June 3 – July 3, 2016
I loved the British Studies experience, even if I did spend many of my days getting lost and nights soaking my sore feet! Getting lost, though, could prove to be a gold mine of things discovered or a disaster of ending up in a not-so-nice part of London.
Anywhere we went I looked for SOMETHING to take home for friends and family – mostly for my grandchild. Every shop associated with a required visit was game. Then there was The Little White Company that I found online for clothes. I did not have much luck getting to either of two locations but DID make it. Along the way I discovered the marker for Charles Wesley. He was not buried at Wesley Chapel with his brother but at Marylebone churchyard, which I discovered on my search for The Little White Company near Marylebone Street.
Mini-break was an occasion to go to Ireland and also to go to Sulgrave Manor, George Washington’s family’s estate. I had left messages on more than one occasion at Sulgrave and receive no return calls. This was to be the topic of my British Studies paper because it is joint owned by the United States and Britain. I had been researching online and found that the Manor is open only on weekends. However, I was interested in the archives and not in just a tour. I had hoped to go there on my way TO Dublin, but with no response to my phone calls I decided to fly to Dublin for a very brief visit and THEN go to Sulgrave Manor over the weekend. One of my goals in visiting Dublin was to see the Book of Kells and then try to take in as many other sites as possible.
I flew into Dublin on Aer Lingus on Thursday with plans to stay in a home in Sandy Mount which I had booked through airbanb. This turned out to be a lovely little village on the outskirts of Dublin’s City Centre. Arriving in mid to late afternoon and my flight leaving Dublin at 6:30 A.M. on Saturday morning left little time to see much of the city! However, I did see the exhibition of the Book of Kells at Trinity College and fell in love with the library at the end of the exhibit. Called the Long Room it was reminiscent of the Bodleian.
For information about the Old Library and the Long Room please see https://www.tcd.ie/Library/old-library/long-room/ AND for a history of Trinity College itself go to https://www.tcd.ie/about/history/.
Of course I shopped while in Dublin and enjoyed the cobbled streets of the shops on Grafton Street across from the College. The largest shop in Dublin selling all Irish-made goods of every kind is Kilkenny.
Also on College Green near Trinity College is the Bank of Ireland, formerly the Irish Parliament built in 1739. It became obsolete in that function by the Act of Union of 1801 (http://www.dublintourist.com/details/bank-of-ireland-former-parliament-house-colle.shtml ). The old Parliament building can be seen on the left of the photo; it’s addition is quite modern.
With a plane ticket for Birmingham, England, scheduled for 6:30 A.M. on Saturday, I arose about 3:00 A.M. to make sure I was packed and ready. My hostess had called for a taxi to arrive about 4:30 to get me to the airport by 5:00. Was I surprised to arrive at the Aer Lingus check-in to discover lines and lines and lines of people there for the same purpose!? I thought I would surely miss my flight, but there is something to be said for the airline’s operations because those queues of people moved steadily and all was well for the flight.
From Birmingham I took a train to a city called Banbury, from where I was forced to get a taxi for the ride to Sulgrave Manor, about thirty or so minutes away. The taxi driver from Kashmir first dropped me at a The Carvery restaurant, obviously known for its meat and I am a vegetarian! (A lovely meal with a lentil base made the restaurant satisfactory.) He gave me his phone number and he became my personal driver for the rest of the day, as I decided NOT to stay overnight because of the events that occurred at the Manor (from the restaurant to the middle of nowhere called Sulgrave, from Sulgrave back to Banbury and to the train station for my return to London).
My visit to Sulgrave Manor was most interesting. A small wedding, the bride having pink hair, was about to take place as I purchased a tour ticket. The tour guide made our group’s trip through the gardens of the home delightful as she took us through paths that avoided the wedding party. As I had purchased my tour ticket I gave my name and contact information to the lady at the Manor gift shop telling her of my failed attempts to contact the manager and the purpose for which I had made those phone calls to him.
After the tour of the home (there were paintings and busts of George Washington all over the place!), only a small portion of which was actually part of the original home built by Lawrence Washington, I delayed the lady in charge of the tour telling her also of my dilemma regarding the Manor and my paper. I took lots of photographs and then awaited my driver with little expectation of results.
Sunday morning I was awakened with phone calls both from the manager of Sulgrave Manor and from a board member familiar with the archives. It seems that the archives were being moved into a better facility and there was no archivist at present but I felt there was still a possibility of getting this done and spent afternoons and evenings of research on my computer. I contacted Americans who might help me access any archives that might be available at Dumbarton House in Washington DC. (http://www.sulgravemanor.org.uk/ )
The third week was wasted on this project and I offered a different angle of it and another topic to Dr. Welsh. She chose the second topic. I had a part of a weekend and three days before our trip to Durham and then to Edinburgh and home to do research. I did not go on some optional trips that I had hoped to do and researched as much as possible. Then we were off to Durham, where there was no opportunity to venture on my own. I missed Bletchley Park and Oxford’s Christ Church!
However, I did enjoy some time in London attending a service at the Wesley Chapel and touring the church, the archives, and the home of John Wesley. Money had been given by Korea to re-do the entire archives and make items accessible in display cases and in especially-made drawers to safely display items.
I also went to an Open-Air Theatre production of Shakespeare’s Henry V. I toured the home of Charles Dickens and found that I was in the neighborhood of Charles Darwin’s home. I went to the Tower of London in the rain to see, again, the Crown Jewels and walked the London Bridge. I went to Twinings for tea as gifts and a display of the history of the oldest tea company in Britain.
One really enjoyable experience was to visit a Scottish Art Exhibit at Buckingham Palace. I found my favorite painting and it happened to have been Queen Victoria’s favorite as well! While I was looking at it, a lady came in to talk about it. She said that Queen Victoria had seen the painting on a much larger scale and had commissioned the artist to paint the smaller one on display to give to Prince Albert. The painting showed a loving family welcoming home the father, who had lost an arm in the Crimean War. Very touching and beautifully painted, which I can’t say about all the painters, including David Wilkie, a Palace painter of his time.
So I missed going to all the places outside London I intended to see, spent too much time researching a paper that couldn’t be accomplished, didn’t get to Inverness and the Isle of Skye in Scotland because of illness and a fall in Edinburgh! (I DID visit Edinburgh Castle to see the Crown Jewels of Scotland and some of the lower rooms; and I found myself in the middle of the Gay Pride Parade and shopped on the Royal Mile.) Nevertheless, the things I saw and the adventures I had were very special. Surely there will be another time to make all – or some, at least – of the places I missed this time around!