Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sheep chasing on Oxford...

The title has actually very little to do with the content of this post aside from the fact that I saw a lot of sheep as I traveled through the english countryside to Blenhiem Palace and Oxford. I was very excited about this trip because Oxford holds the wonderment of such places as Hogwarts, Middle Earth, Narnia, and incredibly smart scholastic people.

I woke up early in the morning (7:45am) to meet the bus by 8:45am. It was supposed to be sunny all day, but I am quickly learning that "sunny" means "foggy and cold until around lunch time and then it will be sunny in the afternoon until the sun sets at 4:30pm."
It was about an hour bus rid to Blenheim Palace, which was our first stop of the day. Is it sad that I was not impressed by the Palace... I mean, it is a bit of a let down after Windsor and Hampton Court.

It belongs to the Duke of Marlborough who is 80 years old and recently married his 4th wife. The Duke was at home and therefore we could not go inside his house and instead we wandered around the grounds. Lots of geese.

Also lots of sheep, which is where the title comes from.
We wondered if, in the English countryside, people entertained themselves with sheep chasing... some of the sheep looked exceptionally dirty and therefore the theory of Sheep tipping comes into play. Either way, the line of conversation amused us as we walked from the palace to a nearby tea house. There we had "elevensies."

That is what it is called when you have tea time at 11am. I am not a fan of tea, but I have never had english tea (tea with milk and sugar) and it turns out... not so bad. Also, not so bad are the cookies and biscuits we had with the tea. Wonderfully english - I like "elevensies."

Now onto the historical significance of Blenheim Palace in English history. Blenheim Palace is the place where Winston Chuchill was born. His uncle lived in the house and upon visiting the Palace, his mother gave birth. It was because of this that Winston Churchill always believed he was destined for great things. He also proposed to his wife along the lakeside... very romantic Winston. When Winston Churchill died he requested to be buried in the family plot in Woodstock Oxfordshire. So after tea we trekked up to the grave of "the bulldog."

After Blenheim Palace we got back on the bus to Oxford and arrived in front of the Martyrs' Memorial before lunchtime. We walked around the city making our way along these lovely city streets
to Trinity College
the Sheldonian Theatre
and The Radcliffe Camera.
Unfortunately much of the college is closed to us as non-Oxford students. Also there is much construction which puts some great stuff behind scaffolding (stupid Olympics). For lunch we went to the "Covered Market" and had sandwiches and then were set free for exploring time around the city. Unfortunately we were only given an hour, which left little to NO time to actually accomplish much exploring. I am fully planning on going back and take time to shop because there were great stores and boutiques and vendors everywhere... and I didn't have time to get an Oxford Tshirt.

So, I devoted my free time to seeing some CS Lewis and Tolkein stuff. I found a kindred spirit in Victoria, who too wanted to see that kind of stuff.
So a bunch of us went to find the Magdalene College where Lewis taught to catch a glimpse at the statues that were the inspiration behind Narnians, but it cost to enter the courtyard, so we quickly moved along.
Our group split up and Victoria and I tried to get into Bodleian Library, but it too was closed. That library is one of 6 copyright deposit libraries in the country and has a copy of EVERY book published in Britain and then some... it has to add almost a mile of books every year, so it actually spans almost the entire size of Oxford, but underground... they have people employed known as "moles" who's job it is to just walk and find the books requested by people in the tunnels and tunnels of books underground... AMAZING!!

So we quickly moved on to the finally "free-time" destination - The Eagle and Child.
For those of you who have already caught on you already understand that this place is a Mecca!!! It is the pub where the Inklings met every friday before lunch and talk. For those of you who STILL don't know what I am talking about, The Inklings was a group of writers from Oxford, most notably CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. The Pub has a corner dedicated to the group with plaques and pictures.

I wish I could have sat in the corner and ordered a pint, but I wanted to save that for when my dad comes. It really is a sweet place.

As soon as we got there, Victoria and I had time to take pictures and then make our way briskly up the High Street to meet the rest of the group where we continued on to Christ Church, which is a College within Oxford (there are 36 colleges which belong to Oxford University). Christ Church notes Charles Dodgson as one of it's math professors (Dodgson is better known by his pen name - Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland).
Christ Church's dining hall was also the inspiration of the Hogwarts Dining Hall
and although the dining hall scenes in Harry Potter were recreated on a sound stage set, the stair case where Harry Potter stands before entering the dining hall to be sorted into his house was THE actual stair case I walked up to get to the dining hall. It was used in filming!!!

We also popped into the College Cathedral (which is the only Cathedral in the world that also doubles as college chapel).
There is a stain-glass window which was made right after toilets were invented and it pays homage to this in the corner of the window... you can see a toilet.
I also love how the church incorporates little modern conveniences... this is a wall outlet on one of the ancient stone pillars.

We finished our day and headed back for the hour and twenty minute drive back to campus. I was so exhausted from all the walking that I immediately put on my PJs and read myself to sleep. It was a great trip and just served to wet the appetite for going back and taking my time a little more with all that is to do here. The city seems so fun!!


Sarah said...

Mecca is right!! I am so excited you got to see the "Bird and the Baby!"

Arizona Sports Fanatic said...

Sheep. Ahhhhhhh sheep.

I love your eagerness to keep us up to speed on your travels.