Strolling in Stratfrod-upon-Avon

General Prettiness

General Prettiness in Stratford-upon-Avon

Second Class Blog Post:

Our day in Stratford was very pleasant.  The weather was gorgeous and the town was quaint.  My first stop was the public library, which is actually a Carnegie Library.  The library’s exterior matches the look and feel of the town with its Tudor style.  The interior of the library is another story, as its presentation was more akin to a bookstore’s layout with its book displays, bright signs, and modern shelving, furniture, and technology (self-service checkout).  The juxtaposition of the contemporary interior fixtures to the Tudor style building boggles the mind a bit.

Carnegie Sign

This library was a gift of Andrew Carnegie

I did notice some other differences between this library and ones in America in terms of service and conditions.  Each book was equipped with a clear vinyl dust jacket to protect the book.  The book sizes in the UK seem to be more regular (with minor variances) than American books.  From our range of mass markets (I didn’t notice any there) to regular paperbacks to hardcovers in any range of shape and size, it would be quite a feat to find appropriate vinyl dust jackets.  Though they have a self-service checkout, the books are still manually stamped with due dates.  I wish that I did more investigation into this set-up because in my experience (like at Richland Library), self checkout generally produces printed due date slips instead of requiring stamped due dates.  I had not thought about this quandary at the time.  What is travel without a little bit of regret?

New & Old

The contemporary fixtures juxtaposed to the older building


Self Service Checkout

Self Service Checkout

I was also baffled to realize that this library charged to lend its DVDs and CDs, which I thought extremely odd at the time.  I guess that I’ve been quite blessed by Columbia’s lovely libraries that lend me a plethora of Edward Norton films at no additional charge.  After, I did recollect that DVDs do have a relatively low fee to borrow back in Hawaii.  I guess that there is no hard and fast rule in regards to DVD and/or CD lending.  It just depends on the institution.

Sven visiting Shakespeare's Birthplace

Sven visiting Shakespeare’s Birthplace

We strolled up, down, and around Henley Street where we saw the exterior of William Shakespeare’s birthplace, which is adjacent to a beautiful rose garden.  On our way down to the river, I noticed a really cute 1940s-themed tea shop that I wish I visited.  I was not particularly in the mood for tea, but a 1940’s tea shop?  That would have been a unique experience.  More travel regrets.  We did direct a couple of classmates there later, so at least others got to experience it!

We took a boat tour on the Avon river.  I wish that the tour included a spoken portion that explained some of the history of the town or significant landmarks, but it was still a nice chance to sit in the sunshine and see the town from a different perspective.  It was a good forty minute rest for my ankle, to boot.  I was utterly taken by the houses on the riverside.  I saw some beautiful Tudor style houses with gloriously lush gardens.  Dream houses!

Feminist Sven Take a Boat Ride

Feminist Sven Take a Boat Ride

We took a walk along the river side where we saw a couple making out (don’t worry, I did not manage or attempt a stealthy photo).  That was quite a dose of excessive PDA.  It is quite surprising how many couples openly make out in England than back home.  PDA normally does not bother me because people should be allowed to express themselves, but this particular couple was a bit over the top.  I wonder what informs this type of social behavior.  Maybe the romantic atmosphere of Shakespeare’s town influenced them or perhaps the size and busyness of London (in other examples) provide couples with a feeling of anonymity that I do not notice back home.

The walk took us towards the church where Shakespeare is buried.  We paid 50 pence to actually see the tomb.  I would say that it was a decent 50 pence spent.

Shakespeare's Resting Place

Shakespeare’s Resting Place in the Holy Trinity Church

We headed back to Henley Street to grab dinner at The Food of Love Restaurant.  I finally got to try a full English breakfast, which I did not love or hate.  It was tasty, but not my favorite thing to eat.  There was quite a lot of food too!

Full English Breakfast

Looks lovely, doesn’t it?

We headed our way towards the Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre where we saw Henry IV Part I.  I have to admit that I am not a Shakespeare fanatic.  Consider that fact coupled with my dinner and you can imagine the sleepiness I fought the whole play.  I may or may not have nodded off at one point, which is definitely not a testament to the actors, play, or production.  The actors were fabulous and they truly conveyed the comedic undertones of the play.  I really wish that I was more awake to fully appreciate their talented acting.  More travel regrets!

After the play, it took about 2 and some hours to get back to the dorms on the coach.  We got back after 1 am, so you can imagine the fatigue.  I truly enjoyed the day as I hobbled my way around Straford-upon-Avon.  Overall, it was a great experience.

As always, stay cool, friends!


I met a nice fellow today

Beautiful Oxford

Beautiful Oxford

First Class Blog Post:

I met a nice fellow today at Christ Church.  The day started off alright.  We got an early start towards Oxford at 7:15am.  Our ride on the coach was about two hours and I was definitely feeling some motion sickness.  Taylor generously supplied me with some dramamine (thanks, friend!).  The rest of the ride was okay – not great, but I was feeling better about fifteen minutes after we got off the coach.

Our agenda for the day was to visit the Bodleian Library, which is one of the oldest libraries in Europe and the main research library for the University of Oxford.  Those facts alone are extremely impressive and intimidating.  Our other stop of the day was Christ Church, one of the colleges at Oxford.

First, we strolled the area around the Bodleian, which was gorgeous.  Everything from the architecture to the grounds was stunning.  It’s amazing to think about the work and planning that went into creating these magnificent, old structures.  I especially loved the stained glass windows, which beautifully captured the light.  It’s very humbling to be in a place of such historical and cultural significance.  Amazing scholars and people of influence once strolled the same grounds I did.  J.R.R. Tolkien and Lewis Carroll, for example!

Feminist Sven Reads at Oxford

Feminist Sven Reads at Oxford

Beautiful flowers at Oxford

Beautiful flowers at Oxford

We took pictures of Radcliff Camera’s exterior because visitors are not allowed inside.  Radcliff Camera used to be one of Oxford’s libraries, and as our later tour guide mentioned, it is unique in its implementation of ground level and underground level storage of books.  Apparently, people believe in storing books on higher levels to protect them from threat of flooding and vermin.  Higher levels tended to have better light as well.  The ground level and underground levels also provided much more space to store books.  Sometimes the innovations seem very obvious to me because I do not understand the full reality of living centuries ago.  Things always seem obvious later.

Feminist Sven poses in front of the Radcliff Camera

Feminist Sven poses in front of the Radcliff Camera

After that , I visited the Bodleian Libraries’ Shop where I bought an awesome tote bag featuring the oath that readers must take before using materials.  One side of the bag states:

I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, nor to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library, or kindle therein, any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library,”

while the other side says the same thing, but in Latin:

Do fidem me nullum librum vel instrumentum aliamve quam rem ad bibliothecam pertinentem, vel ibi custodiae causa depositam, aut e bibliotheca sublaturum esse, aut foedaturum deformaturum aliove quo modo laesurum; item neque ignem nec flammam in bibliothecam inlaturum vel in ea accensurum, neque fumo nicotiano aliove quovis ibi usurum; item promitto me omnes leges ad bibliothecam Bodleianam attinentes semper observaturum esse.”

As a future librarian, this purchase has easily got my vote for best souvenir ever!

Our tour began in the Divinity School, which was the setting for the infirmary scenes in Harry Potter.  I instantly thought about the scene where Harry drinks the Skele-Gro.  Gross!  It was also fun to imagine Dumbledore saying, “Alas, ear wax!”  Yum?

We made our way upstairs to the Duke Humphrey’s Library, named after the man who donated a large number of manuscripts in the 15th century.  In the early sixteenth and late seventeenth century, the building was renovated under the care of Thomas Bodley for whom the Bodleian Library is named.  Bodley made many changes during his time: changed the style of the desks and installed floor-to-ceiling bookshelves to accommodate more books, replaced chaining with a locked security system, reinvented the cataloguing system, and put books upright.  These interesting innovations are captured today in the front part of the Duke Humphrey’s Library, so that patrons and visitors may witness the library as it once was.

I was most intrigued by chaining, which was a method of ensuring that patrons did not “accidently” walk off with precious books.  The side opposite of the spine is chained to the bookcase.  The spines themselves are not chained to preserve the stitching.  The chains require that the books be stored upside down, with the titles printed on the book edges.  Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photographs in the Duke Humphrey’s Library, so I do not have a personal example.  For more information, see here.

The thing that struck me the most about the Bodleian is that Thomas Bodley renovated the library with the intent of opening access to the public, but as it exists today, the library is only accessible for those with a reader’s card.  Those affiliated with Oxford have easy access and those without may gain access by paying a fee.  In an ideal world, the library is accessible to all who wish to use the library, but I understand that the constant battle of access versus preservation are at odds here.  Access and preservation are prevalent and relevant topics in the library and information science field that I cannot anticipate disappearing.  I do believe that we should preserve the library for future use, so the added layer of security definitely helps.  On the other hand, I am an advocate of access, so I get weary when I contemplate Bodley’s intent in comparison to the reality.

These issues of access and preservation have geared me towards digitization.  I love how digital collections and libraries open access to people, provided that they have internet access.  One does not have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to travel to a specific collection, but rather, they might easily browse a collection of Theravada texts in the comfort of their home and pajamas.  I understand the limitations of digital copies as they will never replace the original.  We might lose the scale and feel of the original, but the digital surrogate can really provide many with a suitable alternative for research.  The future of digitization is a complex and fascinating one.

Another one of the great tidbits that I learned today was that the first foreign (American) chief librarians (called Bodley’s Librarians) was also the first female!  I love to hear about women entering traditionally-male dominated roles.  Though the LIS field typically has a very high female-to-male ratio, the past Bodley’s Librarians were all men.  Go Sarah Thomas!

Our other major stop of the day was Christ Church, another college in Oxford.  We got to walk through their dining hall, which was a major influence on the design of Hogwart’s Great Hall.  There are many Harry Potter references in this post because the HP filmmakers loved filming in Oxford.  The buildings are beautiful, so I can understand why.

Feminist Sven at Christ Church

Feminist Sven visits the dining hall at Christ Church

Shortly after, I sprained my ankle.  Boy, did I wish Madame Pomfrey was there to give me some of that Skele-Gro (in my mind, it helps sprains too)!  Here in the day’s story is where I met the nicest fellow named Mr. Green, a porter who fetched a wheelchair for me, cleaned up my ankle (a minor scrape), and retrieved a cold compress for the swelling.  Mr. Green graciously took care of me way beyond my expectations (of which I had none) as he gave me a long umbrella to serve as a walking stick and called a cab to take me to the Eagle and Child pub, which Tolkien and Carroll frequented.  His genuine hospitality and friendliness were touching.  Here’s to a relaxing and well-deserved forthcoming retirement, Mr. Green.  May you enjoy the sunshine!

And to everyone else, thank you for reading and remember to stay cool, friends!


First two days

I am glad to report that I made it safely to London.  Despite a delay, a threat of another possible delay (they found another plane for us, which thankfully allowed me to make my connecting flight), and getting lost in Dulles, I infiltrated this crazy, busy, beautiful city.  Several other mishaps such as my luggage wheels crumbling, my water bottle leaking all over my documents (tickets, passport, etc.), and both of the zippers of my bag breaking made for a less than smooth arrival to London, but nonetheless, it all worked out and I’ll keep the complaining to a minimum.  Maybe.

My first day in London is fast becoming a hazy memory because I was tired and unfocused from the lack of sleep and general travel woes.  We’ll see how well my memory is (hint: it’s not great, ask Taylor or anyone who has heard me attempt to tell a story).

After a ridiculously nauseating ride to the dorms, which was 546431384512x worse than the flight for me due to some dubious airplane food, we arrived at King’s College on Stamford Street.  Jade and I unloaded our luggage in our respective rooms and immediately hit the neighborhood for an impromptu tour, mostly to fend off sleep and kill time before our scheduled afternoon neighborhood tours.  I have to admit that my first impressions of London were mixed.  I adored some of what my foggy mind and queasy stomach saw on the coach to the dorms, but the hustle and bustle of the city did stress me out at first.  I definitely could not imagine living in such a huge and busy city with millions of anonymous bodies moving around and about.  We’ll see how I feel at the end of this trip.

Cute al fresco dining area

Cute al fresco dining area at the South Bank


Our class neighborhood tour took us to Waterloo Station, which was a madhouse because of a million delays, the fact that we were there at 5pm on a Friday, and those million delays.

We also took a walk on the South Bank where we passed many notable places: the British Film Institute, the Southbank Centre Book Market, and the London Eye, with a few glimpses of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.  I know that I definitely left out a few notables, but remember that memory of mine?  Yeah, it’s not great.  I imagine that I’ll explore much more of the South Bank in the following month.


Gnome and Big Ben

Feminist Sven and Big Ben


We had a quick reception back at King’s College.  After eating, the gals, i.e.  Jade, Taylor, and Laura Douglass made our way to Waterloo in pursuit of Oyster cards.  We got weekly passes and took the opportunity to ride a few trains.  We ended up at St. Pancreas and King’s Cross station (we didn’t think to visit that infamous Platform 9 and 3/4, but we’ll get there one day).  From that general area, we hopped on a bus (or two) and made our way back to the dorms.  Let me just say, double decker buses are definitely the way to go.  They are speedy, crafty buggers and it’s fun watching them navigate London roads.  London bus drivers are my favorite people of the moment.  I admire their mad skills.

I went to bed at a reasonable time (10pm, perhaps), but unfortunately, my body refused to sleep past 2am, so I must report that I had a 2-3 hour Netflix time suck.  On happier Netflix-related notes, I found that we get the UK selection and Taylor recently discovered that Archer Season 5 was available, so yeah, we will definitely be watching that.

I got a few more hours of sleep and rolled out of bed at 8am.  We had our class orientation at 9am.  It was great to hear about some of the locations we will visit and learn more about my fellow students.  I will admit that I am terrible with names and I can’t be trusted to learn everyone’s name quickly.  Following this, we had a general orientation with the larger group.  I was fast becoming hangry at this point, so I was more than happy to stop into Pret’s for a prosciutto and basil sandwich.  It was a great and quick lunch and I can definitely imagine going back to try some of their other offerings.  I was just thrilled to eat a nice, crunchy baguette (soft bread seems to be ubiquitous in Columbia, SC – soft bread can be great, but I do love me a fresh baguette).

Feminist Sven at St. James's Place

Feminist Sven visits St. James’s Palace

With fuel in my belly, we embarked on a LondonAlive! tour.  The gals and I went on the tour focusing on Women, Suffragettes and London landmarks.  We learned about the significance of Florence Nightingale, Boudica (Queen of the Iceni tribe who tried to run out the Romans), and Emmeline Pankhurst (suffragette) in relation to London statues and buildings.  Other places of interest include the Monument to the Women of World War I, Clarence House (where the Queen Mum lived), St. James’s Palace (I totally touched it), and Trafalgar Square (Emma Hamilton, Admiral Nelson’s infamous mistress).  I loved this tour and I am definitely considering weaving women’s rights into my research paper somehow.  We’ll see.

We broke off from the group at Trafalgar Square and headed underground towards South Kensington where we visited Ben’s Cookies.  I do believe those cookies are what dreams are made of.  Amazing.

From South Kensington, we took the bus to Hyde Park.  We took some gratuitous gnome pictures, posed with the Peter Pan statue, watched the swans and geese at the Serpentine (lake at Hyde Park), and walked by the Italian Garden at Kensington Gardens.  At this point, we were quite hungry again (if memory serves right, Jade’s pedometer clocked us at 8 miles at this point, give or take a mile).

London Eye

London Eye

We took a bus towards Victoria Station and after two failed trips to overcrowded pubs, we found refuge at our third pub.  The service was questionable, as the waitress (not from the UK based on her accent) seemed to laugh and mock us.  It was an odd experience, which I will happily attribute as a odd, personal quirk and not the rule.  Who knows?

From the pub, we took the tube to Westminster in search of ice cream.  Alas, the venture was for naught as the only stand we found was closing down for the night.  On a happier note, we found a man standing on the bank playing bagpipes, so it was a decent end to a long day.

I should definitely be asleep right now, but I’m not because I’m a rebel like that.  If I had Dumbledore’s Pensieve, I might have trusted those memories to keep, but since I don’t, it was best to work them out asap.

I hope everyone is having a great summer.  Stay cool, friends!