Friday, June 3, 2011

Field Trip: England! Part 1: Trains

We've just returned from a two-week trip to England.  I was granted tenure in the past year and my book was published last week (hooray!), so in part this trip was a celebration of having passed these important milestones in my career.  Although Tim and I traveled to England a lot while I was in the earlier stages of research for the book, we hadn't been since N. was born.  And N. is (like his parents) quite the Anglophile.  N. will be seven at the end of the summer, which might seem a bit young for such a trip; rather than worry about whether he is old enough to remember the trip later, however, we decided to go now while so many of his interests -- trains, architecture, history -- can be explored deeply in England.  He's really fun to travel with right now and he enjoys being with us; who can guarantee that either will be true when he is older?

We were really proud of how N. handled the trip.  Although he said he was nervous in the days leading up to our departure, he dealt so well with the changes in routine, the overwhelming new sensory experiences of travel, the food, etc.  We tried to make room for occasional down time -- playing in parks, drawing, reading -- but for the most part he was on the go all day with us for two straight weeks, walking everywhere, interacting with almost no kids, and he had a great time.  We were relieved and pleased.
N. and Duchess of Hamilton at the NRM
So, one focus of the trip was trains.  We spent six days in London and of course took the Tube everywhere, which N. loved.  One day we rode the Jubilee line and got out at every stop between Westminster and Canary Wharf to see the new architect-designed stations.  We visited many of London's train stations: St. Pancras, King's Cross, Waterloo, Victoria, Marylebone.  We spent an afternoon at the wonderful London Transport Museum in Covent Garden where we climbed on old subway cars and buses and learned all about the history of the Underground, pre-Underground modes of transport, buses, and trains into London.  We bought three excellent books in the museum shop that we've been reading since our day at the museum that have extended what N. learned there.

After London, we rode trains to York, Lincoln, Ely, and Cambridge.  N. loved every single train ride, pronouncing them all "so luxurious."  In York we spent a full day at the fabulous National Railway Museum where we saw many famous engines N. had studied in his beloved train books and in general reinforced and extended what N. had already learned about the history of steam power and railways.  He loved this place so much!

We took a day trip from the Yorkshire town of Pickering to Whitby, a port on the North Sea, on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, a "heritage" rail service on the old Whitby and Pickering Railway which opened for passenger service on May 26, 1836.  We happened to ride the line (in vintage 1930s coaches pulled by a steam engine!) on May 26th, its 175th anniversary.  It was so exciting to see the steam engine pull into the station!  And rattling slowly along the old track gave us an idea of how early train travel differed from that of today, as well as giving us a beautiful and leisurely view of the Yorkshire countryside (a place N. has special affection for because of his love of James Herriot's books).

N.'s love of trains has been a cornerstone of his learning for the past three years (at least!) and we feel fortunate that we have been able to build on this passion so that he got so much out of his encounters with trains on this trip.


mouseprints said...

Congratulations on tenure and publishing your book! (I'm fascinated by your subject choice. What made you choose that particular subject?)
And what a fantastic trip! He'll remember that forever. That he got to see the countryside where some of his favorite book action takes place will make those books that much more meaningful.
I love England, too. Besides being in and out of there constantly on our way to and from Africa, our family went for two weeks when I was 16. We rented a caravan (RV) and drove around England and Scotland, stopping wherever we wanted. We had a general plan of action, but we were lenient about unexpected detours. So much fun. So many wonderful memories. I'm dying to take my girls when Susannna's just a bit older.

I look forward to hearing more of your adventures.

Mom and Kiddo said...

I adore England and probably partially chose my dissertation subject just so I could have an excuse to travel there repeatedly.

Your book sounds very interesting. I like those authors that are mentioned in the blurb (ok, I've never read Smollet or Sarah Fielding). You may have noticed that I like 20th century author Georgette Heyer for a little light reading and whenever I read her period stories I am amused at the huge role gambling plays in them -- she goes into such detail about the type of games played.

Your train adventures sound very similar to what Kiddo enjoys. On rainy weekends, my husband takes him on subway rides just so he can go to stations he's never been to before.

CMR said...

N is a lucky boy!Glad it all went so well and nice to hear more about it.

Fanny Harville said...

mouseprints: Thanks! I chose my subject in the most basic of ways: I had noticed many gambling characters in 18th-century novels and thought they were depicted differently than the psychological portraits of addicted gambling in 19th-century works such as Dostoyevsky's "The Gambler." So I decided to explore the culture of gambling in the time period and to figure out what role gamblers played in the developing novel.

Mom & Kiddo: I'm guessing your dissertation was on theater? I hope that meant you got to go to lots of plays! We went to only one on this trip, Uncle Vanya, and it was absolutely incredible. London theater is so fabulous.

I've never read Georgette Heyer and I should because so many Janeites (not a derogatory word for me) enjoy her books. I am not surprised to hear that gambling is prominent.

Mom and Kiddo said...

Yes, I wrote about British director, Katie Mitchell.