Saturday Adventures

Happy Saturday!

Like Wednesday, today has been both very busy and also lots of fun! Though we’re now pretty exhausted, Laura Douglass and I managed to check multiple things off of our London Bucket List, which is fantastic. There are so many things I want to do, but a month is not long enough to cram everything in…

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace

We began our day by venturing back to Kensington Gardens, and walking around the palace grounds. There was no sign of

Caprice - Carousel Ride in Kensington Gardens


William, Kate, or baby George, but I’d like to think they were there! Just past the palace is a carousel, which we of course had to ride! We were definitely the only two “big kids” on there, but I had a blast on my horse, whose name was Caprice. (No, I did not name him). I wanted to see the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, which is such a simple, peaceful place, and a real tribute to her.

Isis Statue- Hyde Park


There’s so much to look at in the park that we strolled around for awhile. We found the Isis Statue, which is created after the Egyptian goddess of nature.

By now it was brunch time, so we walked through Hyde Park and ate at the Serpentine Bar & Kitchen. I had delicious scrambled eggs on toast, and it was so nice to relax and enjoy being right at the water of the Serpentine Lake.

Brunch at the Serpentine


After leaving the park, it was next on our list to visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum. We’d already paid Sherlock a visit, but it was after dark and the Museum was closed. However, after traveling to Baker Street, we quickly saw that the line to enter the Museum was quite long! Apparently the wait to enter the Museum was close to 2 hours, and we didn’t want to wait on the sidewalk in the scorching heat for that long, so we did the next best thing… go to the gift shop! I’m a huge Sherlock fan and have read most of Arthur Conan Doyle‘s stories of the infamous detective, so I’m sad that I didn’t have a chance to go into the Museum – maybe next time, London! I did manage to buy a few things from the gift shop, which made me feel much better!

We were on a roll by this point, and it wasn’t even lunchtime! So LD and I decided to go search for more book benches. This time, we took on the Bloomsbury Trail, which has 12 benches, and I’m happy to say that we found most of them! These benches include some of my favorites: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, Sherlock Holmes Stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, 1984 by George Orwell, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, James Bond Stories by Ian Fleming, and Peter Pan by J.M. BarrieThe awesome thing about this is that at almost EVERY single bench we found, there IMG_3963was at least one person there also searching for the benches – best of all, this person, or group of people, asked if LD and I wanted them to take our picture with the bench. As a result, we have some great pics, and we were always happy to return the favor! Everyone in London is so unbelievably nice. EXCEPT for the jerk(s) who vandalized the 1984 bench so badly that it had to removed and repaired before we could see it!

Update: 7/29 – Apparently the bench has successfully been repaired and will soon be back in business, according to Dr. Welsh!

On our book bench expedition, we stumbled across this bookstore called Skoob (books spelled backwards) – it was in the basement of a building and looked a little iffy from the outside, but I’m so glad we found this place. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen more books crammed into a space – this shop was absolute heaven on Earth to me! I quickly found the Chuck Palahniuk section (my favorite author, who is probably best known for writing Fight Club). I’m the proud owner of many of his books, even a few 1st editions, but for some reason didn’t own Survivor, one of my favorites. Well I found a UK version of Survivor that has an awesome cover, and it only cost 3 pounds! So I promptly bought it. I swore that I wouldn’t bring back any books because they’re heavy and take up a lot of space, but I couldn’t resist.

After we conquered the Bloomsbury Trail, we made our way to the Tower Bridge exhibition, which allows one to actually venture

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

inside and up into the iconic bridge. Currently, there are several exhibitions happening up in the walkways – one on “The Sixties” in London, and one on “Great Bridges of the World.” Visitors are also given the chance to learn about the history of the Tower Bridge itself, while having the opportunity to look through the viewing windows, which allow you a spectacular view of the River Thames and the city. I never really knew much about the history of the bridge, so it was nice to learn some fun facts: It took over 400 men 8 years to build the bridge, and cost nearly 1.2 million pounds!

When LD bought our ticket to the Tower Bridge, we took advantage of the fact that you could buy a joint ticket to both the Tower Bridge as well as the Monument to the Great Fire of London. But as soon as we were handed the tickets, we were told that we had 7 days to use the ticket to climb the Monument. Well, today is Saturday. We’re leaving tomorrow for Scotland,

The Monument

The Monument

and then on to Ireland/Northern Ireland, so we knew that if we didn’t use our ticket today, it’d be wasted money! Yikes. So, once we completed everything at the Tower Bridge, we hustled (and I do mean practically RAN) the distance from the bridge to the Monument to make it before Last Entry. Needless to say, we (or at least I) was exhausted and out of breath by the time we made it…. which was probably not an ideal state to be in before climbing a very narrow staircase consisting of 311 steps. *Side Note: I climbed the Monument during my first trip to London, and though I have never been claustrophobic or afraid of heights, I had an anxiety attack – the spiral staircase is frighteningly narrow, especially when people are walking both up and down it, and I had to stop

View from the top of the Monument

View from the top of the Monument – you can see by the Tower Bridge in the distance just how far we walked/ran!

several times.* This time around was perhaps a little better, though I still had to stop a few times to catch my breath (it probably is not the wisest thing to climb 311 steps when you have a serious chest infection). But the view from the top is spectacular and makes the torture worth it! We took some great pictures… And the best part is, once you’re at the bottom, you receive a fancy Certificate saying that you climbed the steps!

After our exciting time at the Monument, it was time for us to head back to the dorms to get ready for dinner with our professors and some of our classmates. We ate at the Black Friar pub, which was delicious, and enjoyed just chatting and laughing with everyone! Afterwards, we headed back to the dorms where Dr. Welsh and Dr. Griffis let us discuss our research paper topics with them. Research papers are always a bit daunting, so it was nice to get some feedback from them as well as our classmates, and I think everyone is feeling a bit better about this paper!

Well, in the morning we are off to Edinburgh! I am SO excited as I’ve never been to Scotland before. It’ll be a long bus ride, but I know we’ll have a blast.

Wish me luck packing! (Once a procrastinator, always a procrastinator…)



A Visit to the Stowe House

Stowe House

Welcome to Stowe House!


Today we visited the lovely Stowe House (also known as Stowe School), located in Buckingham, England. After a long bus ride, which funnily enough was in the same general direction as our past two day trips to Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon (I’m feeling a sense of déjà vu every time I get on a bus!), we arrived to the main building, which you see on the left. My immediate impression was that both the grounds and the school are absolutely majestic, like something out of a Jane Austen novel or a movie set. In fact, several movies have filmed at the House, including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and The World is Not Enough (a James Bond film starring Pierce Brosnan).

The estate itself was owned by the Temple-Grenville family since the 1500’s, and the house and gardens have undergone many changes and passed through several hands over the years. Based on what our tour guide told us, it really seems like the Temple-Grenville family was chock full of people who were highly inept at handling money. The estate was bought in 1921 by a man named Harry Shore, while the contents of the house were sold in a separate sale. And in May of 1923, 99 boys came to Stowe School, where they were taught about art and architecture. But by the 1960’s, the school could no longer afford to upkeep the gardens, and in 1989, the gardens were handed over to the National Trust. A few years later in 1997, the school could no longer maintain its buildings, and a trust was organized, allowing the buildings to be open to the public.

Today, the school is a co-ed boarding school which houses about 780 13-18 year olds. It costs a whopping 33,000 pounds per year, which is the equivalent of approximately $57,000! Notable alums of the school include Sir Richard Branson (billionaire businessman), Henry Cavill (actor), and Christopher Robin Milne (son of Winnie the Pooh author A. A. Milne).

The library, where our tour began, is a true treasure; as the librarian herself said, “I have one of the best offices in the world.” Located on the north side of the building, it overlooks the magnificent grounds, like these:

Grounds at Stowe School

The library has undergone a very interesting evolution itself- it became the library in 1797 and remains the main library of the school today. In 1845, Queen Victoria herself visited the school, and the massive renovations/upgrades to the house bankrupted the Duke of Buckingham (remember when I said that the family was no good with money?). Because of this, all of the maps and manuscripts within the library had to be auctioned off, which is heartbreaking – very few original items from the house are in possession of the estate today due to these many sales and auctions. Fun Fact: The family archives are actually not even in the UK, but rather in the Huntington Library in California!

Library at Stowe School

As you can see from the picture, the library is phenomenal & the ceiling really stands out. In fact, the ceiling actually has a 23 1/2 karat gold gilding!

After our tour of the main building, we were given free reign over the gardens, which are some of the best I have ever had the chance to see. The gardens are full of bridges, winding foot paths, pastures (with sheep!), ponds, monuments, statues, arches, and temples (lots of Greek/Roman influences can be seen everywhere). I think my favorite thing was a grotto that Jessica and I stumbled upon and explored.

View from inside the grotto.

View from inside the grotto.

I could have explored the house and gardens for hours, but unfortunately we had to head back to London. Stowe has probably been my favorite place we’ve visited (so far), and though I’ve never had a desire to be a school librarian, I would work at a place like Stowe in a heartbeat! Sign me up, England.

The girls and I decided to explore London when we returned in the evening, and we ended up in Chinatown, which is in the Soho area. It’s full of bright lights, colors, smells, and endless restaurants and shops! Led by Jessica, we decided to eat at a place called Cafe TPT, where we all shared a set meal (meaning we had about 6 different dishes with rice/chicken/beef/veggies to split). It was delicious! I had never visited Chinatown in London before, so it was a wonderful new experience. (Thanks, Jessica!)

Dusk in Chinatown

Dusk in Chinatown

Little did we know, we’d have one more adventure ahead! We had our first tube mishap – oops! The Bakerloo tube line runs through Waterloo Station, which is our home station. But instead of taking the southbound Bakerloo line, we hopped on the northbound line. So we decided to make the best of it and make a detour to 221 B Baker Street… which is of course, the address of the one and only Sherlock Holmes! As you can see, I tried to pay him a visit, but he clearly wasn’t home and was probably out solving a mystery with Doctor Watson. Maybe next time!


After our long day, I’m off to sleep! Tomorrow we visit the British Library, and I can’t wait to report back to you on everything we see…

– Taylor

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