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You know how little kids dream of going to Disneyland? Well, I’ve found my version…Shakespeareland, a.k.a. Stratford-upon-Avon!!! It’s a whole town that loves the Bard as much as I do!

Being here is a wonderful dreamland of a break between cities. Our first day, we went on a walking tour with an actor named Jonathan Milton (yes, that would be John Milton for short :P) who was not only a great performer, but had an M.A. in Shakespeare/Stratford studies as well…it was really informative as well as fun. He took us past the house where William Shakespeare was born and told us about the half-timberedΒ Tudor ‘wattle-and-daub’ architecture (the white buildings with black beams crisscrossing them). We went past the River Avon (with swans swimming on it!), to the church Shakespeare attended, past his grammar school (where little English kids in ties and blazers still walk home from every afternoon!), and finally to Holy Trinity Church, where he is buried by the altar (a privilege attained by his great wealth…) It was just the craziest sensation to stand by his grave and read his epitaph, ‘curst be he that moves my bones,’Β  for myself–writ right there in the stone.

Picnicking here has been some of the most delightful in England…there’s a plaza by the river Avon with a giant statue of the Bard himself, surrounded by his characters, and to sit there among the flowers, watching the swans go by, was just sweet πŸ™‚ Yesterday we had class in the parish centre of Holy Trinity, and to hear its bells tolling as we discussed King Lear…!! I just couldn’t describe it πŸ™‚ King Lear is one of my new favorites–such a tragic, but magnificent play.

Speaking of plays, we’ve seen 2 while we’ve been here: Antony and Cleopatra, and Romeo and Juliet. Seeing Shakespeare performed live in Stratford has to be one of the most awesome things around–they probably take him more seriously than anywhere else in the world. The actors have really, really thought through his lines and interpret them beautifully. Antony and Cle0patra was done as a modern war story, and Romeo and Juliet were depicted in modern clothing in an otherwise Elizabethan stage, and for once I liked the adaptations. So many subplots and subtle themes are brought out by the magnificent staging, and to sit with a rapt audience, soaking up those beautiful lines of iambic pentameter is just glorious πŸ˜€

Today Alyssa and I walked out to the cottage where Shakespeare went to woo his wife, Anne Hathaway. A lot of the ‘Shakespeare sites’ around here have been hammed up into tourist traps, so we didn’t go inside, but the gardens brimming over with spring flowers and the thatch-roofed eaves hanging over the lead-paned windows of the cottage was a snapshot of another time…I’ve attached a few pictures πŸ™‚ I just can’t stop taking pictures of flowers! The English really pride themselves on their gardens, and it shows at this time of year–sweet, fresh smells are everywhere, and color just bursts through all the cracks in walls and in all the front yards.

Anyway, thank you for putting up with my Shakespeare rhapsodizing…I’m just so excited to be in Shakespeare Disneyland that I can’t stop! We’re heading for London on Friday (after seeing King Lear on stage later this week!!), but I’ve attached some picturesΒ for your perusal. The first one is from the Orchard in Cambridge, but the rest are from here: me in front of the house where Shakespeare was born, his grave (I was within FEET of the Bard’s bones!!) in Holy Trinity Church, and some of the beautiful cottages and flowers here. Wish you were here!!

Cambridge, continued

Found some more internet time, so here’s the rest of the scoop on what we’ve been doing in Cambridge πŸ™‚

Thursday we went punting on the river Cam–no, not hunting; this is the traditional method of using long poles to push flat-bottomed boats down the river. Or, in my case–to push them around in circles πŸ™‚ Michael punted our boat most of the way and the view was gorgeous–the tranquil backs of the colleges, flowers blooming, willows draping over the water–but then I decided I wanted to try punting, and it was all I could do to concentrate on not falling in the water, not getting my pole stuck between the riverbed and the bottom of the low bridges, not colliding with guided punting tour boats, and not spinning around in circles in the middle of the river…well, I succeeded on the first few πŸ™‚ Oh well, it was a uniquely British experience and I enjoyed it, even if it gave me sore shoulders after only 10 minutes!

Friday we visited The Orchard, a lovely little tea garden where you can eat scones with clotted cream under the blooming apple trees πŸ˜€ It was so pretty and relaxing; we blew bubbles and braided flowers into our hair and read books until the clouds swallowed up the sun. It was a really beautiful place. Later that afternoon, I enjoyed some much-needed alone time with some coffee and English shortbread, reading the tales of King Arthur’s knights with a view out to King’s College…wow, I’m really here! Got to hear the King’s College Choir sing an evensong. My favorite part was hearing the perfectly-tuned choir sing psalms word-for-word as songs–I realized that the purpose of matins (morning) and evensong (evening) services is to bookend the day with remembering God, and that was beautiful.

Today was mostly just wandering around, picking up last-minute souvenirs and reading in the (sporadic) sunshine on Parker’s Pieces (for some reason, they call their parks ‘pieces’ here–especially awkward when you get to the one called ‘Christ’s Pieces’ O,O) until Alyssa and I almost got obliterated by some English boys who thought they knew how to throw an American football…

Tomorrow we’re off to Stratford-upon-Avon, home of Shakespeare the Bard himself!!! We’ll be seeing 3 Shakespeare plays (hooray!!!) and staying at the Quilt and Croissants, what sounds like a lovely B&B after the noisy urban hostel of Cambridge. It’s been a lovely time here, butΒ I look forward to updating you on the next stage of the adventure πŸ™‚ Love!

Cambridge

Hi friends and family! I posted my pictures separately because I’m not sure how fast my internet money is going away, so wanted to make sure at leastΒ SOMETHING got posted πŸ™‚ We’re in Cambridge–literally, ‘bridge over the river Cam’–should probably be CamBRIDGES, because there are a bunch of them. Most famous are probably the Mathematical BridgeΒ (!) and the Bridge of Sighs–this may not be Venice, but they definitely like their river.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Time here has been rather low-key compared with places like Dublin; Cambridge is a town that centers around its colleges, and most of those have been closed this week, so we’ve been busying ourselves with class (a 45-minute walk away), shopping, and checking out the cute coffee/tea shops and bookstores around here πŸ™‚ It’s so very interesting to see how the lives of my English counterparts work: we’re around college students our own age, but they do college life in a completely different way here. First of all, Cambridge University is made up of a bunch of different colleges, each of which is a largely separate entity. Most famous is probably Trinity College, alma mater of people like Isaac Newton, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and A.A. Milne! On Tuesday, a couple of us went to visit Trinity’s Wren Library, where about 15 precious manuscripts are on display. They include a first edition printing of the Bible in English, Shakespeare’s first folio, Newton’s Principia Matematica (with edits in Newton’s own handwriting!!), and handwritten drafts of Tennyson’s and Byron’s poems…!!! I was really, really excited to be there (needless to say!) Later on, we took a tour of both St. John’s and Trinity Colleges, and they look a lot like monasteries inside–in fact, some of the buildings were monasteries seized when Henry VIII dissolved the Catholic monasteries in England. It’s a very cloistered way of studying, which I’m not sure I could handle. But they sure are beautiful buildings: Gothic spires, Cambridge boys in flowing black robes, walls overrun with blooming wisteria πŸ™‚

Flowers are a big part of Cambridge–this is the perfect time to be here! I put up some pictures of more brightly-colored doors with climbing flowers around them. I’m coming to see why the land features so prominently in English literature. The land has a sweet charm, especially when it’s coming to life with all varieties of primroses, peonies, and bluebells πŸ™‚ Bikes are also ubiquitous: while there are cars here, bike is the primary form of transportation for most people. Picture this: rainy day. bike with a basket. little English lady with a woolen skirt. Put them together. Cambridge πŸ™‚

Internet time is kaput.Β Hopefully I can put up more later. Love to you all!

Images of Cambridge

Croeso Cymru

I have no idea if that title is at all grammatically accurate, but those are the words for ‘welcome’ and ‘Wales’ in Welsh…so welcome to Wales with me! It’s been a ridiculously long time since I had any significant amount of internet time, so I have a lot to catch you up on! Since the last time I wrote, our group has been in Dublin and we’re now near Aberystwyth, Wales, in the most charming hotel on the face of the earth, I’m pretty sure: The Hafod Arms. My room has flower-patterned bedspreads and curtains, with a windowseat looking out to the rugged hills and ravines of Wales! This place is almost like a little Scotland, with rugged countryside and thick mists, but the flowers are starting to bloom, and they’re beautiful: blackthorn, bluebells, wild primroses, wood sorrel, and celandine πŸ™‚ We took a 6 1/2 mile walk around the area on Tuesday with a retired couple who spoke Welsh and studied botany, and learned a lot about the land and language. It’s funny, parts of the landscape look like California, with the brown-tinted rivers and oak leaves scattered on the ground, but then you see a little cottage tucked into the sheep-dotted hills or see ‘diolch’ (thank you) on a postcard and know you’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

Speaking of not in Kansas, they’re feeding us here like we were in Buckingham Palace! Oh my gosh, I’m convinced that they’re out to feed us to death! They’ll serve a splendid lineup of breakfast foods on a buffet table (including warm croissants :)) and then come around and take orders for a hot breakfast…and the first night, we were shocked to find out that dinners include three courses and last an hour and a half! I think that if I don’t die of amazement at the tastes, I will certainly die of explosion. It’s really wonderful to have a place to unwind and relax after Dublin. We’re ten miles inland of the small town of Aberystwyth, which really puts us in the middle of nowhere. Compared to the constant sightseeing craze of Dublin, our days here are like rafting down a lazy river: eat, sleep, curl up with a blanket and read beside the fire, drink tea, walk in the hills…it’s absolutely lovely. How I manage to still be behind on sleep and homework is beyond me!

Yesterday was Gia’s birthday, one of the girls on our trip, and the day got even more interesting. After a failed attempt to see some of the medieval manuscripts at the University of Aberystwyth in the afternoon, the hotel staff got rambunctious and really wanted to set up their karaoke machine for us…so after our (yet again) sumptuous dinner, our entire group, professor and his wife included, had an impromptu karaoke party in Wales, including ‘The House of the Rising Sun,’ ‘I Want It That Way,’ and ‘A Whole New World.’ It was hilarious. And THEN one of the girls along, Sandra, who knows a variety of English Country Dances, took us into the hotel’s large all-purpose room, converted it into a ballroom, and we imitated Pride and Prejudice in Wales…it was marvelous πŸ™‚ We’re all starting to look like painted portraits in the clothes out of our small suitcases, but although we were a motley crew, it was very delightful. On Sunday, we used the same room to put together our own homemade church service–complete with gluten-free communion and a devotional out of the Chronicles of Narnia. It was wonderful πŸ™‚

British elections are also today, as we found out from a colorful taxi (‘tacsi’ in Welsh!) driver yesterday. The Labor Party is expected to be ousted after 12 years in favor of the Tories. It was interesting to hear his perspective on Welsh-English politics. Apparently Wales has recently gotten its own parliament, which can make decisions on things like schools, but they still have no power of taxation, and our driver didn’t think Wales would ever have that kind of power. Our walking guide on Tuesday said she thought the difference between being English and being Welsh was a feeling of superiority versus a feeling of defensiveness. I’ve read about English colonialism in books, but I didn’t realize how current it is, and how real for ordinary people in 2010. Even if the lives of ordinary English and Welsh people seem similar on the surface, there’s a whole stew of frustrations, power plays, and resentment under the surface. It was similar in Ireland and in Scotland as well–the English are generally seen as the oppressors, who seize power and don’t give it back to these ethnically and linguistically separate people groups. It’s sobering, and a little scary to wonder how all these political tensions will manifest themselves, even in the very near future.

Anyway, speaking of Ireland, I have to tell you a little about Dublin! It’ll have to be just a little slice, because the 5 days we spent there were absolutely jam-packed, but it was fun experience. I knew very little about it before going, and was amazed by how old, diverse, and buzzing the city is. Old, because it was originally founded by the Vikings around the 9th century (I think) and they’ve found valuable sites of Viking archaeology buried in the city proper–even under a site proposed for government offices, just a few years ago! Diverse, because every kind of people have come to live there. The Temple Bar area, where we stayed, is not just a tourist magnet, but home to great Italian, Indian, Spanish, and Chinese food, not to mention pubs serving Irish stew and Guinness. It was really nice to find some lasagna on the other side of the world πŸ™‚ But I’ve also decided that brown soda bread is my favorite Irish food–so good with Irish cheese πŸ™‚ Dublin is EXPENSIVE, and Alyssa and I perfected the art of the picnic in the city–which gave us superior views to any of the restaurant windows, from the lawn of Christ Church Cathedral to the steps across from the Old Library in Trinity College! And lastly, buzzing, because there are a million and one things to do in Dublin and I’m pretty sure the town never sleeps, especially on weekends. Falling asleep on Friday night was a little tricky with the pounding music in the downstairs bar coming up loudly through three floors…

Well, some of the highlights of Dublin (for me) were definitely books. On our first day there, we took a historical tour of the city, which ended us up in Trinity College’s Old Library, where lives *drumroll, please* the Book of Kells: the most beautiful and perfectly preserved illuminated medieval manuscript in existence. It’s a set of the four Gospels illuminated (decorated) with embellished letters and full pages of colorful Celtic art, dating back to the 8th century AD. It was magical to learn about how such manuscripts were made, and then getting to enter the dark room with bulletproof glass protecting the treasure itself. I was inches from the penstrokes that told the Gospel story 12 centuries ago…the designs were incredibly ornate and detailed, and so well preserved considering their enormous age. I was blown away. And then–completely unaware–we walked into the Long Room: where the Library keeps its collection of 200,000 old and rare books. It was breathtaking. They actually raised the ceiling to fit more books in πŸ™‚ It reminded me of the Beauty and the Beast library, with sliding ladders and all! I was in heaven.

And as if those weren’t enough old books to keep me happy for the rest of my life, the next day we visited the Chester Beatty library, the collection of a wealthy American expatriot, which included (ack!) papyrus copies of Biblical texts dating back as far as AD 150!!! I saw a scrap of the Gospel of John, written down by someone who could have known the Apostle himself!!! And they were all in Greek…I was able to recognize the word ‘chairo’, ‘I rejoice,’ in an 1800-year-old copy of Philippians…ack!! I almost died (again) of sheer delight!

So, I really enjoyed the book aspect of Dublin, needless to say πŸ™‚ Other really cool things were getting to hear an evensong by the choir of Christ Church Cathedral with its soaring ceilings, eating delicious fish and chips on its lawn, seeing an exhibition on W.B. Yeats in the National Library (including some of his original manuscripts! Books again πŸ™‚ and the Brooch of Tara in the National Museum. St. Stephen’s Green has to be one of the most beautiful parks I’ve ever seen–equivalent to Central Park in New York, but filled with tulip gardens, waterfalls, and Irish schoolchildren πŸ™‚ Our group went to see the musical ‘Evita’ at the Gaiety Theatre–a great production, but a little funny to hear Irish actors singing in Spanish πŸ˜› On Thursday, I had the day off class, so I went on a bus tour ofΒ  Tara and Newgrange, really really really old sites in Irish history–the picture of the carved rock is from Newgrange, a tomb dating to 3200 BC (yes, BC!! That’s 5000 years of history!). It’s a mound of stone under a green hill, all built without mortar, with one entrance into which the sunlight would only enter for 17 minutes on the morning of the Winter Solstice.

Ack! I’m afraid I’m talking your ears off, but a week and a half of adventures with no internet access leaves me with so much to tell you.Β  Some of the other subjects of the pictures I’ve posted: a visit to the Rock of Cashel, the ancient seat of Ireland’s archbishops, en route from Dingle to Dublin–amazing Celtic crosses and a 12th (?) century round tower, unique to Ireland. Caernarfon Castle, en route from Dublin to the Hafod Arms–one of the best-preserved castles in existence, begun by the Normans in the 1200s, where Prince Charles was ‘invested’ as Prince of Wales…a long time ago. The picture of the group of us in the gazebo is from the top of Jacob’s Ladder, a set of steep stone steps, with a beautiful view out to the ‘rhaeadrau’, waterfalls, near our hotel. There are some views of the countryside around here–just beautiful, with the cloud-shadows drifting over the hills, or the blackthorn blooming in pastures dotted with grazing sheep. Oh man, I can’t believe I have the gift and privilege of being here. I feel insanely blessed.

Well, if you’re still awake after that million-mile trek through the last 10 days of my adventures, diolch! We’re leaving tomorrow for Cambridge, and hopefully it won’t be another 10 days until I can write to you, but Britain is full of sheep, not computers πŸ™‚ I’m realizing that efficiency here is not considered the virtue it is in the U.S.–here, you deal with people, not machines. It can be a bit frustrating when you’re trying to get things done, but then you realize that the conversations you have with waitresses and taxi drivers are so much more important than getting things done, anyway. I would send you a bouquet of Welsh flowers if I could, but I’ll just send love and long-distance hugs instead.

And…a happy early Mother’s Day to all you moms (especially mine)!

When Irish Eyes Are…

Hello friends and family! I’m in Ireland! This week I’m in Dingle, the westernmost peninsula on “the island of saints and scholars” πŸ™‚ Since we have free internet in the hostel, I’ve uploaded more pictures…and now I’m going to tell you about them πŸ™‚

As I sit here and type, sitting down is painful. This is because I got to go HORSEBACK RIDING up a MOUNTAIN in IRELAND! I’ll take sore sits bones, thank you! I got to see a beautiful vista of Dingle Bay and the sun on the hills, and experience a canter up to the top of the mountain–completely terrifying, but totally exhilarating, too. You could see all the way out to the Blasket Islands, and it was gorgeous.

Wow, it’s been a while since I last wrote. It’s been a lovely week here. We’re staying in a youth hostel that we have all to ourselves, and we’re cooking for ourselves in the kitchen–enjoying Ireland’s brown soda bread (my favorite Irish food), Fruit ‘n’ Fibre cereal, Dingle Gold cheese, and massive 20-person, potato-free community dinners! Ah, spaghetti tastes so good when you’re far away from home πŸ™‚ My group and I made Mexican burrito stack-ups using all ingredients from the Irish grocery store…it was a hilarious culture clash, but they sure tasted good!

The first few days here were quiet, what with classes and recovering from the 16-hour trip to get here. That’s right, our flight from the Lake District to Dingle was canceled, due to the volcanic explosion in Iceland. No flights into or out of the UK. Thankfully, though, we still had a way to get here. Left the hostel at 8 AM, and after 16 hours of a bus-ferry-bus combination through Wales and Dublin, we rattled our suitcases down Dingle’s cobblestone streets at midnight. It was really a miracle, though, because if not for our sweet Irish bus driver, James, we wouldn’t have been able to get on the crowded ferry. He spent the night in Wales just so we could get priority admission onto the ferry, and then drove us the 6 hours across Ireland. Then, 2 days later, he drove us around Slea Head on a tour of the area. Amazing! The view was amazing too πŸ™‚ We’ve been blessed with such incredible weather on this trip–so far, we’ve had about 3 total days of rain in 3 1/2 weeks.Β We stopped at the monastic beehive huts, hiked out to the point of the peninsula (where I was the single westernmost person in Europe [see the picture of me looking out to sea :P]), learned about the Blasket Islands at the Blasket Center, and stopped at Gallarus Oratory, an ancient church built all of stones without mortar (that’s the picture of the dark stone window :)).

On Friday, Dr. Reinsma and Kirsten and I hiked Mt. Brandon, named after the monk St. Brendan “The Navigator”, who was not only a saint and a scholar, but a sailor as well–legend has it that he sailed all the way to North America in a leather boat a thousand years before Columbus. It’s known as “the sacred mountain,” and it was a beautiful climb. We found a chain of jade-green lakes cupped in hidden nooks of the mountain and half-walked, half-scrambled up the steep incline to the ridge. Stepping up to the top, there was a moment when we looked out and saw nothing but a flat horizon of ocean, going on forever. Then we crested the ridge and saw an incredible 360-degree panorama of the entire Dingle Peninsula: sun dappling the green hills of the Emerald Isle, turquoise waters sweeping up onto sandy stretches of beach, and at the very pinnacle of the ridge, a wooden cross planted in a cairn of stones. It was a very peaceful, sober place–with a view out over the whole world, and the cross over all. I read this verse that seems to go perfectly with where I am:

“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. For you have heard my vows, O God; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.” (Psalm 61:2-5) Β Being in this place makes me so conscious of the spiritual heritage I come from. With all these sights of rocks and high places, “I lift up my eyes to the hills-where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth.” Sitting at the top of the 2nd-highest mountain in Ireland, looking out at the panorama of mountains and sea, watching the crows fly by beneath me in the lofty silence at the top, I was quietly aware of the Rock that is higher than I.

Hm, what else to say? There have just been so many lovely experiences. I’ve gotten to sleep in a few times while we’ve been here, which has been much-needed in the midst of so many activities. I tried Guinness and Bailey’s ice creams at the wonderful, local Murphy’s Ice Cream shop–they were OK, but not as good as the dark chocolate flavor πŸ™‚ Their Extreme Hot Cocoa is also pretty killer…We went to one of the fifty-two local pubs to listen to traditional Irish music two nights, which was wonderful. There was an accordion, a guitar, a fiddle, a whistle, and a vocalist, and they made terrific music. Some drunk Irishmen actually got up and started Irish dancing and keeping time with the bottoms of glasses on their barstools. For people so out of their wits, they were really, really good!

That should explain most of the Irish pictures I’ve posted. The rest are the ones I couldn’t post in the Lake District: of tea and scones in Keswick, William Wordsworth’s grave, me hiking the fells (mini-mountains) overlooking Grasmere (a Norse name meaning Boar Lake…!), and our Sunday expedition to Hadrian’s Wall!!! (it was the day after my last post, so I didn’t get to mention it–a half-excavated Roman fort and section of The Wall from A.D. 122…we walked on 2000 years of history! (and shared it with sheep!) It was an amazing experience and I’m really glad we got to go.

Jeepers, I feel like I’m rambling all around. Maybe bouncing around on horseback this afternoon shook my brain up too πŸ™‚ We’re leaving for Dublin in the morning, where we’ll be for about 5 days before heading to Wales. Taste and see that the Lord is good…and here it tastes like brown soda bread and looks like a view out over the blue ocean to the islands πŸ™‚

Love and hugs!

Dear friends and family,

Well, in case you were wondering, I put on my British stiff upper lip, forced myself to leave Scotland, and made it back safely…6 forms of transportation, 11 cities, and 5 castles later, I am now back in Keswick with the group πŸ™‚ Left my heart in Scotland, but it sure is beautiful here, too. We are so blessed; we’ve only had 2 days of rain in the last 2 1/2 weeks we’ve been here!

It’s been nice to have some time away from cities to settle into the routine of classes. It would be really hard to keep up on reading with the temptation to sightsee 24/7. I’ve been burying my nose in Middle English Chaucer, Shakespeare, Malory, and travel essays, which really come to life when you’re living in their settings! We read part of A Midsummer Night’s Dream Tuesday morning while looking out at the birds in the thickets and the waterfall behind our hostel πŸ™‚ Reading such good books in such a beautiful place hardly seems like homework!

But even with classes, we have 4-day weekends and weekday afternoons to enjoy the countryside here. It’s a slower pace of life; sometimes there simply ISN’T a bus that runs or a phone that connects, so you are forced to stay where you are and enjoy it–a tough and beautiful skill it can be hard to learn in the States. One afternoon I sat in a pasture and wrote while sheep strolled around; another I went rowing on the lake with 3 friends, and then we went for tea and scones at the Wild Strawberry Shop πŸ™‚ Yesterday almost the whole group went to Grasmere, site of William Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage, and a few of us called ourselves ‘fell walkers’ (a fell out here is a wee mountain :P) and went traipsing all over the craggy moors, then tried Grasmere ginger scones in town after visiting the Wordsworths’ graves (ahhh!) Then my whole room came back and crashed for an hour and a half πŸ™‚

Today I peeled myself out of bed at 5:30 AM to go hiking on more fells with Dr. Reinsma and 6 other girls. We were headed for Castlerigg, a stone circle that’s been standing for 4000 YEARS (wrap your head around that!!) Rocks, bumps, trees, sheep, and a beautiful pearl-and-rose sunrise later, we arrived at the ancient stones with only a pair of photographers for company. We walked around it, marveling at the perfect circle of standing stones, and then sat with our backs to them for about half an hour, taking in the new morning from such a place of history. It exploded my brain to think of running my hand over rocks that someone four millenia ago was heaving into place. This place makes time as transparent as water; reach into it and you might shake hands with your ancestors. All those Celtic songs I like and the Arthur legends are coming to life–not just figuratively, but so realistically that you really feel like you wouldn’t be surprised to see a sword-girt knight walking over the moors because his castle is just down the street. It’s amazing. And the sheep are really cute, too πŸ™‚ It’s lambing season, and the cutest ones I’ve seen are black with white ears πŸ™‚

Anyway, after so much mystery and history (and 6 miles of walking), we switched our minds to the subject of breakfast πŸ™‚ The English are good at scones–dripping with jam and clotted cream, mmm πŸ™‚ They’re not so good at waffles. They think waffles are made of potatoes. Everything’s made of potatoes here. I’m not even kidding. They serve chips (french fries) with pizza. You can order shepherd’s pie (topped with mashed potatoes) for dinner and they’ll still serve you a jacket potato (baked potato) on the side. They put potatoes in burritos. I think I’ll never want to see another potato when I get home. In Dingle, our next location, we’ll be cooking for ourselves in the hostel, and potatoes will NOT be on the menu! πŸ˜›

Speaking of which, tomorrow is our last day in the Lake District. I’m putting together a day trip to Hadrian’s Wall (!!!) which is near Carlisle up north, and on Monday we’re leaving for Dingle, Ireland. They probably like potatoes even more over there! Yikes! I’m looking forward to some good folk music in the pubs, though, and hopefully a bike ride near the coast πŸ™‚

Man, I just can’t believe I’m here! I wish you all could be here to experience it too. Britain is a real country with real people and their lives, just like ours, but there is definitely a strong tie to history here that governs and directs the present. Love to you all! (and, as the British say: Cheers!)