Oxord, but without Christo

Trip Start Apr 28, 2007
Trip End Oct 26, 2007

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Friday, August 31, 2007

The drive to Oxfordshire through the A & B roads of the Cotswolds was a pleasant jaunt with an enjoyable stop at Bibury as suggested by Andy and Judy. Bibury is considered to be the epitome of Cotswold villages and we enjoyed ambling through the village, and picking the odd apple and any other fruit on offer from apparently neglected trees in an overgrown paddock. Jen bravely tried a gorgeous looking red berry off a tree which Brian feared may be poisonous. It turned out not to be - no ill effects and we later learnt it might have been a mulberry.  The sign to "Please Shut the Gate" amused us since you would need to re-hang it first.
We decided living in the Medieval Cottages would be the pits with thousands of gawking tourists peering in and cameras flashing all day.
We really enjoyed exploring Oxford, especially Exeter College at Oxford University where Christo is a graduate student and will be back to in November. Oxford University is the oldest university in the English speaking world and lays claim to 9 centuries of continuous existence.
Exeter College is the sixth oldest of the colleges at Oxford and was founded in the year 1314. J.R. Tolkien was an undergraduate here,  and amongs many other famous grads, William Morris was also a student and created a huge tapestry for the chapel. Having seen an awful lot of chapels, churches, cathedrals and abbeys recently, we were still suitably impressed by the magnificent Victorian gothic chapel in the quadrangle. It was designed by George Gilbert Scott as a scaled-down version of the Sainte Chapelle in Paris. Then, we were privileged to be shown into the Exeter dining hall which is not normally part of public viewing.
In Christo's absence, we took a guided walking tour to learn more about the city and the rest of the university.
Brian Lowe, our guide, had a huge knowledge base as well as a great sense of humour. He was a source of wonderful historical trivia which made Oxford University come to life for us.
The Bodleian Library was one of the sights we stopped by  - and our guide explained that it has a policy that no book can be taken off-site. Not even if you were Bonnie Prince Charlie - who was told that the book he was requesting would not be delivered to him.  He would need to go in himself if he wanted to read that book. Although it was built in the 1200's, the Bodleian Library is still being upgraded.  Now most of it is underground to house its 8 million books.
Another library we were shown was at Merton College.  Here at Merton College, is the oldest still functional library in the UK, and the stained glass in the chapel there is older even than that in Canterbury Cathedral.
Guide Brian told us of interesting graduates and non graduates from Oxford University, as we stood outside the Sheldonian Theater where the graduation ceremonies are held.  For example, Hayley who named that comet, devised the interest tables used by banks, and charted the Southern Skies actually failed his first degree.  Some of us parents should be heartened!
Later as we passed the Grand Café we learnt that some wit whose name we don't remember, when fined for missing lectures in favour of refreshments there, demanded "why be fined tuppence for missing a lecture which was not worth a penny".
Later before we left town, we also managed to serendipitously meet a friend of Christo's at his halls and were shown inside where Christo will be living again in November.
We look forward to seeing Oxford again when Christo can show us around from his perspective.

Before we left the Oxford area, we caught up with old friends for lunch. Jen flatted with Moragh in London in the mid 70's and her mum Mary saw plenty of Jen for "home visits" with Moragh over this time, and since then of course.
On our way to Leatherhead we had coffee and a catchup with Kim and Thomas in Reading, then took a detour to Shepperton on Thames to see the family home where Jen's grandmother grew up.  Strangely enough we met another Kiwi on the pavement, taking photos of the house. Though we knocked on the door of the house, still called Creek House all these 100 years later, with the offer to show photos of it at the turn of the 20th century, there was no one home to show us around the home of the 21st century. In fact we suspect it has been turned into apartments.   
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