Since our last post, the group has spent a full, exciting week in London!
Our week in London took off with the Original Tour. Despite the rain, a few of the group sat on the uncovered upper level of the double-decker tour bus, the better to see some of London's most iconic buildings and monuments: Big Ben and Parliment, the London Eye, and Westminster Abbey. Our sight-seeing continued on a river-boat tour down the Thames, ending at the Tower of London.
During our discussion time that night, the group reflected on how they felt about coming into contact with so much history. Many were particularly moved by Westminster Abbey, where we got to see the tombs and visit memorials for so many of history's instrumental figures: Elizabeth I, the Unknown Warrior, Shakespeare, and Winston Churchill, just to name a few. What was just as remarkable, and more unexpected about Westminster was the moment of stillness.
The Abbey, still a working church, takes time every hour to have a moment of prayer, during which they ask the visitors to stop, be silent, and reflect and pray. That day, the day after the terrorist attacks in Paris, the prayer was a plea for peace. There were very few visitors who did not pause during this moment, a moment that was more than a moment of silence. It was truly a moment of stillness--of peace.
Over the next couple days, we really dove in to the early lives of the writers we'll be studying throughout our journey.
On Friday, the group toured one of the oldest boys school in England; Harrow School, Lord Byron's alma mater. After learning about Byron's taxing boyhood, some found a little more sympathy for the poet who was "mad, bad, and dangerous to know." Our wonderful tour guide, Anne, was also more than happy to tell us about one more recent Harrovian--Benedict Cumberbatch.
Saturday was Keats day. We took the tube out to Hamstead, where both John Keats and Leigh Hunt, editor of the Examiner, lived and wrote. We were guided on a walking tour through the town, ending at the very house where Keats lived and worked. Everyone was enchanted by the beauty of the house and of the town, with its old, brick houses and woody heath. Knowing that these were the same muddy streets that John Keats walked made the experience even more memorable.
Yesterday we visited Old St. Pancras Church, where Mary Shelley's parents, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, were married and later laid to rest. Standing near the Godwin family gravestone and listening to the stories it represented while surrounded by trees that likely "saw" the events take place was a surreal, and suitably gothic, experience.
Today was our last full day in London. The National Portrait Gallery, where the famous portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft hangs, was on the agenda. We'll spend the evening packing and gathering strength for the early flight to Geneva tomorrow!