Sunday, 6 April 2014

Maja and Vanya's Week of Fun!

I got to spend the last week with my best friend and I am literally the luckiest girl in the world right now! In the words of Janice from Friends, “Joey and Janice’s Day of Fun!” This was most definitely “Maja and Vanya’s Week of Fun!” I was waiting for Evan/my dear Vanya at the airport when he arrived from a long journey from St. Petersburg. He met my flatmates and we went to one of my favorite bars, Coco Tang, but we were all exceedingly disappointed that there was no free shisha like last time.

Reunited and it feels so good!
Tuesday was pretty chill, I had class, we cooked dinner, and then we had Bob’s class and did our final presentations. Everyone had really cool projects, I was super impressed. I did a slideshow of my big steps in my transformation this year, and the moments so far where all my dreams have come true. I started crying when I got to the Katherine of Aragon Festival, it really is amazing the opportunities I’ve had this year.

Vanya and I set out early Wednesday morning to head to London. Step one: National Portrait Gallery so he can meet my people!!! I am quite proud to say that he aced his quiz with bonus points. 

 I took him to a few of my favorite spots in London before we headed to the Russian visa place so I could pick up my passport. I am so happy to finally announce that I have my travel visa and I will officially be traveling to Russia for two weeks come June 7!!! Russia has been my dream since I was a little kid, and I can’t believe that I will finally be experiencing all of it firsthand. It’s unbelievably surreal.

Anyway, Vanya and I checked into our hostel, napped hardcore, then got kebabs and a pint at one of my favorite places, the Cider Tap, before calling it a night. The next morning we were up and ready with our sandwich bags to steal food for lunch from our hostel! I have taught Vanya well the way of traveling cheap: taking advantage of as much free food as possible and walking to the ends of the earth for free bathrooms.

Thursday I headed to Hever Castle while Vanya went to free museums (5½ hours at the British Museum) in London. Hever Castle is the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, which of course puts it towards the top of my list of places to go. The village Hever is about 50 minutes by train from London, and the castle was about a mile walk through the middle of bum fuck nowhere English countryside. First I went through one public footpath with some aggressive and threatening sheep, and then I went through another one that I thought would be okay. I was gravely mistaken. It was super muddy, and all I had was my running shoes, and I finally got to the point where there was no way to avoid it. So I stomped through the mud, soaked my shoes and socks and jeans, and finally got to the castle. The things I do to get to my people…

I’m embarrassed that I almost didn’t go to Hever Castle during my time here. It is amazing. The grounds are so beautiful, they have a really nice lake that I walked around, all the flowers were in bloom, there were lots of fountains and they had a maze. In the early 1900s the Astor family bought the castle and added a lot of Italian-style gardens, which are beautiful. Finally getting into the castle itself was something else: the historian David Starkey said that Hever Castle had one of the best collections of Tudor portraits outside of the National Portrait Gallery, and he is absolutely correct. I was stunned and in awe of every room I walked into. Portraits of all my people, portraits I’ve been dreaming of seeing live for years, and even a few portraits that I had never even seen before. And I’ve seen a lot of Tudor portraits, so if there’s ever one I haven’t seen, it’s kind of a big deal. Not only did I stand in Anne Boleyn’s Bedroom, touch part of her bed from 1520, see the room where Henry VIII stayed, but I also saw two of her famous Book of Hours: one of which she probably had with her at her execution, the other she famously inscribed “le tiemps viendra,”—French for “the time will come.” Simply amazing.

Hever Castle
Anne Boleyn's Bedroom, with her beautiful wooden bedstand on the left
The lake at Hever Castle
I stumbled out of the castle, absolutely astounded by what I had seen, and wandered around the grounds some more before hitting up the gift shop. Before I headed back to the train station, I stopped at St. Peter’s Church in Hever, where Thomas Boleyn (Anne’s father) is buried. There was a schoolchildren service taking place, and I was officially that girl who walked through a schoolchildren service to go take pictures of a dead person’s grave. Fuck da police. 

St. Peter's Church, Hever
Then I opted for the non-mud-soaked route back to the train station, and eventually meeting back up with Vanya at St. Pancras. We had time to kill, so we headed to Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross to take some pictures!

Friday was another chill day, I had class and we didn’t do too much. Saturday was officially deemed Maja and Vanya’s Day of Fun! First we went to Wollaton Hall, which I still hadn’t been to yet, even though it’s in Nottingham. It is a magnificent house (Dark Knight Rises used Wollaton Hall as Batman’s House!), and Wollaton Park is also beautiful. Next stop was University of Nottingham campus, so Vanya could see where I go to school. Then we went into the city centre, where we saw the Robin Hood statue, Nottingham Castle (we didn’t pay to go in because ain’t nobody got money fo dat), and had a pint at Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, the oldest pub in England. Next was a walk through Old Market Square and a brief stop at Poundland to complete Vanya’s Notts tour.
Wollaton Hall

Robin Hood statue in Notts

Saturday night we had a Polish party, so Vanya got to meet my Polish friends! All us Slavs like to stick together. Today I had to say do svidanya to my dear sweet Vanya as I dropped him off at the bus station to get the bus to the airport. Today I also went to the Workhouse, in Southwell, which was a place for poor 18th-century people to go when they had nowhere else. I also made Bob stop at Southwell Cathedral, which is truly a hidden gem!
Southwell Cathedral
The next couple of days are going to fly by. Friday is the start of spring break, so I’ll be traveling for another month! I have a ton of stuff to do to get ready (see: laundry) but hopefully everything will go smoothly and I’ll set off without any problems! Lots to do!

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