Sunday, June 29, 2014

Oxford and Blehiem

I wasn't sure it was possible to see more in one day than we did in London, but I was almost immediately proven wrong by a quick night sleep and a bus ride to Oxford and Blenheim.

We began Saturday in the town of Oxford, and Oxford University which has been the home of many famous intellectuals, writers and world leaders for centuries.

Oxford is incredibly beautiful, even through rain hoods and umbrellas. It  is the oldest university in the English speaking language and is home to 38 seperate colleges scattered throughout the city. There is actually no documented date for when the university officially began, but records show operation as early as 1060 with rapid development starting in 1167 when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris.

A street in Oxford

The exterior of Wadham college, founded in 1610. Our tour guide was able to walk us through to the  inner quad and gardens.

Ivy at Wadham.

The interior quad at Wadham. Students actually live here! 

Note the lush green, perfectly trimmed lawn. We were warned very sternly by our tour guide to keep off the grass. 

We heard their choir rehearsing inside the chapel. Just another way I felt transported into a completely different time and place.

The architecture and amount of detail were incredible. I had to try and capture it from all angles!

The lower figures are Nicholas and Dorothy Wadham who actually never set foot on the campus. Nicholas died before completion and Dorothy was charged with designing and overseeing the building.  The top is the King at the time, I believe King James I.

This is the garden behind Wadham. The lighter strips of grass are from a ceremonial boat burning earlier this term. The Wadham girls' crew team won the intercollegiate season and as is custom, their boat (or rather a much cheaper stand in)  was burned in their garden.

For a girl that loves books, school, history, and british culture, it was impossible for me not to fall in love with Oxford. New dream: receive my Masters in English Literature from Oxford! ;)

We then continued to walk and went to the Sheldonian Theatre, erected between 1664-1669.
 Another beautiful building along the way, the Clarendon, a part of the Bodelian Library. There are truly too many to fully keep track of!
 The gates outside Sheldonian.

 Clearly, I am having trouble deciding what to share. It was all so incredible!

 Details of the intricately decorated theatre. The theatre is now used for events like the graduation recitations in Latin.
Oh Oxford and your Latin :)

 One of the 32 individual ceiling panels inside the theatre.

We climbed a set of winding wooden spiral stairs to the top of the theatre and to see its spectacular views of the rest of the university and city. 

We had some time to explore for lunch and into the afternoon, and I had my first experience of being in a strange city, alone and without a map. I had ducked into the nearest shop to buy an umbrella, tired of being soaked, and somewhere along the way I had lost my map, and of course my phone without cell service abroad is virtually useless. It's amazing how much I have come to rely on my phone for directions, weather, ratings, food recommendations, text messaging, words with's actually gratifying to be without it and realize that I can discern things for myself. 

Luckily, the sun decided to come out and Oxford is well laid out with quaint signs pointing the way.
In my opinion, everything about this town is perfect.

I knew I had to see the Bodleian Library which, founded in 1602, is one of the oldest libraries in Europe. The most impressive was the ceiling in the hall that used to be used for hours of public examinations. Our tour guide told us that these exams could last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, if your mentor was feeling argumentative.
           This gorgeous hall was also the cite for the hospital wing in the first two Harry Potter films, and the dance lesson scene in preparation for the Yule Ball in the fourth. 

Outside the library in the quad there are all of these doors representing (in Latin of course) the original courses for study. 

I then explored further past the library, jaw dropped and camera poised the entire way.
The Radcliffe Camera, in Radcliffe Square, is now home to a reading room of the library.
University Church of St. Mary the Virgin.
Another view of the Camera (a fancy Oxford word for building by the way).

The Sheldonian Theatre. The dome at the top was where I captured all the birds eye views of the city.

I have had so many books from Oxford University Press, I thought it was neat to see the actual store in Oxford.

I ended my tour of Oxford perusing the collections inside the Ashmolean Museum, founded in 1683 as Britain's  first public museum.

After Oxford it was off to Blenheim Palace, about a 20 minute bus ride out in the countryside from Oxford.
The Palace was built in the early 18th century to commemorate the victory over the French in the war of Spanish Succession. Winston Churchill was a member of the family, and although he was not a Duke, he was born here when his mother came for a visit. It's now home to the 11th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and is a World Heritage Site.

Did I mention the amount of incredible detail in architecture and design around here? You can only say "beautiful" or "stunning" or "amazing" so many times before the words start to lose all meaning. I am running out of superfluous adjectives! Good thing a picture is worth a thousand words!

 A gold crest on the gate.

 The main entrance.

 View out on the pavilion from the front.
 Interior decor.

 This is a tapestry, hand woven and made to fit around the corner of the wall.
A painting on the ceiling in one of the living rooms.

 Interior art.

This is the 9th Duchess Consuelo, who was a part of the American Vanderbilt family. She was much taller than her husband the Duke and paintings of them together often played with stairs and body positions to make their height difference seem less apparent. 

 Of course I loved the library :)
 A statue of Queen Anne in the library. Apparently, the sculpter was very generous because she was much shorter and heavier in real life.

 A sculpture inside the chapel.
As we were wrapping up, employees began laying out flowers and setting up for the wedding that was being held there that evening. From what we gathered, it was the marriage of a distant relative or close friend of the Duke. People attending weddings at a Palace really go all out; floor length velvet jackets, sky high heels, and gold clutches. 

 Danielle and I.

The grounds and gardens were designed and manicured to live up to this impressive expanse of Palace. 

 View of the Palace from the bridge over the water.
 What fancy garden is complete without at least one fountain?

 The back of the Palace from the gardens.

So concluded another full day exploring England. Next up: The Making of Harry Potter at Warner Brothers Studios.

No comments:

Post a Comment