Monday, August 19, 2013

Last Scotland Trip Update!

I loved, loved, loved Stirling Castle, one of the day trips that we took while we were in Edinburgh.  When Jim mentioned that he wanted to see it, I thought it sounded interesting because in my head castle = pretty blingy things!  But, yikes, I had no idea how terribly interesting that this place could be!  I am sure you can find all kinds of things about Stirling Castle online but here is history of it in a nutshell:  Built in the early 12th century, it became the home (real and symbolic) of Scotland's Kings and Queens.  I mean, the main parts of Scottish history are all here with connections to Mary Queen of Scots, William Wallace, and Robert the Bruce!  Before going any further, I should mention that there is a fantastic youtube video about this place which outlines the place after the huge renovation done in the past few years:

Here are some of the pictures that I took of the main hall and some of the bedrooms:

Now the Queen's Bedroom is where I had the most fun.  Lining the walls of the bedroom are the reproductions of the unicorn tapestries which are currently hanging in the MET in New York City.  I just fall in love with them -- to me, the unicorn just seemed out of place and I was mesmerized by the craftsmanship that has gone into the reproductions themselves. Long ago, these very sort of tapestries hung in castles in this area (perhaps Stirling).  The ones that these reproductions are based on were bought by an American collector in more modern times and then donated to the MET.  Weavers from Scotland have studied these tapestries and are currently making reproductions of this seven panel set on the grounds of Stirling Castle (I think they have 4 or 5 of them done at this point).  I guess I can't turn my teacher brain off because I had an epiphany while I was looking at these amazing tapestries -- because the "meaning" behind the series is debatable (religious story?  romantic tale? martyr message?  oppression?) couldn't these be a fantastic way of modeling inquiry to students? Perhaps this could be a great way to model inquiry with my students on the first day of a literature class!  Lead the discussion with some open-ended inquiry questions and then see what the students think.  I am hoping that using a visual text like this will encourage them to think the same way about many of the more difficult written texts that we will encounter this semester.

After Edinburgh, we went on more place before heading back to the States -- the Lake District in northern England.  I am not sure that we were smart in making these plans.  The area was super, super crowded, especially since this is a beautiful area that is popular with British folks vacationing.  But now that I have had time to think about it, here are a few reasons why I am glad that we included the Lake District in with our itinerary:

1.  Cat Bells:  We first heard about this hike via a Rick Steves PBS episode (the clip below also highlights the town we stayed at including "The Dog and Gun," one of the pubs we visited a few times:

And this view is the real deal!  After about an hour and half of hiking from the boat launch at the bottom of the climb. you too can make your own seat on the side of the mountain (like Rick Steves is doing!) and enjoy the view below.  Just saying this was spectacular is not enough -- it's just amazing (and even cooler when you see British military jets zooming by below you!).  Luckily, we had nice weather, met some cool folks, and enjoyed a boat ride as part of this adventure.  I thoroughly enjoyed this hike and hope we get to do something like this again soon!

2.  The Owl Sanctuary at Muncaster Castle.  I love, love, love owls!  Here are a few pictures that I took on a delightful day of touring a cool castle (Muncaster Castle has the most haunted castle in the UK apparently) and hanging out with owls!  The last picture are wild herons -- the castle feeds them everyday at 4 PM and that was pretty cool to watch!

3.  Seeing Dove Cottage, the home of Dorothy Wordsworth (oh, and her brother William!).  Amazing!  I wanted to see this the last time I went to the Lake District (many years ago) but I was a poor student and couldn't manage the entry.  This time I went in!  And there was a special exhibit going on of Dorothy's journals so I had a wonderful time (I think Jim was a little on the bored side, though!).

I know I will sound like a poetry geek when I say this but I was just so moved by the whole experience of being there, the very place where these two talented people "did their thang"!

Well, I guess those are the highlights of the trip!  Jim and I had a blast driving around Scotland and northern England and I will always think about this trip as a much needed break ... and we have already started thinking about our next adventure!

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