Exploring Bournemouth town centre

Trip Start May 04, 2007
Trip End May 21, 2007

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Monday, May 7, 2007

Today we explored the other side of Bournemouth, particularly the town centre. We ended the day with a dinner at the home of one of our Bournemouth and Poole colleagues, Louise.

This day started much better for me. Yesterday I awoke with a headache and weak stomach. Today, I was in much better shape. I was able to indulge in the traditional English breakfast provided by the hotel--eggs on toast, scrambled eggs, bangers (sausage), ham,  and steamed tomatoes (I skipped the beans). I topped it off with oats with raisins and a pot of tea. That kept me going for our walks about town.

We decided to find St. Peter's Church, because of its architecture and because it is the burial site of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. My colleagues have been great at being willing to travel to places that meet my interests. I hope I've done the same. I've found that Tory and Julie have wide interests, like myself, and are eager to explore. My appreciation for them as colleagues and travel companions has increased each day.

I found St. Peter's, like many of the historical churches and cathedrals I've visited, to be an architectural and cultural beauty. The interior, while not as large as others, had beautiful stained glass windows and detailed Christian images painted throughout the interior, particularly towards the nave.  The nave was rich in detail, with both paintings and scruptures. I wasn't able to take very good pictures without a flash, but I didn't want to disturb the atmosphere with my camera (We were one of the few people inside the church because of the holiday.)

Outside and behind the church is the cemetary, which goes up the hill. Just at the beginning of the hill is the tomb of the author Mary Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft (author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women and William Godwin; and reputed to include the heart of Percy Blysse Shelley, famed English Romantic poet. (The rest of him, in ashes, are in Rome.)

The rest of the cemetery contained a variety of graves in various conditions, including the grave of the first vicar of St. Peter's, Allan Bennet; and the grave of Major General Richard Moody of the Royal Engineers, who founded British Columbia. I was particularly taken with a row of graves that were so old the dates on the stones were unreadable.

The way they were lined up and the similarities in their design (a large cross along the length) made me think of how, as least symbolically, we may think of the final resting place of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. In fact, we may find time to travel outside of the city to a place reputed to contain the burial ground of King Arthur.

We then walked through the town centre to St. Stephen's Church. Upon entering, we found that they were about to start a noon-time concert. We weren't able to stay, but the man who greeted us was incredibly friendly in relaying a brief history of the church (its much younger than it looks, only 125 years old) and encouraged us vigorously to return. Another example of the positive, friendly people we have met so far in Bournemouth.

We walked past St. Stephen's to St. Andrew's church. We didn't know much about this church, by the spire caught my eye. The stones on the tower were dated to 1870, but Julie found stones on the chapel (it appeared to be the chapel, as it was closed) dated to 1854. We speculated that the difference could be that the tower was rebuilt or rededicated, or that it took numerous years to build the entire church.

Just below St. Andrews we found the entrance to a long, gorgeous park in the middle of the city. At the entrance stood large monument to those lost in WWI and WWII. While this was an impressive memorial, I was particularly taken with the two stone lions at the front of the memorial. The lion on the left had a natural pose, licking his paw. Tory suggested that his was lickng his wounds, which would certainly fit the memorial itself.

We proceeded to walk through this amazing park. It was a microcosm of all the foliage we've seen so far--blooming plants and bushes, tall waving trees, and a canal of clear water running down the middle. It had walking and biking paths as well. It was such a peaceful, beatiful natural place in the midst of this bustling city centre. One of the red footbridges, just upstream from a small waterfall, reminded of Monet's paintings of his luscious garden. We only covered part of the upper portion of this park--I know we'll be back to enjoy even more.

On our way back through the park to the town centre to find a place for lunch, we came across a bridge covered with vines and other plants. I think that the minimal trash and graffiti in this park shows how much the local population respects the way they have, as a community, worked to integrate natural wonders into their spaces.

We had lunch at a contemporary pub called The Slug and Lettuce. The name and the menu enticed us, although we couldn't find anything that explained their name. (Louise, our colleague from B/P who made us dinner, told us it probably didn't mean anything specific but was just a standard practice of unique names for pubs.) They source local foods when possible and buy from producers who treat their animals humanely. I had a wondeful mature cheddar and apple chutney sandwich. Because the interior seats were full, we had to sit on the patio. It was a bit chilly, but we did get to watch people walk up and down the street.

At lunch, we traveled back to the hotel to rest and to prepare to meet with Louise, who was making us dinner. She picked us up and drove us to her house, where we feasted on a traditional meal of roast beef, broccoli covered in cheese, Yorkshire Pudding, etc and dessert of raspberry pudding. The pudding was like a tall cake, with chocolate drizzeled on it. We put cream on it and enjoyed.

We spent the rest of the evening with Louise talking about colleges, teaching, and living in England and Houston, respectively. More on that later, as tomorrow is our first day at the college. Louise was great to have us over and to spend time talking with us. I look forward to talking with her more.

Time for sleep. Another long, but eventful day. More tomorrow.
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