Answer: Whitby, England.
During Early Arrivals Week, the Student Union organized a trip to Whitby, a quaint little village on the coast bordering the North Sea. Of all the things I had planned during my first week here in the UK, this trip was the one I looked forward to the most. I was a little disappointed when I woke up to cloudy skies and thick fog, but I’m never one to let weather deny me my adventures.*
My flatmate Mo was also on the trip, and the two of us spent the day with some new friends she introduced me to. Early Arrivals Week was designed for international students, so our group was very diverse. Just in our little crew, we had someone from the US (me), Thailand (Mo), Korea (Jacob), Lithuania (Katrina), and China (DoDo).
The first item on the agenda was to procure some of Whitby’s famous fish and chips. We went to the Quayside Cafe and ordered the Cod and Chips Special, then walked out toward the beach to enjoy our fishy fare.
After that, we headed across the River Esk to the 199 steps made famous by Bram Stoker’s famous novel, Dracula. Tradition demands that you count the steps as you climb them, so up we went, chanting, “One, two, three…” Not only does the climb to the top give you amazing views of the village and the sea, it also drops you squarely in the center of the most crowded cemetery I’ve ever seen.
It cost a few pounds to get into the ruins of Whitby Abbey, so we weren’t able to get a closer look**, but we did go inside St. Mary’s Church. There were signs welcoming visitors to take pictures, but it felt strange to use my camera inside a chapel. It amazes me how spiritual experiences can transcend lines between different faiths. I do not belong to the Church of England, but there is no denying the fact that this space is sacred for those who go there to feel close to God.
I sat in the Chancel for a few minutes and reflected on all the lives represented here–both in graves outside the church and in the countless plaques lining the walls inside, extolling the virtues of some of Whitby’s finest 18th century residents. One in particular had his name carved in stone with the epithet, “In short, he was an honest man.” What a way to be remembered. Of all the things he did in life, his greatest achievement was simply living with integrity.
After a quick trek to find some hot chocolate (more for our freezing fingers than for our bellies), it was time to meet the bus for the drive back to Newcastle. And wouldn’t you know it? The sun came out when we were almost home… Figures… Still, it was nice to get a break in the weather, and Whitby was spectacular even in the fog. I would definitely go back.
*On that note, please forgive the sub-par photos. Shooting in low-light, foggy conditions is not my forte. I suppose this year will be a good time to practice, though, eh? (I also had a plugin installed in WordPress that makes photo files smaller so they load faster. I just discovered that it also makes the pictures look awful, and I’ve disabled it so it won’t happen to future posts.)
**Had the weather been a bit more interesting, I probably would have paid the entry fee. But I was having a hard enough time getting any decent pictures as it was…