England Trip Recap (Part 2)

If you missed the first post about my recent trip to the UK, detailing the first two and a half days there, you can read it HERE.

Otherwise, let’s continue with these travel-shenanigans.


Day 3 (continued)

As mentioned in the last post, Day 3 was our last true day in London, and we spent it touring the Globe Theatre (and seeing The Taming of the Shrew as groundlings), making fun of the art at the Tate Modern next door, and dodging rain storms at the Tower of London.

The view from the “Royal Box” of the Globe Theatre.

Walking the Millennium Bridge, also known as the “Wobbly Bridge,” also known as the bridge they blow up at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince.

See that school right there? The City of London School for Boys? That’s the school both Daniel Radcliffe and Skandar Keynes attended before becoming Harry Potter and Edmund Pevensie, respectively.

This is one of my favorite pieces at the Tate Modern. It’s called “Untitled Painting.” It is literally just a mirror glued to a canvas hung on the wall.

This is my other favorite piece. It’s canvas painted white, cut out in a random octagonal shape, glued to the wall. Artist be trolling.

We walked London Bridge on our way to the Tower of London. Luckily, it did not fall down.

This is the Traitors’ Gate at the Tower of London. They used to stuff their baddies back behind these bars and then wait for the Thames to reach high-tide, at which point everyone drowned. (Cruel and unusual punishment, anyone?)

LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THIS BOOK. This was the ordinance book for the guards working in the Tower. Can you imagine how many rules they had to follow? IT’S EVEN WORSE THAN MAMA UMBRIDGE.

At the end of the day, we ended up back at the Globe for Taming of the Shrew. We stood in the very first row of the groundlings, which for most people involved leaning their elbows on the stage while watching. Only I’m actually too short to do that, so instead I was literally at eye level with the stage. Like a crocodile spying on its prey. (In other news: HOW BEAUTIFUL. IS THE “SKY.” ON THIS STAGE?)


Day 4

Day 4 saw our group leaving London to explore other parts of England. We made stops in Oxford (now one of my favorite places on Earth–I’m hoping to study there next summer), the Cotswolds, and then continued on to Statford-upon-Avon to see Shakespeare’s grave and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of As You Like It.

Not sure if you can tell, because of my iPhone’s kind of crappy picture quality and all, but that sign reads “Alice’s Shop.” Oxford University is basically Heaven for literary types. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Caroll, was a professor at Oxford and this adorable shop is located in town.


You might recognize this as a Harry Potter shooting location. Harry Potter was a biiig part of our trip.

… Speaking of Harry Potter, this dining hall inspired the Great Hall. (Sorry the photo’s so blurry. We weren’t allowed to stop walking as they hurried us through with the bazillion and one other tourists, and as I already mentioned in Part 1: I’m so bad at walking without taking pictures at the same time that you’re lucky it’s even this clear.)

After touring campus, we stopped in at the Eagle and Child, which is the pub where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, among other writers, used to meet weekly. This was one of the highlights of the trip for me. If I could meet any historical figure, it would be C.S. Lewis. (And if I ever got to, I would probably then melt into a weeping mess in front of him, because I love his writing and philosophy on life and everything SO MUCH.) So yeah. It was sort of a big deal for me to go to the Eagle and Child.

Here’s me trying not to look like I was totally about to break down sobbing with joy beside the map of Narnia they’d hung on their supply closet door. (Oh, those punny pub owners!)

Driving through the Cotswolds in our tour bus. The Cotswolds are this area of England composed of gorgeous, gimmicky little tourist towns.

While stopped in Bourton-on-the-Water for a tourist break (we literally went there to “buy souvenirs and enjoy the tourist atmosphere”), I got some cream tea. My friend: You have not lived until you have had cream tea.

I give you: the grave of William Shakespeare. It was crazy seeing his grave, because while I’ve never been a huge Shakespeare fan, I have grown up reading, and performing, and analyzing his work. Shakespeare’s been a big part of my life for years now. But the thing is–he’s always seemed like this really distant figure. Kind of Biblical, in a way. So to see Shakespeare’s grave IN PERSON made him, and all that he did for the literary and theatre worlds, suddenly seem so much more real and present and important to me as an individual. It sounds cheesy, but it truly was a life-changing experience for me. This whole trip was.

Buried with Shakespeare were his wife, daughter, and her two husbands (one died young).

The RSC’s production of As You Like It, right before it started!


Day 5

Day 5 was more Shakespeare, as we toured Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Shakespeare’s Birthplace, and then we visited Warwick Castle and walked around downtown Statford-upon-Avon during our free time.

The Brits really need to stop complaining about us changing the name of the first Harry Potter book. At least we didn’t mess with the branding GOLD that is “Frosted Flakes.”

This is Mary Baker, descendent of Anne Hathaway and my personal hero. She exploited her connection to Shakespeare to make a profit, by giving the first tours of Anne Hathaway’s childhood cottage and selling items that (secretly) didn’t actually have anything to do with either Shakespeare OR Anne for big bucks. (If I ever happen to have a famous relative, I’m planning on being just like her. Warning to all my relatives.)

Waiting in line to get in to see the Disneyfied version of Shakespeare’s birthplace!

These windows are absolutely COATED in signatures. They’re supposedly from the room Shakespeare was born in, but now they’re cased in glass because so many tourists throughout the centuries had carved their names into them that it was getting ridiculous.

Warwick Castle! This now quite-Disneyfied castle was once a star location of the War of the Roses. Now, it’s owned by Madame Tussaud and is populated by lots of creepy historical wax figures.

For all those random times your castle is under siege, it’s a good idea to keep a catapult lying around.

Table cannon. In case the parchment attacks.

Sword show in the castle courtyard! They debunked the myths of medieval swordplay, including the fact that real sword fights (unlike the media’s interpretation of them) usually lasted less than ten seconds before one man would manage to kill off his opponent.

It wasn’t until after I’d tried on the gift shop battle gear (twice) that I noticed there was a princess option as well. Apparently I haven’t been reading enough romance-y contemporary books this summer.

When we went to begin the tour of the castle towers, a woman at the entrance told us the towers were closed for the next half hour.

“What do you mean?” we asked. “Why are they closed?”

“There’s a bird show going on,” she explained. “We wouldn’t want any of the birds of prey to mistake you for food.”

A few minutes later, this lovely monster landed on the highest tower, checked in with the handler hanging out there, and then flew off again. We thanked the woman for not letting it eat our faces.

Back in Stratford-upon-Avon for the evening, we wandered the town. The River Avon (in this location, known as either the Warwickshire Avon or Shakespeare’s Avon) is beautiful!

Fact: this pub has been around for longer than the United States has.

Day 6

I’m only going to partway cover Day 6 in this post, since most of it was spent freaking out during the Leavesden Studios tour (if you don’t know what the “Leavesden Studios tour” entails, look it up), but I will leave you with a few pictures from our stop at Oxford’s rival, the University of Cambridge.

Outside King’s College.

Inside King’s College Chapel.

I love how many languages they translated “please keep off the grass” into. Like: they REALLY don’t want people walking on the grass.

Cambridge has this really cool tradition of having students take their visitors out on the river for a tour. It’s called “punting,” and the punts (boats) are basically gondolas–the difference is that punts are propelled by poles rather than oars. (PS. There are cows in the background of this picture. To the right. To the left, just across the river, is a smart-looking cafe. How cool is that? You can eat dairy products right next to the cows who produced them!)


Make sure to stay tuned for the last England Trip Recap post, coming soon, which’ll be jam-packed with pictures from the Leavesden Studios tour! Whoohoo!


England Trip Recap (Part I)

Now that I’ve been home for two weeks, I feel like I’m finally rested enough to tackle writing this series of monster-posts. (I’m basically just going until WordPress yells at me for having too many pictures, so this SHOULD only take a few posts, but we’ll see.)

SO. ENGLAND. We (and by “we” I mean my mom, sister, me, and some members of my high school theatre company) were in England for a week, towards the end of June–mostly in London, but also Oxford, Statford-upon-Avon, Warwick, the Cotswolds, and Cambridge. It was my first time in Europe (I’ve previously been to Canada and Costa Rica–and let’s face it, only one of those truly counts), so this trip was super exciting for me.


Day 1

IMG_0310Excuse the blurriness. I took this while walking, and I’m barely coordinated enough to do that even when NOT attempting to snap a photo.

We flew overnight from the ‘States to England, arriving at London Heathrow Airport far too early in the morning. We spent the day touring the city, both by walking and bus, and we saw some cool sights.

IMG_0312Five minutes out of the airport, and we were already getting bombarded with Chicago advertisements. At least it wasn’t Pure Michigan, but seriously. You can’t go anywhere without America’s obnoxiousness repeatedly smacking you in the face. (Who am I kidding. I secretly love our obnoxiousness.)

IMG_0325My first purchase in the UK was a bag of Turkish Delight. Because Narnia.

IMG_0366Trafalgar Square

IMG_0357First glimpse of Big Ben, from Trafalgar Square.

IMG_0409This is the view from the doorway of our London hotel room. We fit three people in here for three days. It was kind of more than a little bit crazy.


Day 2

We continued with our general touring of the city the second day, with another bus tour. Then we got some free time, and in the evening we went to see a West End show.

IMG_0439This is apparently one of the biggest book stores in the world. I didn’t get a chance to go inside (bus tour, y’know), but LOOK HOW MANY FLOORS THERE ARE!

IMG_0441This year’s a big anniversary for the Queen, and they had these little banners hanging up all over the place.

IMG_0443I took this picture during the bus tour, but The 39 Steps is the West End show we saw. We sat front row for it, and it was absolutely AMAZING. I highly recommend it if you’re in London and looking for a play to see.

IMG_0445The cars, in general, are a lot more compact over there than they are here in the US. Look how cute this taxi is!

IMG_0538Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.

IMG_0456A lot of London was cleaned up after the Blitz, but they left other parts damaged to remind everyone of what happened. This was a church that had been hit by shells.

IMG_0464We visited a lot of churches on our trip. This was probably the coolest–St. Paul’s Cathedral.

IMG_0540Big Ben! (Fun fact: “Big Ben” is actually just the bell in the clock tower. The tower itself has been named the “Elizabeth Tower” since 2012, after simply being known as the “Clock Tour” for the 150+ years since its completion.)

IMG_0541During our free time, we rode the London Eye.

I’m terrified of Ferris wheels, but this one was really cool (and not scary in the least), because you’re actually completely enclosed in a “pod” where you can sit or walk around during the ride.

[During our free time on Day 2, my mom and I also went to Kings Cross Station to take a picture at Platform Nine and Three Quarters, but I unfortunately don’t have access to any of those pictures right now. Sorry! I’ll try to add a picture when I get the chance.]


Day 3

Our last day in London for this stint of the trip, we spent the day touring the Globe Theatre (and seeing The Taming of the Shrew there in the evening, as groundlings), making fun of the art at the Tate Modern, and dodging rain storms at the Tower of London.

IMG_0587Why hello there, Place-Shakespeare-Was-First-Performed. It’s nice to meet you, too!

IMG_0606During our tour, they were working on the set for the next production to go through the Globe. Hint: You’re not supposed to say its name in a theatre.


… Aaaand that’s where it’s cutting me off today! I was hoping I’d at least get through the end of Day 3, since that would cover our London stuff, but nope. Come back in a couple days for the rest of Day 3, along with (hopefully) a couple other days’ recaps!


Editing, Why Art Thou Cruel?

I bite my thumb at you, Editing. I bite my thumb at you.

I really hate how you’ll look at your novel and go, “Oh my goodness, this is perfect!” and have a little party with yourself or whatever, and then you send it off to your friends to edit, and they send it back with all those friendly red marks all over it, and you’re like:

… And the worst part is that your friends are right about all those friendly red marks that are so prevalent, it looks like your manuscript was just attacked by an ax murderer.

How in the world did I miss all of that? Like, really, these things should have been obvious! (Kind of like how I just learned this past week that there’s a difference between Past Perfect Tense and Passive Voice. How did I not know that?)

So now I’m desperately going through edits and revisions of my novel in hopes that it’ll be ready to go (again) by the time we leave for the Writer’s Digest Conference in a couple of weeks, and I’m kind of freaking out that it won’t be ready on time, and yeah.

Deep breaths, Julia. Deep breaths.

At least these edits have less to do with your-plotline-sucks and you-need-to-completely-rewrite-this as much as you-don’t-know-how-to-use-Past-Perfect-Tense (which is the majority of them). But I am still freaking out because my mom and I have gone through this novel a thousand and one times ourselves and never caught these things.

Anybody have any interesting revising stories or tips? I’m all ears. 🙂