Tag: United Kingdom

A Trip to Avebury and Stonehenge

I am so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to spend my final term as a University of Oregon student overseas in London. It has been an Dress up in the Fashion Museum_Chelsee Carterabsolute treat for my soul to witness all the many visually striking sights, along with the fantastical performances taken place all over the city. Already I can see that this trip has given me faith that theatre is still very much alive and a greatly appreciated art form; it is a shame that the United States does not share the same level of gratitude. Of course the main focus of this study abroad program was on the theatre culture in London, but I found the excursions out of London to be the most amazing and humbling adventures. The first expedition was to Bath; however on the way to Bath, we made pit stops to Stonehenge and Avebury which, has proven to be one of the most moving experiences thus far on this program.


I fell asleep on the bus watching the tall buildings and skyscrapers zoom past the bus window and awoke to the sight of rolling green hills peppered with sheep. I was jilted awake by shouts of glee and excitement that we were approaching Stonehenge. We began to walk toward the Henge and I was beginning to feel myself fall into denial. It still had not seemed real toTea Time in Stratford_Chelsee Carter me that I was fast approaching a world recognized unsolved mystery. Of course my initial reaction was a mixture of astonishment and delight, but I was surprised to find how humble being there made me feel. I was suddenly aware of how fascinating human beings are and what we have been able to accomplish in such a brief amount of time here. I slowly walked around the stones trying to take in everything I possibly could from every angle. As time was running out, I started to make my way toward the exit. I realized that it was grossly out of place see Stonehenge right next to a busy highway, wait in line to purchase tickets, and visit the gift shop for such an ancient and mythical location. It was such a colossal juxtaposition that I forced myself to run back and take one last look at the stones to ensure that my final memory there was with this legendary structure and not waiting in line with a crowd of pushy tourists eager to pay for an overpriced trinket.


We left Stonehenge and arrived in a small, quaint town that seemed right out of a picture book, with thatched roof houses and an ancient chapel. The main attraction in that town was the Avebury henge, but The group dressed in their best for High Tea after walking around the Roman Baths_Chelsee Carterwhat I found most interesting was the town itself. It was almost as if I had stepped into a different time period. The town of Avebury was so quiet and pristine that I felt guilty disturbing the atmosphere by shuffling my feet or talking with friends. Although I entered Avebury as a tourist, it was so refreshing to be away from major tourist attractions. I was allowed to experience the town as it was, essentially untouched by time, without brushing shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of people. Everything was still and it was lovely.

I had an amazing experience in Bath. I felt so fortunate to be in such a beautiful town with stunning sandstone buildings and roads. However, I greatly missed the stillness and spiritual atmosphere in Stonehenge and Avebury and longed to return. It was tremendously therapeutic to be in a place almost untouched by the modern era and I hope to come back someday.

-Chelsee Carter, Theatre in London

Theatre in London

As the time has passed since my trip to London ended, I look back on the whole experience with nothing but fondness and a little bit of sadness at the realization in is over. My time in London taught me independence, team building, and helped me to explore and understand a brand new culture. Although they spoke the same language as me, the British people I encountered had a completely different way of living and outlook on life. They have different priorities individually and as a country that as Americans abroad, we noticed the contributions they made to alter their English-speaking society from ours.

Picture2It would be impossible for me to write about all the theatre we saw in fewer than two pages, so instead I will focus on one of the amazing short trips we took outside of London. Our first outing was to Stratford-upon-Avon, which we all learned means “the town of Stratford that sits on the Avon River.” Shakespeare’s birthplace, the location of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and home to many other original Tudor period buildings provided an excellent example for us of the Tudor Style and a chance to experience life in a smaller British town.

Stratford is luckily only about an hour and half long drive from London, in which we passed many small villages made up of entirely thatched-roofed houses, the Cotswolds, and the steepest hill in England (which they must close down in the winter due to the icy conditions). We arrived to sunny weather, making it a perfect mini-vacation from the hustle and bustle of the city. I was extremely excited to get the chance to visit all the historical buildings surrounding Shakespeare’s life and to see shows at the Royal Shakespeare Company since they are known for such incredible and groundbreaking work. Our first day, we visited the home of Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Aden, which is a working farm with all kinds of animals including sheep, hairy red pigs, and plenty of chickens. I had the most fun, maybe for the whole trip, playing on the playground at the farm. There was a pretty big group of us who were just letting go of any self-consciousness and just playing like we were 8 years old at recess again. There was a wonderful swing that was a giant hoop with rope tied to make a sort of hammock. Two of my friends pushed me on it as I lay on my back looking up at the sky. My immediate reaction when I’m scared is to laugh so I must have looked crazy while I was swinging. They were pushing me really high and I just kept laughing and then crying because I cry when I laugh a lot. I kept shouting “No!” and “I’m going to die!” But the truth is I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun while being so extremely terrified at the same time. I loved watching people have the same reaction as they took a turn on the swing.

After visiting the farm, we went to Shakespeare’s wife’s cottage, which had wonderful gardens to walk through and lovely orchards to take strolls in. Shakespeare wooed Anne Hathaway at this cottage, so it was exciting to see such a significant place in Shakespeare’s life. I loved spending time in the lavender maze there and just relaxing in the sun.

We saw three amazing productions at the RSC while we visited, Love’s Sacrifice (a Jacobean revenge tragedy), The Jew of Malta (one of Christopher Marlowe’s most famous works and to which Shakespeare wrote The Merchant of Venice as a response), and Death of a Salesman (Arthur Miller’s classic). All three shows had extremely high production value, immensely skilled ensembles, and all worked well to captivate their audience during each performance. It was interesting to go to this world-renowned Shakespeare company and not see any plays written by him at all. It was almost ironic that we saw the production of The Jew of Malta, written by one of Shakespeare’s biggest rivals, performed on Shakespeare’s birthday. In fact, for that performance, my seat was in the front row and a man sat down next to me dressed in an outfit made to resemble Shakespeare himself. I was sitting with some of my peers and we all wondered if he was maybe a plant by the company but when we talked to him after the show, he said he was not from the company but that he enjoyed dressing up to celebrate the day. The cast of the show made him come up onstage after and had the entire audience sing him “Happy Birthday.” It was definitely a night I will never forget.

Picture3On that same trip, I also really enjoyed our short visit to Kenilworth Castle, or rather the ruins of a castle built in the 12th Century but primarily used as one of Queen Elizabeth I’s favorite places to dwell. It was amazing to walk through the ruins and feel the ancient history of the land. I sat on one of the hills toward the back of the castle for a long while and just stared at the beautiful countryside. As I sat on that hill, I thought about how lucky I felt to just have seen such wonderful play and visit such historic landmarks. I learned so much about myself (and British history!) on the London program that if I had the chance, I would go back just to experience it all again.

– Elah Seidel, Theatre in London