Dated September 16, 2003Greetings to Hampden-Sydney,
I am writing to you from Edinburgh, Scotland, on the eve of beginning a semester of study at St. Andrews. I am with a group of students, mostly from Washington & Lee, the host university for this program. We are staying at St. Calm’s International House. Though it sounds like a hostel, it’s actually very comfortable: an old Georgian house with two people to a room, bathroom, free internet, and breakfast from 7-9 AM.
We arrived here yesterday from York where we stayed in another old Georgian bed and breakfast. During the day we visited York Minster, the largest Gothic cathedral in Britain and north of the Alps. We had a very good tour guide who told us all about the stained glass windows (over 2 million pieces of glass) and the many architectural aspects-minor mistakes and accomplishments. Then we toured the rest of the town and saw where Constantine was crowned emperor around 306 AD.
The day before we enjoyed a trip to Oxford, took a walking tour of the town given by a graduate of the university with a degree in history, so there was a ton of information (I just hope I can remember it all!). Exeter College has over 20 prime ministers to its credit. Sir Christopher Wren’s first design (so they say) was of the Sheldonian Theater used for matriculation and convocation ceremonies; the library was used for the filming of Harry Potter, and there were many more interesting tidbits.
Our last day in London was “free” to explore on our own. I went to the National Gallery and saw paintings similar to the ones we saw in this past May Term with Professors McRae, Blackman, and Kleinlein. And, it is true, feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square is forbidden! After the gallery, I went to Camden Market, a nice area around the locks, but with pretty much useless stuff for sale. The group also went to Westminster Abbey, the Museum of London; saw The Taming of the Shrew at the Globe Theatre, acted, strangely, by an all female cast! We saw another play, Woman in Black, in Covent Garden. Our flat in London was pretty nice, right near the British Museum.
As for our group, it seemed like some had never traveled before – or just didn’t know how to pack. You would laugh if you saw these gargantuan bags carried in the group. I think I was the only one that could go up the stairs at the train station without banging luggage wheels or carrying too much weight.
We have this morning to walk around Edinburgh, then a meeting at 14:45h at St. Giles for a walking tour of the city, and being treated to dinner and a “ghost walk” afterward. Tomorrow we visit the Royal College of Surgeons. Saturday we head off for the highlands and islands for a few days, and then back to St. Andrews for classes on September 29th. I think getting around Edinburgh should be fairly easy. At least that’s what the man who picked us up from the train station implied, in his thick Scottish brogue, “If ye manage to get yerself’ lost here, ye should’na be studyin’ chemistry!” So I’ll be out trying to get a lay of the land. I’ll be in touch.