Living in a Castle.

My summer trip abroad at Harlaxton College in England.

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Welcome, dear friends, to the Lake District, one of the most beautiful places my eyes have ever had the pleasure of viewing. This week’s class adventures were inspired by the poetry of William Wordsworth. We spent three days in Grasmere where he resided many years (but no, we did not visit his giggle-inducing birthplace of Cockermouth), and we wandered lonely as clouds, just taking in the amazing natural landscapes.

Our bus took off early Wednesday morning, and we traveled about four hours to the northwest corner of the country, nearing the border of Scotland. I found it fascinating just to watch the changing scenery along the countryside as it started off flat, developed into some rolling hills, and finally became expansive mountains as we reached the Lake District.

After checking into the Wordsworth Hotel, “the greatest place man hath ever known,” we walked around the village and visited Wordsworth’s and his family’s gravestones.

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Then it was off to Dove Cottage, Wordsworth’s old home, which appeared incredibly well preserved. We were led on a tour through the house, learning several interesting facts about his life. We even got to see the couch where he supposedly laid “in vacant or in pensive mood,” which I thought was pretty neat. Again, when they open up the fabulous Helen Museum, it will probably feature such artifacts as my foldable fish-patterned chair/bed where oft I lie watching TV and eating Doritos.

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Following Dove Cottage, we walked over to the Wordsworth Museum to look a little more into not only his life but his family’s as well. One piece that particularly stood out to me was a writing by his sister Dorothy on how she preferred walking to any other form of transportation. I am with ya on that one, sista! Those narrow, windy roads our charter bus had to maneuver were a little bit frightening. But no worries, my sore legs will attest to the fact that plenty of walking was done on this trip as well.

Next we headed over to Rydal Mount, his later home. This one was comparably larger to accommodate his growing family and is actually still in use by a family today.
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The property also included an expansive backyard, wooded area for us to explore, and it provided some wonderful photo opps.

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However, as we discussed the picturesque views England offers in class this week, we talked about how often we focus the lense of our cameras instead of mentally focusing on the experience–or, at least, that is what I got out of the conversation. So I truly did try to take some time to just breathe in the air and enjoy my surroundings without being hindered by technology.

Speaking of technological hindrances, I apologize in advance for a few of these pictures that refused to rotate for me. Still pretty though! The following is from our walk back from Rydal Mount to Grasmere along the Coffin Trail.

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Along our walk, a lady behind us noticed somebody’s EIU Study Abroad backpack and took a moment to talk with us, because she was from the St. Louis area, which was the first of several connections we encountered during this trip. People always seem genuinely interested to hear about our studying abroad, and it reminds me how truly fortunate I am to partake in this opportunity.

We returned to the hotel, and I spent some time just chilling out for a while before going out to dinner with a few other girls. I was completely starving at that point and very happy when we found Potted Out, a cute little Italian-ish cafe. When our waiter heard our accents and recognized we were American, he asked if we knew about the Stanley Cup, because one of his best friends growing up is number 26 on the Bruins. So that was cool, and the food was amazing. The other girls each had a pizza, and I had a burger sandwiched on Italian bread and chips (look at me, not even thinking twice over the chips/fries deal!).

We finished dinner and then just hung around outside, enjoying good conversation and watching the beautiful sunset over the mountains. We headed in fairly early, and falling asleep was not a problem in the slightest that night.

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The following morning started off with a nice breakfast at the hotel; I wasn’t feeling daring enough to order black pudding again, but I did have scrambled eggs and some thinly sliced salmon. I am going to credit that fish for giving me the energy to power through Friday’s big endeavor–climbing a mountain.

A fairly large group of us rode the bus a couple towns over and got dumped off at the foot of a mountain. We followed the professors and began our ascension along a relatively steep slope up a rocky path. The trail wasn’t awful, but I did have to take a few breaks to catch my breath. The scariest part for me was crossing over a stream of rushing water via some big boulders spread far enough apart that I wasn’t sure my little shortie legs would make it, but instead of pausing to think about it, I just powered ahead and made it fine. Here are some of my classmates during the ascent.

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We finally reached our initial goal, Stickle Tarn, and took a break to admire the incredible view and take a few pictures. Clearly, Danielle and I were happy to be there.

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But that wasn’t all just yet. Anyone who was up for it was invited to go even further to the summit, and the majority of the class accepted the challenge. This part of the trek had a less distinct path, but I took it slow and steady to find a safe route of sturdy rocks. There was a bit of a haze and some rain upon us, and it was getting increasingly chilly. But that didn’t stop us from going up, up, up, up, up, and up until finally reaching the very top.

My lungs were already out of breath from the climb, but they were rendered even more so upon looking out into the vast view we were rewarded with. My pictures clearly cannot do it any justice.

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Here’s the group at the very top, looking accomplished, wet, happy, sore, and fashionable–some more than others (cough cough, manpris).

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Eventually we had to return down, down, down. This half was easier on the cardio but harder on the legs as they searched for the best path down the slippery, wet rocks. Whenever I paused for a break, I could feel my legs shaking uncontrollably. I may or may not have witnessed somebody tumble completely down face first, which was absolutely terrifying, but she got up laughing and relatively okay, despite a couple scratches and bruises.

A little over three hours later, our feet gratefully hit flat ground. Later on Dr. Hanlon posted this official record of our trek: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/334415071 .We took a well-deserved break at the nearby pub, and I divulged in some excellent cheesy garlic bread.

Then it was back to the hotel, where I didn’t do much of anything except lay in bed and enjoy some lovely British television (including this fantastic game show, Tipping Point. Basically it is an entire show based off of that quarter pusher game from carnivals with some trivia included. It has to be the slowest paced game show ever, but Danielle and I got really into it, to the point where we erupted in cheers and high-fived when the jackpot coin reached the bottom and the final contestant won £10,000! Woooo!!).

For dinner our same group from the previous night as well as several others returned to Potted Out. I feel like my food pictures have become decreasingly appetizing in quality. I tried to get artsy fartsy and include the cute wall decor with my margherita pizza in this shot…but you can be the judge of how well that worked out.

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So as we were sitting there eating, a man at a nearby table heard the American accent and asked where we were from, because he was from Chicago. As some girls were talking to him, the couple sitting next to my table overheard their conversation and asked me where we were studying. When I told them “Harlaxton, near Grantham,” her eyes lit up, because she and her husband were from Grantham! It was quite a small world inside that little restaurant, and it made for some great dinnertime conversations.

Friday morning after breakfast, we had to say goodbye to the beautiful Lake District. On our journey homeward, we first went up through the town of Keswick to see a stone circle. It’s not as renown as Stonehenge, but it was still interesting to see a structure that has stood perfectly for such a long time.

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Five hours later, we once again saw Harlaxton out of the charter bus windows. Home! But not for too much longer. Only a week left of this incredible trip abroad. I was doing a bit of journaling Friday morning, reflecting on my time here, and I truly feel like I have grown so much. There have just been so many things I have seen and accomplished that I would have never imagined possible a year ago, maybe even a month ago. It has been a crazy journey, and I am loving every minute of it so far. There is still plenty of excitement in store this final week, and with a bittersweet heart, I am ready to enjoy it.

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Author: Helen Plevka

Lover of books, warm beverages, nieces, and cats. Graduate student in Comparative Literature at Indiana University. Clarinetist. Former English teacher and study abroader.

One thought on “

  1. Wonderful stuff!

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