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Back to the Continent

by Ben

semi-overcast 14 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Boarding the ferry at Dover

Boarding the ferry at Dover

Our final night in England was pleasant enough despite the fact that our B&B was across from the Dover Priory Train Station. It was fortunate we were on the second floor (that would read third floor in North America) so the tremors from the trains might be considered soothing rather than grating. The B&B has been run by a couple who both are offspring of Cypriot parents who immigrated to England in the 1950s. They started the B&B when she was just 17 and he a few years older. They have been running it for the past 27 years and have three kids either in or just having completed university. They say it has been a great living and a wonderful way to always be around for their kids. When you look at them and talk to them they certainly are the picture of contentment and she still looks incredibly young for someone who has raised a family and done all the cleaning and upkeep of the business together with her husband.

The B&B is a quintessential British affair. The building is in the style of a large boarding house, some of the rooms have their own bathrooms while others share a bath down the hall. The original sitting room is the breakfast room and a classic English breakfast is served. Little if anything in the interior has been updated in the past several decades, nevertheless, it was all in great repair and spotless. Our stay here was an appropriate way to finish off our time in England.

After spending seven weeks travelling in the English speaking world (aka the British Isles) we took the ferry from Dover to Calais and dusted off our foreign language dictionaries. When we booked our tickets online, the website instructed us to be at the terminal 45 minutes prior to sailing. We dropped off our rental car after breakfast and then took a short taxi ride to the terminal and were there at precisely the requested time. While we were waiting to check in there was a final announcement for boarding the shuttle bus to the ferry. It was a piece of information that even got our kids attention. I am not sure if I was more shocked by the fact that we may be missing our ferry or that my kids were paying attention like savvy adult travellers. Apparently, the website meant to state that we should be at the terminal absolutely not later than 45 minutes before sailing. We just squeezed onto the shuttle and it zipped off towards the ferry. At least we can say we didn't waste any time waiting around.

The Dover port is huge and it is a bit a drive to the ferry. First the bus passes through a police checkpoint where an officer boards the bus and checks and stamps passports. A little further along the bus enters a secure garage where everyone gets off to go through an airport style security check and then reboards the bus for the final leg to the ferry. It was abundantly clear why they need us at the terminal well before sailing time.
We caught a glimpse of the white cliffs of Dover just after we cast off but the moment we passed the breakwater the waves of the English Channel made themselves known. It was not a crossing for being out on deck taking in the scene. It is an hour and a half trip across the channel.
In contrast to Dover, when we arrived in Calais the sun was out and the air was warm. We picked up our car lease right at the terminal. The young man who helped us had an uncle who worked as missionary for 40 years in the Canadian Arctic. You don't come across that kind of connection to Canada every day. We stayed away from the topic of residential schools just to be safe.

Ferry from Dover to Calais

Ferry from Dover to Calais

We have leased a Kangoo again since it worked out so well for the first two months of our trip. The vehicle only had 4 kilometers on it and the driver's seat was still wrapped in plastic. This is a bit nicer model than our first Kangoo; the back seating area is unlike anything we have seen. It is a bit like an airplane. There are small tables that fold out of the back of the front seats and there are three overhead compartments for the people in the backseat to stow their personal effects and overhead shelf up front as well. We are happy to have a built in GPS again, even though it is a quirky affair which requires that you use a remote and type in letters by moving a cursor over an onscreen keyboard. Most off all we like the audio inputs for our iPods. This is our seventh car this trip and only the Kangoos have had audio inputs. We have missed listening to music and podcasts together as we travel. Without the audio inputs the kids more often than not have been plugged into their own headphones while we travel, limiting family interaction while driving. Listening to podcasts together makes for great family discussions and mutual education regarding music both ancient (anything the parents listen to) and modern (anything our kids listen to).

Our final destination today was the tiny village of La Bazoque, which is 30 minutes from Bayeux. We are staying in a converted extension of a very old farm house. Our section used to be a garage, workshop and dog kennel. I am happy to report it neither resembles nor smells like any of these previous functions now. We are in rural paradise. Abby fully approves of the place since the owners are British expats. If Abby were to rule the world everyone would speak the Queen's English and the weather would be as warm as it is this afternoon.

Posted by KZFamily 12:49 Archived in France Tagged england france dover calais la_bazoque Comments (2)

Oxford

By Hannah

rain 8 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Jesus College at Oxford: the dining hall

Jesus College at Oxford: the dining hall

A word before you read this blog:

Unfortunately, our internet connection has been minimal, so I couldn't do any research about Oxford or the university or Pitt Rivers Museum. A basic summary of our day is all I could write. Sorry :(

We parted with Milton Cottage unwillingly this morning. None of us really wanted to leave our picturesque home in the Cotswolds, but we agreed that all good things must come to an end and that it really would be worth leaving in the long run. Before we reached our final English destination, however, we took a detour through the university town of Oxford in order to take a tour of the world famous school.

We arrived in Oxford about an hour later, and spent the time we had before the tour started wandering around town and peeking into shops. We had a friendly tour guide, and were joined by people from as far away as Australia. The next two hours were spent walking around some of the colleges and grounds that make up Oxford University. The name Oxford is a combination of the words (betcha can't guess) ox and ford, or more specifically Oxanforda, which means a ford where cattle (oxen) could cross safely.

Our first stop was Jesus College, and here is where we heard a little bit about Marilyn Butler, a female head of what used to be an men-only school. Lining the top of one of the buildings was a series of grotesques, each one standing for a letter in her name. Some of them were easy enough, but none of us were able to spell out the entire thing before it was time to head inside.

Oxford Divinity School

Oxford Divinity School

The dining hall we stopped in was lined with portraits of various headmasters, kings and queens that had influenced Oxford over the years. The hall itself felt rather familiar, and we soon found out that Oxfordian dining halls had been the inspiration behind the Great Hall in the Harry Potter films. It was set up the same way with the teachers' head table at one end of the room, facing the tables and benches where the students would sit. Students were allowed to eat here if they wished, but it was no longer mandatory.

The courtyards we saw were well maintained and often had neat squares of grass that no one except the headmaster and gardener was allowed to step on. Along the walls of the courtyard hung creeping floral vines and were sometimes marked up with chalk writing. This graffiti showed which sports teams had won when against which schools.

The Divinity School was impressive to say the least, decorated with intricate and beautiful stonework. It was my favourite part of the tour. To Abby's and my delight, we found that the place was used as the infirmary in at least one of the Harry Potter films. There had once been a vast library of over eleven million handwritten, handcrafted books, of which only five survived. What really puts that loss in perspective is the thought of billions of hours of work for nought. Now, there are various libraries in different colleges, which included the Harry Potter books in Latin and Greek.By the time the tour was over, we were cold, wet, and hungry. We hurried back to the parkade and huddled inside our car, eating flatbread and cookies for lunch.

Pitt Rivers Museum

Pitt Rivers Museum

Before we left, we stopped by the Pitt Rivers Museum. It's one of the quirkiest museums I've visited, right up there with the Little Museum of Dublin. There was everything from jewellery to clothes to masks to instruments to religious artefacts to shrunken heads. A particularly interesting section was one all about beauty and body modification across the world. Here we saw examples of foot binding (which is awful but fascinating, and I highly recommend you look it up on the website called How Stuff Works), scarring, lip plugs, neck elongation, and, right next to all that "weird stuff", corsets and breast implants. It made you think about the variety of definitions and expectations of beauty.

Our drive to Dover was pretty uneventful, though we hit heavy traffic and were delayed for awhile. Finally, we arrived at a quaint bed and breakfast, and unloaded our mass of bags into our room. For dinner we went to a small Indian restaurant, and ordered a variety of dishes to share. Tomorrow we'll bid farewell to the United Kingdom, and take the (very expensive) ferry over to France. Apparently we have nothing to complain about when it comes to BC Ferries.

Posted by KZFamily 12:04 Archived in England Tagged england university oxford dover Comments (2)

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