More York - Minster, Clifford's Tower, and Jorvik Vikings

Latitude: 53° 57′ 43″N, Longitude: 1° 4′ 55″W

We woke up early to get a start on what was to be a long day. All days are long on this trip, with the light of day lasting from 5 in the morning (at least) to well over 9 pm, there’s no excuse for not seeing everything. This morning, we climbed to the top of York Minster...273 steps (Tillie counted) and much huffing and puffing later we had an awesome view of the beautiful city of York. The building tops reflect the red brick used in all local buildings. We got up close with gargoyles and saw the fabulous flying buttresses designed to keep propped up the long, narrow and yet extremely tall cathedral that is the Minster. If you go to York, don’t miss climbing to the top of the Minster.

Once back down on ground level, we took our time in the cathedral. We didn’t have time yesterday to explore the Minster. The stained glass windows are extraordinary. The Great East Window, which is over 70 feet tall and contains the largest area of medieval stained glass in a single window, was undergoing renovation. This turned out to be our good fortune as we got to see some of the panes up close, and in place of the Great East Window was what was billed as the largest digital poster anywhere. I don’t know about all that, but it made for a great display that provided a history of what each of the panels represented. This information would not otherwise have been displayed. The East Window gives the biblical history from the Old Testament to the New Testament. They had on display stained glass panels that were yet to be renovated and another that was in perfect shape. It was a very informative display.

Next, we walked south and east to The Shambles. This is a lovely little street but not that remarkable compared to other lovely little streets that one can observe (as we have) all over England. Anyway, amble through The Shambles as you make your way to other points of interest in York.

Latitude: 53°57'20.91"N, Longitude: 1° 4'48.00"W

We went to Cliffords Tower. This is a strange and small remnant of a large castle at the top of a hill. It is also the site of a siege upon York’s Jews in 1190. A lot seemed to happen in England during the Norman Conquest around 1066 and the flushing out of Jews was one of them. Why must history continue to repeat? Anyway, Cliffords Tower is worth a visit because it is a true shambles. It is fairly well crumbling down, though one must pay to enter the structure. The tower that remains was once part of an enormous castle built by Henry III. One thing I’ve learned is that castles were for armament and protection, palaces were where the nobles lived and the cathedrals were places of worship and teaching of Christian scriptures. Cliffords Tower was a castle, an armament. The Minster is a cathedral. It is in beautiful shape and continues to be a place where regular services occur. It struck me as odd that the castle is allowed to crumble down and yet the Minster is undergoing near constant renovations as is needed for a place built on this spot nearly 2,000 years ago and in this stone building form nearly 1,000 years ago.

Latitude: 53°57'26.49"N, Longitude: 1° 4'48.67"W

A feature we included as a late minute addition was the Jorvik Viking Center. This place was great. It is an excavation on this site in York showing mostly Viking remains but also some Roman artifacts. This was a very interactive and informative exhibit. The kids loved it and especially liked the ride through a mock Viking village (complete with real smells of the olden days…eew) and docents who really know their Viking stuff. Either they were archaeologists or enthusiasts but we learned a ton about the fair-haired Norse-folk.

These photos and more from the trip are located on my Flickr page.


York, England

The drive up to York took a bit longer than we expected. We ran into a huge traffic jam but because we took the GPS (with pre-purchased maps for the UK), we were able to confidently go off the main route and find back roads to get north to our destination. We didn't arrive until 4 pm. It stays light out until 10 pm so we had a few hours to see what we could see. There's a lot!

York is a walled city that has changed hands several times from Romans to Vikings and who knows what. Driving into York you can see the walls as well as the Bars or archways through the wall.

We strolled from our hotel (the Churchill Hotel at Latitude: 53°57'54.88"N; Longitude: 1° 5'23.95"W) towards York and the York Minster with a stop along the way through the York Museum Garden. We saw this old ruin of St Mary's Abbey (first photo above) that Kind Henry VIII allowed to fall into disrepair. There is also a remnant of the original Roman Wall within the Museum grounds, called Multangular Tower (to the right).

Latitude: 53° 57′ 43″ N, Longitude: 1° 4′ 55″ W

We took a stop into the York Minster to listen to Evensong, but we instead heard the Solemn Eucharist in honor of St. Peter, the patron saint of the Minster. The boys (and men's) choir sang. It was lovely.

Then we took a walk along the top of the wall. It seems the York wall is called the Roman Wall but, in fact, it is more aptly named the Norman wall. The Roman Wall was smaller and rectangular. There is now (actually, since about the 1200s) a more circular wall around York that stretches out from the various Bars or entryways into the city. We didn't even know we could walk along the top of the wall, so this was a nice surprise. The kids loved it. From this shot you can see the major slope built to detract marauders from attacking York.

These photos and more from the trip are located on my Flickr page.


Cambridge, England

Latitude: 51° 9'1.57"N; Longitude: 0°10'35.95"W

We flew into London Gatwick Airport and drove straightaway north to Cambridge. We checked into the Cambridge Holiday Inn Express (Latitude: 52°11'36.61"N; Longitude: 0°10'29.56"E) for a ten minute drive into town. Cambridge was so beautiful with every turn a lovely street scene or a window flower box or an outdoor cafe.

What was especially wonderful about Cambridge was to see all of the colleges that comprise the university. The college system of Yale and Harvard is modeled after Cambridge and Oxford, where a student is associated with a college, living there while she or he attends classes at the university, eating meals and attending faith services. The chapels, libraries, central quadrangles, and gardens are amazing. The chapel for Trinity College (above) was lovely and there was a student practicing when we walked in. Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon and Alfred Tennyson lived in Trinity College. The chapel at Kings College was awe-inspiring from the outside but was not open when we arrived. We saw entry-ways to the Master Houses and felt envious as the House Fellow accommodations at Vassar are not quite up to that caliber. The city of Cambridge is a true academic Disneyland.

We ended the day punting on the Cam River. Punting is when you use a long stick or pole to push a flat-bottomed boat along the river. We hired someone to punt but you can also rent (or let) a boat and go on your own. I don't recommend it because most of those self-punters didn't have any idea of how to make the boat go straight. Plus, our punt driver had some very interesting things to say about the history of Cambridge.

These photos and more are located on my Flickr page.


Next Trip...United Kingdom

We're headed out this afternoon: destination London Gatwick Airport. We'll be in the UK for ten days on sort of a whirlwind semi-work-related family holiday. First, we go to Cambridge, then York, then up to Edinburgh, and then to Alnwick. Lot's of plans of things to see and do along the way. I hope to blog each day with the full scoop.

CC photo by Demetrio Neri 1959.

For the fun of it, I made a video of all of us as we were heading out from Grantley Adams Airport in Barbados...what did we hope to see and do?


Technology Workshops This Week - At UWI

I am an instructional technologist. When I first got to the University of the West Indies, I tracked down my cohort here, Pat Atherley, to see what the system was like at the UWI and to figure out how we could work together. This week we got to do that.

Pat organized a week of Moodle training sessions for faculty members on campus. From beginning-level to advanced, Pat showed all of us (me included - I don't know how to use the Learning Management System Moodle) many of the tips and short cuts to getting course materials up online. How I was involved was Pat asked if I'd like to give a demonstration or two on some of the educational technologies that I know. I happily volunteered to talk about Google Earth (Monday), collaborative writing with Google Docs (Wednesday), and using tablet PCs in teaching courses inside the classroom and out in the field. The photo at the top shows Pat (on right) and me talking about tablet PCs. Both photos here can be found on my Flickr photostream.

The Google Earth session was developed as a hands-on workshop so that faculty members could learn how to create Google Earth files so they can use the geo-browser while lecturing in class. The Google Docs session (also hands-on) went over not only collaborating in a Google Doc (if you don't know, it is just like Microsoft Word only on-line), but I showed the group how to use and collaborate with Google Spreadsheets, Drawings, Presentations, and Forms. The tablet PC talk was really mostly me talking about how one can use a tablet PC for lecturing, sharing slides and PDFs, and facing the students while drawing on the "virtual chalkboard" which is the tablet's screen. I also talked about how tablets are useful for field classes and data collection. Here are my slides for the tablet PC talk.
It was very satisfying to be able to share some of the things I know about teaching and learning with technologies. Thanks, Pat, for asking me to contribute!


Secretary of State Clinton in Barbados

The U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in town (Bridgetown) for a brief visit. Let me say first off, I did not meet her or go to her press conference, much as I would have liked to. I am a huge fan of the Madam Secretary.

Continuing with the Obama Administration's interest in renewing attention and positive relations in the backyard of the U.S. with evidence from his trip to Trinidad and Tobago for the 2009 Summit of the Americas meeting, Secretary Clinton made a trip to the Caribbean and Latin America over 6 to 10 June. I am thrilled she stopped in Barbados.

I see her visit to the area as extremely positive for the region. She announced commitments from the U.S. for support of such areas as: More assistance to Haiti, energy security and climate change cooperation, health cooperation concerning HIV and AIDS, trade relations, and continued and on-going dialogue among other concerns. There was a commitment to $300 million in U.S. (Barbados dollars are 2 to 1 with U.S. dollars) aid to the Caribbean with about $8 million going towards climate change and energy projects.

And showing off her humorous side, Secretary Clinton has this to say to assembled U.S. Embassy staff and their family members in Bridgetown:
I hope that you all know how much President Obama and I appreciate your long hours, your commitment. Although frankly, serving in Barbados, I mean – (laughter) – I don’t know. I’m not going to hear too many complaints from anybody here. But I do think that it’s important to underscore how everything we’re trying to do to reengage with and deepen and broaden our relationships with our friends in the Caribbean depends on you.

I hear you, Ms. Clinton, it's tough "serving" here in paradise, but Barbados, with its strong infrastructure, solid government, and hard-working, committed people is the perfect place to model success for the rest of the world and, in particular, the Caribbean. U.S. support and attention is a positive thing in a region that has been overlooked for too long. As she stated at the press conference, "We have had a long relationship between the United States and the Caribbean, but there was a sense that the United States was absent from the region. So we are back. We are back 100 per cent. We are back and committed."

The photo of above of Secretary Clinton is from the Barbados NationNews on-line version of the newspaper.