14.05.2013 - 14.05.2013 8 °C
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.
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.
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.