Thursday, January 29, 2009

Our Tour of Bath

We wrapped up our first full working week in Bath with a tour of the city arranged by our tour consultant. This included a nice walkabout, followed by a self guided tour of the Roman Baths and then after lunch a reception with the mayor.
Terry was our tour guide and proudly informed us that he was Somerset born and bred. Since arriving here I had noted the lack of local dialect. Not here. As he noted Somerset folk speak with an "rrrr" because they love their ciderrrr. Terry was a superb guide and I'll offer here just a couple of the sites he led us to and explained to us.
A couple of attentive students. I must say that thus far our students have been superb.
Bath is famous, of course, for the Royal Crescent, built in Georgian times by John Wood
The Circus, also by Wood, presents a perfect round cityscape trisected by streets that give a perfect view of the block of houses. This photo does not do it justice.

We begin the self-guided audio tour, which offers a superb, multi-layered interpretation of this important site.
To the Romans the Baths were more than just a source of cleansing or healing, they were magical and so they built around them a complex center for worship, including a temple to Minerva

The Roman baths are an aspiring photographer's delight, here a few images:

The Roman Baths were not discovered until the late 19th Century, laving been buried under the strata of the modern city. Here at the source, you can see the layers, Roman at bottom, Georgian above.
In this view you can see the bubbles indicating the source:
One of the many aqueducts and the complex water system

This, the main Roman Bath with the modern city above :

After lunch it was off to the Guildhall to meet with the may or Bath:
The mayor with his ceremonial chain of office and our city guide
His job is more than ceremonial, but here the mayor poses with two visiting faculty members, Andy Fleck, my partner, and myself.
We were also urged to sign into the official visitor book, thus becoming a part of the city's history
I declined the city's ballpen (a stainless Parker international) to sign with my Conway Steward 100, brought for the purpose. Students crowd around, of course, to observe my signing
I managed to pull off a cheap hat trick, identifying the Parker 45 flighter before uncapping it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

First Week

Well, we have finished our first week of formal classes. Tomorrow is our "field trip" course, formally Anthro 160. That will comprise an historical walking tour of the city, a visit to the Roman Baths, and, finally a reception with the mayor.

As I may have mentioned, my wife Sharon is along on the trip, but telecommuting half time at Stanford. This afternoon marked the end of her workweek, so we treated ourselves to a walkaround. I managed to score a couple of bottles of ink (blue Quink and Lamy turquoise), saw one pen that I probably should not have passed up (a postwar #4 Swan twist filler for £43. And got a couple of decent shots.
Inside the main vault of Bath Abbey.
These shots were made at twilight and only slightly adjusted in Preview. The S5 continues to amaze me with its capabilities.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Settling In

Despite lingering jet lag, today felt more like a normal day. I met with my Tuesday class and things were less chaotic and more coherent, or at least they seemed so.

We've made plans to tour the west country of England this weekend and will travel to Dublin in a few weeks.

Some quick impressions, this is our first extended stay in England since 1980, apart from a few quick business trips of Sharon's, and England seems both changed and much the same.

Thanks to the weakened pound, prices here are nowhere near as bad as we expected, much of the nation is modern and at least partly integrated into the European Union, the food is good!! this latter has been our greatest shock to date. Yesterday Sharon did our first real shopping and came back telling me about good, high quality and interesting foods available at the Sainsbury market across from my classroom. It's true. All the good English foods, the apples, the dairy products, are still there, but so too are foods from all over the world.

We've had several restaurant meals since Saturday and not a bad one, from pasties and pub food to French provincial, it's all been good.

A couple more images of me at work:Note that virtually everyone has a laptop. Because of a non-traditional school setting this is a truly electronic classroom. Very little paper will get used.

Below, a couple of views of the railroad bridge opposite our flat

Monday, January 26, 2009

First Day of Classes

Less than 48 hours after arriving and without, yet, a full night's sleep we began classes today, Monday. It was interesting. I referred to myself as brain damaged. Our studnets kindly used the term jet lag. Same difference.

Our program is not formally affiliated with any British institution though in the past we cooperated with either Bath University or Bath Spa University. This year that was not possible, so we ended up using a room connected to a local NGO, Vision Bath. They have a meeting room, newly renovated, that offers all the mod cons (modern conveniences). It will be a pleasant place to teach and learn in.

Moreover, it is less than a 15 minute walk from home. So all is good.

Here, my partner Andy Fleck teaches the first of his two afternoon classes, our biggest course, except for my Anthro 160 field trips, with an enrollment of 26.

These images of the Avon were taken on the way home
The very edge of our building is visible at the left of this last image.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Our First Full Day

After a broken night's sleep, we lay in, as the Brits would have it, until about 8:45. Sharon and I were scheduled to meet with our students at 11:00, but Bath is a compact, walking city, so we were able to cross the Avon via the Broad Quay bridge and make our way toward the abbey where we were to meet. Once at the abbey, we stopped and got money and breakfast and had time left to take a walk about the Abbey area.

Approaching the Abbey from AbbeygateA couple of views of the Abbey.

After I shot this image of the prior between masses, we had a nice little chat. It may be a cliche about the English being friendly, but it is not untrue. But for our meeting, we would have gone in to hear him preach.
One of the leaded glass windows on the Abbey.
A cityscape.A reminder that standardised spelling is relatively modern. Note to students, don't try this on your spellchecker.
and after they noticed me taking pictures
After our brief walk, which was for purposes of familiarisation, rather than instruction, the instructors (Andy and me as well as our spouses) and our program administrator had a nice lunch at a French Provincial restaurant where we had the first of our regular conferences, and then went off to do marketing and our separate afternoons.
This final view from our window of the city at dusk.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Getting There

We are in Bath, having had a relatively uneventful trip. The British Airways flight was relatively painfree.
Here, gathering at San Francisco International Airport. Our students were great! We asked everyone to gather at 1:30 and within an hour we were able to clear security without too much fussing on my part

The flight was relatively quick and we got in about a half hour ahead of schedule. Here my teaching partner Andy Fleck and his wife Barbara wheel their luggage out to the coach.After clearing immigration, we were met by our intrepid organiser Mari Brookes and her son Oscar.
On the coach we had a fine drive through the increasingly verdant countryside to Bath, with just a couple of stops for food and other necessities
For purposes of confidentiality, I will not, at least presently, identify students, but here we are on the coach, stowing last bits of luggage.
Our coach driver, Mark, was bold and brave in the face of more luggage, literally, than the coach could hold.
Rosa, too, enjoyed the scenery, after having been cooped up in Sharon's handbag for fifteen hours.Home sweet home. Our flat on Lower Bristol Road is modern and roomy and will provide a comfortable base for the next three and a half months.

Finally, Rosa surveys nighttime Bath from her perch, almost literally over the Avon River.
More on Sunday, when we have an informal walking tour of the central city scheduled along with organisational meetings.