Wabash Blogs Immersion 2008: Dickens, Hardy & London -

December 01, 2008

I Promise Myself to Return to London

Jake Thomas 09 - Last full day in London.  My shin splits make it difficult for me to walk. The blisters on my feet are nothing short of repulsive and hideous. Still, none of it really affects my attitude.  Dr. Herzog and the class has traversed through ridiculous amounts of the glorious city as well as the English countryside.  The love and respect I feel for city reminds me a lot of how I feel to my home town of Chicago.  I have never felt as comfortable.

The first half of the day, Dr. Herzog took the group on a short tour of famous post modern architecture.  Above all else, 30 St. Mary Axe left a very strong impression on me.  Amidst 18th century churches and modern architecture of the mid 1970s, 30 St. Mary Axe (lovingly referred to as "the Gherkin") towered over the city of London.  To me, it was the financial district's crowning achievement.  I could not help compare the piece to Chicago's Sears Tower.  Whereas the Sears Tower fixes itself with the rest of the Chicago skyline as typically modern architecture, the post modern elements of the Gherkin seems to show signs of flexibility in the historic city.  It was amazing.

The group ended our walk facing London's Tower Bridge.  Upon looking at the bridge, I could not help think about how the bridge's architecture instills a sense of classic beauty that leads the city of London.  When people think of London architecture, it is the first thing that comes to mind (not London bridge...which is in Arizona...apparently).  In a sense, the old mixes with the new.  With the post modern Gherkin, there is also the Victorian Tower Bridge.  Both wonders of our world.

I am going to miss this city.  I learned so much from Dr. Herzog, as well as so much from personally experiencing the culture.  Was the experience life changing?  I cannot say. Nonetheless, I will return to London one day. I can only promise myself that.

Posted by hewitth at 09:26 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Seeing More of Central London

Michael Wartman '09 - This week has definitely lived up to the massive expectatoins I had developed over the course of the semester. 

Dr. Herzog's tours, while conducted at a frantic pace in order to allow us to see as much as possible, have exposed me to parts of London that the average tourist on holiday completely misses. Take the time to read my classmates' blogs to learn more about the places we have visited. Today we spent time walking to the Swiss Re building, Lloyds of London, and the London City Council building. All three are examples of the amazing work that contemporary architects are doing in London. While I came expecting to be awed by the buildings of the past, I left wit a deep understanding of the role London plays in the contemporary world of architecture.

The contemporary was also the focus of my afternoon spent in the Tate Modern, London's beautiful museum of modern art. The works of art ranged from the beautfiul to the shocking to the thought provoking. My favorite pieces in the museum were the Henri Matisse paintings. It was unbelievable that such a gorgeous museum was available to the public for free. It was a great way to spend our final day and a great end to the trip.

Posted by hewitth at 09:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 28, 2008

The Prime Minister and Thanksgiving Dinner

Roger Market ’09 - On Thursday, our sixth day in England, we traveled by Tube to the Royal Observatory and the Prime Meridian in Greenwich, and then went for a walk in Hampstead Heath (to Parliament Hill and back down). While these sites were indeed interesting, I was particularly intrigued by two minor events that I noticed throughout the day.

First, while riding the rail to the Heath, I noticed a timid young woman sitting adjacent to me, rocking forward and backward. I thought maybe she was nervous because she was sitting between two men she didn’t know, a black gentleman and Wabash’s own Mitch Palmer. Whatever her true feelings, she made me think about the state of the world now versus the state of the world in Victorian times. Certainly, there are similarities: For instance, just like Jack the Ripper terrorized London for three months in the autumn of 1888, we have serial killers today that remain at large for long periods of time, some even longer than Jack the Ripper. Perhaps the crime world of today is not necessarily any larger than it was in those days, when considered as a percent of population, but it is certainly more noticed and sensationalized. If I were that girl, stuck between two strange men, on a modern-day Underground rail system, I might be nervous as well.

Next, as we were walking through Hampstead Heath, an English woman came up to Dr. Herzog and asked him if he knew how to get to Wells Street. Though we were in the middle of the Heath, Dr. Herzog knew exactly how to get to Wells Street, and he directed the woman there without a problem. I was amazed at and wildly impressed with his ability to orient himself with London/England so well, as I have been on numerous other occasions throughout this very well planned/timed trip. Standing on the Heath, in the cold, misty rain, listening to Dr. Herzog’s directions, I was reminded that the world is a big place, that London is a big place; thus, it was particularly incredible that Dr. Herzog—who we know to be American from Indiana—could tell an English person how to navigate one of her own cities. I wonder if the woman knew he was American when she decided to ask him for directions, and would she have addressed him if she knew his nationality beforehand?

When we got back to the hotel that evening, after a long day on the Tube and in the Heath, we took some time to get cleaned up, and then put on the best clothes we brought with us and went to have a nice Thanksgiving dinner at Cosmobia, an Italian restaurant situated about a block from the Russell Square Tube station. The food was good, but the prices were a little steep. If any readers are planning a trip to London, be relieved when I say that this twenty or thirty pounds spent at dinner is actually the most I have spent at any one location. London can be expensive in some cases, but for the most part, I think the astronomical pricing we hear about in the States is overstated. There are plenty of decent prices here. Of course, with a terrible world economy and low currency exchange rates, now is about the best time to tour London, and that probably has something to do with the surprisingly good deals we are regularly encountering across “the Pond.”

Posted by hewitth at 04:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Great Views From Historic Sites

P. Campbell Robbins ’09 - Today was our designated “science day,” as we traveled to Greenwich to straddle the Prime Meridian. Before we climbed up the steep hill to the Royal Observatory, Professor Porter gave us a highly informative lecture on longitude and the many excruciating and lengthy years spent trying to precisely determine the location of the Prime Meridian. Once on top of the hill, we found ourselves with a magnificent view of London.  We spent about an hour visiting exhibits where early telescopes and other such instruments are encased.

Following lunch, we traveled to Hampstead. There, Dr. Tobey Herzog led us on a walking tour off the town (including the flat where he and his family lived in 1984). Among the sites we saw were the poet John Keats’ home and a restaurant that George Orwell frequented. From the town, Dr. Herzog led us to Hampstead Heath, which soon became one of my favorite parts of our trip. We walked all along and through the massive green lands all the way up to Parliament Hill, where, once again, we were treated to a gorgeous view of London.  

Dr. Herzog informed us that Charles Dickens would often walk up to Parliament Hill from his house in London. The weather was rainy and muddy, but the beautiful green heath along with the gorgeous view certainly made up for the weather.  

By the end of the day, we had once again received our fair share of exercise. I, for one, definitely built up quite an appetite from the day’s excursion and was more than enthused to have our group Thanksgiving meal at a wonderful Italian restaurant.  \There was a general consensus among the group that the only thing missing was AMERICAN football.

In photos: Top right, the Royal Observatory. At lower left, Robbins checks out a plague outside the Prime Ministers.

Posted by hewitth at 04:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Dorchester Citizens Quite Friendly

Thomas Hanewald '09 - Today we went to Dorchester to visit “Thomas Hardy Country.”  Rather than elaborate on how we spent 5 hours on a train or how we walked along the British countryside for 4 hours, led by our esteemed leader, Prof. Herzog, I think it would be more interesting to talk about the people that inhabit the countryside.

London resembles most large cities; the people walking to and from the public transportation are solely interested in arriving at their destination. I wouldn’t go so far as to call them rude, but the description would definitely be suitable.  

When we stepped off the train into Dorchester the first thing I noticed about the inhabitants was their politeness. Every person that made eye contact with us always smiled and responded with a “hello,” “good day,” or a “cheers.” It was interesting to see the dichotomy between London and Dorchester.  People were genuinely very friendly and very receptive to a group of 20 people trouncing around their countryside.  

Another interesting side note was the noticeable difference in the cleanliness of two cities.  London might be the cleanest large city I have ever been to. Much cleaner than LA., New York, Philadelphia, and maybe even Chicago (but Prof. Herzog will not admit to that). I would not call Dorchester dirty, by any means, but I saw a lot more trash on the ground, much more littering.  

 One last side note, the British countryside looks remarkably like rural Indiana but to quote my fellow student Joseph Hawkins, “It is much more Britishy.”

Posted by hewitth at 07:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wessex a Bustling Little Town

Mitch Palmer '09 - Today we visited Dorchester in Thomas Hardy’s Wessex. Since it is located in the British countryside, I assumed at first that it would be pretty much like the cornfields and whatnot we see in Indiana. However, I was pleasantly surprised.

For one, the town was much more active than I originally imagined it would be. On one street in particular, which was closed off in order to accommodate pedestrian traffic, it was as crowded as some of the places we have seen in London. The rest of the town was fraught with stores, pubs, inns, and street vendors, and in some places one might forget that London was 2 ½ hours away.

Once we started to pass out of the town and move more into the country, however, I was reminded a little more of home. On the other hand, there were some significant differences between what I’m used to in the States and what I saw here. Most noticeable (and most disappointing) was the lack of road apples. But we did see several kinds of ranches and farms that one would expect to find in the States. One major difference was the heavy presence of forest area among the farms; there was not nearly as much open field as we have in the states.

Finally, before leaving, we saw Thomas Hardy’s cottage. One of the first things I noticed was the height of the door – probably about 5’ 8” or so; Hardy was not a large man. But the gardens surrounding the cottage, as well as the autumn forestry made for an extremely beautiful, extremely serene scene. After seeing the cottage, we were on our way back to the train station, and upon settling myself on the train, I began my second 2 ½ hour nap of the day.

Posted by hewitth at 07:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 27, 2008

Understanding London's Connection with its Past

Brett Sanders '09 - Tuesday was undoubtedly full of more sights that involved London’s lovely landscape.  Although it is safe to say that our legs were close to falling off, Professor Herzog kept us traipsing through the London cement jungle.

After discussing some of the places that are seen in Bleak House, that are placed within Chancery Lane, our trip took us down to the heart of London.  What was most striking to me was the fact that while in the city, tremendous buildings spring up before your eyes at every turn, it seems.  Nearly every building has some unique aspect of architecture that fills the mind with a sense of wonder and astonishment at how well these ancient buildings have been maintained.  One of the most fascinating structures was St. Paul’s Cathedral that acted as a beacon of hope for the London people during World War 2.  It is a massive neo-classical structure that holds some of England’s most important people’s remains.  Also, it managed to stay intact during the Second World War, which allows it to be considered a monument to Britain’s past and present.

After walking a bit further, we were able to cross London Bridge, which is an amazing historical structure.  Even though London Bridge was bought by an American and sent to Arizona, the one that we walked down seemed to hold within it a sense of the past and the present.

Throughout our walks and discussions of the myriad buildings that London contains, one is struck with the sense that all of London contains one common theme within it—a social and architectural connection between the past and the present.

Posted by hewitth at 08:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)