"Purpose of visit: To fulfill a childhood dream - see an English castle." After examining my visa application and inch-thick supporting documents, the British immigration officer looked me in the eye and said right on the spot, "I'm giving you six months." Spontaneously he encoded his decision into the computer, while I gawked in momentary disbelief. The Thai assistant cast me a glance; a subtle smile crossed her face. I knew then that my childhood dream was going to come true.
On a sunny April afternoon I came out of Heathrow in a Mercedes Benz, and my date with beauty and charm began. As England unfolded through the car window, those illustrated storybooks I slept on when I was little came to life. Fairyland is very rich in history and culture. I got so much more than I bargained for. The visit enriched my life in ways I didn't expect, didn't plan, nor imagine. The learning part connected me to my past, inspired my present and allowed me a glimpse of what could be possible in the future. These are 13 happiest and most meaningful moments of an awesome experience:
12. Yorkshire Moors. I busied myself imagining Harry Potter with Ron Weasley in the flying car. Hogwarts must be somewhere in the vastness. And there's this friendly dog I met while exploring the moors. We played catch-the-stick for a few minutes.
11. Beamish. It was fun learning about English culture in this museum. The guide spoke Geordie. After listening to him without understanding a word, my friend Anne (behind me) and I followed him inside a coal mine. And I thought teaching was difficult.
10. Antique shops. Having a fascination for antiques, I had a lot of fun observing old things on display, especially candelabras and tea sets. The antique sign above me reads: No trespassing. Violators will be shot. Survivors will be shot again.
8. The Bard of Avon. After many hours of sitting in English literature classes and wondering who really is this guy whose writings I am required to analyze, Shakespeare finally became easier to picture when I set foot in his home. I had goosebumps looking at signatures of other literary greats who visited the famous playwright's home: Dickens, Twain, Tennyson, etc. and finally Shakespeare's grave itself.
7. Anne Hathaway's cottage. A look at the abode of the woman in the life of England's national poet. This place oozes with charm eventhough I bumped my head on the low ceiling.
6. Burton Agnes. The Grinning Skull story on the lower floor walls held my attention. Cameras were off-limits in the king's (George? the king who lodged here during his hunting trips) bedroom. I stood admiring the intricate bedspread til my heart was satisfied before touring further. The Manor House at the rear of this Hall is older than my country.
5. The Shambles. I loved browsing the book, doll and hat shops. At the end of this street is the starting point of a ghost walk. I wanted to join but stayed put at Guy Fawkes as I couldn't stand the cold.
4. York Minster. The vespers chime beckoned me in. I've never experienced such beautiful worship. The choir was awesome. I went all sentimental when I lighted a candle for my father who passed away the year before.
3. Church and graveyard. Call me weird, but I love browsing graveyards and reading epitaphs. I was particularly looking for Anne Bronte's grave. These slabs of cement I was walking on turned out to be graves! I jumped right into the grass, and back on the slabs as I thought of golf course grass. Poor, jumpy tourist. But this was my idea of a blast.
2. Post-humous meeting with a feminist. A published author before she turned 28 - it's an achievement of hers that only became clear to me when I saw her grave. I read Bronte novels when I'm insomniac in Bangkok.
1. Big Ben. It's him I first saw from the descending plane. The butterflies I felt in my tummy when I kissed my first boyfriend came flitting back. But this time it's absolutely different. Gazing at this symbol of my love affair with world-class history is magical.