In May, Drs. Colette Tennant and Sam Baker led a group of Corban University students and alumni to Great Britain. The group spent 18-days immersing themselves in the country’s rich heritage and contributions to literature and theology.
Tennant shares her personal reflections on this year’s trip.
Twelve of us left for Great Britain the morning after graduation, with a layover in Chicago, where we met up with two alums, Cindy Jahnke, her husband Robin, and their daughter, Megan. We landed at Heathrow Monday morning to begin our 18-day adventure.
Our first full day of touring, we went to Windsor Castle and from there on to Highclere Castle (i.e. Downton Abbey). At Windsor Castle we saw a huge dollhouse – and everything in it works as it should.
To celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s 60-year reign, in the special exhibits room, they featured photographs of the Queen. Two of our favorites were those by Andy Warhol and Annie Leibovitz. It was a beautiful day at Highclere, too. We discovered the Secret Garden, the huge Cedars of Lebanon around the castle, and took a tour of all of the rooms made famous on the TV show. Other highlights during our 6-day stay in London included the British Museum, The National Gallery, The Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and The Globe Theatre.
Our next stop was Bath. On the way we stopped at Chawton and toured Jane Austen’s house. It was a highlight of the trip for the bookworms. We got to see her desk where she wrote her novels, played her piano in the living room, played dress up in period clothes. Afterwards we had the best cream tea of the entire trip at Cassandra’s Tea Cottage across the way from Austen’s house.
After that, we stopped at Stonehenge – always a fun photo opportunity. I don’t think those big monoliths ever take a bad picture. Once in Bath, we were fortunate enough to attend Evensong at Bath Abbey. It was such a moving service, and the music was so excellent, it’s hard to describe. The pipe organ and the choir were fantastic. While in Bath, we toured the Roman Baths and enjoyed some wonderful meals in various restaurants – including Sally Lunn, the oldest house in Bath.
One of the benefits of having 15 people on this trip is that we were able to sit down together and enjoy a lot of meals at one big table. Another benefit is that few people had working cell phones, so we had great discussions and meaningful interactions.
In Oxford, our next stop after Bath, we had bangers and mash at The Eagle and Child pub – where C.S. Lewis and Tolkien and the other Inklings gathered on a regular basis. We had high tea at the Randolph, where C.S. Lewis would meet his students for tea and lunch at the Trout Inn (where Jared Hernandez imitated the peacock in the yard with great aplomb). An in-depth tour of The Kilns, Lewis’s home, a walking tour of Magdalen College, where he and Tolkien taught, a stroll down Addison’s Walk, and Evensong at Christ Church, Oxford were highlights for many of us. While in Oxford, we also toured Blenheim Palace and got to spend a few hours in Woodstock, the village right beside the palace. A group of us decided to have tea with the Methodists. Along with tea and digestives for 50 pence, we had a wonderful talk with a group whose average age was 90.
We wrapped up our trip with six nights in Edinburgh. We saw a lot of new things this time, including day trips to St. Andrews, Loch Lomond, and Stirling Castle. In St. Andrews, Dr. Sam Baker gave us an informative tour of St. Andrews Abbey, explaining the important events of the Protestant Reformation that happened there. He gave a similar tour in Edinburgh. While there, some of us played the putting green at the famous course known as the birthplace of golf. Also, we attended St. Giles Cathedral on Pentecost Sunday – when royalty was visiting. The service was, again, very moving, and it was great to see the church packed with worshipers, not a usual sight in the UK. Our last day in Edinburgh, a group of students and I climbed Carlton Hill. At the top, there is a stunning 360-degree view of the city.
What’s most fun about these trips? The people we travel with and the people with get to meet along the way – seeing students learn so many things and grow so much in two and a half weeks. The in-between times are great, playing Five Crowns in the lobby of the Bath YMCA, discussions about faith and the future at breakfast, breaking out into an impromptu chorus of “Amazing Grace” in one of the chapels we visited, having in-depth, sometimes hilarious conversations on the bus as we travel from one spot to another.
It brings to mind a famous travel quote – “No road is long with good company.” That has certainly proven true on these academic tours. Thanks be to God who abundantly blessed every moment of our trip.
To request information about future UK tours, contact Dr. Colette Tennant at firstname.lastname@example.org.