Week 5: Thursday (Turku and my knight in shining armour)

The first day of the final week of my Humble Tour consisted of a day trip to Turku, Finland’s oldest city. A 2-hour bus ride away from Helsinki (€14), the city has a combination of old and new, and, by a stroke of pure traveller’s luck, also holds Finland’s largest medieval festival (30 June to 2 July this year). The festival pretty much takes up all of the old great square near the cathedral, and contains stalls, market food, games, demonstrations, and a medieval horse tournament.

Yup, that’s right: a horse tournament.

The entry fee of €13 was some of the best cash I’ve forked out, because not only was the jousting (!!) awesome, but I also met my knight in shining armour.

<333

<333

My knight saluting his fans.

My knight saluting his fans.

My knight in action!

My knight in action!

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Week 4: Wednesday (Porvoo, sunshine, and happiness)

As Finland’s second oldest (14th century) town, Porvoo bears all the medieval characteristics I love: a cathedral, a town square doubling as a marketplace, an endless sea of cobblestones. Add to that the spectacularly sunny weather, beautiful surroundings of water and trees, a good book, and Samantha in a Sundress, and we have a recipe for pure bliss.

I booked buses in advance to Porvoo (€10), and the trip took a very comfortable 50 minutes. I’d arrived at around noon (which gave me some time this morning to prepare a simple dinner for Maaria), and, as with yesterday, had no plans in particular except general meandering and prancing.

My first taste of Porvoo's loveliness, just a few minutes away from the bus station.

My first taste of Porvoo’s loveliness, just a few minutes away from the bus station.

Porvoo cathedral.

Porvoo Cathedral.

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Week 4: Tuesday (Tallinn)

And so the actual travelling/exploring part of Samantha’s Humble Tour continues! One thing I (especially as an Australian) adore about Europebigland is the close proximity of the various countries by air, land, and sea. I’ve been sharing my adventures on the first two by the bucketload, but today, I took a ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn (£18 return), with the trip being 2.5 hours each way. [As a side note, my most spontaneous ferry trip in Europe was when I went from Helsingør (Denmark) to Helsingborg (Sweden) for dinner after a Shakespeare conference day. We academics have to find an outlet somewhere.]

Since I wanted to bake a brownie-cake for Maaria’s brother’s birthday in the morning, I opted for the later ship, which gave me 4 solid hours in Tallinn.

The ship ride was super exciting, especially since this was the first time I’ve been on a cruise ship! I spent quite some time at the stern, taking a bunch of photos and generally grinning like an idiot while surrounded by sun, sky, and sea.

Leaving Helsinki.

Leaving Helsinki.

More Helsinki.

More Helsinki.

Even more Helsinki. The weather was perfect.

Even more Helsinki. The weather was perfect.

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Week 4: Fri – Mon (My lazy Finnish midsummer)

As I’ve learnt and lived over the last few days, Midsummer in Finland is a Really Big Thing. For a country with long and often unforgiving winters, midsummer brings about copious light, greenery, and even sunshine–in fact, the average temperatures in southern Finland exceed Belfast’s, and it’s only been since arriving here that I’ve consistently worn my skirt and dress (or just bummed around Maaria’s apartment in a oversized sleeping t-shirt).

Friday

True to Finnish stereotypes, Maaria’s family has a summer cottage, which is where she usually spends midsummer. This year, with the public holiday falling on the Friday, she decided to take me to the Seurasaari Midsummer Bonfires, the biggest such event in Helsinki. Held in a national park on an island, its main attraction is a series of bonfires–a nod to Finland’s pagan past–lit to celebrate the love and magic associated with midsummer. This also happened to be the first time Maaria’s attended, so we basically had a blast exploring and discovering and midsummering.

Singing traditional songs.

Singing traditional songs.

Raising a pole of fertility.

Raising a pole of fertility.

Ice-creams, matching fannish shirts, and adorable canine photobombers! :D

Ice-creams, matching fannish shirts, and adorable canine photobombers! :D

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Week 3: Monday (Parting [with Penzance] is such sweet sorrow)

I spent my last day in Penzance—and, indeed, the last day of my English Dream Trip—chatting with the good folks of Estoril, packing my things (yet again), and watching the latest episode of Game of Thrones (during lunch—six seasons in, and I’ve yet to learn the dangers of that particular food pairing). I have my priorities.

Since the three nights I’ve spent in Estoril was the longest of my English Dream Trip, I got to know the owners quite well. Eddie and Nong have been running the place for the last six or so years, and the hotel room itself has been one of my favourites so far. Crucially, the memory foam mattress is pure magic—my bad back/shoulders/hip flexors/everything were appeased when in bed, and I’ve honestly never slept so well in a foreign bed.

The breakfasts were also wonderful, with my two favourite items being the fresh fruit salad and the daily homemade croissants Nong bakes every morning. I missed out on the croissant yesterday, so I made sure I was down at breakfast in time for my fair share today.

I love those fruit bowls!

I love those fruit bowls!

Glorious croissants!

Glorious croissants!

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Week 3: Sunday (Oh, Cornwall)

I’m around halfway into my five-week Humble Tour, which is probably about time I hit a snag. I’m not talking about the usual transport/delay/getting lost/what the heck is going in London Paddington snags, which are pretty much inevitable while travelling, but the much more unpleasant and difficult (for me, at least) snags of bad health and feeling sick. This is mostly because I am a super duper weakling who’s suffered from both WoW injuries and PhDitis—and I’d also like to go back to the start of the game and keep rolling until I max out in Constitution.

Another (more plausible) explanation for the general ugh-ness this morning might’ve been my massive trek yesterday, but that would be logical and boring. Instead, I’m going to blame the foul weather, because rain, wind, and 15 degrees Celsius does not a summer make.

For the entire morning and a good chunk of the early afternoon, I just stayed in the hotel, phoned my parents in Sydney (hi mum, I’m glad you’re enjoying these posts!), washed my underthings, caught up on some TV on iPlayer (finally finished BBC’s Shakespearean Upstart Crow—hilarious stuff!), nibbled on my various snacks, played Sailormoon Drops, and so on. Eventually, I decided to brave the weather and head to St. Ives (£2.65 return)—except I can’t read properly and had a platform/train misunderstanding, and ended up in St. Ives an hour later than expected.

A sign from a legal firm in Pnezance. The Poldark reference was both epic and slightly concerning.

A sign from a legal firm in Pnezance. The Poldark reference was both epic and slightly concerning.

I was quite surprised that, despite the horrible weather, the water in St. Ives was still pretty!

I was quite surprised that, despite the horrible weather, the water was still pretty!

Trying to make the scene more summery.

Trying to make the scene more summery.

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Week 3: Saturday (Poldark & Cornish coasts)

My hotel (Estoril; £60/night)’s memory foam mattress played a large part in ensuring I had a (relatively) good night’s sleep, with the other significant part being yesterday’s general zombism. I filled up at breakfast (the homemade croissants are delicious!), and was fortunate enough to meet Grace and Steve, a couple celebrating their anniversary (congratulations!) who were also thinking about heading to Land’s End today. Given my genteral plan was to bus it there first, we decided to go there together. Yay unexpected travel buddies!

It turned out an all-day bus ticket is £10 (a return to Land’s End would’ve been £7.50), so we all forked out a tenner, and climbed on top of the open double-decker. All the super fun (and windy) times!

Funfunfun (even though I got whacked a few times by passing foliage)!

Funfunfun (even though I got whacked a few times by passing foliage)!

At Land’s End, I was treated to a much-needed cup of tea, before the happy couple and I parted ways. My plan was to take the coastal route down to Porthcurto, and possibly meet them there for lunch. Someone at Land’s End said the walk would only take about an hour, and that seemed very much doable…

…except it took me over 5 hours.

Not sure how I feel about the apostrophe situation here...

Not sure how I feel about the apostrophe situation here…

At the edge of the world (until Ausland was discovered)!

At the edge of the world (until Ausland was discovered)!

Granted, I’m fairly slow and constantly stopped to take in the view and shoot some piccies, but the walk/hike was on uneven terrain, and there were some pretty steep climbs.

The best of everything (clouds notwithstanding).

The best of everything (clouds notwithstanding).

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Week 2: Tuesday (The Pemberley Dream)

My English Dream Trip has been thus far glorious in so many ways, not least in the sheer number of iconic and coveted (in my mind) places I’ve seen, heard, touched, smelled, tasted, and breathed in over the last fortnight. But today was exceptionally special and magical, because I finally turned into reality a very old dream I’ve dreamt, doubtlessly shared by dreamers across the world. This particular dream was felt dreamt (though I was non-the-wiser at the time) in 2004, when my 16-year-old self was first introduced to BBC’s 1995 Pride and Prejudice, with Colin Firth as Mr Darcy. Undoubtedly, when the episode first aired almost a decade earlier, the same dream asserted its place in countless hearts, which remained helpless to the lure of a single wet shirt. I was similarly captivated, and it could very well be said that the series was a contributing factor to my love of literature, English history and culture, and the nineteenth century. Without watching Pride and Prejudice, I probably wouldn’t have read Jane Austen relatively early in my life; and without Jane Austen, I wouldn’t have written Regency Love, or pursued an MA in Romantic and Victorian Literary Studies, or comelettes a PhD in Shakespeare studies on a scholarship.

In short, without the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice, I would have had a completely different life.

And even back in my teenage years, I discovered that the real-life estate is called Lyme Park, and that it was in England. But that was that–my untraveled, Chinese-Australian fangirl mind didn’t have the capacity or opportunity to know any more.

Except that I wanted a Pemberley cake for my 21st birthday. Of that, I was fairly certain.

Yup, that was my birthday cake.

Yup, that was my birthday cake.

Ah, the days of my youth!

Ah, the days of my youth!

Today, however, the dream became real. No longer the soft, sweet dream I could only dream, but the solid, somewhat wet reality of the ground beneath my feet and the stunning sight before my eyes.

It rained. I didn't care.

It rained. I didn’t care.

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Week 2: Sunday & Monday (Scarborough & Disley)

Although I’ve been pretty good at posting daily for my English drip trip so far, I ran into a snag last night because the hostel didn’t have wifi—which means this is a double edition of the awesomeness from the last two days!

Sunday

Since I’m pretty bad at sleeping, I woke up at around 5am, and, after dozing for an hour or two, decided to get up and have a morning walk around where we were staying at Haworth. It was surprisingly “warm” (in that it may have been in the double digits Celsius), and marvellously foggy. Sarah has been baffled about my enthusiasm for the unpleasant weather this weekend, but I maintain Yorkshire needs to be experienced through fog, mist, and rain.

Haworth on a Sunday morning.

Haworth on a Sunday morning.

<3

<3

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Week 2: Saturday (West Yorkshire and the Brontes)

And we’re in God’s Own County! (Disclaimer: Or so Wikipedia tells me. However, Sarah—my friend from Yorkshire and my travel guide of sorts—insists it’s “God’s Own Country”.) The rain continued on from yesterday, which I actually prefer, since I wanted to experience the West Yorkshire moors in the full glory of gloomy, atmospheric splendour. Our main destination today was Haworth, known for the home of the Bronte sisters, and for inspiring the settings of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

To get there, we left Sarah’s home in Wakefield, and caught two trains to Keighley (£3.55). Our next leg was super duper exciting: we travelled by steam train (£5)! As in, an actual choo-choo train!!

The steam train part of Keighley station.

The steam train part of Keighley station.

Here’s a video of the steam train!

In short, Haworth was gloriously gloomy. We spent most of the day walking, eating, and exploring the Bronte Parsonage.

Some of the moors.

Some of the moors.

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