Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Trip to York, Materials of Mourning conference

Dear readers,

Here is the account of my trip to York, as promised. I hope you will enjoy it! :D

Day 1: 
The flight and train ride went very smooth. We took off at 12.10 in Amsterdam and arrived at about 15.30 at the Bed and Breakfast, where we were received a warm welcome from Nigel, the owner. He immediately explained to us how to get to the city center etc. and talked us into trying a real English breakfast (even though we had first decided not to take one haha!). I highly recommend this B&B, as their service is brilliant! :D The interior is nice and cozy and the rooms are quite specious. The bathroom is a bit on the small side, but it's big enough if you are just staying there for a few days... And the owners are super friendly! For those of you interested, this is their website: http://www.chelmsfordplace.co.uk/

After taking our luggage to our room we went into the city center where we purchased two tickets at the Grand Opera House for the show that was on in the evening called ‘Beyond the Barricade’. We walked around town, admiring the really wonderful shops. Especially the old parts of town are just charming. The highlight was of course the street called The Shambles, where the Diagon Alley (Harry Potter *squeal, squeal* was recorded. The atmosphere there was just magical.
We went to have dinner at an Italian restaurant opposite the Grand Opera House. They really have great food for a decent price, so if you are ever in York, I recommend that you go there.

After dinner we hastened towards the other side of the street… But we had forgotten about the 1 hour time difference, so we ended up at the Grand Opera House an hour early haha! So we did some more shopping. And came across Stonegate. This street I highly recommend. This street is very similar to The Shambles, but has some really amazing shops. On our first visit to this street many of the shops were already closing, though one clothing shop there was still open. The shop was called Ness and had some really cute clothes on sale. There I found a really wonderful Scottish skirt, something I had been looking for for about 6 years or so.

I’m sooo happy with this!!!!!

And I found this really adorable vest, which is a perfect combination with the skirt! :D I’m also really happy with this vest, as usually vests with button’s don’t suit me.
And yes, every other button is a heart shaped one!!!

Day 2:
The next day was the day of the conference. There were many interesting lectures, two of which particularly struck me. Significantly it were the first and the last paper that I have seen haha.

The first paper was given by Eoin Martin and was entitled  'Posthumous Portraiture and the Materiality of the Corpse' which was about the relation of Queen Elizabeth with a bust that the sculptor Theeds made of Prince Albert shortly after he died. It was really interesting that Martin told us that she kept the plaster cast of the bust (i.e. the model) really close to her in her own room, even kissing it at times. The bust was an idealized image of Albert when he was still healthy. However, Victoria refused to see the death mask a different sculptor had made, since it portrayed the sick Albert. Another striking thing was that when the marble bust was ready Queen Victoria brought it to the blue room and did not refer to it in her diaries ever again.

The other paper was given by Brittany Hudak who had flown in all the way from the US (?!) to give a paper on 'Post-Mortem Photography of Children in Victorian Britain'. Her lecture was really interesting as there is as yet very little written about post-mortem photography in Victorian England. Most of the research has been done in American post-mortem photography. Apparently most of the pictures of these children were taken in studio's. They were most often placed on a sofa or on a chair as if they were sleeping. The pictures that were made were often printed at the size of cartes-de-visite and then sent to close friends and relatives to inform them about the infant's death (much like a postcard).... Yep I did find this a strange practice, but darn those Victorians are getting more interesting by the day!

If any of you would like a fuller report on one of these papers or on one of the other papers (see previous blogpost for program), let me know and I will write a blogpost dedicated to the topic of your choice! ;)

We decided to leave the conference a little early, was we were both extremely tired and were losing our focus. We decided to go back to Stonegate as many of the stores are already closed when we got there the previous day. We visited an adorable Teddy Bear shop, which has a tearoom on the first floor (it looked so cute!). And afterwards we went to the store right next to it, which was one of the ‘Peter Rabbit and his friends’  stores. I bought this really adorable apron there:

(the cords of my apron are white, which I think looks better on this apron).

We again had dinner at the Italian restaurant and then made our way to the hotel, as we were both exhausted and had to get up early again the next day.

Day 3:
At 8.15 we left the B&B in a taxi and took the train to Manchester Piccadilly. There we left our luggage behind in the secure ‘left-luggage’  area (they actually have two people working there who guard your goods!) and set out in search for the Manchester Christmas Market. The weather was not your ideal Christmas market shopping weather, the rain was literally pouring down, but fortunately, we had an umbrella with us. The Christmas market was quite a disappointment though… There were four stalls that actually had Christmas items for sale, but they all had exactly the same items, which were severely overpriced (no way that I will pay 8 pounds for a 5 cm snowglobe). The only other thing that was actually Christmas related was the food… But that wasn’t really why what we were going there for haha. After having walked around the Christmas Market, we decided to take shelter in a really big mall in the City Center. They had some really fun shops there (those giant card stores that they have there are just awesome! You can literally find a Christmas card for everyone there!). We had lunch and eventually decided to make our way to the airport. Manchester airport does not offer you a lot of diversion, so we have seen some of the stores twice, because had to wait about 2 hours before we could board the plane. So if you ever need to fly from that airport, I suggest you take a pack of cards or so with you.

We had a good, uneventful flight. I have to say that flying by night is definitely something which I would recommend to people. It’s really great to see all those lighted tiny houses underneath you. So if you ever get the chance, take an evening flight and enjoy the scenery.

And now I have been back in the country for about 2 days. Expect the next post to be about our Sinterklaas celebration (for my non-Dutch readers: this is a Dutch holiday about which I will explain a bit more in my next post).