Wednesday, May 31, 2017

"Still round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate." J.R.R. Tolkien

We were expecting a full English breakfast this morning, but instead had some good organic granola and hearty toast. It was enough to get us on our way, joining up with a group participating in the "Oxford University and City" walking tour. We had opportunity to enter several of the 38 colleges that make up Oxford University and it was so very impressive. The history here is so rich and the buildings certainly showcase this as you will see in the pictures. I know my brain felt really full and rather foggy after listening to 2 hours of very interesting but also very detailed tidbits of history.
After a late lunch at the oldest pub in Oxford, The Mitre, we headed off to Magdalene College, where C.S. Lewis taught. Andrew would have liked to do Addison's Walk, a loop around a small island where Tolkien and Lewis used to amble and share story ideas. However,  there didn't seem to be any way to get on the island except through the college, which was closed to the public. We opted for the Oxford Botanic Garden, which was a lovely oasis and so very peaceful and quiet. Andrew was impressed with the garden wall, which I'm sure you will see a picture of.
 Our very knowledgeable tour guide who educated us on the peculiarities of the Oxford system of colleges within the Exeter College quadrangle.

 Inside the dining hall of Exeter it looks a lot like Hogwarts minus the floating candles.

 In the Exeter chapel, lovely stained glass. Note the strong man on the right.

 While there, we were thrilled to hear the pipe organ.

 J.R.R. Tolkien was an undergraduate at Exeter.

 Beautiful climbing roses on the quad wall.

 This is the front door to Exeter. We loved these huge oaken doors.

 At exam time, written at the end of usually 3 years, the students wear their robes to write and don a carnation. A white carnation indicates just beginning exams, a pink means midway, and a red means time to party.

This lass has finished her exams, is covered with cream and bits of colourful paper. We saw several wearing red carnations and usually they were carrying half empty bottles of wine.

 The Radcliffe Camera building (built 1737-49) with All Souls College to the right.

Standing in this area, if one had a 360 degree view, one can see buildings of the 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. There is a 20th century construction but it is an underground bunker. 

 Inside the Divinity School, a room that has hosted most Kings and Queens since Henry 7th on their inaugural tours. Up until the Reformation, the windows were stained glass. This room was the infirmary in the Harry Potter films and the floor above, part of the Bodleian Library, was Hogwarts library. Below are some documents seen in the new Bodleian across the street.

 The Magna Carta, dined upon by mice.

 The transcript of the distress message (morse code) from the sinking Titanic.

 An original score from the hand of Handel.

This shoppe called Scriptum was full of high end stuff such as fancy quill pens, wax seals, high end journals and a great selection of Folio Society books.

 Checking out the price of their Folio Society "Lord of the Rings", 130 pounds (about $200.)! We did not purchase it!

 The Radcliffe Camera from inside the All Souls quad.

 Punting on the Cherwell. The path shown is a part of Addison's Walk, once frequented by the like of C.S.L. and J.R.R.T.

A lovely perennial border inside the walled garden of the Oxford Botanic Garden.

 Cool pitcher plants inside one of their greenhouses.

 The "Tolkien tree", a mulberry that he liked to sit under and probably contemplate such things as Ents. 

 A selfie to say farewell to the Botanic Garden, a little oasis of peace inside a busy, noisy city.

 To cap off our day, we attended evensong in the chapel of Queen's College. This very moving service was enriched by the incredible Queen's College choir made up of choral students.

It was a full day and we are really knackered. Time for some well deserved sleep.
Love to all!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking." ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

May 9, 2017 - the day Andrew retired after working for 34 years as a research scientist with Agriculture Canada. Quite an achievement, and I am so proud of his commitment and accomplishments.
To celebrate our newfound freedom, we had planned an English walking holiday (Andrew did the research and took the initiative), and here we are, tonight in Oxford England, beginning our adventure and attempting our first major hike together. After flying all night from St. John's, Newfoundland, we arrived at the Gatwick airport at 8 am, tired, confused, hungry and wondering if our minds were still intact.
Catching the train from the airport, we travelled to Reading and then connected to Oxford. Then we walked along the canal to 26 Victor Street. After precariously lugging our suitcases up a very narrow staircase, we promptly crashed for an  hour, trying to stave off the jet lag for a bit. Then a couple of hours walking through this ancient city and orientating ourselves, and feeling the need for sustenance, we found 'Pizza Express'. The food was excellent and expensive but the lemon bundt cake with vanilla gelato, all I can say is yum!!! Our bodies are weary, so we are going to add some photos and get tucked into bed early, for tomorrow we have booked a guided walking tour of Oxford.

 Setting off on our adventure/pilgrimage via WestJet to jolly 'ol England!

Jet lagged but still smiling and travelling the Great Western Railway.

Not much to look at from the outside but this is our home away from home for the next 3 nights (the white building). Our first airbnb experience.

If you want to get your memoirs published, try Oxford University Press, after you become famous of course.

 Bicycles are very plentiful (not so much the helmets). We really had to watch for them as they travel very fast and don't pay much heed to pedestrians, not to mention the fact that they are all using the 'wrong' side of the road.......

 Blackwell's - a famous bookstore in Oxford Andrew has always wanted to visit. What a store!! Multiple floors packed with books. Reading the hard copy printed text is certainly not a thing of the past here.

 This shows the extent of Blackwell's. This is the part of the store that was under street level.

The doors in some of these old buildings fascinate me. I wonder why they built them so large and with such extensive detail. 

This door was tucked away, almost hidden from street view. Is the secret garden behind here??

 Supper time in Oxford, fresh air, window boxes, perfect company and a pizza to share. 

 And who knows, this trip may turn me into a tea drinker?

The 'piece de resistance' - lemon bundt cake with vanilla gelato.

And lastly, one for my grandchildren - I can just imagine Bert from 'Mary Poppins' dancing along the rooftops here singing "Chim, chiminey, chim, chiminey, chim, chim cheree, a sweep is as lucky, as lucky can be!

So, cheerio from the other side of the pond. Thank you for reading and we will certainly try to keep this updated every night - that is the goal.......