From Bristol to Fargo

“In order to lead a fascinating life–one brimming with art, music, intrigue, and romance–you must surround yourself with precisely those things.” –The Guide to Living Colorfully

Landed in Fargo, North Dakota just over a week ago and the familiarity of home feels comfortable and exciting all at once. I stumbled upon this quote earlier tonight and I like it because you don’t have to live in Paris or London to surround yourself with things you love. I think it’s very possible to cultivate a good life at home or across oceans.

Ah! Back to studying…

E.

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Harrod’s and the Bristol Channel

My suitcase is haphazardly packed with chocolate and books and I’m ready for home in the fidgety/restless/don’t know what to do with myself sort of way.  This last week of term proved to be manic and the idea of  a few weeks at home is becoming more and more appealing. Tomorrow at this time I’ll nearly be home.

Most everyone from my program has left for home already and the city somehow seems quieter and less familiar without them. In short, I’m out of distractions and have no excuse not to be reading up on Aphra Behn and Hellenism, but of course, focusing on anything is quite futile at this time.

In other news, I finally saw the Bristol Channel this week. Nearly everyday on my walk to the library I passed a British woman out walking her two Jack Russels, Reg and Daisy, and a few weeks back we started chatting. She invited me out to the sea village of Clevedon,  just outside of Bristol, to visit the Poet’s Walk and take in the stunning views of the water.  It was an invitation I couldn’t pass up. Clevedon was a well known point of inspiration for famous writers such as Coleridge and Tennyson, and within moments of walking along the shoreline, I understood why. I decided that if I had a car it would be tempting to join the Clevedon Swimming group which meets nearly everyday (year round!) to swim in the Channel. That’s some dedication.

The British Channel

Thursday was our final lecture for the term, and as most everyone in our program was leaving for home, Ashley and I decided to spend the next day Christmas shopping in London. We left before dawn and arrived in London Town just as the shops were opening.  Today, we decided, we would not be tourists. We would simply shop. From Victoria Coach Station we headed straight to Harrod’s, the world’s most famous department store. If you need the best espresso this side of the Atlantic, head to Harrod’s. If you need an elephant, go to Harrod’s.  In Ashley’s words, “It has EVERYTHING.”

We spent most of our time admiring the floor filled with children’s toys.  The beautiful hand carved rocking horse and elaborate four-story dollhouse quickly became our favorites, and just as we started talking about the person who could spend £900 on a children’s toy,  a young woman carrying an Hermés bag  approached, glancing at the dollhouse.  She told the clerk “I’ll take it” as if it was an afterthought. Three dreamy hours later we finally decided to leave, but couldn’t quite get over the place.  Or the darling French bulldog puppy for sale on the fourth floor. If not for the £4,600 price tag he might have been mine.

Outside of Harrod's

Keeping this short and sleep (oh, that was an accident!) as I’ll be at the airport in a few short hours.

Until January,

Em

Stonehenge and Christmas Onesies

 Currently sipping black coffee, plopping pomegranate seeds in my mouth, and wondering how this term has passed so quickly. Too quickly for my liking. A week from tomorrow I’ll be headed home to Minnesota for Christmas, but the thought of leaving Bristol for nearly a month makes me feel ‘homesick.’ Before stepping off the plane in England I actively tried to keep my expectations in check, telling myself I might honestly not make any friends; spend most of my time lost, or just miss home too much. It’s been a sweet surprise to have life in Bristol exceed even my greatest expectations. I’ll soon be approaching three months here, yet the beauty of the city still feels so new to me. Running over the Royal Crescent and past the Bridge still throws me. Sometimes getting myself to the library seems such a task simply because I want to wander round this city till I can walk around with my eyes closed. But it’s probably the variety and novelty that makes me love it so.

This past week has brought many firsts. I tried my first mince pie (yummy, though I’m still partial to apple pie. See, Brady, I do love a couple things about America!), had a glass or two of mulled wine (this recipe I will be bringing home), and had the opportunity to visit Stonehenge and the surrounding town of Salisbury. Almost three years ago now during my first trip to England I had the chance to visit Stonehenge, but alas!, couldn’t afford transportation. This time round, it didn’t cost a penny. Ashley’s husband, Brian, is studying his masters in archaeology here and drove us all in the department’s land rover! There is something about driving in a car here that makes England really feel like home. And the drive was beautiful. We stumbled into a tiny Cotswolds village with thatched roofs and bright little gardens, and of course, I needed to pinch myself.

Stonehenge was brilliant. And a bit frustrating. The mystery of its original purpose has never been discovered and literally thousands of theories exist regarding its purpose.  It’s certainly interesting to think of how the stones were somehow transported (they’re said to come from an area 40 km away) and resurrected in prehistoric times. At any rate, it was a thrill to cross Stonehenge from my bucket list, or as my sister Maria would call it, the ‘Living Deliberately” list.

We made it!

Last night was the “Ugly ‘Jumper’ Christmas Party,” and unable to locate a truly hideous sweater, Madeline, Gen, Ashely and I decided to wear onesies (footie pajamas). It was without a doubt the best ten pounds I’ve ever spent.While the fifteen minute walk from Sinclair to Dean’s Court  was filled with stares and even a few chuckles as I premiered my onesie, it was well worth it. It’s impossible to be cold in a onesie. It’s impossible to entertain a bad mood while dressed in a onesie. And onesies happen to be quite forgiving; I could eat an entire turkey and no one would ever know. I could hide another person in my onesie and no one would guess. In short, I felt like I was five again save for missing a pair of stick-on earrings in the shape of half-moons.

And now to take out my caffeine and pomegranate jitters on Posthumous Keats.

Cheers,

Em

Today’s Hope

Isaiah 54:10

Bradford-on-Avon

The day before Thanksgiving Leah and I visited  Bradford-on-Avon, a little village a twenty minute train ride from Bristol. Bradford is  the last outpost of the Cotswolds in the western corner of Wiltshire. I could be happy indeed with a little cottage here.

The iconic red telephone booth on a little corner in Bradford.

One of England's best and oldest tea shoppes named by the prestigious UK Tea Guild as the ‘UK’s Top Tea Place.

I wasn't surprised to learn many period films have been made in Bradford.

A golden afternoon with my cousin, Leah, in our unintentionally matching coats.

“Not all who wander are not lost.”-J.R.R.Tolkien

 

‘Tis the Season to be Jolly

This morning feels like a holiday. Three days into December and the sun is shining, the grass is vivid green and the only snow I’ve seen was the soapy fuzz falling into the air from the snow machine at Chipping Sodbury’s Victorian Christmas Evening.

My window overlooking Cabot Tower is cracked open and a slight breeze is tickling my toes. I need to get out of my pajamas and meet the girls at College Green to do a bit of Christmas shopping (in celebration of finishing our essays), but this view and breeze is too wonderful. Most things about Bristol are.

A Christmas Booth in Cabot Circus

The Brits know how to celebrate Christmas and celebrations start early! More than a month ago the city dawned their Christmas lights and turned Cabot Circus, the main shopping area, into a Christmas wonderland, complete with a giant advent calendar, ice skating rink and a red and green Christmas market offering anything from nativity sets to mulled wines, mince pies, battered sausages, spiced cakes…! I’m quite convinced British six year olds believe ‘Father Christmas’ (as Santa’s called here) lives in the north of England.

Last night I had the pleasure of going with a few friends to Chipping Sodbury, a cosy market town in the Cotswolds. Every year on the first Friday in December, Sodbury hosts a Victorian Christmas Evening and on walking to the main road, I felt like I stepped into a Charles Dickens novel. Little stone shops lined the main road (famous for being the widest street in England) and the cobblestone streets were filled with carolers, all sorts of Christmas treats, a lovely old ferris wheel (which seemed a brilliant idea until I was mid air and the seat was moving with the wind), and Brits decked in period dress. The lightly falling snow (though pretend)  made the night a scene in a snow globe.  When the wind made our fingers cold, we slipped into The Royal Oak to warm up over pints of cider. Sometimes it’s so nice to simply listen to all the gorgeous British accents around me. And then I need to pinch myself.

I finally had a proper English breakfast yesterday. After turning in our Romantics essay, a few of us headed to Witherspoon’s for coffee  and a giant plate of greasy pub food. Nothing like chips, rashers and fried bread (and maybe sticky toffee pudding) to celebrate two thousand words!

A yummy English breakfast

Cheers,

Em

Essay Writing at Midnight

My fingers are still numb from a moonlit walk to Woodland 7 where, along with Sam Fry and Ashleigh, I handed in my Coleridge essay.  At no earlier than one o’clock in the morning. Is it crazy this was somehow a thrilling few minutes? I don’t know if it was the nip of the December cold, the dark night, or the satisfaction of turning in an explication I feel good about, but it was a rush comparable to reeling in that seven pound walleye at Strum’s those many odd years ago.

The deep sense of camaraderie among the English MA students has been the best part of Uni so far. After not arriving to the grad. school till almost eleven tonight, I was greeted by ‘everyone’ frenziedly typing away on their Macs, as though it’s perfectly normal to begin work in the middle of the night.  With plenty of  Freia Melkesjokolade (the best milk chocolate you’ll ever taste) and coffee to go ’round, the more the merrier.

I’m beginning to wonder how I might slow down the days and hours left in Bristol. Going home for Christmas in only seventeen days will be wonderful, but I enjoy life here so much. Three months have passed so deliciously fast, and it makes me nervous that spring and summer will zing right past too. I think I need to make a list of the dozens of coffee shops I’ve yet to try, the cities I still need to visit, the food I must taste, the shops I must explore…the list could be endless.

While there’s certainly been numerous distractions from studying, when I do pack a lunch, assemble my stacks of books and spend all day at the library or in Ashley’s cosy flat studying, I realize afresh how much Romanticism interests me. I get to spend hours and days reading Coleridge and Keats, and I can’t help but overflow with gratitude for being no where else but Bristol. And what makes me the happiest is that I don’t feel I’m idealizing this experience. It is sometimes lonesome, but every day has brought new blessings.

And now I’m going to SLEEP! Night.;)

Em

 

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