Saturday, June 13, 2009

Oxford Tour - RC1

Way back in February, I had this blog entry about playing tourist around Oxford. I think that was my "beta" attempt at an Oxford tour. Recently, my parents came to visit and they got the improved Oxford tour RC1. (If you don't know what RC1 means, you are not enough of a geek. It suffices to say that RC1 is one better than beta). Here are some of the cool photos from touring around with my parents.

The tour of Oxford now starts in my dining room. Don't let it fool you... this is the cleanest corner of the house (See comments here about how messy I am). The four stacked chairs are Somerville college standard issue stacking chairs and the darker wooden table is also Somerville college standard issue. I have six more chairs and another table exactly like this in my college office (I think these chairs and are destined to be returned to the college soon, but I kind of like the table).

This is me standing outside of my flat or "terraced" as they say. The wooden door is mine. The two windows (first and second floor) between me and the bike are mine also. The bike is not mine. The large green garbage bin is mine. This should not be confused with the small green bin, or the small blue bin, or the green garbage bag, or... (See my post here for detailed discussion of recycling rules in Oxford).

OK, now on to the real tour of Oxford.

This is a nice view of Christ Church college founded by Cardinal Wolsey and refounded by King Henry VIII. In case it isn't obvious, this is one of the filthy rich colleges (See my discussion here about rich versus filthy).

Did I mention that my parents took all of these pictures? I'm a horrid photographer.

From here we go inside Christ Church to the great Hall where the students actually eat their formal dinners.
That's my mom walking away from the camera with the backpack on. The paintings on the side walls are of all sorts of famous people who are associated with the college one way or the other. The biggest painting is of King Henry.

Here is a closeup of the table setting for the next meal.
That's me in the background on the right (kind of hard to see in the dark). You can see the picture of Henry a bit better from here.

The really cool thing about the great Hall (besides it being 400+ years old, being founded by a king, and blah blah blah) is that many scenes from the Harry Potter movies were filmed there. Here is one of them. Don't ask me how they digitally change it from what you see above to what you see on the screen --- I have no idea. Just because I'm a complete Harry Potter FanClub Geek, I'll give you one more photo from the film -- this one featuring the film's best actor -- the sorting hat. . Oh... and that is Maggie Smith in the background (obviously) playing Minerva McGonagall.

Since all of Oxford was a religious institution at one time, most of the old colleges have elaborate chapels. Christ Church is a bit special though because, as I understand it, the Christ Church college was built around the chapel. The chapel itself was built to commemorate Oxford's patron Saint --- Saint Frideswede -- and to house her "relics". Pretty much anyone who is anyone in the old world is a saint by this time. There is even a sainted dog named Guinefort in France. Nonetheless, each town promotes its own Saint with great fanfare. (Not that there is anything wrong with Frideswide, but I think the dog is more original). At any rate, for better or worse, Frideswide is officially our protector.

Anyway there are claims that Christ Church chapel is the oldest continuously standing chapel in the UK. I believe this is a picture of the shrine to the Saint. From Christ Church, we walk on to Magdalen college (pronounced "Mawdalin"). Along the walk we go past Christ Church's herd of cattle.. .and a bit later we will go past Magdalen's herd of deer. In comparison, my college has a cat and occassionally a duck or two. (Read again the comment about some colleges being rich and others being filthy rich). Unfortunately, I don't have photos of either the cattle or the deer.

This is a photo of me and my mom in Magdalen college.

This is the courtyard of Magdalen. Those are lilacs wisteria growing up the walls. They smelled lovely at that time of year. ("Lovely" is a favorite word in this country. It seems to be a replacement for "fantastic" or "great" or "super").

My dad is a big fan of science history, so visiting the Oxford Museum of science history was an absolute must. They have a lot of cool stuff there, but I think this chalkboard is the highlight. That is Einstein's handwriting.

On the topic of geeky tourist things to do, my Dad was really excited about going to the Greenwich observatory outside of London. This is the Greenwich of Greenwich mean time. So, in the mean-time (har har) we took a day, and went out there. It is actually a really pleasant little suburb of London -- with a big park, and hill that overlooks the big city. The observatory is a kind of cool place for geeks like us. If you have read the book "Longitude" about John Harrison's life-long quest to build a clock accurate enough to allow navigation, you will be excited to see some of his actual devices in the museum here. Here is a picture of my father setting his clock by the official Greenwich Mean Time.

The other cool tourist thing we did was to go out to Blenheim palace for the day. This was where the various Duke's of Marlboro have lived over the centuries. Among other people, Winston Churchill (the nephew of the then Duke), grew up in this estate. The place is certainly beautiful -- miles upon miles of perfectly manicured fields, forests, gardens -- and of course an enormous palace. Here's the palace from the back garden
They also have a huge maze cut into hedges, a butterfly garden, a "pleasure garden" (whatever that is), miles of lakes, and they charge you an arm and a leg to get in (although apparently there is a secret backdoor you can get through if you act like you are a town native).

Anyway, to end our tour, here is a photo of mom and dad on the other side of the palace.


Doug Natelson said...

Ahh, Oxford. I really enjoyed visiting my cousin and her husband there. They're fantastic folks, and you couldn't ask for better guides. Blenheim is also remarkable. I visited shortly after reading this bio of Churchill....

Steve said...

Hey Doug. Your cousin's page says she is affiliated with Somerville (but lectures at Trinity). If she is at Somerville, I will almost certainly run across her soon (if I haven't done so already). I'll keep an eye out.

Doug Natelson said...

They've both gone emeritus, actually. I think their pages are just lagging behind. Jasper was most recently the official university orator or something like that. He got to stand up and speak Latin in an impressive voice when required. Now that's a cool university-level appointment!