British Secrets: Green Space and Local Towns

My time in London is quickly ending.  As I entered my sixth and last week, I wanted to take some time to highlight some of my favorite things that I’ve done around the United Kingdom during my 35 or so days here so far.  In my first blog post in the country (A Royal Time in London) I mentioned that living in Camden Town has been incredible but I would also enjoy getting outside of bustling central London.

There are ways to get outside of the craziness of London without even leaving Zones 1 or 2.  Most people, including myself, are shocked by the amount of green space in the capital of the United Kingdom.  Estimates indicate that 47% of London is green. This includes all 8 Royal Parks which used to be enclosed for the Monarch’s family private use but have been made available for the public.  My favorite greenspace thus far has been Regent’s Park.  Not only do I go there for my morning runs but I typically end up going back in the afternoon with a book and a snack.

Regent’s Park is a favorite spot for locals and travelers alike

The weather in London has been extraordinary which draws many Londoners out into the parks.  It makes me glad being able to sit outside with other happy people.  In a sense, I enter an alternate universe when I enter the Royal Parks.  Reading for pleasure is something I usually excuse myself from back home in America, however, I made a commitment to myself that I would read more in the United Kingdom. I couldn’t think of a better author’s work to read in the UK than C.S. Lewis.  Lewis wrote The Chronicles of Narnia as well as other works including The Screwtape Letters, which I am currently reading.  C.S. Lewis resided in Oxford, England, and I was fortunate enough to visit his hometown along with other neighboring towns.

The CAPA Organization has extended invitations for excursions outside of London during our time in Britain.  Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending an excursion to Oxford to see the stunning architecture of the universities as well as the meeting place for The Inklings: J. R. R. Tolkien’s society for Oxford writers to gather and discuss their works.  C.S. Lewis was a regular attender of The Inklings that met in the Eagle and Child pub on St. Giles’ street.  The slow-paced nature of Oxford was exceeded by Stratford-Upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare.  On the same day as the Oxford trip, a bus-full of American students dismounted into this medieval town to visit the great playwright’s home and observe the place of his upbringing.  Once again, the lethargic atmosphere was polarizing, but a wonderful retreat, for someone who has become accustomed to the busyness of the city.

The same could also be said for the Bath and Stonehenge trip that CAPA provided for the students a few weeks back.  A busload of foreign students got on a bus with a certified tour guide to visit a small British town that used to be a part of the Roman Empire and has the Roman Baths to prove it.  The atmospheres in these small towns are incredible.  Everyone offers you a smile and greeting.  I loved finding the local hole-in-the-wall businesses that offered unique and delicious products (English fudge is delicious in Bath in case you were wondering.) Not only was I blown away by this Roman-era town but I also thoroughly enjoyed Stonehenge.  Visiting a rock monument may not be high on one’s to-do list when visiting the UK but I certainly recommend it to any students who have the opportunity to travel here in the future.  As you learn more about the history of these 30-ton boulders that were situated on top of this hill 4,000 years ago, you are transported back in time to view the world with a different set of lenses.

Pitt was well represented at Stonehenge

One of my goals at the beginning of the program was to get outside of the whirring state of London. Thanks to CAPA excursions and the Royal Parks, I was able to experience a bit more local culture and recharge the batteries for my upcoming week of classes.  Thank you for following my journey.


Stetson Fenster