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Studienreise 2018 - England

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Day 1: Saturday – From Basel to Avebury to Bath

We all met at 10 o’clock in the morning at Basel-Mulhouse Airport and after a smooth flight, got our first aerial glimpse of London sprawling out from the winding Thames river. The ground view of London, however, would have to wait. First on the itinerary was a bus ride to rainy Avebury, where we could visit the ancient Stone Circle and had a tour inside the Medieval Manor: a 14th-century moated house in Kent. This is where Oscar held his presentation about King Henry VIII and the rest of us were able to watch comfortably from a medieval four-poster bed before moving through the different history-themed rooms of the house. After rainy encounters with sheep amongst the ancient stone circles, we were ready to dry off in the coach again and get to our first accommodation in the small city Bath. Braving the rain and unexpected cold, we set out again on our first tour, visiting the homes of the famous English novelist, Jane Austen, about whom Paula and Francesca held their presentation. We even met quite a few “Jane Austens” in the street because it was the Jane Austen Festival, where people dress up and attend balls in traditional fashion to celebrate the author`s life and works. We, however, were now ready for warm comfort food and went to Domino’s pizza to indulge ourselves.

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Day 2: Sunday – Roman, Georgian and Victorian Bath

The day started at 9.00 a.m. in front of the Roman Baths, where our tour introduced us to the artifacts and architecture of Roman Bath. Inside the museum, we could see some of the Roman Bath buildings and some ruins of the old city, especially the big open pool where the Romans bathed for health and leisure. Afterwards we also had the opportunity to try the water of the original Bath’s water source, which had a ferrous taste due to the high quantity of iron. Basically, it smelled and tasted horrible. Continuing through the city`s history, Deep and Anastasia took us on a tour of Georgian architecture and we visited the famous Circle and Royal Crescent (an iconic row of 30 terraced houses) along with its beautiful, breath-taking view of Bath below. As Nathan guided us to the next century with his presentation about the novelist Charles Dickens, the rain finally stopped and the sun came out to shine a new light on Bath. It brought a really special atmosphere to the small, green court where Dickens` house was tucked away. Back in the centre, we finally had time to explore the city in the afternoon sunshine, visiting Bath Abbey, the Art Gallery and other places of interest in small groups.

Day 3: Monday – Cruising and Dancing

On Monday, our final day in Bath, it was time to set our sights further. Starting off from the landing stage by Pulteney Bridge, our open-top boat tuckered along the River Avon, passing under bridges and through locks with a view of the beautiful English country side along with a large variety of birds in the nature reserve. After lunch, we made our way to the Bath function rooms for our Georgian dance class. The Jane Austen Dance Troupe helped the girls with their gowns and the boys with their soldiers uniforms. Then Dominique, Lenia and Jenny provided the cultural context for the dance with their presentation about Mary Wollstonecraft, one of the first feminists and a prominent controversial figure at the time. Bath`s famous social balls of course reflected strict social etiquette and some complex quadrille footwork, but the dancing – as we soon found out – was also an occasion for serious fun.

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Day 4: Tuesday – Oxford

Ready for Oxford, our day started at 7 o’clock in the morning. In typically English style, our bus was late. Very late. In typically English style, the traffic was horrendous. Stop-and-go. Nevertheless, we managed to get to our first stop on time: Oxford Castle. Here, our guide took us through the highs and lows of Oxford`s history. Up the Saxon St. George`s Tower for a panoramic view over Oxford city and deep down into the 900 year old haunted crypt under the castle. On the way, only some of us were guillotined, but all of us appreciated a calming tea and cake in the café after hearing of the trials and tribulations of the English Civil War (in which Oxford Castle had been a royalist stronghold). After an eventful check-in and whistle-stop tour of Oxford itself, we made it to Christ Church College (more or less in one piece), part of the famous Oxford University. Here the highlight was of course the intellectual and cultural wealth of centuries of learning.

Rewind … the highlight was of course the immense Dining Hall, where scenes of the Harry Potter movies were filmed. From there we walked straight into another film set, but this time by accident, as the detective series Endeavour was being filmed around us in the street. It was now time to meet the final famous character of the day at Magdalen College, where Isabella and Ella presented the eventful life and works of Oscar Wilde to us. While some explored this beautiful building and its English gardens further (making friends with remarkably friendly deer in the park), others stepped across Magdalen Bridge to go punting on the boats in leisurely Oxford style.

Day 5: Wednesday – London

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Although our coach was (miraculously) on time in the morning, dramatic bouts of travel sickness and the most extreme traffic so far brought us London with characteristic delay. Luckily, our hostel was very nicely located near the beautiful St. Paul’s Cathedral and so we only had to run across Millenium Bridge to reach Shakespeare`s Globe theatre and museum. After our Shakespearean tour, we decided to walk along the Thames to get to the multicultural East End of London and then had the chance to sample food from different cultures on the famous Brick Lane food mile. Salma`s presentation in Princelet Street introduced us to the poet Benjamin Zephaniah and his experiences of coming from an immigrant family in 60s Britain. For our free evening, Aimee (supported by some very generous helpers) had organised a special treat for class 4DE, namely a visit to the London Eye. Our first day in London therefore drew to a close with an amazing view over London with the backdrop of a brilliant sunset. It was topped off by a meal at a lovely Italian restaurant with delicious pizza (again thanks to those same generous sponsors).

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Day 6: Thursday – London

The Day began with a visit to Westminster Abbey, where we passed the resting places of some of the most famous British scientists, poets, politicians and monarchs. Jennifer and Antonio`s presentation about the Abbey and Elisabeth I had already highlighted some of the most important history of this ancient place, but we were surprised to find more familiar names like those of Stephen Hawkins and Charles Dickens inside, too. From Westminster, we hopped on and off our tour bus to see places like 10 Downing Street, Picadilly Circus and Buckingham Palace and then finally (through ridiculous traffic, of course) found our way back together at Dr. Samuel Johnson`s House. After our workshop about his English dictionary, some couldn`t resist one final costume session. In the last presentation of the trip, Aimee and Annika solved some of Sherlock Holmes` mysteries for us before our final event of the day took us to the Globe to see Shakespeare`s A Winter`s Tale. As actors and audience broke into bizzare song and dance at the end of the play ... we were left wondering whether Shakespeare really was as high-brow as we had expected!

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Day 7: Thursday – London to Basel

On our final morning of the study trip, we embarked on a variety of different group excursions across London, going to places such as Camden Town, the famed Oxford Street, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. 4DE`s final stop was the Imperial War Museum. There we were able to study and research different wars that had impacted England, focusing mainly on World War One, which would be our next topic in both History and English classes after the trip. Following the multitude of adventures, we, the students, returned to St. Paul`s hostel one last time to pack our things for the journey back to Basel. Not even the British transport system with yet another Picadilly tube strike could stop us now... with many new memories in the bag, home and holidays would be our next stop.

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