The meetings mentioned in the previous post were the final social work-related visits to the program, leaving three days to explore England. We packed up and left our temporary home in Canterbury very early on Thursday morning. Our day tour was led by Tony, a very friendly and garrulous driver, who had lots of stories about every place we visited (although I am not sure that all of the stories would stand up to thorough fact-checking). Our first stop was Stonehenge, an ancient stone circle surrounded by sheep pastures. We probably took hundreds of pictures during this stop, some of Stonehenge and some of the sheep. Although Stonehenge is strictly fenced off and tourists are not allowed to approach it, we were able to see and touch stones in an even larger, but less famous, stone formation in nearby Avebury. We next saw Salisbury cathedral, a beautiful medieval cathedral which has the highest spire in all of England and houses an original copy of the Magna Carta, signed by King John in 1215. After a long day touring, our bus dropped us off in London at our hotel in Russell Square. A few hardy souls not completely exhausted by the long day walked to nearby Kings Cross railway station, home of “Platform 9 ¾” from the Harry Potter series.
Our first full day in London began with a trip on the “Underground”, London’s extensive subway system. Although many of the students had never been on a subway before, by the end of our stay, they were proficient enough to navigate it on their own. We began with a visit to the Tower of London. The Tower had historically been used as a prison for nobility, including one of Henry VIII’s wives, but is now home to the British Crown Jewels and a museum, where we learned a lot about warfare in medieval times. After escaping the Tower, we stopped next at St. Paul’s Cathedral, where several hardy and fit members of the group climbed several hundred stairs to see some amazing views of London. Some students still had energy left after this to visit the British Museum and Museum of London, while others tried shopping at Covent Garden.
Sunday morning was devoted to a walk down White Hall, photographing the famous and historic sites that are all located in walking distance: Trafalgar Square, Nelson’s Column, the Queen’s Cavalry Parade Grounds, the Prime Minister’s residence, the Churchill War Rooms, Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and ending at Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guards. In the afternoon, we split up to discover more of London, from Harrods Department store to the Imperial War Museum.
I have been very impressed with all of the Mount Mercy students on this program. They have been a great group: insightful, hard-working, and willing to explore a new country and learn about a new culture. Even when they faced inclement weather, inconveniences, or illness, they all maintained flexibility and a positive attitude.