Thursday, July 30, 2009

An afternoon at Duke Humphrey's

After visiting St. Mary's this morning (see post below), I met up with Allen at the flea market. Then, I picked up a cup of coffee and met Allen's class for a walk to Keble College (founded in 1870). Keble is amazing for a Victorianist. Its design and architecture combines everything that symbolizes the era...especially in the chapel. The thing is, people want to define the Victorians, put them in a little spot and say: "This is what makes a Victorian" or "This is what defines Victorian." But you just can't do it. As my director says, the Victorians are just "messy"...and it is true. But that is what makes them so great. You can find something for everyone and just when you think you have them figured out, well, they completely contradict themselves. The architecture of Keble reminds you of gothic/Middle Eastern/high church. Here are the photos from Keble:





Detail above the chapel door:


Inside the chapel (sorry that it is so dark!):






The hidden treasure at Keble's chapel...Hunt's original "The Light of the World"...I LOVE the Pre-Raphaelites...



I came back to the room briefly after the tour at Keble. Then, I met Louise (the young daughter of one of the professors here) and we went back to the flea market. I think she had a good time! I know I did. Afterward, I had my biggest moment in Oxford...a chance to enter the Bodleian as a reader...in Duke Humphrey's library...I may collapse as I recount it.

Duke Humphrey's library is the oldest reading room at the Bodleian. It is also where the library scenes from HP have been shot. In any case, I had a little children's pamphlet (circa 1780) sent up there last night. Today, I swiped my card and made my way up the side staircase. I felt like I was going to get hauled out any minute because I was by myself! Anyway, I went up to the man who checks you in. He was very nice and then I retrieved my item. I was told that I could sit anywhere, so I sat in the old stack section! I was in heaven! I am going back tomorrow to type up the material that I found. I didn't want to haul my laptop over there if what I had checked out was crap. However, I loved it and I can use it. It is a poem called "The Orphan Boy."

After my surreal time in the library, I ended up at Blackwell's to spend my gift card. I bought things I would never buy for myself--and all Oxford related. I ended up spending all but six cents! My favorite purchase: a beautiful photo (very large) of St. Mary's in the snow. I am so sad to leave.

Anyway, I browsed around the Broad St. for a while and now I am back in my room awaiting dinner. It has been one of the best days ever!

"Keep out of my way, people!"; Or, How to run to the top of St. Mary's tower in under three minutes.

I will get to the title post in a minute...

Anyway, yesterday, it rained and rained and rained. In the morning it wasn't raining and I went on a really cool tour of the Bodleian, going through the Radcliffe Camera and the underground stacks.

Side note: Actually, today, I am going to Duke Humphrey's Library to read. Here is a really quick video (I don't know who did it, but you aren't supposed to video or take photos!):



Then, I ate lunch at Edamame, again. It was fantastic. I got soaked walking back. Later in the afternoon, Allen and I went to the famous Eagle and Child pub for coffee. Here I am at the famous C.S. Lewis and crew table:



We got back around 6:30 and dressed for dinner with the Provost. It was wonderful. His house is here at Worcester, of course, and it was completed in 1776. He is a charming man and makes everyone feel quite welcome. It was all very formal and beautiful. We had drinks for half an hour and then dinner at a beautiful table, surrounded by gorgeous paintings. The meal was fantastic. All in all, it made the day nice again!

Now, to this post:

Today, I decided that I wanted to do my absolute most favorite thing to do in Oxford: climb St. Mary's tower. St. Mary's is the university church and is VERY old. The tower is very high and difficult to climb. This video (not made by me, obviously) shows a bit:



The passages are narrow and the standing room at the top is even more closed in...so, you want to make sure that you don't go on a crowded day because only one person can climb down the spiral medieval steps. Last year, it wasn't too bad; but there were still lots of people around. So, I got there 10 minutes before opening time this morning (beautiful morning). On the way, I passed through empty little streets...I love it...



(no one outside of St. Mary's...the entrance is in Radcliffe Square...)


Everything was fine until I noticed a group coming. So, as soon as the doors opened, I payed my 3 pounds (already had it ready) and ran (literally) to the top. I made it in under 3 minutes just to avoid the crowd. I thought my chest was going to explode when I made it to the top. You have to understand how complicated this can be! There are passages and narrow staircases and the final challenge is a medieval spiral staircase with teeny tiny steps--and only a rope to hold on to as you go up and come down! But, it was totally worth it because I had 15 minutes all by myself!

My favorite area is the final side of the tower. I call it that because you can only go one way around and then it is blocked....




My camera died right after this photo was taken...but, I lit a candle in the church and, suddenly, it allowed me to take about 10 more photos inside of the church. There wasn't any battery energy left (I had tried to use it, but the screen just kept going black.) I don't know...I am just saying that it was a very good thing to light the candle...

So, here is my candle (the one on the right):



Again, this is my absolute favorite site in Oxford. I don't know why, except that there is an imaginative energy to it. It is also very important historically, but I will let you read about that here:

http://www.university-church.ox.ac.uk/info/history.htm.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Blackwell's giftcard!

The faculty just gave me a Blackwell's gift card! I am in a new happy place!

London: Part 2

After yesterday's ordeal, one would suppose that I would stay away from the train stations. However, dealing with Americans who feel a sense of entitlement drove me to the brink and I needed a day away. So, this morning, I hopped a train to London. I originally planned a morning at Harrods, but I was feeling impulsive (big shock) and decided to go further up the Circle Line. I got off at Victoria Underground Station and used my fabulous map. I walked all over, seeing Buckingham Palace, the parks, Parliament, Downing Street, Big Ben, the London Eye, and, best of all, Westminster Abbey.

I can't say that I found my happy place right away. Traffic wasn't too bad and I am prone to walking in the middle of roads (actually, I am pretty used to it now). So, I walked down Buckingham Palace Road (Street??) and made my way to the palace. I wanted to see it and the Queen Victoria monument (of course). But, I saw little at first...It was PACKED. I hit it right at the changing of the guard. I didn't watch the whole thing, but this is what I did see:

A very nice policewoman:


The changing of the guard. I didn't stay for all of it because I felt so closed in...and that wasn't a bad thing because eventually the band started playing music from Star Wars...that is where I draw the line...






After crawling away, I finally got my first photo of the palace...


And here is Victoria...


A new happy place...




Big Ben through the trees...


Next, I walked around the park and came upon the Horse Guard House. See the passage in the middle? I decided to walk through there and it was a good decision...got me right where I needed to go...and I saw some interesting things along the way...


Like this poor guy. He looked miserable...






I ended up at Westminster Abbey (they don't allow photos in there and my one photo of the exterior isn't blog worthy). After I came out, I was lost (you come out in the back). I walked and followed the noise. Eventually, I was back in front! Then, I decided to go all the way back to my original tube station. I just wanted the walk...So, here is another Buckingham Palace shot!...

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Great Bath Adventure!

So, today I went with a group to Bath. We had a late tour (at 2:30), so we left Oxford around 12:45. All was well on our trip to Bath. Our tour guide was a sweet little old lady who promptly informed us that the tour would last for over 2 hours. (We thought that it was only about 1.5 hours.) I ducked out after about an hour because I had reservations at the Pump Room for High Tea. I had a little time to kill, so I went through the Bath Abbey. It was lovely.

High Tea in the Pump Room...a wonderful (and wonderfully expensive) experience. There was a lovely trio playing music and I really enjoyed myself. After that fun time, I went on a tour of the Roman baths. I have to say that it was a bit smelly down there this afternoon...

Anyway, after that, I made my way back to the train station. I shouldn't have bothered because all of the trains were canceled due to signal issues. So, a couple hundred people gathered outside of the train station with the assurance that a bus would take us to another station. This went on for about two hours...no bus. I had pretty much decided not to fight the situation and just enjoy the time watching a crowd lose its mind over something you can't change. I didn't have to wait long. I had already sent my students off into the city of Bath, telling them that there was nothing to do but give it time. There was no way all of us would fit on one, two, or even three of the buses being sent to us. They went away and I stayed at the station just in case more students came along. Eventually, one bus shows up. This one is to Bristol (opposite direction from what we needed). I just watched the chaos evolve. People swarmed the bus. The bus couldn't move or open its doors. There was all kinds of yelling and shouting and cursing. You would have thought the freaking world had ended. Armageddon can't be this bad.

Anyway, it went on like this for about two hours. To make a long story short, all of us ended up in the line for another bus. I (and about seven students) made it onto the bus. Then, they stopped bus service because they just decided to send the others by train to Bristol and reroute them...hmmm...why didn't that happen earlier??? Oh well. We all made it back to Oxford safely, I am happy to say. I was the only faculty member with the seven girls, so I was really happy that I was on the bus with them.

So...here are my photos...

An image of an old view of the Roman Baths:


Images of the town of Bath:









Bath Abbey:






(the candles...ironically enough, I lit one for a safe journey)





The Pump Room, where I had high tea:




(my tea tray...sorry...I had already eaten the little sandwiches!)...



Roman Baths:


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lazy Sunday

I think I forgot to mention that on Friday night I went out with two of our faculty members and their families. We ended up at Jamie Oliver's Oxford restaurant. It was fantastic!

Saturday, I went into London, as you know.

Today, Sunday, I have been taking it easy. I slept in a bit. Then, I wandered all around the west side of Oxford. I came upon Oxford's biggest tourist trap: Oxford Castle...It should be cool, but it isn't...



I had a cup of coffee and then I met Allen and Bob Halli at Head of the River for Sunday roast. (I have a photo of this place from one of my first Oxford entries if you are interested in seeing it. Just go back a page.) It was great and the company was great as well, as always.

As we walked back, taking a passage away from the crowds at Christ Church, we came upon two really fun things: 1) a guy trying to get people into a pub by wearing a sign that said, "This pub is good."; and, 2) this...



...the thing about the ivy is that it all comes from that one vine you see coming out of the sidewalk! I couldn't get it all in one photo, but after Dr. Halli noticed it, both Allen (his wife...I keep mentioning her, but I don't know that I have identified her...) and I took photos!

Anyway...

On our way back to our rooms, Allen and I found the best photo ops. These are next to the Worcester gardeners' sheds...





I love the staff at Worcester! They are so great!

This afternoon, I have just lazed around. I went to Blackwells for a while, but I didn't buy anything (miracles do happen).

Saturday, July 25, 2009

London

Today, I went into London--big thing for me since cities freak me out and I went totally alone (though I ended up seeing several students in Paddington and one rode back to Oxford with me!). I caught the 9:31 train from Oxford and ended up at Paddington by 10:30. I bought a tube ticket for zone 1, and rode a very overcrowded Circle train to Kensington High Street. This was my first taste of London, and I have to say that for anyone who abhors crowds and wants to ease themselves into a nice city experience, this is the way to go. (after you get off of the tube, of course)

It was so laid back that I even crossed streets in the middle of the road. I was deeply appreciative.

So, after arriving at my station, I ended up on the High Street and the signage was wonderful. I walked to Kensington Gardens...here is my happy place...



I came upon Kensington Palace (the back of it, anyway), complete with this great statue of Queen Victoria...


Here is Victoria with the palace...as it should be...


The palace and garden...


WARNING: PHOTOS INSIDE PALACE STINK. NO FLASH ALLOWED.


I loved the palace, but it made me very sad to go without my mom. It almost ruined it. So, I took these photos of Diana's dresses for her...




Some images inside of the palace...


Queen Victoria painting...


Queen Victoria's bedroom. It was here that she was awakened and told that she was Queen...


A great illustration inside of the palace...


After touring the palace, I walked and walked and walked through Kensington Gardens. I soon came upon the Albert Memorial. It was super impressive...






Four statues flank the memorial, for each of the four corners of the Earth. This one is Asia...


For the Americas...


Long view...


Back to my happy place in Kensington Gardens...


Another "to do" on my list: The Peter Pan statue...


And the Diana Memorial Fountain...


After Kensington Gardens, I headed over to the Victoria and Albert Museum. I agreed to meet a student there at 2:00. I entered by the side/Exhibition Road entrance and saw this amazing bit of history on the wall of the museum...


I had lunch in the cafe (good) and went around to the front of the museum. Here is part of the building...


There was a great fashion exhibit. These were my favorite pieces...




I didn't get to see everything, but here are some of the highlights...


(an art object in the main entrance hall)...


Punch and Judy puppets...


Image from the cast room. All of these are made of plaster, but it is still impressive. The goal of the room, originally, was to educate people who would never travel...


In the sculpture room...


Of course, I have tons of other photos, but I won't bore you with them! After seeing so many wonderful things, I used the tunnel from the museum to get back to the underground. My trip on the tube going back to Paddington was uneventful. Then, I met up with a student who spent part of the day at Harrods. It was really funny because she saw this really wealthy man in there with his wife and two huge dogs (and the dogs had two separate people to hold the leash). The dogs were sprawled out on the floor in Harrods and were fed there...wow. Some people should really get control of their egos.