Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Norwich at Night

This is probably the first in a series of posts about Norwich at night, since nighttime has extended itself to massive proportions. It's difficult to feel motivated to do anything but drink hot cocoa (or Horlick's soothing warm malt beverages, as the case may be). I'm sure that as the retail world begins to push Christmas a little harder, things will get more festive and the dark will be dressed up a bit more. In fact, there's going to be a NORWICHRISTMAS Fayre! (Yes, that's how it's spelled - click the link, you'll see). Local goods, minstrels, outdoor ice rink, and most likely some roasted cashews and mulled wine - what more could you ask for? The town sort of begs for that sort of environment, anyway.

Elm Hill at night

See? That lane will definitely benefit from a minstrel and a rolling cart selling hot mince pies...though I think the cobblestones might be a bit hazardous. They look very picturesque but I don't care to walk on them any more than is absolutely necessary!

One of the things that Norwich is most famous for is its Cathedral. It has the second-tallest spire in England (Salisbury has the tallest) and some amazing windows and an even more amazing ceiling, but as it gets darker and more wintry, it's really the surrounding walls that are the more intense spectacle.

Cathedral walls

I am daily discovering new and beautiful things about this town, and the dark seems to amplify some of the more beautiful buildings. Tonight all I had to do was get a little lost to stumble on something stately and awesome that I'd never seen before, and I am constantly marveling at how eerily lit the Castle is at night. It's lucky that Norwich is so pretty at night, since it will be mostly night for the next few months. And speaking of night...I believe I'll go to sleep. Sweet dreams, everyone.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

And There You Have It


Brad and I stayed up until just after 6 am, long enough to watch both the concession and the victory speech. Though we felt a bit remote, thousands of miles away from American soil and connected to our friends and trusted news sources through our greatly overloaded internet, it was an incredibly momentous day. You will all be glad to know that it did not go unnoticed in the United Kingdom; BBC ran continuous coverage of the election from 11 pm to 6 am, and my classmates and Brad's coworkers all stayed up all night, doing the long haul from Greenwich Mean Time. While I'm sure there is news available in the U.S. regarding the international reaction to the new American President, I'm here to tell you first hand that some Brits found themselves lightheaded and shaky at 11 pm EST, just as I did (and it was only partially due to the fact that I'd been awake for about 24 hours), and I hear Berlin was also up til dawn, waiting. There was no shortage of election night events happening in London, and they were clearly hoping for a particular result (see England for Obama, complete with Inauguration countdown ticker at the top of the page). Every daily print newspaper had epic front pages and special editions, and the television news today, November 5, is feeling very familiar (interview with Alice Walker live from Berkeley! Maya Angelou! Footage from Eyes on the Prize!), and though I'm having a helluva time trying to concentrate on schoolwork (hence this very interesting blog post), I'm allowing myself a day to revel in the fact that I might not sound so apologetic when I tell people I'm American anymore. OK, the Russians are still a bit chilly, but I'm not sure there's anything that could change that anytime soon. Meanwhile, it's Guy Fawkes night here in England, so I'm pretending that the thousands of firecrackers and fireworks going off in my neighborhood are in honor of the U.S. elections, because I'm not particularly Guy-Fawkesy.

So this leg of the journey is over. Now I just have to listen to BBC commentators repeatedly use the term "post-racial" and bury my nose in books until the end of the term. And so begins the 21st century, previously put on hold...

Sunday, November 02, 2008

We Finally Went to Cambridge

Brad and I finally tore ourselves away from our warm house and all the election coverage (with which I have been driving myself crazy) and finally, finally took a little excursion. We have been in Norwich since the day we arrived in England, September 9, and nearly two months later, we finally stumbled our way to the train station and made our way to Cambridge.

I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting; actually, I was expecting a sort of medieval rural township where people still ride horses as a viable means of transportation and "take" tea, which I realize now was a terrible idealization partially based on the BBC series of Tess of the D'Urbervilles that played here a few weeks ago (which I highly recommend, to anyone interested in that sort of thing). Once we arrived in Cambridge, it dawned on me that of course it would be a compact town full of walls and turrets, since it's been there for centuries and at some point has most likely had to keep a steady defense against invaders, right? I'm not sure why the University buildings were so reinforced, however. I know that they've been there for about 800 years and perhaps the best way to really cripple a society is to knock out their best minds, but it was a little imposing.

Trinity Lane

Trinity College is behind that wall, and I know I come from UC Berkeley, where everything is ostensibly all trees and peace, but this seems like an awfully severe learning environment. Actually, despite having a vast collection of beautiful buildings and a river on which to go punting, Cambridge was, in general, sort of severe. I blame it partially on the weather, though; it's been getting a bit grey and blustery lately. The fall colors, however, lightened things up.

Clare College courtyard

Alright, it still looks a little dreary, but it was pretty in person. That was the courtyard of Clare College - see, Cambridge University is actually comprised of about 30 colleges spread all throughout the town, some of them bigger and more famous than others. There was one that we didn't see, called Magdalene College, that didn't allow women in until 1988. What?

The biggest and arguably most famous is King's College, and I admit that it was quite impressive. Even with the crush of sightseers, I stopped to snap some pictures.

King's College

Bradley at King's College

Aside from the various Colleges, the town was very charming and laid out with the same twisty, discombobulating street plan as Norwich. I never knew which way we were pointed. There were plenty of shops and restaurants and charming alleyways and an outdoor market where one could buy candles or ponchos or books or fresh vegetables or ostrich burgers... what's that you say? Ostrich burgers? Yes. Brad sampled it. I couldn't bring myself to do it. And, in keeping with the overtly intellectual attitude of the city, there was very little graffiti, and the graffiti that was present was, well, very intellectual. For example:


I don't understand it either. There was another one that said E = MC2 = Beethoven Construct, and around it there were comments and responses that were equally obtuse. It was very exciting.

We spent most of the day roaming through the courtyards of the various colleges and visiting museums and looking in at all the confectioners and window-shopping, and in the end, I'd say it was a much-needed break from the breakneck speed of the last month and a half. It also took my mind off the proximity of November 4, a date which is currently bringing me much trepidation. There are a few dates like this coming up - due dates of papers and applications, mostly, but the 4th is the real doozy. It's difficult being so far away from the U.S. at a time like this, despite my general joy at being out of the country for the time being. Hopefully by the next time I sit down to write on this blog, everything will have worked out famously.

So, good luck to all of us. Remember - never give up! Never surrender!*

*That's from the movie Galaxy Quest, which is brilliant. Credit where credit is due.