Traditionally half term – the midpoint in the semester where classes are not held is meant as a time for lecturers, pupils, and families to prepare for the rest of the semester ahead. However, the end of the week before I began my half term holiday saw me rushing across the city to catch another rail service to Redruth station in Cornwall. This is the first to last most southern station in England, being near a major sea port really made me remember that I am on an island, which I forget about while in London. The laid back atmosphere of the small agricultural towns made me nostalgic for rural central Wisconsin: filled with cow and horse pastures and picturesque scenes.
The first stop on my whirlwind tour of Cornwall was Port Levin, where I was able to see what real small town England was like. After a short drive, my enthusiastic host and I arrived in Miazon, where we enjoyed warmed Cornish pasties while watching the waves crash against Mount St. Michael. After a quick ride to the highest point in Cornwall, which had a lovely view we were off the the Poldark mine, one of only two still in existence in this part of the world. There, I had the opportunity to dawn a hard hat to enter the mine which was in operation from 1820 – 1886. With cold water dripping from the ceiling and down my neck I was struck by what a historic feat the creation and excavation of this mine was all those years ago with (by today’s standards) privatize tools. I was then treated to a traditional pub experience when meeting a group of school teachers from the local primary school in the area. It was interesting to Lear about the differences in primary school education in England compared to the US, when I am now more accustomed to the differences in higher education systems. I ended the night with a lovely seafood dinner in the county Capitol of Truro. To me, the experience of living with a local family will stay with me forever. The experience of venturing hundreds of feet below the surface in a mine from the 1800s was very chilling (literally, temperature and from all of the history I was walking on top of). The hospitality I received has helped me to see how eager people are to share information about their culture in exchange for gaining knowledge about my own. When I was asked to explain three unique things about Minnesota I, like I’m sure my hosts were when asked what is special about their area, was a little lost for an explanation at first. After discussing this with my hosts, I decided it was because once you live somewhere for so long you forget about the impact of things you see every day and how an outsider would find those things interesting when you take your cultural and physical landscape for granted.
The hostel I stayed at in Liverpool was bold, literally. The design of the signs was in bold type, printed on plain backgrounds to indicate what was beyond doors or in different directions.The tours I went on were very diverse; from the clientele to the subject matter. The first was the Liverpool Football Club, where I was able to tour the television interview areas, pitch, and stands. Coming from a public relations background, it was interesting to find out that the board with sponsors logos on it that players appear to be seated in front of is actually only a few meters tall and the players stand in front of it so that only their head and shoulders show. While this tour had a younger audience in mind, my next tour was definitely geared towards an older crowd. The Magical Mystery Bus Tour traveled to multiple locations that were significant in the Beatles story, while playing Beatles music between each location with commentary about the related history. It was interesting to see how on the first tour I was clearly the median age of participants, but on the second I was clearly in the minority age group.
My next stop on my trip was Dublin. Since I had already been living out of my backpack for four days I was quite fatigued, so I elected to stay in on the first day there. Luckily the rain let up so I was able to explore Grafton Street in the early evening. The next day I went on a hop on hop off tour of the city which gave a great perspective on the history and culture which has helped to shape this relatively young (for European standards) city.
Returning to Great Britain, my final stop was Edinburgh where I had the unique opportunity to stay at the Code hostel, where I slept in an individual rectangular pod, which reminded me on t lazaret on my parent’s sailboat. Luckily, having spent years growing up in such cramped quarters I found the accommodation very cozy and comfortable.
After a long, steep, winding, but beautiful walk up a never ending hill I made it to Edinburgh Castle. After exploring this impressive structure for a few hours I went to the train station in the center of town to secure my train ticket for my journey to St. Andrews the next day. After an early wake up call I was greeted on the train by what I believe to be ruins of buildings bombed in World War II on the way to the coastal city of St. Andrews. While there I ran through the middle of a driving range, unaware of the safer route around the course to my destination. After the excitement died down, I calmly explored the British Gold Museum. While I am not generally the biggest sports fan, I always try to find a lens through which to make an experience interesting to my personal interest. At this museum I found it interesting how British history coincided with the development (and almost distinction) of the now famous sport. The next museum I visit was on the beautiful St. Andrews campus. Here, I was able to grasp the complex religious and educationally rich history of this prestigious university.
All in all, while I would not recommend visiting three countries in eight days; I would not have wanted to spend my half term any other way. Thanks to the people I spent time with, the people I met, and the experiences I had I feel even farther in love with this small island I call home.