Where did I leave off? If I recall correctly it was day one of class. I am now happily at home, rested and ripe for reflection of my time in London and I’ll squeeze in a smidge of Vienna.
The Core London program is an amazing experience. One I am still wrapped to have been a part of. The intensive delivery of the unit with a focus on contemporary England and issues of human dignity in their capital was an invaluable experience. The lessons are completely relatable to Melbourne and the Australian context.
Having our residence in Kensington was more than I could have expected. It is one of the more affluent suburbs of London. We searched a property that was for sale in Kensington Square (where we were staying) and it was a lofty seven million pounds, that’s right, seven million pounds! Staggering. Richard Branson has one of his luxury restaurant / bar / clubs on the same street – Rooftop Bar. Complete with flamingos. Google it, it was spectacular.
We could walk to around the city in no time to the V&A museum and Buckingham Palace. Kensington Palace was so close we were essentially neighbours with Will and Kate. Hyde Park was the local greenery and Harrods may as well have been our local department store, that’s if you could bypass Urban Outfitters and Whole Foods.
Back to study. We all learned valuable lessons. The site visits we ventured to focused on people and organizations working with migrants. These real life stories of disadvantage, hardship, determination and often prospering will stay with me and give me inspiration to draw upon. The guest speakers we had both imparted valuable experiences of working within the prison system. They were both prison Chaplains working in women’s prisons and their take on humanity, living with dignity and human potential was educational and moving.
Did I mention London was cold? Winter is cold but it was not Melbourne cold. It was European cold. That cold means it could snow this afternoon, it could get to a maximum of three degrees. If you ever head to Stonehenge (well worth doing by the way), rug up. That was by far the coldest cold I felt in England. The wind on the Salisbury Plains was numbing. I’ve been up to Hotham and Buller, but this was something unexpected. The cold bit through my leather gloves, my four layers of singlet, t-shirt, jumper and winter coat, also my scarf and made me cold to the bone. Luckily the heater in our Fiat 500 worked well and quickly. The short days meant it was dark by the time we got to Bath. Fortunately the pubs in England are inviting and we had an early dinner before the drive back for class the next day.
Liz chose the local pub, The Greyhound for our goodbye lunch and with a click of our heels we were all gone. I had an early flight to Vienna the next day and many of us continued travelling.
Vienna is a beautifully ornate city. My first morning there was snow on the ground and the ice made walking slippery. Every Platz has a monument or statue to an icon – Mozart has his fair share. I was pleased to find Franziskaner Platz and I took a selfie with the namesake of my favourite beer.
The Vienna State Opera is a beautiful building. If you ever head to Vienna, ensure you book months in advance. I didn’t book months ago so I queued and waited for standing room tickets and for four Euros I stood for one of the best views in the house.
Almost a week flew by and it was time to head home. My connecting flights didn’t go so well. A snowstorm in Vienna delayed us and then a windstorm in Rome made my other flight out be cancelled. The result, two days stuck in airports with no luggage because they lost it…… somewhere! Where ever it was it was found and I have now finished my story, my unpacking and my washing. All that is left is assessment task 2, the essay.