Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Quite Simply, We Pottered

Thanks to the "convince financial aid to send Lionel to England for free" spell that Chief Witch Troseth so expertly wielded, I was honestly blessed with this opportunity to get abroad with some great people. Interestingly, I have actually been on an England Harry Potter trip before, so this was a great chance to compare my experience at 10 and at 20.  While not everything was new to me, the experience was so different that it may as well have been.

I enjoyed my chance to lead a discussion on Wind in the Willows, and was glad to get a primer on such a range of classic literature.  I don't get to read fiction as much as I like, so this was a nice change of pace.

While it's hard to imagine that I was alone in this, The Eagle and Child was a real highlight for me.  It feels like the US tends to rope off any building over 100 years old, while England's landmarks are instead still used for their original function.  I guess it would be impossible to just rope off every building.

A major development in my life, as well as in the timeline of global photography, is the creation and implementation of the Meta-Selfie.  While the debate rages, I have come to the expert conclusion that a selfie with multiple people should be called an "usie", while a picture of one person taken by another should be a "yousie".  A picture of multiple people taken by another should be named the "y'allsie". 

While my normal cantankerous self would not have stopped to take a photo, the groups decision to sojourn made my participation unavoidable.  As such, I was left with no option but to school all of the haters, which I believe that I did.  While I did not buy the professional print, the gift shop attendant did compliment my form, which of course means a lot to me.

If I may for a moment be a bit more serious, the American cemetery in Cambridge was quite the somber experience.  It was, from the grandioseness of the statues to the religious pervasiveness, a great stimulus for reflection into what the military means in American society.  It was also the first time that I got to have a great conversation with Dr. Troseth, which I really relish.

While the issue was probably my expectations, I am thrilled that our London trip was able to blow even my wildest ideas out of the water.  I made a number of great friends that I will continue to value, and I was able to revisit some wonderful sites.  I would love to thank Drs. Troseth and Pendergrass for such a tremendous trip, as well as our TA's.  

Friday, April 11, 2014

My trip across the pond

I don't really know what I was expecting from this trip... maybe a little Harry Potter discussion and the occasional bus tour at the most. I never could have guessed that I would have so much fun and make so many friends in such a short time period while managing to learn even more about the books I love so much. Here's a glimpse into my week in England.

Just the view I woke up to every morning while staying in Oxford. 

The building was beautiful alone, but that tree just blows me away. 

I can't believe this is a college campus.
Harry Potter's great, but visiting The Eagle and Child was a definite highlight for me.

His legacy lives on, probably forever. It's humbling to reflect on death and worth.


"Magic is might"
Here I am, calmly flying over the Quidditch Field.

It's the door to the chamber of secrets. Look at that excitement.

So this was a model of the Harry Potter grounds. It was enormous and really cool.

Julie and I trying our little wizarding outfits on.


The museum had other cool stuff too. 

My last night ended with a view of the Tower Bridge. (And a Jack the Ripper Tour)

Friends. Gotta love em.
Possibly the best thing I saw in England was this little quote in a bookstore. I haven't stopped thinking about it since.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Potter Withdrawals

I can vividly remember the moment that I finished reading the last Potter book and suddenly realized that there would be no more. Harry's adventures were over, and with them ended a huge stage of my life. I used many different coping strategies to get over this sudden loss, including repeated readings of the series, dressing up for movie showings, and even resorting to the reading of fanfiction at times. Anything I could do to keep the world of Harry Potter alive inside of me.
This semester I found the best way to bring Harry back. I joined a Harry Potter class. I thought that it would be a fun way to experience the world of magic one more time, but it became so much more to me. Not only did it involve yet another reading of the series (they told me to read one of the books, but who can stop at just one??) it allowed me to delve even farther into the story, and to look for real world applications in the realm of child development. This not only  gave me another chance to read the books, it allowed me to get even farther into the world. I was given to opportunity to learn more about the books and to GO TO ENGLAND. Yes. I got to experience Harry Potter in England. I walked through the doors into the Great Hall and spent a good portion of my day (and my money) exploring the world for myself.
Now suddenly I find myself back in my everyday life missing Harry even more than I did before. And now I also have the friends I made and the experiences we had together to miss as well. So yes. I can admit it. I am having Potter Withdrawals. But I can take the pangs of longing and the disappointment every time I say Lumos and a light doesn't turn on. Because it was all worth it.

Yes I miss Harry
But he taught me it's okay
To hold on to love

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Week in the Life of a Tourist

One of my favorite parts of England was just walking and looking at all of the fantastic architecture. This was just a piece of GORGEOUS Cambridge. 

One of the colleges of Cambridge University! Couldn't resist so much beauty in one picture! 

 The Church of St. Mary the Virgin - one of Oxford's most iconic places, and SO beautiful!!! I also love trees in the spring and this was a fantastic purple flowering tree!!!

WOWZA. Oxford from the top of the Church of St. Mary. It was a lot of stairs, but definitely worth the  trek and four pounds to see the city from up top! 

Oxford's BEAUTIFUL library from a bird's eye view!


Getting some classy English afternoon tea at desserts at the oldest coffee 
shop in England! (or so they say...) 

SUCH a fan of Roald Dahl - one of my favorite parts of his museum was hearing about what the original drafts of his stories are like! 

 Not to mention I LOVED the chocolate doors - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is my childhood companion, second only to Harry Potter. 

OBSESSED with the set of Matilda - and the rest of it! Like Lionel, I have been shamelessly listening to the soundtrack constantly.  

I got a picture with my favorite elf! 

 In the GREAT HALL!!!

 Nothing beats the sound of awe from 24 Harry Potter freaks coming around the corner to see this :D

It may be an evil place, but I'm still FREAKING OUT to be at the door of the Chamber of Secrets!!!

PREACH, Rowling.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

My Favorite Things

Just a few of my favorite moments from our trip to England!
 The Eagle and Child

 The best view of Oxford!

 The Great Hall at Christ College

 Matilda the Musical!

Platform 9 3/4

Dessert crawl

Of all the things England had to offer, dessert was probably one of my personal favorites. From our first night in Cambridge, I knew my sweet tooth would be plenty satisfied.

This Chocolate Melt was the most delicious lava cake I have ever had, hands down.  Evidently this counts as a Chocolate Pudding by UK standards, but trust me when I say it was better than what we consider chocolate pudding by leaps and bounds.  This tasty little cake and that yummy scoop of gelato lying next to it were the perfect way to end a day full of jet lag and coach rides.

Our lovely hotel in Cambridge certainly did not disappoint with breakfast, especially with the wide selection of fresh pastries. I am not ashamed to admit that I probably ate 10 of these pain au chocolat the two mornings we were there - not counting theoretical pastries wrapped in theoretical napkins to eat on theoretical bus rides - and the croissants, Danish pastries, and muffins were also top notch.

As well as Cambridge dessert satisfied, true dessert loveliness was to be found in Oxford.  The story of the dessert crawl, however, started in The Cross Keys, the pub we ate lunch in across the street from the Roald Dahl Museum.  Now this pub had some mean cuisine, including a fabulous spaghetti bolognese. 

The really memorable part of the experience was the dessert course, which it seemed like my table was the only one to partake in.  Unfortunately, I have zero photographic evidence of this event, but here are the key facts: 3 desserts, 4 girls seated at the table, 1 bus eagerly waiting to leave.  Dessert consisted of delicious ice cream and my first look at the infamous sticky toffee pudding, but with the bus anticipating our departure, we had to eat fast. Luckily, several of our wonderful classmates were on hand to help with that, and I have never seen three desserts elicit such widespread joy.

I can't remember anymore who came up with the idea, but there, in that pub, with 3 empty dessert plates on a table, it was decided that we would partake in a dessert crawl of Oxford, the perfect way to enjoy our next to last night in town. 

After eating a wonderful group meal at my new favorite restaurant, which we sadly found out later was a chain, we headed out in search of dessert.

We stumbled upon a random sandwich/dessert/frozen yogurt store on our way from Giraffe and decided to order Round 1. I shared this lovely dessert with Caitlyn. From what I remember, it tasted like biscotti dipped in chocolate with some kind of jam in the middle.

I also stole a bite (or two) of this lovely dessert which looks like a square Reese's cup. Also delicious. 

Sadly, Oxford does not really contain that many places that are:
A) open past dinnertime
B) serve yummy desserts
and C) fit a group of 12 easily

So we had to settle for Round 2 at our intended final destination, the Turf Tavern, aka my favorite place in Oxford.  Apple crumble, sticky toffee pudding, chocolate torte, they have it all. They were even kind enough to serve us dessert even though technically the kitchen was nearly closed. 

Look at these smiling faces! From the bites I stole of everyone's desserts, they all tasted lovely.

The chocolate torte - which I remember shamefully stealing bites of from Courtney's plate - was especially delicious, but I think the crowd favorite was the sticky toffee pudding. Luckily, Eesha's date cake recipe tastes just as good and is available here

What a way to enjoy Oxford!