Celebrating Spring Break at Brightvale University
Spring break is just around the corner and excited discussions abound for that wondrous week off. Snorkeling in Maraqua, exploring the ancient pyramids of the Lord Desert, touring the creepy Deserted Fairgrounds, scaling the cliffs of Terror Mountain. All these plans sound amazing, and I eagerly await your return to hear about them.
Of course, not every Neopian can travel long distance for Spring Break.
As a Kreludorian student, I would be a lunatic to travel to and from the moon for just a week of seeing my family. Not to mention that a trip to and from the moon would eat up my summer break travel funds. Even a distant trip to any of the above places might make a return trip difficult.
Luckily for me, there’s plenty to do around campus and lots of other students who are spending their break nearby. So, for the homesick Neopians reading this issue, I present to you 5 ways that you can celebrate BVU’s spring break without breaking the bank (or in my case, spending two days on a rocket ship).
1. Visiting the Brightvale Castle
Given how close Brightvale University is to the castle, it can be easy to overlook just how amazing this fortress is.
Even from the outside, you can view the white stone castle’s impressive battlements; each tower is adorned with a gold and white flag. The cobble pathway leading up to the portcullis is breathtaking as one passes under huge, flowing Brightvalian banners. From atop each platform, you can see the city’s protective forces, green-and-gold clad archers with perfect aim. These distant specks wave at your approach, a friendly reminder of their presence.
Every day, the castle provides free guided tours of the facilities by highly learned scholars, including the University’s PhD candidates. On a previous trip, one such tour guide informed me that BVU strongly believes in public outreach through education. Apparently, they will pay for a student’s degree if they offer tours to the public on a bi-weekly basis. No wonder the guides looked so happy.
My tour guide, a Scorchio named Benny, walked me through the exquisitely beautiful gala rooms, libraries, and armouries. On the walls were highly decorated suits of armour, lifelike portraits of King Hagan and the royal family, hunting mounts, and time pieces dating back hundreds of years. The grandest piece was the Hagan family dulcimer, a gold, piano-like instrument decorated in green filigree and etches of Neopians dancing. Once a year, on the eve of Brightvale’s anniversary, the royal family holds a private ball for Neopia’s leaders, high-ranking officials, and their families. According to eye-witness accounts, jubilant music fills the air while well-dressed gents spin their partners and ladies elegantly prance about with fancy, crisscrossing footwork. Some say that Lord Darigan is known to show up from time to time, and his dancing can fill the room with awe. Who knew the aging leader could so perfectly perform a Canary Dance?
Beyond the walls, there is an amazing garden filled with rare plants from all over Neopia. One of their greenhouses has a Kreludorian flower, the rare Azurite Moon Blossom! There are archways filled with flowering vines, fragrant herbs and spices for royal feasts, trees that waft a chocolate scent, and a large rose garden filled to the brim with every color imaginable. For the little ones, there is a nearby hedge maze. Scholars will not hesitate to say how recent an addition this maze was, and speculate the King’s niece, Roberta, played some part in its creation.
It is no secret that King Hagan dotes on his niece. Constantly. In every commencement address in recent history, King Hagan has made no less than 5 mentions of her as both hero and scholar.
“Use your wit as your weapon,” he said at last year’s graduation. “Just as my niece used her unparalleled intellect and devotion to the written word as a sword against the Great Malevolence, so must you use your mind to carve a bright and shining future for yourselves and your community.”
Beyond these features of the castle, you may even catch a glimpse of Brightvalian royalty. King Hagan often discusses matters of novel interest ranging from the arts to literature, math, and science with the dedicated scholar. So, if you’re looking for a world-class discussion, speak with one of His Highness’ aides, and they can try to pencil in a discussion session. If not that, then why not attempt to impress the King with your knowledge-base and wisdom? Make sure to use fancy words and throw a bunch of monocles on top. That’s probably the key to success, anyway.
2. Exploring Brightvale’s Lush Berry Fields
Brightvale is blessed with fertile soil and a huge variety of fruits and vegetables to eat. Did you know that the Brightvale Fruit shopkeeper, Alaina, has a “pick your own” business a quarter mile outside of town? This is how it works:
Alaina has a fenced in field in which she and her family pick fruits to sell in the market. At the entrance gate is her son, an Aisha named Nathaniel, who charges a nominal fee to enter the fields. From there, there are a total of 6 labeled patches within the garden, 5 of which are public access and one of which is blocked by another set of fencing and a sign that says, “Loamy family private garden, no access.” Scattered throughout the property are signs that say, “only pick what you can use; pay for what you pick” and “no tasting the fruit!” As one rises through the patch numbers, fruit rarity increases. Price per pound corresponds with rarity value. One of the rarest fruits you can find is a Jipple Pear. This fruit is hard to grow, as it needs both acidic soil and shade. If you’re willing to shell out the Neopoints, it is rumored to taste like a perfect blend of sour and sweet.
Once you have picked your fill, return to Nathaniel, who shall ring up your purchases on his register. Be aware that fruits of unusual size may cost a good deal of Neopoints, especially if they are from a “premiere variety.”
Given that I’m a student, I stick to patch 1 and 2. Cocorots, Gurrandrillge, Mangcage, and Magenorb make up the bulk of my picks along with some Florange and Grenanna for extra flavor.
A fresh fruit salad, especially one with fruits that were handpicked, tastes so much better than that of the dining hall “food.” And if you’ve ever attempted to eat anything on campus during breaks, you’ll know what I mean. If you’re a curious reader who has no idea of what I’m talking about, consult this guide to “edible” food on campus:
Note: Haibara wrote that vegetables have a short shelf life in the area, but farm fresh fruits almost never have that issue. It’s probably more of a Brightvale University has terrible food thing than a bad soil problem. In fact, the soil around here is better than that of the neighboring city of Meridell, as evident by how much food the vendors export per month.
3. Write a letter home in the Brightvale Scrollery
After months of being away at school, you can get homesick. I know I do. Sometimes the most relaxing thing I can do is to sit down with a roll of parchment, a quill, and a bottle of ink.
It’s a well-kept secret that the Brightvale Scrollery offers free parchment and postage for Brightvale University students. Roberta has many parchment styles to choose from ranging from the standard green, white, and gold to rainbow, polka dots, and sparkling purple. She even has a writing room in the back of the store where you can collect your thoughts.
Sometimes I’ll write about the weather in Brightvale (after all, weather on Kreludor is very, very different), classes I’m in, the friends I’ve made, BVU’s terrible food, and sights that I’ve seen around the city. If a more touristy site has a postcard, I’ll affix the finished product to the scroll. And quite often, I’ll either paste pictures from the college newspaper, or draw some pictures to send along to my family.
As a bonus, if you’re into meeting famous Neopians, Roberta saved Neopia from the Darkest Faerie—she’s also the King’s niece. I’ve been to the Scrollery on a few occasions, and she’s surprisingly down to earth for being a royal. If she’s not busy helping a customer, she’ll happily strike up a conversation about many topics ranging from archery to architecture, gardening to growth potions, dancing to divination. Her wealth of knowledge is most impressive and is a great resource for any budding scholar.
4. Browse the Largest Library in the World
Brightvale boasts the most impressive library in Neopia, and for good reason, too. Some of the most impressive scholars have studied at our colleges and published works here. There’s even a collection of every master’s and PhD dissertation and thesis in the Scholar’s Wing, a library on the third basement floor of the Brightvale Castle.
Before you go, keep in mind that the library has a very specific system in which it organizes its books. Known as the LC or Library of Connections (playfully called the Lenny Conundrum by fellow students) this system is used throughout Brightvale to organize its tens of thousands of scrolls and books. All materials are bound with a code that can be read as follows:
Two-letter code describing a broad topic.
Decimal number categorizing the book into a more specific topic.
First letter of the author’s last name, followed by a decimal number code. This code represents the alphabetical organization of the name.
Year in which the book was published.
These two-letter codes are typically straight-forwarded. HI is History, SC is Science, AR is Art, BU is Business, and so forth. Then again, some topics have two-letter codes that are far from logical. CL is Darigan Citadel, MO is Kreludor, SP is Virtupets, and MY is Lutari Island. Other examples exist of weird two-letter codes, and that’s not even going into the specific decimal system for sub-topics. I guess that’s why our librarians there have at least a master’s degree in Library Science…
In any event, if you ever have a question or want to find a book or scroll on a specific topic, there’s incredibly knowledgeable staff in each division of the library. They are more than happy to help you find you a fascinating read.
The back-left battlement of the Castle is home to the Neopian Times archives. All 800 or so issues of the Times are housed there, plus additional interviews with the authors, and photographs of the Neopian Times Headquarters buildings (both the original building and the new one). Countless documents there were written by a Sir Pendleton Alberts, the Gentle-Meepit who ran tours in these facilities until Y17. This room is a huge one indeed, surrounded by hand-painted prints of characters that inspired two generations of Neopian writers. It’s my favorite room to relax in during breaks. Few places can transport you anywhere in Neopia in the blink of an eye. And when I read stories about Kreludor, it feels like home.
5. Making a one-of-a-kind sun catcher at the Brightvale Glaziers shop
Brightvale is not only famous for its books and smart people. Windows, specifically stained-glass windows, make up a great deal of their exports. There are designs of famous heroes, villains, flora, Petpets, weapons, and themed windows (usually spooky in nature). It can be a fun afternoon just browsing the store’s selection of window designs and even more fun watching Julius, the Brightvale Glaziers shopkeeper, at work in his shop. All of the windows are made on site, much to the delight of tourists who stop by and watch the crafting process. Julius, the store owner, is a stern Draik, but he’s more than happy to answer any questions you might have about the stained-glass making process. On Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, Julius hosts morning stained-glass window workshops.
Next month, students will be recreating the Brightvale star.
From previous workshops, I can tell you a few tips.
1. Have a second copy of the template at the ready, you’ll need that as a reference. I cut out the first paper template and use the provided kid’s glue to adhere the pieces to the glass sheets.
2. You’ll be using a sharp glass-cutting knife, so be extra careful when cutting out your glass shapes. If there’s a hard cut, feel free to take “bite-sized” slices to bring you closer and closer to your reference guideline.
3. After all the pieces are cut to fit your reference shapes, you’ll be wrapping them with copper adhesive so that they can be soldered more easily. Soldering allows the pieces of glass to stay together.
4. Because the soldering iron is extremely hot, take caution when handling the equipment, and don’t let the hot surface touch the glass for an extended period. This may crack the glass. Only have the solder in the areas in between the glass pieces where the copper adhesive lay.
5. Be sure to wash the suncatcher after using chemicals that artistically stain the glass. The same goes for after you apply a chemical finish to the piece.
I have a few projects from over the years hanging in my dorm room. In a sense, few keepsakes are more perfect than a stained-glass treasure from Brightvale. When the sun hits them just right, they’re sure to add a splash of color to the room.
Not covered here but sure to brighten your semester break doldrums are the Wheel of Knowledge and the Brightvale LARP training corps. The latter is a group of foam-sword-wielding enthusiasts who meet each Tuesday to collect treasures (in game), defeat baddies, and save the world… or so I’m told. Melody, one of my now graduated friends, says that it’s a whole lot of fun. The folks there are more than happy to teach you how to wield play weapons and perform feats of magical might, all while interacting with a group of fellow role-players. The former is a once-a-day wheel for a chance at books, an avatar, or even a secret or two.
When you’re stuck at the university over break, or merely celebrating a light week of classwork, take note of the wonderful wealth of activities present in our area. And feel free to stop by my dorm during the spring break, and we’ll find some ways to celebrate our free time together!