What it’s like being a Groundling at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

With tickets to the standing only section at the famous Globe Theatre being only £5, it’s too good of a deal to pass up! Standing feet (and sometimes even inches) away from the performers is an incredible opportunity, and should not be missed while in London. Even not being a huge fan of Shakespeare, I was pleasantly surprised by my evening at the Globe, and I’m so fortunate that I was able to be immersed in the vast history of theatre in London for an evening. I went to see Othello on July 23, at the Globe and here are a few things that I wish I would have known before I was a groundling at Shakespeare’s Globe.

Groundling at Shakespeare’s Globe Photo by Ann Lee

Before we begin, I want to make clear that groundlings are a type of show reservations at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Groundlings will stand for the entirety of the show on the concrete surrounding the stage. Seriously, you will stand the entire time—there’s no getting around it! The attendants and the Globe monitor for individuals who are sitting, and ask them to stand again. Standing is required by all groundlings due to some strict fire codes at the Globe. Due to their proximity, groundlings will have an unobstructed view of the stage, and may even get to interact with the actors if they so choose!

It’s important to note that the yard where all of the groundlings stand is almost completely uncovered, and is open to the elements. If you’re planning on standing for the performance be sure to check the weather in London before your arrival. Bring rain jackets, hats, and wear appropriate clothing to make your experience at the Globe more desirable. Remember, umbrellas aren’t allowed so don’t bother attempting to bring in those! Speaking of proper attire, be sure to wear the comfiest shoes that you own. Don’t worry about being fashion forward, and instead be concerned about your comfort. Moreover, you’ll be in good company wearing your sneakers as a groundling at Shakespeare’s Globe. Most all of the people around me were wearing either Nike sneakers or some other comfort athletic shoe. The yard is one of the few places in London where comfort reins supreme.

When arriving, note that the most popular areas of the yard are the front next to the stage and the back along the walls. Either of these positions would be great as they allow you to lean on them when your legs get tired (and trust me, they will). If you can’t nab one of these places look for one of the columns to rest against to make your experience at the Globe a bit easier. If you want to stand in one of these popular spots, be sure to arrive earlier rather than later as these spots fill up quickly.

Depending on the play that’s on, the groundlings may become somewhat involved in the play. For example, those standing nearest the stage may be involved in conversation with the actors on stage, or may be asked to move as new props are rolled into the yard. It’s also common for actors to walk through and mingle with the groundlings. Depending on your extraversion levels, you may want to engage with the actors or not. If not, stand a bit further from the stage and the entrances to the yard and you’ll be left alone.

The standing itself does get tiresome as the play goes on, so be prepared for that. But for me, the standing was tolerable. I sat on the ground through the entirety of the intermission, and that defiantly helped. Just bring some water in with you to the Globe (it’s allowed!) or buy some at the concessions, and you’ll make it through.

Standing for an entire show can seem overwhelming, but it can be done and it is worth it to see a show live at the Globe. Even for those not particularly interested in Shakespeare (like me!) can benefit from a culturally enriching evening at the Globe. And maybe you’ll even learn something new, or fall in love with the theatre!

Have you ever been to the Globe? What’s your favorite Shakespeare play?

Groundling at Shakespeare’s Globe Pinterest

Should you visit Oxford or Cambridge?

England is home to two of the world’s most prestigious universities, Oxford and Cambridge. Each university has a rich history, famed alumni, and stunning colleges. Both universities are within an hours train ride from central London, so how do you choose to visit Oxford or Cambridge?

The decision is entirely up personal preference, but can be made by deciding what type of experience you want to have. Oxford is located in a bigger city and has a wider variety of things to do—think restaurants, pubs and shopping—than simply touring the colleges. Oxford is also the oldest English speaking university in the world, which adds some serious prestige. On the other hand, Cambridge is a smaller town, which makes it easier to navigate and see all of the colleges. Broken down into categories, here are some differences between the two cities in order to make your decision a bit easier.

Oxford or Cambridge boats on River Cam

History

Since at least 1096, there has been some sort of teaching instruction at Oxford University. Although, this date could be earlier there are simply no definite records to determine the official founding. Gradually, the colleges at Oxford grew in size, particularly during the twelfth century when students were banned from attending the University of Paris. The rapid growth of students caused disagreements between the students and townspeople. These disagreements turned into riots, and many Oxford students and teachers fled to Cambridge where they founded a new university.

By 1209, and officially by a royal charter in 1231, Cambridge University was founded with a similar collegiate structure as Oxford. From the beginning, Cambridge was a university that strongly focused on educating its students on mathematics, and science. This tradition of math and science being a cornerstone for the University paved the way for many scientific breakthroughs at Cambridge. For example, DNA structure was discovered by two scholars at a laboratory within the University.

Architecture

Oxford or Cambridge Kings College ChapelBoth Oxford and Cambridge use the collegiate system, meaning that there are numerous colleges functioning under the same university system. Oxford has thirty eight colleges, while Cambridge has thirty one. Each of the colleges have stunning architecture that are representative of the date of their construction, as well as the usage of the building.

Some of the architectural highlights in Oxford include the Bodleian Library in Radcliffe Square, Christ Church College, and the Bridge of Sighs. Cambridge, on the other hand, has King’s College Chapel, the Mathematical Bridge, and St. John’s College.

Gardens

Oxford is home to the Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum. For only £6 you can visit the oldest botanical garden in the United Kingdom. It was originally founded as a physics garden to study and research the medical uses for plants by Oxford scholars. Owned by the Magdalen College, the botanic garden sits on the edge of the River Cherwell, where visitors can sit alongside the river and watch punters pass by. The garden itself is divided into three parts: the lower garden, the glasshouses, and the walled garden. The gardens themselves are incredibly diverse, and contain plants from all around the globe. Beyond being aesthetically pleasing, the Botanic Garden is also highly informational, particularly in regards to information on medicinal plants within the walled garden. Information is given on the origins and the ancient and contemporary uses of the plant. The garden itself is quite small, so I recommend packing a lunch and eating it alongside the River in order to maximize your time there.

Oxford Botanic Garden and ArboretumCambridge, on the other hand, has a magnificent botanical garden as well. Costing £6 and spanning nearly forty acres, the sprawling garden is great for adventurers. Since 1846, the botanic garden at Cambridge has been a site for research. In fact, it was opened by John Stevens Henslow—a professor of Charles Darwin. During the twentieth century, the gardens were used as a site for plant genetics research. The garden itself boasts an exceedingly large collection of plants from all around the globe. Including many greenhouses that have plants from differing environments––such as palms, and succulents. The trails surrounding the gardens are well maintained and make walking around the gardens a joy.

Culture

Oxford Radcliffe SquareBoth Oxford and Cambridge have so much cultural history within their respective histories. Oxford was the birthplace, inspiration, or location of some of the most noteworthy moments in English literature. For example, interested visitors can have a drink (or two!) in The Eagle and Child where J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis used to meet for their writing group—The Inklings. Those interested in Lewis’ Alice in Wonderland should pop into Magdalen College for a tour, as this is where most of the novel was written. Quite a few scenes of Harry Potter were filmed in Oxford, including several spaces within Christ Church College. The dining hall in Christ Church College wasn’t used for filming, but rather as model for the hall that was actually used in the films.

While Oxford is noted for its famous authors and writers, Cambridge is known for its scientific discoveries. The structure of DNA was discovered in Cambridge. Tourists are able to visit the Cavendish Museum to see important scientific instruments used by scholars. While at the Cavendish Museum, visitors will also be able to learn about the discovery of the electron, which was discovered at Cambridge. Those who love science will love being around so many of the worlds most important scientific discoveries in Cambridge.

Museums

Oxford is home to numerous museums ranging from natural history to art. The most prominent of these museums is the Ashmolean Museum, which is the oldest University museum in Oxford. It’s collection focuses on objects and art from around the world. Their most impressive pieces in their collection include drawings from Raphael, and Egyptian sculpture. The Museum of Natural History is also quite popular with Oxford visitors. Inside the museum, visitors can find exhibits on rocks, minerals, taxidermy, and fossils. There are also smaller and more specialized museums in Oxford, such as the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments, the Bodleian Library, Modern Art Oxford, and the Story Museum.

Cambridge, too, has many, many museums, with the most prominent being the Fitzwilliam Museum. The Fitzwilliam is famous for its art and antiquities collection that ranges from ancient Egypt to Modern twentieth century miniatures. The other major museum in Cambridge is the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. This museum covers over two million years of human history through one million artifacts in the collection. Beyond the two museums, visitors can visit the Museum of Cambridge, Kettle’s Yard House and Gallery, the Round Church Visitor Centre, and the Cambridge University Library.

Getting Around

Both cities are within an hours train ride from central London. To get to Oxford take a direct train from Paddington Station. Cambridge is accessible by train from Kings Cross Station. Once in the cities themselves, everything is quite walkable—with nothing being more than a fifteen or twenty minute walk away.

Deciding Between the Two?

When deciding between Oxford or Cambridge, it’s important to remember that both cities offer incredible cultural history of England, and are worth a visit. However, when time runs short when visiting the U.K., how should visitors decide what city is right for them?

My advice is to choose what part of the cultural history are you most interested in. If literature and film are your biggest interests, perhaps choose Oxford. If you love science and discovery, make the trip to Cambridge instead.

Have you been to Oxford or Cambridge (or both!)? How did you decide between the two cities?

What to Expect During the First Week of Study Abroad

In my Ultimate Guide to Study Abroad I’ll cover all of the details of my study abroad program at Kingston University in London. Each post in the guide will include helpful tips and tricks that I learned during my study abroad journey, as well as more practical information about what to expect while abroad. Since I am studying abroad in the Greater London area the posts will be specific to England and the UK, but the tips and info will be interchangeable for those studying in different cities!Friends during first week of study abroad The first post in this series will cover what to expect during the first week of your course abroad! I just survived the first week of my program at Kingston and I’m here to share some of the experiences that I had this past week. From being totally exhausted to making new friends the first week will probably be one of the most hectic (but fun!) week of the summer (or term if you’re abroad for a semester).

  • You’re going to be so tired––Everything during the first week is so exciting! Going to the local pub, grocery store, and cafe are all firsts in your new city that seem so much more enticing than they do at home. Going to these unfamiliar places is part of the fun of studying abroad, but constantly being out is going to make you so tired! You’re also going to be meeting new friends, staying up late to get to know them, and walking everywhere all adding to your total exhaustion.
  • You will have forgotten to bring something important––Maybe you didn’t bring a blanket or toothpaste or some other necessity that you absolutely cannot live without. The cool part about forgetting something is that you have an excuse to visit a local store and try a new product that’s likely different from the ones that you use at home. Immersing yourself in local products is a great way to get to know the city a bit.

Love traveling like a local? Read my tips on how to explore a city like the locals do.

  • You will meet so many new people (and become quick friends with them)—There are a lot of people in your program who you’ll be living and attending classes with, and you’ll pretty much become instant friends with them. Nobody wants to go to the grocery store or to get coffee alone, particularly in a new city, so you’ll get lots of invitations to do these mundane activities with the people in your program. There’s something magical about being in a new environment with near strangers that will encourage you to over share and become friends really quickly.Making friends during first week of study abroad
  • You’re going to get lost––And that’s okay! You’ll probably feel wildly overwhelmed (and maybe upset!) the first time you get lost, but remember that getting lost is part of the fun! You’re exploring your new home away from home––even if it isn’t in the way that you had anticipated. Just take your adventure in stride!
  • You might want to have a bit of alone time—You should absolutely take time for yourself if you need it—especially if you’re an introvert like me. Taking time for yourself won’t mean that you’re missing out on something important, so take time to practice a little self care if you feel you need it. Traveling and being in an unfamiliar environment can be stressful for anyone so take all of the time necessary to get acclimated to your new city.
  • You’re actually going to have to go to class—It’s easy to forget that you’re abroad to actually study and not just travel. Balancing homework, classes, and traveling from the very beginning will be your best bet as to not getting behind in classes and having the term of your life.
  • Your dorm is going to be much different than home—My dorm, or flat as the English would say, is much smaller than my apartment in the States. I’m lucky enough to have my own small ensuite bathroom in my dorm, but it is still really different from home! The kitchens

Have you ever wanted to study abroad? If so, where would you go?

Postcards From // London (first 24 hours)

This is my third visit to London, and this time around I’ll be staying in the city for over five weeks for my study abroad program at Kingston University. Typically, in my Postcards From series I write one blog post per city/region that I visit. However, since I’ll be staying in London for such an extended period of time I thought that I’d break my time in the city down into several smaller posts, with this being the first! In this post I’m going to break down my first twenty four hours here in the capital of the UK.

Us standing in front of a house in Notting Hill

One of my friends from college, Britney, flew into London to spend the week here with me before my course starts. We met at Paddington Station, and took the underground to our AirBnB in Kensington. We’re staying at a really great AirBnB with host Sadan. We have our own room with an ensuite bathroom, and access to her backyard, which is basically a carefully cared for garden with palms and ivy. Plus, Sadan is a lovely human who chatted with my friend and myself for a while about our interests in London and gave us suggestions based around what we wanted to see (bigger bonus: Sadan works in the field that Britney majored in so that’s exciting).

Read about my last AirBnB experience in York.

8PM: Dunbar’s + Bubbleology

Our first stop was a late dinner at Dunbar’s, an Indian restaurant near Notting Hill. The restaurant itself was sort of small, i.e. our kind waiter had to physically move our table out of the way so that I could squeeze behind it and sit, and then put the table back in place so that we could eat. Although it was small, the food was so good at Dunbar’s. I’m by no means an expert on Indian cuisine, but the lemon rice and roasted cauliflower I had was obscenely tasty. The rice had little flakes of lemon zest and lots of mustard seeds, and the cauliflower had a hint of spice that I couldn’t put my finger on.

Britney loves boba and one of her only requests was that we get boba while in London. She picked the Bubbleology in Notting Hill. Danie drinking a boba tea

9PM: Photo Session in Notting Hill

Our walk back from getting dinner and boba turned into a mini impromptu photoshoot with some of the painted houses on Portobello Road. Most of the houses are painted in varying shades of pastel colors with a vibrant door out front. However, my favorite was the house painted in a deep purple and had a door the color of a pumpkin. Danie standing in front of a purple home in Notting Hill

10AM: Farm Girl + Portobello Road

Britney and I both love experimenting with local farm to table and health food restaurants, so we decided to have breakfast on our first day in London at Farm Girl. Farm Girl takes a holistic and healthy approach to cafe culture, and serves a wide variety of dishes that fit within that framework. I got a turmeric latte with coconut milk, a salad with avocado dressing, and a vegan brownie. If you ever find yourself at Farm Girl, GET THE BROWNIE. It was so creamy, and chocolatey, but not too dense or rich. My non-veg friend even said that it was delicious, and couldn’t tell that it was made without dairy. Salad bowl from Farm Girl

12PM: Kings Cross

I’ve already established how much of a Harry Potter fan I am in my post from Edinburgh, so it’s no surprise that one of our first stops in London was visiting the Harry Potter’s Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station. Platform 9 3/4 is a replica from the first film of the Harry Potter franchise when Harry runs through the magical wall between platform nine and ten to reach the hidden platform with the train that will take him to Hogwarts. There is a cart with luggage that sticks out of the wall where tourists are able to photograph themselves pretending to push their items through the wall. There is a pro photographer on hand who takes your photos, which can be bought at the attached store. As always there was a huge line at the actual picture taking point and in the store itself. However, we waited in line, browsed the gift shop, and made our purchases in all under an hour.

Platform 9 3/4

6PM: Vapiano

Britney studied abroad in Florence last summer, so her love for Italian cuisine runs deep, which is why we found ourself dining in a Vapiano that we passed on the street. I first went to Vapiano in Edinburgh, and loved the style of the restaurant—-and the food of course. How it works: there are various counters situated around the dining area where you can order traditional Italian cuisine (aka pizza, risotto, salad, and pasta), after your order is placed you simply swipe your cafeteria card that was given to you by the hostess when you walked in (the card stores the items that you ordered for an easy check out), then you dine on your tasty food (we got bruschetta, arribiatta, and bolengese), finally you present your cafeteria card to the hostess on your way out and pay.

If I lived in London (or anywhere that has a Vapiano) it would be one of my favorite stops! It’s so quick, tasty, and authentic!

8PM: Millennium Bridge + St. Paul’s

As a die hard Harry Potter fan, Britney wanted to visit Millennium Bridge as the site of one of the intro scenes from the Deathly Hallows movie. I, on the other hand, wanted to stand on the bridge and see the best views of Saint Paul’s Cathedral. The dome of the cathedral peeks out from behind the surrounding buildings, making the perfect vantage point on Millennium Bridge. We were on the bridge as the sun was beginning to go down, so the cathedral, the Thames, and the Bridge itself were all engulfed in a gorgeous hazy golden shadow.Saint Paul’s Cathedral with telephone booth

Have you ever been to London? What was your favorite thing that you did in the city?

Danie standing inside red phone booth

Postcards From // Oxford

I first visited Oxford for an afternoon during the summer of 2014. Even though I was only there for a few hours, I instantly fell in love with the tan brickwork and winding streets of the city. In 2014, I was visiting with a tour group—hence the brevity of the trip—and toured most of the ‘main attractions’ of the colleges, but little else of the city. Four years later, I’ve made it back to explore the city as well as the colleges.

I made a point to see the famous Radcliffe Camera! Nope, this building doesn’t function as a camera in the sense that we know it. Instead, it’s one of the libraries for undergraduates.

Little did I know the day of my visit was an ‘open day’ at Oxford so there were a bunch of high schoolers running around the city looking for the college of their dreams. The open day meant that most of the colleges were closed so that the potential students could access everything. However, I woke up really early, like 5AM early, and before all of the students arrived and was able to snap a few quick photos and see the picturesque colleges.

Once colleges began opening for the open day, I turned away from the university and began exploring the city. My first stop was, of course, the botanical gardens. Oxford boasts one of the world’s oldest botanical gardens, which began collecting medicinal plants in the seventeenth century. The gardens had quite a large variety of plants for being in such a small space. They also have information on many of their plants and how past humans have used them. If you’re plant obsessed like me, this is totally the place for you!

After touring the gardens I simply walked around the city, visited a few local clothing boutiques, and the Covered Markets.

Postcards From // York

After spending nearly a week in Scotland, it was time for me to return to England. I hopped on a quick train ride down the eastern coast from Edinburgh to York. Founded by the ancient Romans, York is a delightful city on the Ouse River. As an added bonus it has an incredible thirteenth century Gothic cathedral with original stained glass! Beyond the cathedral and river, the city boasts a lively city center with lots of shops and restaurants.

I stayed in an AirBnB while in York. This is the first time that I’ve stayed in an AirBnB as a solo traveler, and my host, Clare, couldn’t have given me a better experience. When I checked in, Clare welcomed me into her home and took me to my private attic room. It was so cozy and had a great view from the attic window! Once I was settled in, she showed me a bunch of maps and resources that would help me explore the city—including vouchers for York Minster and the Jorvik Viking Centre. Clare was so kind and sweet! If you’re ever in York, or just want to travel somewhere cool with AirBnB, stay with Clare!

Want $40 in travel credit from AirBnB? Click here to find out how!

The weather got seriously warmer as I returned to England, making a stroll along the river a delightful experience. There was some sort of rowing competition going on on the river, so I sat on the original Roman walls and watched for a bit. The locals didn’t seem that interested, but living in the Midwest we certainly don’t have that sort of event ever so I thought it was a good time.

Although boats are cool, there is truly nothing like the York Minster. There just isn’t. Now, I’ve been to a lot of the greatest European cathedrals (Notre Dame de Paris, Florence Cathedral, St. Paul’s, Westminster, etc.), but in my opinion none of them live up to the York Minster. The cathedral itself towers over the city, and its towers dominate the skyline. The stained glass really steals the show for me. It’s original from the Medieval period when it was installed, and is currently undergoing restoration for preservation. The details in the stained glass were immaculate. I’m not an artist so I’m always impressed when I see great detailing in works of art, but somehow this seemed different and more impressive. I already want to go back.

Next stop, Oxford. Then, London where I’ll be for nearly five weeks while studying abroad at Kingston University.