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A Trip Across the PondPosted Wednesday, August 19, 2009, at 1:18 PM
I am just not that kind of traveler. Although a relaxing getaway does sound nice, when I travel I want to learn, to explore, to see places both famous and obscure. I want to see what life is like there, and how it compares to my own standards of living back home. When I go to a new place, I am filled with wonder and excitement. I plan days full of sightseeing and cultural events, so as not to miss a thing, even if that goal is quite unreachable.
A trip to England was especially enjoyable for me for several reasons. I really have wanted to go there all my life -- there's just so much to see. And, because of my Beatle-mania days as a pre-teen and my (still raging) obsession with 19th century British literature, the seat of the British Empire feels a little like the center of the Western world to me, even if Britannia no longer rules the waves. Plus, after more recently traveling to developing countries with all their challenges, it was nice to be in a place less culturally shocking where English was always spoken and toilet paper always provided.
So, here are a few of my favorite memories from the trip.
Tea: Usually, I am just a water drinker, but "when in Rome," right? So, I drank plenty of black tea doctored with lots of cream and sugar. And, when my mom and I took a day trip to Stratford-on-Avon, Shakespeare's home, we ate high tea in a cute tearoom. The building was quite old, English Tudor with leaded glass windows, and we sat in the corner of an upstairs room, with the ceiling quite close to our heads. Along with tea, we ate tasty currant scones with butter, jam and whipped cream; Welsh rarebit, which is a sort of open-faced toasted cheese sandwich; and cake, chocolate for me. It was absolutely fabulous.
Music: I was thrilled to travel to England during the 2009 BBC Proms, an annual summer festival of about 60 classical concerts featuring musicians from across the globe. We sat in some of the cheaper seats in Royal Albert Hall to hear the BBC orchestra perform Stravinsky's "Petrushka," among other things, and even though we were high up, the sound was magnificent. We also caught a concert at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, where the strains of British composers Edward Elgar and Ralph Vaughn Williams resonated beautifully throughout the stark church.
Literature: As much as I loved exploring the bustling streets of London and seeing royal residences like Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace, a more modest dwelling in Chawton village is my favorite landmark of the trip. We journeyed to that somewhat-remote hamlet to see the cottage where Jane Austen spent her final years. Normally, I am not one for celebrity adulation, but I was completely delighted to be in the very rooms where such great works as "Pride and Prejudice" and "Emma" were penned. To be that close to the great authoress was truly a wonderful experience.
Other favorites, briefly: steak and ale pie, widespread public transportation, cider, the cosmopolitan atmosphere, the accents. Of course, I didn't come close to seeing all England has to offer, though perhaps no one ever does. Hopefully I will return to see the lake district and Cornwall. If not, I've had a delicious taste of England and a glimpse at yet another fascinating foreign land. Any trip, no matter the length or destination, is an adventure well worth taking.
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Sydney is a former staff writer for the Democrat-News. She received degrees from University of Missouri in both music and magazine journalism. She played oboe with the Marshall Philharmonic Orchestra and the Marshall Municipal Band while she was in Marshall.