This past March a group of undergraduate and graduate students traveled to England and Wales in the hopes of finding King Arthur. As part of the interdisciplinary course “In Search of King Arthur and the Holy Grail,” we traveled to medieval cathedrals and castles searching for historical foundations of Britain’s most legendary hero. Thanks in part to the Graduate School at the College of Charleston, I was able to see the places that first inspired me to study history. After returning from our trip, our assignment was to pen journal entries for each of the days we were abroad, discussing our experiences and how the sites connected to the development of Arthurian mythology. Below are a few excerpts and photographs from my travel journal:
Sunday, March 2nd – Tintagel
It was a three-hour drive to Tintagel in Cornwall. The rain picked up along the way and the roads became more and more narrow the closer we came to our destination, but we eventually made it there unscathed. Tintagel was simultaneously gorgeous and terrifying. It was a fortress overlooking the ocean, which was a beautiful shade of blue grey, even in the storm. The site is the alleged birthplace of King Arthur and it is almost believable when the weather was as scary as it was that day. Merlin’s Cave is towards the bottom of the cliffs on the shore but we weren’t allowed to go in because of the storm damage. Despite the increasing rain and wind our whole group trekked up the side of the rocky cliffs, trying not to get blown away to our deaths in the ocean below.
The views at the top made the journey worth it. Atop the cliffs were fourteenth century ruins of walled gardens, and the remnants of a castle structure. I would have stayed longer if it weren’t for the hail that began as we reached the top. My face and hands were raw from the elements and we were all thoroughly soaked to the bones by the time we made it back down to the bottom of the cliffs.
Wednesday, March 5th – The Roman Baths
Bath is a beautiful Georgian town with similarly colored buildings all throughout. It has an air of antiquity about it and it felt like something out of an Austen novel. Everywhere I looked
I could picture women in Georgian dress parading around, on their way to take in the waters.
Naturally, I loved it.
The Roman Baths themselves were directly adjacent to Bath Abbey. They were remarkably well preserved and presented. The exhibits were all educational without being too much. On display were various items such as Roman-era coins, a statue of Sulis Minerva (the temple was dedicated to the goddess), and other paraphernalia from the excavated site. It was an audio-guided tour, which I normally hate, but it provided just enough information. The main bath was amazing to see. The changing rooms and other baths were off to the sides and well preserved as well, if not just a little dark. Towards the end of the tour, you would see the steaming water enter the main bath. You could even taste the waters for yourself. The water was warm and tasted of minerals and heavy metals. I drank it in the hopes that it would make me healthier but I don’t think I could have a habit of it.
Friday, March 7th – London
We went to the British Library first where I had the chance to see the Georgians Revealed exhibit that was ending in a couple of days. There were portraits of the Georgian kings on loan from the National Portrait Gallery, as well as a pair of Jane Austen’s spectacles and writing desk. An original copy of Handel’s Messiah and Jeremy Bentham’s violin was also on display. The exhibit gave a full portrait of life in Georgian London, which I found fascinating.
Afterwards, our group traveled to King’s Cross Station where nearly all of us had our pictures taken at Platform 9 3/4. Much to my delight, I was able to don a Ravenclaw scarf and pose for a few cameras. There was a small shop around the corner where I bought a few Ravenclaw knick-knacks. I’m such as sucker for Harry Potter memorabilia.
I would like to thank the Graduate School for being so supportive of travel for graduate students. Studying abroad is just as important and beneficial to graduate students as it is undergraduates and I am thankful to have experienced two study abroad programs during my brief time at the College. I encourage graduate students from all programs to research study abroad programs or classes with travel components while they are at the College. Alongside of pure enjoyment, studying abroad expands both your academic and personal horizons.