“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase each other, doesn’t make any sense.” -Rumi

This poem resounded in my head all throughout Friday as I climbed the truly majestic White Cliffs of Dover. There are no words in the English language to describe the beautiful display of nature that I encountered on that day.

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Although I did enjoy London immensely, I found that it felt cramped and claustrophobic after a few days. When I stepped off the train in the small, seaside town of Dover, I immediately felt like I could fully stretch for the first time in days. London is full of vibrant, colorful people and places. I can almost feel the history embedded in museum exhibits and most of the buildings. But sometimes a person just wants simplicity and a chance to catch their breath and breath in air that isn’t polluted by cars, buses, and trash piled on the sidewalk. Dover gave me a chance to do exactly that.

Unlike the Atlantic coast in America, England’s Atlantic coast smelled salty, but very fresh. And even though the town is mainly a tourist attraction, I found that the town and even the Cliffs were not crowded. It was very pleasant to get out of busy London and have a lazy, although short, holiday at the coast.

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Ralph Emerson once said that “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey” that matters. Well, I would have to agree. Partly. I believe the journey is more important than the destination, but I think that before all else, it’s the people that go with you. I know that my trip to Dover (or London) would not have been as exciting and memorable if not for the people that came with me. Having high tea on top of the White Cliffs of Dover would just have been boring and lonely without my three companions to make me laugh. Without them I probably would not have appreciated the complete splendor that surrounded me and would have, instead, been wallowing in self-pity.

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From Left to Right: Hannah, Camille, Tristan, Moriah 

London afforded me many opportunities to get lost, get turned around, and be found again, but Dover gave me a chance to slow down and appreciate the glorious day around me. I didn’t have a train to catch or a destination to be. I just had a few close friends, a shining sea, and some pretty awesome White Cliffs.IMG_2139

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London at a Distance

This was it, we’re back in the States and reflecting back onto the trip in London. It still feels surreal being on the opposite side of the world for only a week and then coming back just as you’re about to get used to it. It makes the world feel smaller, where distant places are just a flight away. I think I can now get a grasp of how a life in London would feel like. I would not mind living in such a place either. It definitely feels much more chaotic and busy but so are all the big cities.
To me, London did not seem to be as different as I had imagined. There were a few minor cultural differences but it still made sense, it was graspable. I remember on the last day, Caitlin and I headed off to the zoo. The closest tube stop was across the park and quite a large park to walk through. For once, it felt like it was calm. It reminded me of the walks I like to take on campus when I get overwhelmed with school work. It is really interesting how I have conditioned myself to distress whenever I take such a walk. Caitlin had this very stressed gloom on her face trying to contemplate if we were going to be late or where the next tube station was, or should we take to bus instead. No offense but at the time I really couldn’t care less. That was just one of the particular scenes that I strongly had a home-like connection to London.

Favorite spot in London

Exploring London was fun, yet also eye opening. I was sad to go, although it is nice to be home. I enjoyed exploring the old historic sites the most, especially the Tower of London. 20170402_123932 This is where the Crown Jewels of the royalty are housed and where important prisoners of the monarchy were held and possibly executed. What I didn’t realize before I got there was that the Tower of London isn’t a singular tower; it’s actually made up of a bunch of different towers and houses and such. My favorite tower was the White Tower, which used to be the armory. It is now a exhibition of all the armor that was used by people living at the Tower. They had armor for both the men and horses, in many different generations of armor.20170402_115150 There are also weapons up until either the 20th or 21st century and gifts  from other societies that are on display in the upper portions of the White Tower. The Tower also had historical reenactments, ravens, and some houses. Something I found pretty interesting was that they had a small memorial to those who had died there.  20170402_111020Considering how long ago it was that people had died there, it wasn’t something I was expecting. It was a very nice touch though. The Tower of London was so much history in one place, which was very interesting.

London As It Is

Anyone who’s gotten this far in the blog is either genuinely interested in reading it, or is grading it. Regardless of which one you are, I hope you enjoy it! Obviously, we’ve all just had a really spectacular week in London, and the stories and images shared here so far are a very good indication of what this unique city has to offer in the way of culture and perspective. But, like us all, I have my own perspective, (that coincidentally, has no relation to my research project whatsoever) which I would like to express. In order to understand the rest of this though, you need to know a few things about the city and its inhabitants.

A great many people are not even British – a lot of them are immigrants, be they refugees or tourists. This makes an appreciation for British culture very hard to obtain, because London is no longer British. Yeah, sure it’s the capital city and it’s in a region that makes it very traditionally British since the dawn of time, but those rules no longer apply. The city now belongs to the world. Despite its English Breakfast teas, and a strangely unanimous love for the Royalty, the British presence is fading. However, despite the more noticeable aspects of an increasingly modern London, some things linger, possibly forever.

Brick and slate give way to steel and glass, but that hasn’t stopped most shops from closing before most Americans even get off of work. An infinitely diverse population hasn’t stopped locals from being territorial. The modern age hasn’t stopped the use of black cabs, or strolls through Hyde Park in the middle of the afternoon. The truth of London is that it is, inherently, an inconvenient city. Nothing is available to eat when you want it, there’s always way too many people on the tube, and the fact of the matter is, they just don’t have any good burgers. People expect culture shock to be something intense and unexpected, like the locals eat bugs, or the they skinny dip in the fountains, or something horribly outlandish. You don’t expect culture shock to include something as simple as not being able to find a restaurant that’s open late when you and your mates stay up late watching a movie and are really hungry. You don’t expect it to be the fact that leftovers just aren’t a commonality.

Despite all that London is not, it is a beautiful city. Archaic and distant, and yet so engrained in the modern world that many can’t imagine life outside the city. Like New York, or San Francisco, or any of the great American hubs, London is in its own right as dirty and rude as the people who live there. It is both highborn, and yet lacks the charm of the Old Money that built it. It is a series of grand and unexpected gardens overshadowed by the sprawling and daunting concrete walls of the metropolis. Paradoxes and comparisons aside, it is a major city, which means two things – you will hate it, but it will make you strong. Inside the boundaries of the city, you can’t help but long for freedom from it – to escape the oppressive air, the labyrinthian subway system, and the sketchy back alleys – and yet, when you are finally free, you can’t help but feel gratitude for lessons learned and friends made from sharing tired feet, poor hospitality, and the frustrations of city life.

Ultimately, London is a unique experience. I would never recommend it as a vacation, because it is not a place to relax. London is not meant for those looking to unwind or enjoy life. London is a test, and it is pass or fail, and to top it off, it’s got a steep learning curve. However, if you make it out having passed the proverbial test, you earn a sense of accomplishment, the reward of unforgettable and necessary life lessons in manners and patience, and may even gain a few friends along the way.

The Last Hurrah

20170407_143511Yesterday was our final day in London and I couldn’t be happier; it was fun, but home is where the heart is. I got to see a new place and truly compare it to life back home. We visited Westminster Abbey, which was a great place to visit. Then, we went to the Sherlock Holmes museum and then we went to Elizabeth Olympic Park. I loved the park! It was beautiful and there was a small fair there. We originally had planned to ride the ArcelorMittal Orbit, the largest sculpture in Europe (which is pictured above), but there were no tickets, so we went to the fair instead. It was a blast! As I wrap up this post I want people to know that it’s not the name of a place that makes it great. London is just like any other city. I personally enjoyed going to the places that weren’t smack in the middle of the city, but a bit outside of it. So, East End was probably one of my favorite areas, as well as Greenwich. Also, don’t get your hopes up as you travel in the future. All cities have the same basic look and they feel the same (large crowds, tall buildings, great feats in architecture, and so on). So go in ready to see city life and try and see what makes that city different from one that you know and appreciate the time you have to spend away from your normal life and just have fun.

End of a Journey

The last few days of the trip included visits to several highlights, such as the Globe theater, the Prime Meridian, and the London Zoo. Out of those above, I liked the Globe and the Observatory at the Prime Meridian the most. Overall, the Natural History Museum is still my favorite, of course.

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I really appreciated how this trip brought me to such a wide variety of museums. I always thought of myself as someone who goes to museums a lot, but I felt overwhelmed (in a good way) by the sheer number we visited, let alone the number of options that we had. I am not normally a fan of vehicles, but I loved the Transport Museum and the Cutty Sark. I feel that I am more likely to branch out to subjects that I don’t know I like already the next time I am on a trip like this.

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I enjoyed this trip a lot. I enjoyed meeting like-minded people and visiting places that I may never otherwise have. I’m glad I was able to go.

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On Tuesday I co-led a small group the the Natural History Museum in London. I was very excited; I visit Natural History Museums in every town I get the chance to. The London Natural History Museum is large in the sense of both the size of the building and that of the collection-it is comparable to the Smithsonian in Washington DC. On the way, I stopped to take some photos of the ducks near Buckingham palace.:IMG_1122

I feel like most of us were looking forward to seeing the dinosaur exhibit. There were a lot of nice fossil specimens such as the one below. There was also an impressive animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex display, but I only took videos of it since the movements are what are so impressive.

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I enjoy looking at taxidermy specimens, such as this dik-dik (a type of small deer), because it allows me to study the animal’s physique up close in a way that I never could with a live specimen. Understandably, not everyone in the group was as enthusiastic as I was about this section of the museum.

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There was also an extensive collection of minerals. My co-leader, Phillip, was more interested in that section than I was and those interested should read his blog post, but I did take a photo of these beautiful black opal specimens from the vault.

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It was an enjoyable trip and I hope to be able to go again someday.

A City to Remember

Our last day was one to remember. We visited Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guards. People from all around the world gathered to witness the moment and we all felt incredible special to be a part of it. The weather was wonderful, the scenery was beautiful, and the atmosphere was magical. Although the event did not take long, we thoroughly enjoyed it and took great pictures and videos to share with family and friends back home. Afterwards, we went to Parliament Square to relax, take photographs and buy the typical London souvenirs. Once again, the atmosphere was magical and exciting. That is what I loved about visiting this city! Everywhere we went, we were experiencing something new about London, absorbing information, learning about culture and social norms. For most of us, it was out of our comfort zone to ride the tube or to maneuver around a large city without using google maps. We were not use to going to a restaurant and there not being ice tea! We were not use to saying pounds instead of dollars and relying on public transportation rather than driving our own cars but we did it! That is what I enjoyed about London; learning how to live as a Londoner and experiencing the city as if it were my own. I enjoyed walking around the streets of London with my friends, eating dinner, traveling to places we only imagined, and making memories that we will cherish forever. I am very thankful for the opportunity KSU has given me to travel and I am even more thankful for the KSU Honors College for giving me the opportunity to travel with my friends. Until next time!

-Andrea Romero

115,739 Steps through London

From the first step off the plane at Heathrow to the last step back to Georgia, London has been an experience like none I’ve ever had before. It has been a mix of exhausting, exciting, stressful, and fun all at the same time.

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So many things in London are different from America. I never would have known exactly how different people and culture could be without experiencing it first hand. It didn’t take very long to realize that southern hospitality actually exists and isn’t just a myth, and I’ll appreciate it much more now. I’ll also appreciate having my own car and being able to drive where ever I want whenever I want instead of having to plan trips through the tube. The tube was terrifying at first but after a little bit it became much easier to understand. However I’ll probably never understand why they don’t put ice in their drinks here or what the appeal of sparkling water is.

My favorite experience by far in London was the Warner Brothers Studio Tour. I got to put myself inside the world of Harry Potter in the place that it was filmed, which is a once in a lifetime type of experience. I also enjoyed going to Greenwich and standing across the Prime Meridian. Greenwich is so green and pretty and it’s so much easier to breathe there than in the center of London.

Throughout this whole trip I walked all over London, got lost way more than once, and pushed my navigational skills to their limits, but the experience (and the instagram pictures) was so worth it. I walked 115,739 steps, 51.11 miles, and climbed 119 flights of stairs through London. It was so exhausting and I can’t wait to sleep in my own bed, but I’m so happy I did it.

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A Quick Trip Greenwich

After a small group exploration we had some extra time and decided to take a boat ride to Greenwich. I am so glad that we were able to go on this unplanned trip because it allowed me to see a beautiful place outside the smog of the city. Although only spent about two hours exploring, I saw so many interesting things. Even the slow relaxing boat ride was a nice change of pace from the busy city and allowed us to view London from the River Tames.

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There were small shops and pubs throughout the town as well as a large park. In the park I noticed a that dogs were allowed to run around freely without being on a leash which was a surprise to me. We took the walk up to the Prime Meridian where the views were amazing and got straddle the line and stand in both then east and west hemispheres at the same time. We also walked through the royal observatory and the museum. Through the trip I learned a lot and the experience is something I’ll never forget and if I do return to London this is one place I’ll be sure to visit again!