July 16, 2011

Day 1 - Oxford: Missed trains, graduation, and The Inklings!

Well hello Oxford!  (Finally...after missing our train from York because the attendant told us it was not our train!!!  80 pounds later...)

I love this place.  Secretly wished I had gone to school here.  Oxford town and University have such a different feel about them than London or York.  It's just inspiring!  So much history and legacy wrapped up into a world class institution.  There are 39 colleges here and some of them are around 750 years old!  And, get this, we are staying at Kebel College!  In the fellows' apartment wing!  Not all that fancy, but heck who cares?  We get to live IN Oxford University for three nights... happy, happy, happy. Thanks to my good amiga Christina West for hooking us up with a friend of hers from Oxford.  You should check out her blog:  http://fulbrightmexico.wordpress.com  She was a Fund For Teachers fellow last summer and this summer is on a Fulbright-Hays seminar trip to Mexico.

Once you get past the wallpaper, the place isn't so bad
Kebel College is one of the newer colleges, built in 1870 (I know, right?!) and houses 435 undergraduates and 245 graduate students.  When we asked about getting internet the guys at the front desk laughed at us.  Nice.  Most colleges at Oxford are designed as huge enclosed buildings with a 'quad' or green area in the middle.  (Andrew's itching to play frisbee on the grass.. I wouldn't let him.  (Andrew's Note: I had to ask if I was supposed to keep off the grass.  It's unclear.)  HCHS peeps:  "Don't step on the grass... we're growing leaders!"  (Kebel is growing nerds).  We were then given a key to get into the college.  Yes, a key.  You have to use the key to open a huge wooden door which functions more like a porthole, because the door is at lease 2 feet off the ground, you have to step over it to get into the college.  
Kebel College quad

Kebel Chapel

We started the evening in Oxford by climbing up the tower at the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin.  It gives you an awesome view of the entire city of Oxford, as well as an amazing up close view of Radcliffe Camera.  Not familiar with Radcliffe Camera?  Its probably the picture you've seen when looking up Oxford University.  It was built around 1737 and is Britain's third largest dome.  And since you can't actually get into Radcliffe Camera but once a month for tours (?!), climbing the tower at St. Mary the Virgin's Church is the way to go.  I did it, thank you very much, and while I was petrified, I'll admit the view was worth the falling nightmares I'll enjoy later on tonight.    

The Radcliffe Camera
We then wandered through the main part of Oxford and discovered that what the guide books told us was in fact correct.  There were a heck of a lot of students wearing graduation type gowns.  This made Andrew freakishly happy.   And I'm sure he'll go into an insubordinate amount of senseless detail about graduation robes ... right..... now.  Go!  (This cracked me up - the guidebook said that Oxford is a bookish, academic feeling city...we get off the bus and there are all kinds of students walking every street in their robes, caps, and hoods!  Turns out today was, in fact, graduation day for this term and it had just let out!  It felt like a caricature :-)  Anyway, I do like all that stuff about graduation robes and hoods and where it comes from and all of that.  I find it very interesting for some reason.  I like to play "Guess the Degree" from the hood color...and I have a pretty good record since I've spent some time looking at what all the colors represent.  Don't ask.  Also don't ask about the width of the velvet strip, the length of the hood, and the coloring, striping, and piping of the robes.  I certainly don't know anything about those... 

I think what I liked the most was that several of the graduates had thick white fur (like a Persian cat!) lining their hoods.  I'm pretty sure we don't have that option in America and I would like to think it's reserved for those Oxford students who have completed a M.Ptrc. degree (that's the Master of Pillaging Thatched Roof Cottages degree - comes with a minor in Viking Studies).  It's actually just an option they can get for their hoods, but I like my reasoning better.

This is not a fake picture, although the Oxford ones don't have silver in the middle.
If you're still reading at this point you must really like us.  Thanks.  (Double thanks.)

Moving on.  Who are your favorite authors?  Book?  Of all time?  Lucky for you this blog is a one way conversation so here are mine!
Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice"
J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit"
C.S.Lewis's "The Chronicles of Narnia"
and of course J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series

Tonight we spent the evening at the "Eagle and Child" Pub, home to the authors known as the "Inklings", none other than C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and a few others!!!!!  (It seems to be billed as "a few others" nearly everywhere it's mentioned...I feel bad for the other Inklings who don't merit the mention!)  It was awesome and worth a visit if you are even mildly obsessed with these greats.  Andrew spent some quality time reading "Lord of the Rings" while I attacked a  bowl of Eton Mess... mmmm.  

A very fun and literary night.  I'm going to bed now, as I have a serious inferiority complex around all these smarty-pantses.  I had difficulty with the door key she previously mentioned, so I'm going to sleep on it and see if I can't do a better job tomorrow representing the American peasantry. 


  1. Tyler L.7/17/2011

    1.) what trains did you miss today? it was in the title, but not in the post...
    2.) mmmm! kinda jealous about the Eton Mess, Mrs. Reds. from the looks of that wiki article, that looks REALLY good and healthy. ;)

  2. I am LOVING keeping up with you guys and appreciate the shout out:) Can't wait to swap more stories and pictures back in Houston!