Saturday, June 13, 2009

Wed 10 June 2009 - Oxford

Harry Potter! Bodleian Library! Ooooh what fun! Tolkein, CS Lewis...

We took the train into Oxford from hanborough arriving in the rain. Then found a taxi to take us to the Tourist Information center where we bought tickets for the Walking Tour. Then we had to buy another umbrella because it was raining enough that it was awkward to share...especially when Josie tried to carry the umbrella. I had to do a dance to stay under it.

Walking tour of Oxford – our tour guide was a lovely older woman who was a wealth of historical and pop information about the city. She joked that her children said that their mum “walked the streets” for a living.

We visited Exeter College and Orien (??) College. It was exam time so the colleges were all closed. But we did get to see students in their official robes, or really more like a stoll. I can't remember what they are called. They have to wear them to sit their exams. They also were black trousers or skirts and white shirts and the men wear ties. Every student also wears a carnation and the color of the carnation signifies which year exam they are sitting. The colors go white, pink, then red for their final year.

There are 38 colleges. The colleges were created by benefactors to give students a place to live and study whilst at the University. At their college the students have a tutor in their subject area. The tutors are also university lecturers in their subject area. Tutors give students additional work and work with them during their course of study. Some of the colleges were originally associated with different regions, like Exeter was for students from Exeter.

Different colleges offer tutors in different subject areas. Some colleges are older and more traditional than others. I think they all have a dining hall, residence halls and library and many also have chapels. They also own land and buildings, so they let our the ground floor spaces to shops and the students live above the shops.

The university was started in the 1400s, but I never did catch the original date. Then there was something about Henry VIII and of course the shift to the church of England and the change of one of the college chapels into a cathedral. But now I don't remember the details. At some point they began requiring that all students live at a college. And of course it was all men and boys until the 1800s.

We did get so see some Harry Potter sites on the tour, like the outside of the hall where the dance lessons were filmed in HP4 and the restricted section of the library from HP1 (later we went inside). Our tourguide was up on HP trivia and showed us pics of Emma Watson from the local paper playing field hockey. She lives in Oxford, They are filming HP7 right now, so there was a chance that they'd be filming in Oxford, but no luck. The Golden Compass also took place in Oxford and she showed us interesting sites related to it, like the roof line of the chapel which was actually filmed in a studio. But Philip Pulman was a student in Exeter College, so Jordan College is actually Exeter College.

After the walking tour we had a quick bite to eat and walked around a bit before our tour of the Bodleian library. On our way to the library, the heavens opened and the drizzle turned to a downpour. Even with our umbrellas we got soaked from the knees down. Lightning crashed and the streets filled with deep puddles.

The tour of Bodleian Library included the Divinity School, which is where the dancing lessons (HP4) and the hospital scene (HP2) were filmed. And, the original reading room of the library which was used as the restricted section of the library in HP1. Visiting Bodleian was a religious experience for me. Just breathing the air in a building housing millions of books (okay, so some are stored in former salt mines in the English countryside) that have been visited and studied by some of the world's greatest minds. Miles of underground tunnels full of books. Millions of books. We didn't get to go underground. Very old books...very very old books.

Next stop was Christ College, another Harry Potter extravaganza. The dining hall in this college was used as the Great Hall in the HP films. And, the marble staircase. Very exciting! The grounds and gardens were beautiful. And, you couldn't help being struck by the age of the buildings.

Across from the college entrance we had tea and scones again. It was still raining. Eventually we made it to the train station, but missed our train by literally a split second and had to wait an hour for the next provoking another travel melt down.

Back to Hanborough for dinner at the Bell pub and another delicious IPA. More delicious homemade bread. Yummy hummus ad guacamole. Josie ordered a Shirley Temple to the entertainment of the bartender. They have bubbly lemonade instead of sprite and their grenadine isn't red, but she said it was good.

We caught the end of Star Trek TNG in our room...a little foreshadowing of what's to come in London later this month for these two trekkies! :)

The Old Farmhouse B&B was a lovely place to stay. Beautiful garden, easy access to the train, very comfortable bed, warm down comforter, large shared bath (new and very nice with a skylight), and a delicious breakfast. Her homemade bread is scrumptious. The house is full of antiques and interesting knick knacks. Loads of tourist info and a lovely hostess, Vanessa.