Well the end is in sight…tomorrow I have my last exam, Friday I move out of the flat, and Saturday I’m headed to Russia!!! I can’t believe how fast the time is going now, it’s crazy. Things at the flat are both quiet and hectic—half of us are gone and back home now, so it alternates between flurries of activity before exams and packing and absolutely nothing. So weird. To quote a song my sister and I wrote, “I hate change, I hate change, I love normalcy!” I have a second to breathe in-between this crazy week of road tripping around England and managing to plan, write, and turn in my big essay. So this is my road trip with Adam! (#biiiiiiitches)
I went back to Sandbach with Adam on Wednesday (May 28) and got to see the pub he worked in, which is super nice and has priest holes from when they used the place to hide priests! What! Then we managed to find our way back to Notts even though Adam is severely directionally challenged (this will be a common theme in the trip).
May 29: We were up bright and early and headed to Leicester, which, by the way, is the worst place on earth. Don’t even go there. First of all, we drove into the city on the road that, in January, Bob made us get off the bus and walk around even though it was raining and all the shops were closed. And then, it was just fucking Leicester. We were able to find the Cathedral, which was really nice. I made notecards for Adam so that he would know the historical signifcance of all the places I was dragging him to, so this one focused mainly on Richard III. Just a few days ago (May 24), they announced that Richard III will indeed be buried in Leicester Cathedral, a decision that has me fuming mainly because he’ll be interred in Spring 2015 instead of Spring 2014, and I had obviously been planning on going to his grave once he was buried. #unamused They have a (free) museum on Richard III and I was able to peek into the excavation site, which was really cool! Also saw the Guildhall, one of the best 15th century guildhalls in England. Then, possibly the highlight of the trip and literally the ONLY reason to go to Leicester: Cinnabon. I had converted Adam to Cinnabon back in Wroclaw, and after finding out that there’s one in Leicester, we obviously planned our road trip around that. It was delicious, and definitely Leicester’s only redeeming quality.
“Leicester: where people go to die.”
After we spend for fucking ever getting lost, driving around the same roundabout several times, driving on the wrong highway, etc. we finally made it out of Leicester (fucking Leicester) and about 2 hours later we were in Gloucester. Gloucester Cathedral was the last big cathedral on my cathedral list this year, and so I am very happy to say that I completed my list and went to all the major ones that I wanted to see! Gloucester was absolutely beautiful, really big round pillars and it had the tomb of Edward II. More importantly, the cloisters (with the oldest fan vaulting ceiling in England, I believe!) were used in filming Harry Potter 1, 2, and 6!!! Not only was it where Harry and Ron see the troll on Halloween, where the Fat Lady’s portrait hung in front of the Gryffindor Common Room, and where “The chamber of secrets has been opened, enemies of the heir beware” was written on the wall, but it was also where Snape tries to find out Malfoy’s plan of killing Dumbledore! Being there was magical :)
Sudeley Castle was our next stop, and after many struggles, wrong turns, wrong highways, getting rid of our google maps directions because they were absolute bullshit, we made it through the village of Winchcombe and to the castle. It was a beautiful day, and the castle was really nice! They had a TON of portraits of my people, which was absolutely awesome. Portraits that I had never even seen before! I love it when that happens. It’s always a good time when I see a new Tudor portrait. The main reason I wanted to go to Sudeley Castle was because Henry VIII’s last wife, Katherine Parr, is buried in the chapel there. I got to see her grave, which means I’ve been to the graves of ALL of Henry VIII’s six wives this year!!! Holla! We spent about quite a bit of time getting lost on single-lane country roads in the middle of bum fuck nowhere trying to get to Hailes Abbey, and when we did finally make it there, it was closed. But we saw a fair part of the ruins from a public footpath, and then got to see Hailes Church (c. 1175) which was a really small, sweet, and quaint little place. The Cotswolds really are a beautiful place, so perfect and so English with fantastic scenery. It was at this point that I started using my new favorite thing ever, the atlas. I am such a map nerd, and so I had an awesome time figuring out routes for us on the atlas. We eventually made it back to Cheltenham and then, since my kebab senses never serve me wrong, we got kebabs.
May 30: After taking the scenic route out of Cheltenham (aka getting lost) we rolled up to Tewkesbury and I got to go to the abbey! Tewkesbury Abbey is a damn nice abbey, round Norman pillars, AND (as I found out once I got there) also the final resting place of George, Duke of Clarence (of “drowning in malmsey wine” fame) and his wife, Isabel Neville. I LOVE surprises like that!!! It was great. There were a bunch of old ladies cleaning in the abbey and they pointed a lot of stuff out to us, which was really sweet. Our next stop was a spontaneous one: Cirencester. They have a cup that belonged to Anne Boleyn there, so obviously I had to go there. We saw a grassed over Roman amphitheater, and then I found us a badass free parking spot and we went to St. John the Baptist Church. Besides having Anne Boleyn’s Cup (it was a really nice cup, to be fair), they also have one of the best pre-Reformation pulpits left in England! Hollllla! Cirencester is a really cute town, and they were having a big market day on the day we were there.
Thanks to my best friend the atlas and several country roads in the middle of nowhere, we got onto the A40 and got gas in Shipton, which I will forever hold fond memories of since we were literally running out of gas, and Shipton had the cheapest gas we saw all day. We made it to Blenheim Palace, which is where Winston Churchill was born. It is beautiful and big, and had a great exhibit on Churchill. He really was a such an interesting man. I cried a ton and I got to see the room where he was born. The rest of the state rooms were nice, but not as cool. We walked around the gardens, saw the Column of Victory (Battle of Blenheim 1704), saw where Churchill proposed to his wife Clemmie, and the waterfall. It wasn’t the best day (cloudy and a bit chilly) but it wasn’t raining, so the weather was therefore great. Even though I’m technically not allowed to drive in the UK, Adam let me drive his car and I had a very successful victory lap around the Blenheim Palace car park. Despite the fact that I hadn’t driven in 9 months, hadn’t driven a stickshift since the Saturn (RIP) in October 2010, had to drive on the wrong side of the road, and (worst of all) had to drive on the opposite side of the car aka change gears with the wrong hand. So crazy and so scary but I loved it!
Our next stop was the town of Bladon, to see Churchill’s grave in the yard of St. Michael’s Church. It really meant a lot for me to finally be able to go there—I am a huge fan of Churchill, and in general think he was one of the greatest leaders our world has ever seen. It was really touching, that he was buried so privately and inconspicuously with his family. We got back in the car and hit horrendous traffic until I used my atlas skillz and took us on a different route via the town of Fritwell, stopped at a McDonalds on the way, and then drove back to (I shudder to even type it) Leicester. Here’s what happened: Adam stopped at a stoplight near Highcross shopping center, I jumped out of the car, ran down a street, through a parking ramp, across the entire fucking mall, and then ordered our 4 for £10 Cinnabon, where I had to wait 8 minutes for them to get out of the oven whilst I stood there panting due to my run, chatted with the guy and told him how far I came for Cinnabon and ended up getting free frosting, then ran back across the mall, parking ramp, and down some sketch street that Adam had parked at. It was awesome. AND free frosting!!! #thegoodlife Adam got me back to Notts and Kula and I went to Ocean for our last time, which was so much fun but hot and sweaty. I will miss it so much!
May 31/June 1/June 2: I finished my reading for my essay, wrote an outline, wrote 2980 words, and then turned it in. Can I get a what what?!??!?!?!?!?!? For sure the fastest I’ve ever done an essay, and it definitely wasn’t as shitty as I was expecting! If anyone wants to know about the impoverished state of the Church of England from 1558-1640, let me know.
June 3: Adam, for some reason, was willing to take me to Peterborough, so we got in the car, he gave me the atlas, and we took one last trip so I could say goodbye to my girl, Katherine of Aragon. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get back to Peterborough before I left England, and I’m so, so glad I was able to. Peterborough is one of the most important places in the world to me, and it was important for me to go and say my goodbyes. In terms of saying goodbye to England, Peterborough and Katherine were the first ones. It was hard, but I’m happy I could go. I bought these beautiful orange-red roses for her grave, which were perfect since they were just about the colors of Spain. It made me feel a lot better, that I had the chance to say a proper goodbye.
Peterborough was originally the only stop on our trip, but when I saw that Fotheringhay was so close, Adam agreed to drive on more winding single lane country roads to get me there. Fotheringhay Castle was the birthplace of Richard III and the site of Mary Queen of Scots’ execution, and Richard, Duke of York (Richard III’s father) and Edmund (Richard III’s brother) are all buried in Fotheringhay Church. It was a really nice church, beautiful pre-Reformation pulpit (I’ve just been pulpit hopping across England) and a nice window with the crests of various Yorkists. We found the path to the castle site (nothing from the castle is left, except a nice castle mound) and we had fun dodging around sheep to climb to the top for superb views of Fotheringhay and the surrounding countryside. It was so perfect, so English, and quintessentially everything I love about England.
I should also make a side note: on our way back to Notts (we unfortunately had to pass through Grantham, “where people from Leicester go on holiday”) we took a detour to go through the village/whatever you call something smaller than a village (it was 3 houses) of Bitchfield. Yes, I went to Bitchfield. It was bitching.
I should probably start studying for my exam now, considering that I have 19 hours until I have to take it and I don’t know any Polish and don’t remember anything! Time is going so fast now! By Saturday I’ll be in Russia, which doesn’t even seem real. I am so excited though, it has been my dream for so long. I’m not sure if I’ll have time to do another post before I leave, so… до свидания!
|Katherine Parr's grave|
|Anne Boleyn's Cup in Cirencester|
|Finally made it to Churchill's grave :)|
|Picture of the picture of the picture of the picture at Peterborough|
|It was a nice castle mound|