Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Catching up {part 2}

{If you haven't already seen this post you might want to go check it out because it's part one of my two-part endeavor to wrap up {at least for now} my travel-blogging phase and catch y'all up on my last weeks in Oxford.}

I wandered Oxford. 

There are some pretty impressive dinosaurs in the Museum of Natural History.

I wandered into many of Oxford's 38 Colleges. These three pictures are from Corpus Christi college. I loved this one because the gardeners had a sense of whimsey and I could tell they enjoy what they do. Usually Oxford colleges are grand, not whimsical, and I found this one delightful.

In the Middle Ages it was believed that during a famine or draught pelicans would pierce their own breasts and feed the gore to their young to keep them alive. This was considered an allegory of Christ's sacrificial love for the church. Since this is Corpus Christi - the body of Christ - college, there were images of pelicans everywhere.

I found one of the two things I remember from my visit to Oxford years and years ago.

This gate is the entrance to the Master's Garden at Christ Church College. Years ago when Mom, Charlie, and I visited Oxford for twenty-four hours, I took a photograph identical to the one on the top right. That view, and the Bodleian Library shop, were the only two things I remembered about Oxford up until the day when I arrived in January. I stumbled across it on a stroll through Christ Church Meadows and knew I had to draw it.

I drank lots of tea.

I grew to love this tucked-away room in the King's Arms pub - a perfect place for a pot of tea and some quiet studying. 

The stereotype of the British preoccupation with tea is on point. Tea is a crucial element of each day. It is drunk with milk, not cream, and the milk goes into the teacup first.

To give you an idea of how important tea is: There's a delightful gentleman in his seventies on the SCIO staff. His name is John. For eight years, John's Lenten practice was to give up his Saturday afternoon cup of tea. This was such a difficult thing that after eight years he gave it up and now does not involve tea in Lenten fasting. I'm not making this up. 

So. Tea is important. 

According to Dr. Baigent, tea is a necessary element of all decision-making in Oxford. 

It is also a hugely necessary element to sustain students preparing fourteen-page research papers worth 75% of the final grade for a course.

The tea I had at the Grande Cafe on High Street is called Lapsang Souchong. I ordered it because the menu discussed its distinctive smoky flavor, and I was curious what that meant. Drinks are described as having all sorts of characteristics that I usually don't understand, and this one sounded intriguing. 

It tasted like smoke in liquid form. In a good way. Drinking it was like drinking a summer campfire.

When I next had wifi I googled this tea and discovered that the leaves are dried over pinewood fires. You learn something new every day. And when it's about tea, all the better.

I had to sneak this in, though it's not tea. Cafe Nero in England is as ubiquitous as Starbucks in the States, and I much prefer its ambiance (think long lightwood farm tables and whimsical photos of Italy). I procured a loyalty card my first week in Oxford and by week 12 I had finished it. 

This was important, guys: I have never, ever completed one of those things.

When I found out that I could get whatever drink I wanted in whatever size I wanted, a good day got way better. So I got a large orange hot chocolate with loads of whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles. The barista totally understood my excitement and enthusiasm, which made me even happier.

This is only a handful of my tea photos, and I won't try your patience with more. 

I found Addison's Walk, a favorite walk of C.S. Lewis'

Lewis, Tolkien, and another friend took countless laps around this walk (it's probably about half a mile) during intense debates leading up to Lewis' conversion.

I walked into Narnia.

Unfortunately, I have no photographs documenting this fact. But if you ever want to walk through the wardrobe, I recommend the Story Museum in Oxford. Not only does this fabulous museum give guests the opportunity to sit in a sleigh in a snowy wood near a lamppost reading about Lucy's first impressions of Narnia, but it also offers a gigantic location for bedtime reading. 

It also gave me the opportunity to tap into my dictatorial four-year-old self as I impersonated an annoyed Alice at a mad tea party. 

Finally, it transformed Katherine into "The Terrible Master of Mystery," Paige into "The Cheeky thing of Nutwood," and myself into "The Mysterious Person of the Clouds." (Amy was our Phenomenal Photographer.)

Spring came, and I took photographs of flowers and chopped-down trees.

Elisa and I spent the night in London before I flew home and she went gallivanting around the UK.

We spent an hour and a half inside Westminster Abbey, but first we took rubbings of it from the guide to the square. 

I got to see what is possibly my favorite portrait ever. It is in the National Portrait Gallery and it is of William Wilberforce, who battled for years to abolish slavery in the British Empire. I have loved this portrait ever since I first saw it. {The quote is taken from the memorial to Wilberforce in Westminster Abbey.}

An unexpected detour took us to Baker Street underground station, which was one of the first underground stations in London and was recently restored to its Victorian glory. 

And, finally, I came home.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

catching up (part 1)

Well, it's been a month and a half since I last posted. In that time, life got crazy and travel blogging did not happen. So here I am. I've been home for two weeks and have enough material to write a small book about. 

Fear not. 

I am not going to impose a small book upon you. (Anyway I already wrote sixteen essays this semester and I don't need to do much more writing for awhile.)

Instead, here is a very, very broad record of some of my last four weeks in Oxford, supplemented by many photos. 

Four friends and I went to the Lake District for four glorious nights.

This is the view from our youth hostel - each of the four sunsets was stunning. 

I got to "cuddle" (the handler's word) an owl named Oscar.

What appeared to be a slightly muddy patch on the trail through this pasture turned out to be ankle deep mud. Literally. I had to rinse out my shoes in a nearby creek. 

This is Hill Top Farm - Beatrix Potter's vacation home and the destination of a lovely 11 mile trek that we made one day. Many of her illustrations are direct copies of the interior of her house and of the farmland surrounding it. 

I found out that the live action introductory scene to the BBC's animated series of her stories was filmed here. I absolutely love this scene and watched it many times as a child. I think that the videocassette we had was The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck, but what I remember is this opening. According to the well-informed guide, Peter Rabbit disgraced himself during filming, which resulted in a stain on the table that is there to this day. 

This swan was actually bold enough to take a nip of my fish and chips. We were not amused. In her fear Anastasia hopped up on a nearby wall, and I don't think I've ever seen Katherine so bitter about anything. 

There was so much more to that break - the mist in the mornings, relaxing together over breakfast and dinner, hopping stone walls as we hiked cross-country, reading books aloud to each other as we waited for buses. It was one of the top five highlights of my entire semester. But. Moving on.

The entire program went on several group field trips. 

I loved St. Alban's cathedral. I had a profound sense that this is not simply a historical site that was incidentally a place of worship. Rather, it is a place of strong, living, Christian worship that is only incidentally a historical site. 

The ceiling at Winchester Cathedral.

This is the view from Porchester Castle - a Roman-fortress-turned-Norman-castle across from Portsmouth. It was here and not in Southampton that a plot against Henry V was uncovered, though Shakespeare used his artistic license to place the incident in Southampton.  

I went on a solo trip to London

Chinatown is not right across the street from Portobello Market. However, it is just behind the National Gallery of Art and right across the street from Queen's Theatre, where Les Miserables is performed. Somehow I managed to go to London five times growing up without ever realizing this fact. 

Skoob Books - an amazing basement bookstore in London. I came home from the entire trip with twenty-one books, most of them ones I found at used bookstores and couldn't resist. Some people have problems buying clothing or Apple products or music. My problem is books. By the time I found Skoob I had already bought probably sixteen books and knew I shouldn't buy any more. I went in anyway. And I bought books. 

I don't have pictures of this, but I went to the Maundy Thursday Eucharist in Westminster Abbey. It was amazing. I was seated in Poet's Corner, and as I returned to my seat after receiving communion I passed the memorial to C.S. Lewis. This was not a time to fangirl over Lewis, and I didn't. But I know so much about his faith that seeing his memorial suddenly impressed me with the great cloud of witnesses that surrounded me as I received the Lord's Supper in that place.

{to be continued...}