Commentary by Candace Hall
As very accomplished dreamers, my two friends and I had the vision of spending two enchanted weeks in England with our college mentor down to perfection.
As can be expected, the dream did not quite fit the reality. In fact, the first day, which included dragging our luggage up and down the streets, stairs and subways of London, getting lost multiple times and an introduction to what the term “jet lag” really means — switched the fairy tale dream into a frantic desire to simply survive.
But we did survive and we even enjoyed that first week in London like the proper literary enthusiasts that we are. We took day trips to Chawton (the location of Jane Austen’s house museum), Bath and Oxford. We located the Eagle and Child pub where the literary giants C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien frequented.
We went shopping on Portobello Road, ate dinner at the Sherlock Homes Pub in Westminster, London, toured the museums, and generally wore ourselves into a state of complete physical and mental exhaustion.
And then, there was Rye: a quiet, medieval artist colony in East Sussex not far from where the Battle of Hastings took place. We decided to spend our second week in Rye because our college mentor lived there for a short time when she was studying in England during her own college days.
After the mad rushing in London, I barely left our rented apartment for three days. I parked myself on the sitting room couch and read the gothic novel that had been battered in my backpack and shoved under the bed for a week.
Because Rye is a coastal town, I woke up to the sound of seagulls every morning and saw the red sun rising over the marshes and sheep pastures.
When I finally did venture out of our apartment, our mentor took us exploring up and down the cobblestone streets. We attended Christmas services at the local Anglican Church, which had stood on the highest hill in Rye since the twelfth century. There were Christmas lights lining all the local shops and people roaming around just like we were.
Everyone was kind and welcoming. For some strange reason, we did not feel like tourists.
On the last evening we were in England, as we sat all night in the airport terminal surrounded by a mountain of luggage, I realized that there did end up being something special about England, even though it was not the way I imagined it being.
London was nice to visit, but a week of the hectic pace was enough for a lifetime. But Rye was the type of place that made you stop and really see the world around you. Such places seem to be rare now, which makes me treasure the memories even more.
Candace Hall is finishing her Associates Degree at Alamance Community College and is a Teens & Twenties writer.