of Dorian Grey, the story of a man who is the image of perfection. He sells his soul to the devil to remain young and beautiful forever, and in his place, a portrait of him ages. In the end, he becomes so immoral and corrupt that the portrait is completely unrecognizable. In an effort to save himself, Dorian stabs the portrait, but also ends up killing himself. The ballet was a modern interpretation of this story, reflecting the obsession with celebrity and beauty in our own times. It was...interesting, to say the least. I was impressed with the choreography and the adaptation, but it got a bit intense at time. Definitely an experience.

On Thursday, we left Stratford and headed to Warwick Castle before going back to Bath. Warwick played a major role in the War of the Roses in the 1400's. I was very excited to go here, hearing it was haunted and had very cool displays from the Renaissance time. However, I was extremely disappointed when we got there.
Warwick was definitely just a glorified "Medieval Times" crossed with Madame Tussauds. Lots of wax figures (creepy) and guys dressed up in breeches (really creepy). The views from the main tower were amazing though.
Henry VIII made an appearance...
My friend Elizabeth and I wandered all over the castle to see the many different exhibits of medieval life. There was one which showed how people living in the castle would have prepared for a battle. Neither of us are big fans of mannequins/wax figures, so we were rushing through a bit, when all of sudden one jumped out and started talking to us. We were terrified and the poor man probably felt really bad, but needless to say, we didn't go into anymore exhibits. Instead, we played on the playground (a mini TimberTown) and got hot chocolate in the cafe.

Friday, we were off to the Cotswalds! The Cotswalds is a region of England that fall among a long line of hills and is known for its sheep farming. It was a rainy day, but I've never seen such beautiful areas, and I've decided that I will be living there at some point.

We started at the top of one of the main hills, and had to walk down to the little town of Broadway down below. It was all through sheep fields!

They definitely could have attacked if they wanted too. There were no fences.
Broadway was such a cute village!
And they even have their own football team!
We stopped off for a quick lunch in the town of Chipping Camden, which was even cuter than Broadway, if that's even possible.
Our last stop was a Cotswald Manor called Chavenge House. It was built, originally in the early 1000s, but was torn down and reconstructed in the 1400s. During the English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell stayed here, and during WWII, American soldiers were stationed here. We had tea and biscuits before heading back off to Bath.
I had a great week, but of course, got no work done! So I'll be trying to catch up this week before papers are due next week. Wish me luck!

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