I have entered into my last month in the program and it feels like the time here has gone by so fast. I don't think I did half of the things I wanted to in London, let alone travel to half the places I wanted to in Europe. Yesterday though, I did take a tour of Windsor Castle, Bath and Stonehenge all in one day with Ali and my friend visiting from home, Lindsay. It would have been more of an experience to have more time at all of these places, but this tour covered all the sites in England outside of London that I really wanted to see. I realized I did not have much time left either, so if I wanted to see them the tour was the best option. It was an extremely long day and it started pouring by the time we got to Bath (luckily that was the last stop), but it was still worth the experience of seeing these places. At Windsor Castle I got to see the changing of the guard, which I hadn't been able to catch at Buckingham Palace yet, plus at the castle there were less people so I could actually view the ceremony. We didn't spend much time at all at Windsor, but it wasn't really the part of the trip I was looking most forward to so I didn't mind. The next stop on the trip was Stonehenge. It was quite amusing because we were just driving down the street with all these green hills around us, then we came around a bend and I was looking to the right, I glanced the left and there it was! Stonehenge is literally in the middle of nowhere! Some of the stones came from England, but then others came from as far away as Wales. Stonehenge is one tourist spot that I feel the keepers/owners of the area are doing the right thing to make it more of an experience like it should be. There are plans to put a tourist information center far off from the site and then shuttle bus people from there over to the stones. They also hope to make the highway, which is currently running adjacent to the site, underground. The hope is that people will then be able to experience Stonehenge like it was originally designed, without cars zooming by. I think this is the right way to renovate a site that is a tourist attraction. With the shuttle buses, I'm sure they will also be able to do some kind of crowd control so the experience isn't ruined by too many people visiting the site at once. I feel this is a lot better than what they plan to do in Belfast, which is build modern buildings directly on the sites (like the Harlan and Wolf shipyards) and consequently ruin any "true" experience someone visiting the site can have. I hope more historical societies and owners of these sites follow the example of those running Stonehenge to give people more of an experience at historical sites rather than just making all of them "tourist experiences".
Final stop on the tour was Bath, where it poured, but it was still an exciting experience to see the Roman Baths. The rain actually made the site cooler because of the open ceilings they had, so the rain just poured down into the bath, but we were dry because of the overhang there. We didn't spend too much time at the Roman Baths because there was a Christmas market in the town as well. I bought some handcrafted ornaments from a man whose wife went to BostonUniversity (small world!). Then as we were driving out of Bath our tour guide began to talk about the Hamlet of Pennsylvania.Lindsay and I had seen signs all day that said "Warminster" and pointed one direction and "Southampton" pointing the other direction. We laughed because we grew up in Warminster, Pennsylvania and Southampton was the next town over. The tour guide said the Hamlet actually got its name from Pennsylvania because it was William Penn's grandson or something like that that founded the Hamlet. It really went to show me how interconnected everything in this world is. People talk so much about the interconnections due to globalization, but it is examples like this that go to show that interconnections existed for some time prior to the joining of global markets.
Another experience I had this past week was getting an authentic Georgian/Russian meal. One of the girls in the flat had a birthday this week and decided that she wanted to cook us dinner for it. I told her most people are cooked for on their birthdays, but she said it was something she just wanted to do. I'm not one to refuse a free meal! I asked her what she usually did on her birthday and she said that in Georgia (the country, not the state) there is a lot of drinking and people and food for birthdays and that it is a big celebration for them. Georgian was not exactly a type of food I had planned on trying while I was in London, but that is part of the beauty of living with people from other countries (you get to experience different cultures that you never thought you would). The food was pretty heavy for what I'm used to eating, but it was delicious. The girls even explained to us the proper ways to eat the food, like with the bean soup to eat it by dipping bread into the bowl rather than solely using a spoon. It was also a good experience because it brought a bunch of us from the flat together again. We always seem so busy with schoolwork and our internships that we rarely eat meals together. Mostly we all fight over space in the kitchen to cook our individual meals then we scarf them down so we have time to finish more of our dissertation or get more sleep. It was refreshing to sit down for a meal together and get to talk for once; put the world on hold for an hour or so.