30 June 2013

The updated itinerary

To keep a record of everything, here's how the remainder of the trip plays out

Monday, 1 July - Visit Greenwich; National Maritime Museum Library, explore Greenwich. 6pm Welcome Reception

Tuesday, 2 July - Visit the Barbican Library in the morning; visit St Paul's Cathedral Library in the afternoon. And I just purchased a ticket to a play at night!

Wednesday, 3 July - Day trip to Oxford; visit the Bodleian Library

Thursday, 4 July - Visit the British Library in the morning - possibly a play tonight

Friday, 5 July - Non-academic day; I'm thinking of visiting some of the museums that are on my to-do list

Saturday, 6 July - Non-academic day; Probably going to spend the day in Winchester on a London Walks tour

Sunday, 7 July - Non-academic day; undecided about what to do!

Monday, 8 July - Visit the Museum of London Archaeological Archives

Tuesday, 9 July - Day trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, and at night seeing As You Like It

Wednesday, 10 July - Visit the National Art Library at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Thursday, 11 July - Academic Day (TBA)

Friday, 12 July - Visit the British Museum Archives

Saturday, 13 July - Non-academic day

Sunday, 14 July - Depart London for Edinburgh

Monday, 15 July - Visit the National Archives of Scotland

Tuesday, 16 July - Visit the Central Library in Edinburgh, and the New College Library of Edinburgh University

Wednesday, 17 July - Independent research day

---Mini Break Begins---

Thursday, 18 July - fly to Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, take a bus to the Isle of Harris

Friday, 19 July - explore Isle of Harris

Saturday, 20 July - explore Isle of Lewis

Sunday, 21 July - explore Isle of Lewis

Monday, 22 July - fly back to London

---Mini Break Ends---

Tuesday, 23 July - Visit the British Library Conservation Studio

Wednesday, 24 July - Academic Day (TBA)

Thursday, 25 July - Visit the Blythe House Archive; Research Symposium in the evening

Friday, 26 July - Non-academic day

Saturday, 27 July - Final exams, which for us Library students, consist of getting our problem statement and research question approved for the research paper that will be due in September

Sunday, 28 July - Fly back to Boston

29 June 2013

Day 10 - London - Orientation and first LondonALIVE tour

This morning started off with our first class meeting, where Dr Welsh went over our schedule (which has been revised and I should post a revision!) and talked a little bit about our research paper. Then we went and joined the whole group for an orientation meeting. After that, there was just enough time to grab something to eat before the LondonALIVE walking tour.

We had to pick two walking tours to go on; part of the reason was to introduce London, but another part was so you could meet students in other classes. I went on a Vintage London walk, which stopped at a few different vintage clothing shops, and ended at a tea room in the Brick Lane area of London. I picked the walk mainly because it was an area I was unfamiliar with, and it turned out to be a great choice because even though I didn't buy anything (vintage is expensive!) I discovered a really fun area of the city. 

On our way to the Tube stop, there was a great view of Cleopatra's Needle - an obelisk originally from Egypt. Ever since going to Egypt, I always try to see the obelisks in different cities. Every city claims they were a "gift" but I have my doubts. 
The tea room:
Walking back to the flat, it's nice to walk along the South Bank of the Thames. There is so much action - people, shops, vendors - and even the Queen's Jubilee Wall Garden:
One of my favorite times when traveling is when you finally feel you know your way around a place; it's a confident feeling, almost comforting. Since the nearest grocery store is a tiny little thing, I decided to go over to a larger one that I remembered from my last visit to London, and as I was riding the bus and got over near Holborn, I definitely got that feeling. 

Tomorrow I decided I'm going to go to Mass at Westminster Cathedral, the Catholic Church - Westminster Abbey is its more famous Anglican cousin. I've been to Mass at the Abbey (Easter Mass in 2001) so it seemed fitting to go to a Catholic Church this time. After that, I think it will be a stroll by Buckingham Palace, through St James Park, and maybe pop into one of the museums before its time for the second LondonALIVE tour, which will be a photography one!

28 June 2013

Day 9 - London!

The day began overcast, and I hoped that the rain would hold off until at least I got to the apartments, because there really is nothing worse than dragging luggage around in the rain. Actually it isn't much fun dragging luggage around anywhere, especially the Tube where there are stairs! When I arrived from Heathrow, I planned out my route to not have any stairs, but I didn't do the same coming from Euston Station to the apartment. And...there were some stairs. However both times I had very nice men coming over and grabbing one of the bags and carrying them up for me - thank you, I will pay it forward! At least going back the program is supposed to have chartered buses to take to the airport, so that will be nice.

After a bus ride, two train rides, and a Tube ride, I was at the apartments! The room is actually slightly larger than my room in Conwy; the bathroom is to the right, and to the left out of the picture is a good size wardrobe - closet plus shelving.
I arrived there around 3:30, and at 4pm I met with my professor and classmates for a walking tour of the neighborhood - it turned into a three and a half hour tour of some of the major London sights! And my professor, Dr Welsh, is so very nice - she even bought us all dinner at a pizza place on the way. 

We really are located in the heart of the city. I'm about 15 minutes away from:

The South Bank - that is St Paul's Cathedral in the distance:
Houses of Parliament and Big Ben (Westminster Abbey is there too, but I didn't take a picture):
Trafalgar Square - the National Gallery on the left and St Martin-in-the-Fields on the right:
Then I wrapped up the walk by stopping at a little grocery store to get a few things for breakfast. We have a full kitchen to use in our suite, however it doesn't have the basics so we'll have to do a little shopping for plates and things.

One picture I forgot to post yesterday - a fellow solo traveler asked me to take her picture at Harlech and offered to reciprocate:
Tomorrow we have our first class meeting, orientation, and then it's a Vintage London walking tour for me!

27 June 2013

Day 8 - Criccieth & Harlech

Today was my last day of touring castles - tomorrow I head to London to meet up with my classmates for British Studies in Librarianship!

I knew the weather was too good to last, but at least I had a morning without rain. The first stop of the day was at Criccieth Castle, which was about 30mins away from Caernarfon by bus. 
Criccieth was originally built by Llyweylan ap Iorwerth around 1230, and then added to over the next 100 years. It was a cute little castle, with gorgeous views as it was on a hilltop. 
These are the mountains of Snowdonia in the distance.
Then my next stop was at Harlech...in the meantime, it had started to rain and still hasn't stopped. Which led to fewer pictures being taken of the views, because they all turned out like this: (view from Harlech)
Harlech Castle was another of Edward I's castles, but he never lived in it and instead let his castle architect live here - I guess it was a good reward for all those other castles the architect had to work on! I think Harlech is up there with Conwy for being my favorites of the trip - it was in great condition considering its age, and it didn't have any Victorian restorations done to change it. 
Climbing the hills to these castles definitely gave me a good workout today!
This week has just flown by, and I'm so glad I decided to come over early and do some traveling on my own. I've loved seeing North Wales, and hope to come back again to continue exploring. So while I don't want to leave, I am excited about starting the next adventure in London!

26 June 2013

Day 7 - Caernarfon, Wales

Not too much to write about today - Beaumaris ended up not happening due to buses not lining up properly, and it doesn't look like I'll be able to fit it in tomorrow. It was something I hadn't originally planned on seeing, but when it seemed doable I now wish it worked out! That is one bad thing about relying on public transport, but overall it is so much better here for public transport than at home. 

Caernarfon Castle is called the most imposing of Edward I's castles, and I definitely agree. 
It is gigantic! I spent a few hours trying to see everything, I still didn't get everywhere. There were so many passageways and corridors to explore, different levels of walkways - it would have been easy to get lost!
And this castle was actually never finished - he ran out of money before it was completed, and while work continued  over the years, there were still missing walls and the kitchen was never finished. However there was a system of pipes to bring water directly to the kitchen!

Here is Edward I who built or rebuilt all of the castles I have visited so far. 
Caernarfon looks out over the Menai Strait to the Island of Anglesey 
I also visited Segontium, a Roman fort here, but all that were left were foundations which don't make a good picture!

The hostel I'm staying in is right inside the city walls - Caernarfon is another walled town, but on a smaller scale than Conwy. In the 1800s the town wanted to tear down the castle and the walls, but luckily they were overruled. Lots of buildings though were built right into the existing wall, like this church:
I went out around 9:30 to get a picture of the sunset and unfortunately it was cloudy:
Tomorrow I plan on seeing two castles - Criccieth and Harlech, and I really want to see both so hopefully all the bus and train transfers work out this time!

25 June 2013

Day 6 - Conwy & Dolwyddelan

Today has been the most gorgeous weather since I got there - low 60s! But with the sun it felt even warmer and just really lovely touring weather. I can't hope for it to hold out much longer though...

I began the day by heading first thing to Plas Mawr, an Elizabethan townhouse in Conwy. Apologies for the bad picture - I was trying to show how long it was - there were two courtyards in between, linking the buildings - the first was only the gatehouse!
Inside, Cadw, the Welsh National Heritage group which owns many of the castles and buildings I visited, restored it to look as it would've with furnishings from the late 1600s, of which there was an actual inventory list from the house surviving. It was a very well done restoration, with a few areas left unrestored to see the differences. And it was really accurate too, with actual food out in the kitchen, not just the plastic fake stuff!
The garden off the courtyard - the roses along the back were all in bloom and it smelled divine. 
The Great Hall:
One travel recommendation I have is to always get somewhere right when it opens - you are almost guaranteed to have the place to yourself for some time - that was true for me at Conwy Castle and also Plas Mawr. 

Next on the agenda was a visit to Dolwyddelan Castle, built by Llywelyn the Great in the early 13th century. It was a bit of a journey, involving 2 bus changes (which are always interesting) and a two mile walk, but so worth it for the views alone! Oh and it was on the bus to and from Dolwyddelan that I heard Welsh spoken for the first time! All the signs are bilingual, just as in Ireland, but I had yet to hear any in conversation. 
Approaching the castle:
The guards at the gate:
What it originally probably looked like:
And now: (the upper part was "restored" by the Victorians, and most likely looked a little different.
The views:
And on the walk back down, a waterfall - so a perfect place for a castle, up on a mountain with a commanding view, near flowing water, and controlling the main road to Conwy:
On the way back to Conwy, I got off at the bus stop across the river, because yesterday on the train back from Rhuddlan, one of the train policemen told me the view of the castle was really nice walking over the bridge from Llandudno Junction. And it was:
I love Conwy and don't want to leave tomorrow! But on to the next castles - Caernarfon and Beaumaris, staying the next two nights in Caernarfon. 

24 June 2013

Day 5 - Conwy

Today was a castle day! That's the main reason I chose to come to Wales - to see all the castles. My main goals are to see the the best Edward I castles - Conwy, Caernarfon, Beaumaris, and Harlech. Then I decided today to add a few more in, especially the Welsh castles of the Welsh princes (the original ones, not the ones who use it as a title).

First stop - Conwy Castle. 
It looks absolutely gorgeous on the outside...the inside, not so much. Mainly because the roof was made of timber, and once that went it all started falling to decay. It's main inhabitants are now pigeons, who were giving me evil looks as I climbed into their towers. I took a million pictures, but they all look the same unless you are a crazy castle lover like me. 
There are eight towers, and four towers have extra towers at the top - however only six were accessible. It looks like the ones which had the most bits of stairs left were the ones in use, and I literally climbed everywhere that was accessible. Even the tip top of this tower:
There was one room in the Chapel Tower which they had partially reconstructed, putting in a floor and the slate roof, and glass in the window. 
I would've been perfectly happy living in that one room - it had a working fireplace!
Then I thought I was going to visit Plas Mawr...except they are closed Mondays. I knew that, but I forgot that today was Monday! I lose all sense of the days when traveling. So I decided to visit another castle! 

The iPad mini was seriously the best investment for me, because I was able to look up bus and train times, and figure out how to get to Rhuddlan and back on a whim. Of course I also have to thank the super helpful and friendly Welsh people I ran into on the trip. On boarding the bus, I verified with the driver that it was making the stop I needed. A nice couple overheard, and asked me where I was going and then gave me turn by turn directions to the castle, told me where to pick up the bus on the return trip, and got up at the stop to point me out the door in the right direction! Really really nice, or maybe I just look like someone who can't follow directions (I can, I promise!) '

Rhuddlan Castle was another of Edward I castles. It is a lot smaller than Conwy, and pretty much just a shell. At Conwy you can see the outline of rooms, there are still privies, fireplaces with mantles, and marks on the stone that doors made when opening and closing. There's really nothing at poor Rhuddlan. 
Its demise was hastened by "stone robbers" as the brochure explained. 
At Rhuddlan, one of the information boards mentioned the site of another castle nearby, so I felt since I was so close, to go visit that. It was just a quick walk down a footpath, to Twthil. Twthil has no physical remains of a castle whatsoever, but you can see the traditional motte and bailey set up. The motte:
What they think it looked like:
It doesn't look so high in the picture, but it was a decent climb. There was no one there, not even sheep! I climbed up for a gorgeous view of the countryside:
Tomorrow - more castles! 

Day 4 - Conwy, Wales

I absolutely love Conwy! As soon as I got off the train yesterday morning and the first thing I saw was the castle, I knew it was going to be a good visit! After dropping off my luggage at the hotel, I set off to explore the town. I picked up a book at the the visitor centre with walks around Conwy, and decided to do one which went up on the walls. Now these walls are the most authentic town walls - they were actually a little scary at parts to walk on, because they were so high up and had a steep incline, plus it was super windy up on top.

Outside the walls:

A look at the part of the walk on the walls from a tower at the corner:
A main gate, just wide enough for a car to pass! I love that they didn't replace the gates with wider ones, which is what Chester did with their walls. 
After wandering around and doing two walks, I visited the oldest house in Conwy, built at the time of the castle and walls in the 13th century, Aberconwy House:
It rained only a teeny bit, but was quite a cold day, about 50 with a strong wind off the water. Conwy is next to an estuary and the sea is right nearby.
The main reason I decided to come to Wales was to explore the castles, and this castle does not disappoint:
For this part of the trip, I'm staying in a bed and breakfast, which is right outside of the walls. My room is about the size of a shoebox, and was formerly the dressing room to another room. And the bathroom is down the hall, but is only for my room, so it's not bad at all. My window is the one in the middle right above the sign:
And the view from the window:
Today I'll be going inside the castle, and inside an Elizabethan home, Plas Mawr. It is starting out to be a beautiful sunny day, with a high of 15 C, which is about 57 F - it would be great if I don't have to wear gloves like yesterday!