Oxford

We managed a little holiday last week; hubby had booked the 2 weeks off over the Olympics, not so much to watch it but so he wouldn’t be caught up in the traffic going down to Weymouth for the sailing events. So I decided it was a good time to grab the chance for a little break, from Monday to Thursday last week.

When I first came to the UK to study, I lived in Oxford for about 3 years. The night before we left, I realised that I’ve actually lived in this country for longer than my birth country … I came to Oxford about 30 years ago!!! an, did I have a ‘feeling old’ moment *lol*

We took the train, as it’s a direct route (back in the day, I remember I had to change trains once, sometimes twice to visit my sister who lived in Bournemouth) and takes under 2 hours. Right from the station, nothing looked familiar. I remembered the station being up a hill (the times I had to lug me bags up that hill!) but now it’s on level ground. And the journey into town, to where we were staying, the boys kept asking me if I recognised anything; I kept shaking my head.

Thanks to a tip from Jennifer, I’d booked a room at one of the Oxford colleges. During the holidays, the colleges (and I think most of the big colleges do this) open up their accommodation to holiday makers. It was too good a chance to pass up, especially as the rates are reasonable, and you’re right in the middle of town, so no need to worry about transport.

We stayed at Keble College, one of the few that has a room for 4. It was split into a double bedroom, a twin, and an en-suite bathroom. Breakfast is included in the price, and for an extra charge, dinner is provided. There’s no tv in the room, so we had a ‘screen-free’ holiday and it worked out well. We did miss seeing some of the Olympics … but Neil had taken his little radio so we could still keep up with events. I did mind, a little, missing the showjumping and team dressage, but, in hindsight, it’s just as well as I think I might well have passed out during the ‘jump offs’!!

View from our room, the dining hall.

View from the dining hall; our room is on the bottom left.

The chapel

Breakfast was served in the Victorian dining hall, this one being the longest in Oxford – ‘help yourself’ to cereals, fruit and yoghurt, as much as you want; and either a cooked breakfast or a continental one, with staff to serve. Very nice.

The ceiling of the dining hall

We were so well located, it hardly took any time to walk anywhere. We had a bit of an explore on Monday evening, to familiarise ourselves with the streets. On Tuesday, we went to the Ashmolean Museum, Britain’s first public museum, founded in 1683. It’s a bit like a mini-British Museum, covering Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt, the Near East, India, China, Japan … most interesting.

Dancing Ganesha

Buddha

Miniature K'oran!

Goddess of Mercy

As we mooched about, trying to work out somewhere to have lunch, what should we stumble across, but a Malaysian restaurant!! An actual, bona-fide, Malaysian restaurant!!! The portions were most generous – the starter was almost a meal in itself. But what we couldn’t finish, the owner kindly doggy-bagged for us, and we had it for our dinner. Sorted!

I could have easily filled up my memory card with pictures of buildings ...

It was lovely, spending time in our room, the surroundings were so peaceful. Even with time spent gazing out the window, chatting, listening to the radio, I realised I was zooming through my book quite speedily, I had to slow myself down by the last evening or I wouldn’t have had anything to read on the journey back!

The chapel seemed to be always open, I guess because tourists are always present ...

The ceiling

A little 'room' for remembrance of war dead

On Wednesday, we went to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History – ideally situated directly opposite Keble College! Perfect! 

Outside on the lawn is a set of dinosaur footprints –a 60metre long reconstruction of the tracks of Megalosaurus, a carnivorous dinosaur, found on the floor of an old limestone quarry about 20km away from the museum.

More perfection inside ... this museum actually has signs that say PLEASE TOUCH, instead of the usual PLEASE DON’T TOUCH!! It’s a very light, bright museum; even though there were lots of things laid out, it didn’t feel cramped or crowded.

T-Rex

All around the museum, against the pillars, are statues of different scientists and thinkers including Hippocrates and Darwin...

Amongst all the fossils and dinosaurs, there’s a display dedicated to ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’! The author, Lewis Carroll, whose real name was Charles Dodgson was a mathematician at Christ Church and used to visit the museum regularly, sometimes taking Alice and her sisters too. It’s thought that the painting of the Dodo inspired the character of the dodo in the book.

The evolution of horse teeth; the bottom 3 were found in the UK while the others were found in Nebraska and Wyoming.  The 4 right at the top are from 'Hyracotherium', which was about the size of a fox and lived about 52 million years ago.  The next 2 are from 'Merychippus', a grazer which lived about 20 million years ago and was endemic to North America.  The next set of 3 are from 'Pliohippus' which lived about 5 million years ago and was very similar to 'Equus'.  And the 3 at the bottom are from 'Equus cabbalus'.

450 million year old trilobites with brittle stars (Morocco)

View from upstairs

Further in, opposite the museum entrance, is the entrance to another museum, the Pitt Rivers Museum, named after General Pitt Rivers who gave his collection to the University. This museum is dimly lit and crammed full of so much stuff, it evoked the feeling of having wandered into some eccentric collector’s basement. Its displays include archaeological and ethnographic objects from around the world. Very intriguing, very interesting but hard work also, as the brain tried to process it all.

Collection of saddles

This looks like it could be a side-saddle?

After lunch, Neil went to the Museum of the History of Science (situated in the Old Ashmolean, the world’s oldest surviving museum building) to check out navigation and surveying stuff... 

... but the boys and I were museumed-out so we went to Blackwell’s, an extremely large bookstore. Sadly, faced with so much choice we ended up not buying anything *sigh* 

Right in the middle of town, surrounded by big-name shops, is this little church and graveyard...

Short though it was, we had a fab time in Oxford. Need to make a return trip to have a proper look at the Museum of the History of Science, and there’s also a museum to do with musical instruments. I suppose we’ll just have to stay at Keble College again … any excuse ;o)