Living in a Castle.

My summer trip abroad at Harlaxton College in England.


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Hi, again. Just a couple more blog-worthy posts remaining, I promise. I have just really come to enjoy the idea of recording down my memories on here and sharing them with the few family and friends that take the time to read them. So thanks to anyone for putting up with me as I go about my fairy-tale life.

Our final class trip was down to London. We packed up the bus early Friday morning, saying our very last goodbye to our glorious manor. (Bye for now, at least. I swear that when I am rich and famous, I will be renting out the gatehouse apartment.)

ImageWe headed down the road about two hours and arrived in the streets of London, and the bus dropped us off at the St. Giles Hotel. It was…less than ideal. The set-up seemed great from the exterior and the lobby, but the moment I stepped off the cucumber melon scented elevator, I could tell the hotel wasn’t exactly how I had hoped. Picture…a meth lab, except one where you have to insert your key card into a box in order to turn on the lights (Yeah, Danielle and I did not figure that one out right away and had to ask reception for help.)

We were set free to do whatever our London hearts desired, so for the first few hours we just roamed around the city. I had my first experience on the Tube (underground railway system) as we zipped over to the Westminster area. It wasn’t awful, but I definitely would have been exponentially more confused had I not figured out Boston’s T back in the fall. We ain’t got one-uh dem things in da cornfields.

So we stepped out into the beautiful sunshine and were faced with the towering Big Ben. The weather was the complete opposite of Danielle’s and my first excursion there–hardly a cloud was in the sky and temperatures were in the mid 70s. Could not ask for a more perfect atmosphere to spend our days in the city.

ImageOur group was composed of about seven people, and we sat outside Westminster Abbey before going in for Evensong, a free, daily worship service. I cannot even begin to describe how beautifully moving of an experience it was. Once we were seated inside near Poet’s Corner ( –I wish I had read up on this beforehand, because it is simply fascinating), my eyes could not stop moving all over the expansive cathedral as the choir sang hymns. Again, words cannot capture how amazing the singers’ voices were, all coming together and echoing throughout the Abbey in perfection.


I’d say my favorite song was the anthem they sang, written by poet John Donne and later put to music by William Harris (which Danielle and I later tried to replicate singing in our hotel room in our best falsetto opera voices…I think we will leave it with the pros).

Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heaven, to enter into that gate and dwell in that house, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling but one equal light, no noise not silence but one equal music, no fears nor hopes but one equal possession, no ends nor beginnings but one equal eternity, in the habitation of thy glory and dominion, world without end. Amen.

I also just loved hearing how they resolved “Amen” every time, because it was always ended with different chords that left me feeling kind of uncertain, until the very last song finished with a glorious major chord. Just a wonderfully put together service.

We were all getting fairly hungry at that point and headed out in search of sustenance. Our group ended up splitting in two, but after doing much more walking than the others, we somehow ended up at the same exact restaurant, Spaghetti House. Although none of us ended up having spaghetti, we had a delicious two course meal for a reasonable price. I devoured bruschetta and then chicken and rosemary potatoes.

ImageThe remainder of the evening was just spent walking around the city some more (Oh, and getting ice cream…but that should go without saying by this point) until we were exhausted enough not to mind sleeping in our coat closet of a room.

Saturday morning four of us got up fairly early to make the most of our day. Our first notable endeavor was visiting the National Gallery, home to so many famous paintings. I found several that I recognized and others that I just really enjoyed viewing. The best part about this gallery and the majority of others in London? Free of charge!

We then revisited what kind of became my favorite quick lunchtime spot, Pret A Manger. I had a lovely brie, tomato, and basil sandwich as well as a cup of nectarines slices and raspberries. We snagged a bench on Trafalgar Square to eat, talk, and people watch.

ImageNext we made our way over towards the River Thames and took a lovely stroll along the riverside. That area (and all of London, as far as I’m concerned) is just so full of life. People everywhere, seeming to all be living a very enjoyable life. It reminded me of a few lines from Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, my current literary undertaking.

In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment in June.

Change that last word to July, and you’ve got a pretty accurate depiction of myself.

So we walked along, Anna graciously bought us some roasted peanuts, and we ended up at the Tate Modern. I have never really seen any modern art before, so I really had zero idea what was going on in the few exhibits we viewed. But, it was still cool. I just had more of an understanding of the baby Jesus pictures in the National Gallery than the chessboard made out of money there.

Then it was time for the pinnacle event of London, as far as I’m concerned: seeing Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe Theater. We joined the rest of the class as groundlings, standing in front of the stage for the performance’s duration. Here we are, extremely excited with our tickets and fashionable sunhats they distributed.Image

The play was absolutely hysterical. The actors did such an incredible job and had me in stitches on several occasions. My favorite line: when Bottom arrived late and explained, “My cockadoodle…didn’t.” Hah!

ImageAfterwards, our aching feet and legs carried us over to the connected pub, The Swan, where several of the actors were hanging out. Some were not awful to look at (When Lysander declared that he would be Helen’s knight, I was like, “Heck yeah you will.” Sorry, Jordan…).

Danielle and I soon departed the class and made our way through the Tube back to our absolute favorite place…Burgers and Cocktails. Yum yum yum yum. This time I went for the Matador: a beef patty topped with pulled pork, roasted red peppers, and manchego cheese. We also split a bowl of sweet potato fries, and I had my last legal drink for a year or so.

ImageWith satisfied tummies, we departed the restaurant and did a little last minute souvenir shopping. Then we got, you guessed it, ice cream.


The two of us just chilled (haha, chilled…ice cream…funny.) in a park, watched some break dancers, and people watched, taking in our final sights of the country. It was absolutely perfect.

Returned to the hotel, packed up, and got some sleep before awakening early to head off on a charter bus to Heathrow International Airport. Since the professors and Tilda were staying to do a little more traveling, this is where we had to say goodbye, which was incredibly sad. Getting to know their family has just been such a rewarding experience; I have learned so much from them both inside and more so outside the classroom.

We arrived at the airport and went through all the joys of security and whatnot, then had a couple hours to wait before boarding. Then, oh joy, we had to sit for almost two additional hours on the airplane before taking off, because apparently they had bad water and had to wait for the caterers to bring more. However, we were eventually airborne, soaring above and away from the beauteous country I have fallen utterly in love with. I know that my return is inevitable.

But it feels good to be home. The past couple days have been spent in the company of my family and best friends, something I definitely missed dearly while I was away. Them and my cats. And Bob’s Dairy Dream. Ice cream obsessed.



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.

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