Darwin, London and Literature: 2015

•October 28, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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Reserve your spot now for the 2015 LIT 296: Darwin, London and Literature Course.  Please click here for an application. For more information, click here.

Who Needs Sunshine When You Have Shakespeare?

•May 28, 2014 • Leave a Comment

We started our last full day in London with a class meeting at 9am. Each student in the class spent a few minutes discussing their thesis and final project ideas. After class, we had a brief break and then met outside our flats to head over to Shakespeare’s Globe for a performance of “Antony and Cleopatra”.

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We took the tube to St. Paul’s and crossed the Millennium Bridge to the theater. Seeing a play at The Globe is much like seeing a play during Elizabethan times.

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After the play, we had tickets for a “Talking Theater” presentation. Two of the actors from the performance talked about what it was like to act in a play at The Globe. They also answered questions from the audience.

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After the “Talking Theater” presentation, we took the tube back to our Marylebone neighborhood. We had reserved some space in a local pub to have a ‘Farewell to London” get-together. We enjoyed spending some time together and toasting our London adventures.

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Dr. Firenze and Dr. Saraceno decided to make the most of our last night in London, giving speed skating, speed skidding, skeleton and, of course, curling, a try.

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I think they will both be grateful to sit and relax on the plane tomorrow.

Despite the cold and rainy weather, it has been a wonderful week in London. We leave tomorrow morning to make our way back to Binghamton and we are all a little sad to be saying good-bye. This group of students has been great and we are really proud of them! Thanks to them for their attention, courtesy and hard work. And thanks to you for following our adventures!

Cheers from London!

Dickens Day!

•May 27, 2014 • 1 Comment

Greetings from London! We started our day at 9am with a class meeting. Unfortunately the weather is still cold and rainy so we had to meet inside our flat. Dr. Saraceno handed back the students’ thesis statement drafts with some comments. We then discussed “Great Expectations” with regards to the evolutionary theme of ‘mate selection’. We had a great discussion that wrapped up around 11:30 am.

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We had a bit of a break and then met outside our flats to depart for our afternoon and evening activities. We took the tube to meet our LondonWalks guide, Dr. David Tucker. Dr. Tucker led on a three hour walking tour through the streets of “Dickens’s” London. He provided information about what London was like during the time that Dickens walked the same streets and pointed out many spots that inspired characters and stories. Although it rained at the beginning and end of our walk, we all enjoyed Dr. Tucker’s enthusiastic commentary. We learned a great deal and have a new appreciation for Victorian London.

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After our walk concluded, we sought brief respite and and some refreshment at a local public house. We then hopped on the tube to travel to the Dickens House Museum for our private tour. Our guide, Fiona, took us through the home where Dickens lived in the 1830s. We saw many of Dickens’s personal notes and possessions.

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Although it was a very busy and tiring day, Dr. Firenze and Dr. Saraceno were still full of energy. They hit the slopes once again, this time conquering the halfpipe. I have to say, I was quite impressed with their banging aerial maneuvers.

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Tomorrow is our final full day in London and we will be heading to the Shakespeare’s Globe to see “Antony and Cleopatra”. Check back tomorrow for an update!

Cheers from London!

Free Day in London

•May 26, 2014 • 1 Comment

Greetings from London! There were no scheduled activities today and everyone was free to see whatever they wished. As a result, we were not all together and I do not have pictures of the students. However, I do have this picture of Dr. Firenze trying to pass as a Tudor.

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Perhaps it was best that the students did not have to witness this.

We have many class activities planned for the next two days and I will be posting an update tomorrow night.

Cheers from London!

Day Trip to Down House

•May 25, 2014 • 1 Comment

Greetings from London! Today we got an early start and met outside our flats at 9am. Prior to our meeting time, a few of the students had a quick breakfast in our lovely Marylebone neighborhood.

We walked to the tube station and travelled to Victoria Station, where we boarded a light rail train to South Bromley.

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In South Bromley, we waited for the bus to the village of Downe. Once in Downe, we walked from St. Mary’s Church to Down House, the home of Charles Darwin and his family for forty years.

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We all enjoyed the beautiful scenery as we walked to Down House.

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Once we arrived at Down House, a guide gave us a brief introduction and we went into the gardens for a class meeting. Dr. Firenze read to us from Darwin’s autobiography and we talked about Darwin’s life and work in this lovely home. We toured the gardens and greenhouses and then had a couple of hours to explore the house itself (no pictures allowed inside). Each of us had an audio tour of the house, so we could go at our own pace.

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We enjoyed some tea and scones in the cafe before beginning the trip back to London.

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After returning to London, we went our separate ways for the evening. Several of the students planned to meet for a “Jack the Ripper” walk while others made plans for dinner.  Tomorrow is a free day in London, so we discussed many plans for that.  Some students plan to visit Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey or Trafalgar Square.  Others have friends or family who they are meeting for the day, while others plan to return to the Natural History Museum or the British Museum.

While there is no doubt that the students will be busy making the most of their free time in London, Dr. Firenze and Dr. Saraceno plan to spend their time trying to find a chiropractor.  I am sorry to report that that their descent to the bottom of the slope ended rather poorly. In fact, Dr. Firenze seems to be about 2 inches shorter than he was when we arrived.

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Cheers from London!!

The Enlightenment, Darkest Victorian London, and One Heck of a Grilled Cheese

•May 24, 2014 • 1 Comment

The weather may not have been super, but our day in London was!  We began with some of us meeting to discuss the student’s final projects.  Later on we  visited The British Museum, beginning with The Enlightenment Wing.  After a brief discussion of the museum and the significance of the Enlightenment, the students had a couple  of hours to explore the museum on their own.

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We all worked up quite an appetite  from viewing artifacts and antiquities, so we took the tube to Borough Market in Southwark.  Borough Market is one of the largest and oldest food markets in London.  We definitely indulged in many of the wonderful offerings…including what may be the best grilled cheese in Europe.

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After we finished enjoying Borough Market, we walked across London Bridge to meet our London Walks tour guide, Paul.  During our walk, entitled “Darkest Victorian London”, Paul helped us to imagine what life was like for Londoners during the Victorian time period.  He pointed out Victorian buildings and provided details about many aspects of Victorian life. Below are some pictures from our tour with Paul.

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We finished our walk at “The George”, an Inn that dates back to Elizabethan times.

After “The George”, we hopped on the tube to head back to the flats for the evening.  We have an early start tomorrow morning when we will travel by tube, train, bus and foot to visit the home of Charles Darwin. Although most of us plan to turn in early, Dr. Firenze and Dr. Saraceno had something different in mind.  They suited up and headed to the slopes for some downhill skiing. Let’s hope this ends better than the skating.

Cheers from London!

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Magnificent Canterbury Cathedral

•May 23, 2014 • 1 Comment

Greetings from London! We had an incredible day today. We met outside our flats at 9am and walked to the Oxford Circus tube station. We took the tube to St Pancras Station. While Dr. Firenze and Dr. Saraceno went to purchase our tickets for the Southeastern High Speed Rail to Canterbury, Dr. Musa took the students outside to see the beautiful exterior of the station.

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We boarded our train at 10:30 and departed for Canterbury. After about an hour, we arrived at our destination. We walked from the Canterbury station into the village of Canterbury. It was a beautiful day and we were all impressed when we caught our first glimpse of the Cathedral. As part of our course, we had read and discussed a few of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, but seeing the Cathedral gave us all a new understanding of why this place was so significant for Chaucer’s pilgrims.

There has been a cathedral on this site since 597 AD, when St. Augustine, sent by Pope Gregory the Great, arrived in Canterbury as the first Archbishop. In 1170 Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered here upon the orders of King Henry II. Since then, Canterbury Cathedral has attracted thousands of pilgrims.

The students toured the Cathedral and experienced the many styles of architecture (Norman, Romanesque, Gothic) and the beautiful stained glass windows dating from the 12th to 14th centuries. We learned about the rich history of the Cathedral and many students commented on how amazing and special it was to be there. It is really not possible to capture the magnificence and grandeur of this place with pictures, and there are some parts of the Cathedral where photography is prohibited, but please enjoy a few images from our visit.

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After seeing the Cathedral, we had some free time to explore and enjoy the medieval village of Canterbury. We met in front of the Cathedral and went to Canterbury station to take the train back to London. We headed back to our flats to get some rest and prepare for another busy day tomorrow. As you can see, some of us began resting before we reached our flats.

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Perhaps it wasn’t just the pilgrimage to Canterbury that tired Dr. Firenze and Dr. Saraceno so much. After their disastrous foray into the competitive world of couples figure skating, they decided to give bobsledding a try. Unfortunately, they just could not get the timing right. Over-excited by the enthusiastic response from the crowd, Dr. Saraceno kept jumping in too early…causing Dr. Firenze to be dragged behind the sled. As you can imagine, this had a substantial negative impact on their time.

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Let’s hope they fare better with a different sport.
Check back tomorrow for another update. Cheers from London!

 
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