Epilogue Part 4: Prague

We managed to find wifi and get an uber from the bus station to our airbnb, where we met our very friendly host and his friendly cat. It was actually a pretty nice airbnb, we had our own room and little balcony and they gave us a water kettle and tea. We had chosen Prague because we had been planning on ending in Reykjavik, and the cheapest flight was from Prague, so going into our full day in Prague, we didn’t have an exact plan. I have a trip planning app, so I looked up Prague on there and found some things that were in the same area and we went from there.

We started out at Prague Castle, which had lots of different parts to it, so we bought a ticket that allowed us to see most of it. The main attraction, it seemed, was St. Vitus Cathedral (see photo below), which had a long line to get inside for the whole day. It was a very beautiful cathedral, although it seems that there hasn’t been as much cleaning as on some of the other cathedrals I’ve seen, it has a lot of the blackness that results from pollution. The Castle wasn’t so much of a castle as a large collection of buildings that all related to the history and running of the castle, but it wasn’t what people typically think of as a castle, although it was still very cool and went a lot into the different ways that that site has been a part of history.IMG_7368.jpg

We then walked over to Petrin Tower, which looks like a small reconstruction of the Eiffel Tower. We took a small break to get some ice cream first, and then decided to take the elevator up rather than doing more walking on a very hot day. The view from the top was lovely (see photo below) and I think it partially comes from there being a pretty unifying architectural style throughout the city. The castle was also on the top of a hill, so for most of our day, we had some lovely views.IMG_7406.jpg

From the Tower, we walked over to the John Lennon wall, which is a wall covered in graffiti and art and is much smaller than I expected. It seemed to be more of a place where people take pictures for instagram, although there was one guy playing Beatles songs and another person adding art to the wall, but I found it generally underwhelming. We went to get dinner after that and ended up at an outdoor restaurant that was under a large tree. Before we got our food, our meal was interrupted by a pigeon falling out of the tree and onto Henry’s back and not getting off despite him shaking his shirt and trying to shrug it off, and eventually swatting it off where it flew over and hit me in the back before finally landing on the ground. This had been quite a commotion by that point and a waiter came over and offered us a different table if we wanted and shooed the bird out of the restaurant. It was a very surreal experience.

We had initially gone to that restaurant to get wifi, which they didn’t have, so we ended up walked into town to find some and accidentally crossing the Charles Bridge, which I didn’t realize until after is another attraction in Prague. After a bit of souvenir shopping, we did find wifi and got an uber back to our airbnb. Our travel experience also wasn’t too bad that time, although we did have to wait in the airport about 6 hours because of when we had to check out of our airbnb, but other than that, our flight to Reykjavik was fine.

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Epilogue Part 3: Vienna

In Vienna, we started off on a weird foot because I got a message from our airbnb host who said that there was a double booking issue and he had an apartment for us, but it wasn’t the one we had looked at. It was a little stressful because we didn’t have data, so we could only talk to him when there was wifi. The apartment we ended up staying in, which was “unfinished,” didn’t have wifi, we could only connect to the public wifi on the street corner outside or if we leaned out the window of our room. We also didn’t have towels, but we learned that paper towels work pretty well, as do old shirts, when drying off after a shower.

Our apartment did have a great view, and we could see Schonbrunn Palace from our window, which was where we sent our full day in Vienna. Schonbrunn (see photo below) has apparently gotten more busy and so we didn’t actually get to go into the palace until about 4 hours after we got there. However, the pass we bought allowed us access to a bunch of the other places, like gardens and mazes and such, which were all very pretty and nice to walk around. Henry had also been there before, so it was interesting to hear how things were different when he was there and what he remembered and such. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take pictures in the Palace itself, so I don’t actually remember all of it, but they did have an audio guide that was really helpful and gave good information on everything. IMG_7309.jpg

That night we went up to the roof and watched the sunset, which was really pretty, and then the next day we got up to catch our next bus, only 4 hours this time, to Prague. But of course, it did not go as planned. We took an uber from our airbnb to where we were supposed to catch the bus, but once we got there, it was not at all a bus station. We arrived half an hour early, so we had a bit of time. Since we didn’t have data, we had to rush around to try and find wifi to figure out where we were supposed to be going. We did, and it was a 25 minute walk to the bus station, so we started hustling over in what was hopefully the correct direction, leaving approximately 25 minutes before our bus was supposed to arrive. Naturally, I got really stressed, almost felt like crying, but we did make our bus, with a good bit of sweating and anxiety. And our passports weren’t even checked (or Czeched) getting to Prague.

Epilogue Part 2: Venice

We got to the airport in Venice and our airbnb host offered to pick us up, which worked out well, and he picked us up wearing a Captain America shirt, which was very amusing. We found out later he was really into comic books, so it made sense, but it was fun at the time. The house was also really nice, we had our own bathroom and essentially the whole top floor part to ourselves. Our host was also incredibly friendly, he made us dinner our last night and we made dessert and we all played a couple card games together. He also offered to drive us to the bus station so we could actually get into Venice and helped us buy tickets to do so and all of that, and drove us to our bus station when we left, which I’ll get to in a bit. But if anyone needs a recommendation of an airbnb near Venice, I have one.

I don’t think I enjoyed Venice quite as much as some of the other ASE students who have visited, mainly because I found it incredibly difficult to get around. Venice is definitely a maze, with not well labeled streets, and the tourist maps tend to have large icons of the tourist attractions, making it difficult to figure out how to get there. I also have a very poor sense of direction, which really didn’t help with that. All that being said, it definitely is very pretty and you can easily stumble upon some lovely buildings and things to see.

Once we found out where it was, we spent most of our time in St. Mark’s Square, which has a ton of things. The main is St. Mark’s Basilica, but we weren’t able to go in because I was wearing shorts and you can’t have exposed knees or shoulders in order to go in. So instead, we bought a pass to go to four museums in the Square, part of which allowed us to go through the Bridge of Sighs (see photo below), of which there is a similar bridge in Oxford. We also went to the Doge’s Palace, which was cool, and all of the museums had a lot of history woven into them, and since I don’t know much about the Italian history, I appreciated that, and they were on a variety different topics, not exclusively wars etc.IMG_7263.jpg

In the Square, Henry also got conned into buying me roses. A guy came up to me, handing me a rose, which I tried to not take, but it was basically forced on me, and then he started asking us questions and as we answered, he handed me two more roses and then asked a few more questions and then asked for money. We also went to the Rialto Bridge, which is another tourist spot, and more men tried to give us roses, but we learned our lesson and very clearly said no. The Rialto is also where a lot of people take their pictures of the Grand Canal and there are a lot of little shops and food vendors and things along the way.

Our second day in Venice we stayed in our airbnb, which actually worked out well because I was able to sort out all of the check-in and baggage for our future flights, and Henry was able to get some work done. And hey, the Italian countryside is not the worst place to just spend a day in bed on a computer. As I mentioned, our airbnb host drove us to the bus station and dropped us off, we were taking a [9 hour] bus from Venice to Vienna. When we got there, our bus wasn’t listed, so we asked someone working there, and got a difficult and condescending answer about where to go, which was a bus stop down the street. As it turned out, there were three bus stops down the street, so we spent a bunch of time waiting between them for our bus, and after thinking one bus was ours when it wasn’t, we did eventually get on the right one. It turned out to be 10 hours because there was traffic in Slovenia, and we also watched a guy get taken off the bus at the Slovenian border because he didn’t have the proper documents. So it was yet another imperfect travel experience, but we did make it to Vienna.

Epilogue Part 1: More England (Wells)

It’s taken me quite a bit of time, but after feeling settled back into my routine and stuff, I’m finally getting around to making a post for each of the places I traveled once the program with ASE finished.

My boyfriend, Henry, arrived on the day that we had to move out of our houses and we went to our airbnb in Bristol. I’ve been to Bristol a couple times, but never to the part we were staying in, which didn’t seem to be the best neighborhood. We also never actually met our airbnb hosts, which was a little odd, but our room worked out fine.

The next day, which was the last full day I had in England, we went back to Bath in the morning to go on a tour with an ASE staff member who also is one of the Mayor’s Tour Guides. I learned a lot about Bath that I didn’t already know, and went over a couple of things that I did, but overall, it was fun, and I was glad to get the opportunity to have one last little ASE connection before leaving. After lunch in Bath, we took a bus to Wells, called the smallest town in England. Henry wanted to go to Wells because it was used as the primary filming location for the movie Hot Fuzz. It did seem pretty small, but it was very cute, and we had started watching the movie the night before, and finished it that night, so it was cool to be able to recognize places and say we’d been there. The main attraction in Wells, similar to many English towns, is the cathedral (see photo below). What is currently standing was started around 1180, so it’s all very old, and you could kind of see the places where they haven’t been able to clean and such. They also had a map of when different part of the cathedral were built, which was cool. IMG_7236.jpg

We began our journey to the airport the next day, which turned out to be more difficult than initially thought. I had bought us both train tickets from the station in Bristol to Gatwick Airport, where we were flying out of, and there were a few connections along the way. When we got to the station in Bristol, the train we were supposed to take had been delayed, but there was another that went to the place we were going that left about 3 minutes later, so we got on that one. On that train, we stopped on the tracks and sat there for a good few minutes, all the while Henry and I were watching the time to make our connecting train tick down, and by the time we arrived at the station, we had the pleasure of watching the train we were supposed to take pull away from the station, with no evident trains going where we were going for the next few hours (we got on a train that left 4 hours before our flight, supposed to get to the airport 2 hours before our flight).

At this point, I started getting really stressed and anxious because I didn’t want to have wasted money on our flight and we had no where to stay and now no certain way to get to the airport. This started a frantic search of looking at various other options of trains, buses, and ubers to try and get us to the airport. About half an hour later, we were able to get on a train that stopped where we were supposed to have our next connection and while on that train, I was able to figure out a different series of connections that would get us to the airport before our flight. This was one of the multiple times that I was very thankful to have Henry with me because I have a bit of a tendency to get very stressed when things don’t go according to plan, but he is very present and brings things into perspective for me, which is incredibly helpful. After a series of trains, we finally made it to the airport, and because of how a lot of UK airports run, our gate wasn’t even up (they usually put it up when they want you to start boarding, so 20-40 minutes before the flight) and we were able to get dinner before our flight. This began a series of unlucky incidents when we were traveling, but regardless, we were on our way to Venice.

Dear ______: A Reflection

I’ve officially moved out of my house and ASE is officially over, so I thought I’d say a couple things in reflection. 

Dear ASE staff, thank you all so much for all of the hard work you’ve put into this unexpectedly eventful semester, it’s been so wonderful to see and get to know you all. 

Dear fellow ASE students, thank you for all adding so much to my experience here, I’m going to miss all of you a ton but hope to see everyone soon or in September.  

Dear Bath Phil staff, you have all been an absolute delight to work with and I don’t think I can ever forget a lot of the things I had the chance to do with you.

Dear Next Stage Youth Theatre staff and youthers, I’ve enjoyed working with all of you and thank you for how openly you welcomed us into your group. 

Dear Dave and the Manvers Street staff, you’re all incredibly kind and the work you do is amazing and so important, thank you for letting me be a part of it. 

Dear 31 Prior Park, you had your issues over the course of my stay, but thank you for making me feel like I had a home. 

Dear residents of 31 Prior Park, I loved living with every single one of you, thank you for being friendly and easy to live with. 

Dear Steve the cat, we’ve had our ups and downs (please don’t bring dead birds to our back door), but you definitely know what you want and try your hardest to get it, and I admire that. 

Dear classmates, thank you for all being an active part of each of the seminars I was in, I don’t think they could have been as good without you. 

Dear tutors, thank you for the interesting, surprising, engaging, and insightful classes and thank you for the work you put into them.

Dear blackcurrant and elderflower, I will miss you and the lovely juice you make when I’m back in the US. 

And lastly,

Dear Bath, thank you for the crazy, fun, weird, and wonderful experiences that you’ve given me, I couldn’t imagine a better place to spend my semester abroad.

The Final Study Trip

I’ve officially finished finals and everything now, so I’m getting around to writing all of the other things I’ve been meaning to write.

A week ago, my UK Media class took a trip to London to do two things: go on a walking tour of the places in London where Harry Potter was filmed, and visit the offices of The Telegraph, a newspaper. After a four-hour bus ride that was delayed because some royals were going somewhere so traffic stopped, we met up with our tour guide, Liam, at the Royal Exchange. As it turned out, the tour was not just of Harry Potter stuff, it was more about writers and stories that were inspired or influenced by places in London, including two ghost stories and part of the origin of Dracula (look up Countess Elizabeth Bathory if you want a pretty gruesome story). I really enjoyed it though, it gave a good idea of what London is like, as well as introducing various spots that have been culturally relevant. Our tour guide was also great, really friendly and engaging, and I think he was impressed by our knowledge of Harry Potter.

The tour of The Telegraph was also really cool. Our tour guide was a 70-year old man named George who had been working there since he was 27 and is technically retired, but still comes to work every day. I didn’t know much about what it takes to run a newspaper, but he explained it all pretty well, plus it was pretty cool to see everyone’s desks all laid out, it was an open floor plan. One of their people in the obituary department used to be an ASE tutor who taught this class, so we got to talk to her for a while, which was interesting.

Overall, it was a cool trip, although it was four hours on a bus each way, which was a little long. Today we have final tea and I have one last performance with Bath Phil, and then tomorrow the program is officially finished and we have to move out, which is crazy. But I’ll get to see my boyfriend and begin our travels, which I’m very excited about.

Stratford on Avon

We got back yesterday from spending three days in Stratford on Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace. The first day we had a talk from a tutor and his wife about the history of Stratford and Shakespeare and Julius Caesar, which is the play we were seeing that night. Then we went to Shakespeare’s birthplace, which was a really cute Tudor cottage (see photo below). They had it all laid out with fake food and stuff, which seems a little silly to me, but it was still a cool place to be. It’s crazy how long things can last when people want them too. I also noticed how they seem to fill out the properties with some really beautiful gardens that I honestly could probably spend hours in.IMG_7125.jpg

We went to see Julius Caesar at the Royal Shakespeare Company in the evening, which I managed to take no pictures of, although it was very dark and therefore difficult to see, so they wouldn’t have looked great anyways. As one would expect, it was absolutely phenomenal. All of the performances had so much life and drive to them. I’ve spent a lot of time with Shakespeare, I’ve been in three shows and studied or read a bunch more, so I don’t find it too hard to follow the language and shows, and I think they made it even easier, the language sounded very natural. Between the two plays we saw, they were using a lot of the same set elements, but one of the things I thought was especially well done was that they had a bunch of pieces of the stage (it was a thrust stage, so on the thrust) that rose and would bring up platforms for the eulogy speeches after Caesar’s death, benches for other scenes, things like that. I would absolutely love to have seen what below the stage looked like.

On Wednesday, we started the day with a talk back about the show we saw, which was pretty good. Then we had a Q&A with the actor who played Brutus, whose name is James, which was really interesting. For instance, I found out that there is a theater in Wales that performs Shakespeare and is in a willow tree, I’m not 100% sure how that works, but it sounds really cool. They also do all of their shows gender-swapped. He was really nice and answered all of our questions honestly and pretty thoroughly, which I appreciated, especially since I think people often expect that actors do or think certain things. For example, he basically said that at one point, he didn’t really know what he was doing, and I think people often expect that actors have grand insights into their characters.

Afterwards, we went to Anne Hathaway’s cottage (see photo below), which was absolutely stunning. The cottage itself was what you would expect, a cute Tudor cottage like Shakespeare’s birthplace. But the gardens around it were super beautiful. There was a small wood that seemed to me to be the perfect place to do A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and had a little walk through it that was really beautiful, and it was sunny and a good temperature for it. There was also a sculpture walk that I didn’t manage to get to, and a lawn bowling set in one garden that was already slightly broken. It was also one of those places that I could stay at and sit in for hours. Allegedly, there was also a lavender maze, but we think we found it and it was pretty dead.IMG_7130.jpg

We then had time for lunch and some free time, so I got lunch, and then myself and two other people went to the butterfly farm, which was an absolute delight. It did cost money to get it, but within about three steps of going into the butterfly room, a butterfly landed on the shoulder of Kateri, who was one of the students with me. It was a very chill butterfly, it just hung out there, then flew for a bit, then landed back on her head and hung out there as we walked along. After a little bit, he flew up again and I put my hand out and he actually landed on it (see photo below). Once again, he just hung out there as we walked along a little ways. Oddly, I have a history of butterflies landing on me, but it’s still super cool every time. I also raised some monarch butterflies when I was a kid, so I have a history with them and I really love butterfly farms and the like. They also had a few rooms with other animals like a chameleon and snakes and spiders, etc. There were also a bunch of ants and in one room had ropes connecting different ant tanks and you could look up and watch the ants crawling along the ropes, which I thought was really cool.18403951_645806728947912_6480058695095195454_o.jpg

Then we had a workshop with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), that was basically an acting workshop. I really enjoyed it because I was already pretty familiar with some of the exercises we were doing because I did a lot of them when I did theater as an actor. The person leading my workshop didn’t fully seem to understand that not everyone in the room, actually almost no one in the room beside like four of us, had any acting training going into it, so there were parts where people were a little confused about what was going on, but this is the first time ASE has done this, so I think that as time goes on, it’ll become clearer. We did a lot of work with the text of Antony & Cleopatra, which I liked because I always like working with Shakespeare text. I think it also did help to gain some familiarity with the show that made it better. Overall, I liked doing it because I haven’t really done acting workshop things in a while, so it was nice to go back to it for a bit and just have fun.

We had a free evening, so I got Indian food for dinner with Rachel and Kateri at a place called Thespians, which fits the town, but I wouldn’t have pegged it as an Indian food place if asked. Then we wandered around, saw a really beautiful sunset, and ended up across the river from the RSC theater where we stood and talked in a gazebo and watched the back end of them doing Julius Caesar, which was kinda cool. We eventually ended up at a pub called The Dirty Duck, where about half of the program ended up that night as well. It’s also the pub that all of the actors go to after their show finishes, so we ended up chatting with them too. I mostly talked to the actor who played Octavius, who is only 23, but was also just a friendly and nice guy. They were all pretty nice people, and it was interesting to talk to them in the context of just a pub, whereas a lot of the British people I’ve talked to have been in the context of me meeting and working with them as a student of ASE.

On Thursday, we started out with some more talks, and then I went on a brief, and I mean very brief, tour of the few remaining places of note related to Shakespeare, which were the Guild Hall, New Place (one of the places he lived), and Trinity Church (where he is buried). New Place isn’t an actual house, because the real one burned down, so again, it was mostly gardens, although they were very pretty. It was pretty crazy to me to look at Shakespeare’s grave (see photo below) because he’s become one of those people who is talked about so much and is so well known that he doesn’t seem like a real person, but when staring down at where his remains are, you really grasp how real he is. Especially since I really love Shakespeare plays, it kinda hit me and was a really cool moment.IMG_7164.jpg

The last thing we did in Stratford was see Antony and Cleopatra, which was absolutely phenomenal. Cleopatra was played by Josette Simon, who did an amazing job. I preferred it to Julius Caesar, partially because it was a bit more stylized in a way that I think tied it all together better. They also used the rising and falling of the floor pieces more and really effectively. A fair number of the actors from Julius Caesar were also in Antony and Cleopatra, including many of the ones we met at the pub, so it was interesting to see them in different roles in a very different show.

I’m really glad that we had the opportunity to go to Stratford and see shows and go to all of the important places. This week we have finals, so I will be working on that and revising my dissertation for my internship, as well as beginning to think about packing.