Home From London

•June 8, 2017 • Leave a Comment

It was gray and rainy when we left London for the long journey home. We left our flats at 10:30 am London time and arrived back in Binghamton just over 17 hours later (11 pm New York time). Thanks to Ben and Robin for picking us up at the airport and driving us to Binghamton. 

We certainly accomplshed a lot, including: The Museum of London, The British Museum, “Darkest Victorian London” and “Charles Dickens’ London” Walking Tours (Thanks, Richard and David!), The British Museum of Natural History, The Darwin Center, Canterbury and Canterbury Cathedral, Down House, The British Library, Westminster Abbey and Evensong, The British Symphony, Borough Market, The London Eye, Buckingham Palace, The Banqueting House, The Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Oxford and the Harry Potter Tour, Romeo and Juliet at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, Trafalgar Square, and several great class discussions. 

We took buses, and the tube, and train. And we walked and walked and walked. And on our Down House day we waited and waited and waited. 

Thanks again to the wonderful 2017 LIT 292 Class. You certainly made the most of our time in London. You were such a pleasure to work with and you handled some unexpected and difficult situations with resilience and a great attitude.  

I know we will all remember this experience and cherish the memories we made together. 

Here is a little video celebrating the amazing time we had together in and around London:



LIT 292 Days 6 and 7: Keeping Calm and Carrying On

•June 5, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Greetings from London!  Here are some updates from Sunday and Monday. We met very early on Sunday morning (7 am) to begin our long journey to Down House.  We took the tube to Victoria Station to take the train to Bromley South.  Unfortunately, trains were not running from Victoria and there was limited tube service from there.  We ended up walking to Blackfriars Station where you took a train to Bromley South.  In Bromley South, we waited for the 9:36 bus to Downe.  It never came.  Our only choice was to wait for the 10:36 bus to Downe.  That bus did not come either.  Sarah passed the time by buying candy called “fun burgers”. Some time after 11 am, a bus to Downe lumbered up.  We said goodbye to the section of Bromley South sidewalk we had been sitting on for hours, and took the bus to Downe.

After the bus dropped us off in the little village of Downe, we walked to Down House, the former home of Charles Darwin.  We toured the house and gardens and walked the sand walk. We also enjoyed lunch on the third floor of the house and Dr. Firenze read to us from Charles Darwin’s autobiography.  After a very pleasant day at Down House, we walked back to Bromley South to catch the 3:20 bus. It came on time, but due to a “signal failure” on the train line, we sat on the train station in Bromley South for hours. There were no fun burgers.  The power was eventually restored and we took the train back to Blackfriars.  Today was a pretty difficult travel day but once again the students were such great sports.  No one complained about all of the waiting around for tubes, trains and buses.

Although we arrived in London much later than we anticipated, Dr. Shepherd, Emily and Caleb were able to make it to their London “Harry Potter” walk, which they said was fantastic and really fun.  It was a long day with some travel challenges, but the students were great and we were all happy to head home for some well-deserved rest.

Today (Monday) was our final day in London and a “free” day for the students.  One group of students went to Oxford for another Harry Potter experience with Dr. Shepherd, while other remained in London with Dr. Firenze and Dr. Musa to visit sites such as The British Museum, The British Library,  The London Eye, Buckingham Palace, The Banqueting House, The Grant Museum, The Soane Museum and Trafalgar Square.

We ended the evening with a final class celebration at “The Plough” in our Bloomsbury neighborhood. We had a great time hanging out together and talking about all of our experiences here in London.  Tomorrow we will meet in the morning and take the tube to the airport for our flight home.  I think everyone is looking forward to being home tomorrow night.

Hopefully our trip home to New York goes better that our trip from London to Downe!  Thanks to the 2017 LIT 292 class for an unforgettable week.

June 3 – June 4: All LIT 292 Students and Faculty are Safe and Sound

•June 4, 2017 • Leave a Comment

We are aware of the recent events in London and want to let you know that all LIT 292 students and faculty are safe and sound in our flats.  We are monitoring the situation and will take every necessary precaution.

Day 5 2017: Walking Dickens’ London

•June 3, 2017 • 1 Comment

Greetings from London!  We met at 8 am in Russell Square for a class discussion.  We had a few more students who needed to discuss their theses ideas for their final papers, so we began with that.  After they were finished, we talked about our time in Canterbury and what we learned from visiting the Dickens Museum.  We also continued our discussion of the Darwinian themes that have been at the center of our class work and our experiences in London.

After our class we walked to Holborn Station to meet Dr. David Tucker, our guide for a walk through Dickens’ London.  Dr. Tucker started us off in a pub where he showed students a map of London as it was when Charles Dickens was born.  We then walked through the streets and alleys of Dickens’ London, seeing the inspiration for many of the scenes and characters so vividly represented by Dickens in his writing.

After walking with Dr. Tucker for a few hours most of us went to Borough Market for lunch.  Borough Market has been in existence for over 1,000 years.  There were many stalls, restaurants, and shops with just about every kind of food and drink you could imagine.  And lots and lots and lots and lots of people.

As for the rest of the day, we have a group going to the London symphony, others visiting the Tower of London, some planning to attend Evensong at Westminster Abbey, and others planning to meet for dinner.

Tomorrow morning we plan to leave London at 7 am to take a tube, a train, and a bus to the little village of Downe.  We will spend most of the day at Down House, the former home of Charles Darwin and his family.  Monday is a free day for the class, so we will be parting ways for a bit after our day at Down House.  We will meet up again on Monday evening for a final “Farewell to London” dinner celebration at The Plough.  There will not be a blog post tomorrow (Sunday) evening, but the blog will be updated with Sunday and Monday’s activities on Monday evening.

Cheers from London!


Day 4 2017: From Canterbury to Dickens

•June 2, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Hello from London!  It was another busy day for the 2017 Literature 292 class.  Dr. Firenze started the day by putting all of our various tickets (train, museum, etc.) into all of his various pockets.  We met bright and early (8 am) in Russell Square for class and several of the students discussed how their experiences in London are helping them to prepare their final project paper.  After about an hour of class we went to the Russell Square Station and took the tube to St. Pancras Rail Station.  St. Pancras Station was opened in 1868 and is a great example of incredible Victorian engineering. It is a masterpiece of Victorian Gothic Architecture and we spent some time walking around the station.  We took a Southeastern Rail train to the City of Canterbury.  Canterbury has been occupied since Paleolithic times and is the home of Canterbury Cathedral. Founded in 597, the cathedral was largely rebuilt in 1174 to accommodate the flow of pilgrims visiting the shrine of Thomas Becket, the archbishop who was murdered in the cathedral in 1170. The present structures were built in the late fourteenth century.  A journey of pilgrims to Becket’s shrine served as the frame for Geoffrey Chaucer’s 14th century classic The Canterbury Tales.  We read some of the tales this semester and a few of the students are writing about them for their final projects.  We spent a few hours touring the magnificent cathedral (which is undergoing quite a bit of renovation) and then walked through the streets of the City of Canterbury (and did some shopping). Late in the afternoon we took the train back to London.

We arrived back in London just in time for our 6 pm private tour of the Dickens House Museum.  We relaxed for a short time with a glass of wine, and then enjoyed an interesting and informative tour of the museum.   Dickens and his wife Catherine moved to this house in 1837. They raised the eldest three of their ten children here and hosted many exciting dinners and parties.  Dickens wrote Oliver Twist, Pickwick Papers, and Nicholas Nickleby in this home.  Our guide told us all about Dickens and we were able to see many of his personal possessions. We even saw the desk where he wrote the novel that we read and discussed in this class, Great Expectations.

After the tour ended we made plans to meet in Russell Square at 8 am tomorrow for another class discussion and then we went our separate ways. Some students had plans to see a show while others went for dinner (see picture below…thanks, Rachel) and some well deserved rest. It was a really great day and once again we are so happy to be working with this terrific group of students.  Tomorrow after class we will meet our wonderful friend, Dr. David Tucker, for a walking tour of Dickens’ London and then spend a couple of hours at Borough Market.  We are also looking forward to focusing on Darwin during our upcoming day at Down House on Sunday.

We know everyone is tired from our non-stop schedule, but the students have been engaged, polite, and attentive at every activity.  We had a twelve plus hour day and, despite some particularly nasty blisters, there has not been a single complaint.  It is great to see the students making the most of their time in this incredible city.

Cheers from London!

Day 3 2017: Emma Loves Archie

•June 1, 2017 • Leave a Comment

It was another beautiful day in London.  It was warm and sunny and very busy for the LIT 292 class.  We started with a class in Russell Square in 9am. We talked about what everyone did on the previous night.  Some students rested, one group went to see Kinky Boots and another visited Picadilly Circus.  After we caught up, Andrew, Rachel, Katherine and Rebekah discussed how the experiences they have had in London are being incorporated into their final theses projects.

After class, we took the tube to South Kensington to visit the British Museum of Natural History and the Darwin Center.  We had a behind the scenes tour of the Darwin Center but had to split into two groups of nine.  Our guide Simon did a great job telling us about the massive collection at the Darwin Center and the many scientists engaged in active research there.  Some highlights included the flesh-eating beetles who were hard at work cleaning a tilefish in the Dermestarium, and some of the 22 million preserved specimens the “Spirit Room” collection.  We saw a  coelacanth , considered to be a living fossil, and many, many other preserved specimens.  We all enjoyed the large and elaborate female anglerfish and the tiny male anglerfish, which is essentially only nostrils, teeth and testicles.  We also saw “Archie” the giant (9 meter) squid.  Emma was thrilled to see Archie (please see picture of Emma’s reaction upon hearing that we would be seeing a giant squid).

Another highlight of the spirit room was seeing some of the specimens collected by Charles Darwin himself during his voyage on the HMS Beagle (1831 – 1836).  We even saw Darwin’s handwriting on some of the labels.  We finished the Darwin Center tour with a look at the dissection room (no explanation required) and a look at the equipment being used to digitize every specimen in the collection.  After the Darwin Center, we toured the Natural History Museum…but much of it is under renovation so we were not able to take our traditional picture in the great hall with the Darwin statue.

In the afternoon we had some free time.  Some of the students visited Hampton Court while others took some time to see some other sites in London.

We met up again in the evening to attend a performance of Romeo and Juliet at Shakespeare’s Globe. On our way to the Globe, we stopped to see St. Paul’s Cathedral and enjoy the beautiful evening. We walked across the Millennium Bridge and arrived at the Globe for the show.  The students were “groundlings” and enjoyed the show from the stage level. It was an unusual version of Romeo and Juliet, complete with clown make up and a performance of YMCA….but it was certainly entertaining.  After the play we walked back across the bridge and headed back to the flats.

Tomorrow we have an early class meeting (8 am), a train trip to Canterbury, and then a private tour of the Dickens House Museum.  Once again, we feel fortunate to work with this great group of students.   It has been a pleasure to enjoy these adventures with them.  Cheers from London!

Day 2 2017: Walking Victorian London and The British Museum

•May 31, 2017 • Leave a Comment

We had another great day in London today!  We met at 9 am in Russell Square Park for a short class discussion.  Everyone seemed well rested after getting a night’s sleep.  Before getting that well-deserved rest last night, several of the students sampled some traditional British fare, including fish and chips and steak and ale pie.  At our class, we talked about evolution, natural selection, and the concept of “survival of the fittest”, especially about the definition of “fittest”.  At 10 am we took the tube to Monument.  Monument was designed by Christopher Wren (and his good friend, Dr. Robert Hooke) to commemorate the great fire of London in 1666.  It was built between 1671 and 1677 and is 202 feet tall.  The is exactly the distance between the monument and the site where the fire started on Pudding Lane.  Some of the students took all 311 steps to the top and we rewarded with a beautiful panoramic view of London.  At 11 am we met our London Walks guide, Richard, who took us on a great tour of “Darkest Victorian London”.  Richard told us about what like was like for Londoners during the Victorian time period (1837 – 1901).  We learned about the excitement for innovation and invention, but we also learned about the great poverty, disease and hardship that characterized this time period.   We saw many sites related to Charles Dickens’ novels and enjoyed walking the streets of London.

After we finished our walking tour,  we headed back to Bloomsbury on the tube.  We enjoyed a quick lunch break and then met to go to the British Museum where the students spent some time investigating an exhibit of their choice.  After an hour or so we met up again and the students each took the group back to an object that they wanted to discuss.  Once again we are relating history with human nature as the students develop their ideas for their final projects.

After we finished at the British Museum, we discussed plans for tonight and tomorrow. Tonight some of us are going to shows and others plan to enjoy some time doing some other things in the Bloomsbury area.  Tomorrow we will meet early and, after a brief class discussion, we will hop on the tube to go to the Museum of Natural History. We will tour the Museum and enjoy a private behind the scenes tour of the Darwin Center. Tomorrow evening we will be going to Shakespeare’s Globe Theater to enjoy a performance of Romeo and Juliet.  We are all enjoying our time in London and look forward to another great day tomorrow. Thanks to all of the students for being so great to work with.  Cheers from London!