Steve n Jen's UK adventures

UK and European adventures. Read on my pretties, and discover what two stray Aussies can get up to on their travels.......

22 December 2012

Dec 2012 a

Tue 04 Dec 2012
This afternoon Jen received confirmation that her third round interview in trendy Soho was successful and could she come into work this afternoon? All a bit sudden, so Jen started the next day.

Wed 05 Dec 2012
Jen's commute now takes twice as long, costs twice as much, the hours are longer, two weeks' fewer holidays, more responsibility and of course loads of stress when starting a new job. But it gets her out of the house to have some social interaction. 

Fri 07 Dec 2012
Tonight we hopped in the car and Steve drove us to Oxford. This gorgeous gothic city has been on our "to do" list for years and years. Our B&B room has a jaccuzzi and four poster bed. It's time to celebrate!

Sat 08 Dec 2012
Oxford Day 1. 
After an early breakfast, we arrived at the Old Bodleian Library for our pre-booked exclusive "upstairs downstairs" tour. The tour began in the Divinity School (a single hall/room) - which is where the hospital scenes in the Harry Potter films were shot. The guide explained it was built with private funding, an very early example of sponsorship, as patrons each had a ceiling boss carved and installed to represent their contribution.

Next we saw Convocation House, (the next room along) a Jacobean parliament room with a throne at the end which did indeed see the King hold parliament here. 
Then upstairs we climbed, to Duke Humphrey's Library (part of the Bodleian Library complex) which was completed in 1488, and later restored by Thomas Bodley. It is the oldest working and purpose-built library we've ever seen - and just as it would have appeared in the 16th century, same stunning painted ceiling, shelves, wood carvings, everything - it's amazing! No photos allowed, so here's what it looks like inside: 

Next, we ambled across to the Radcliffe Camera, again a purpose-built library (but in the English Palladian style) built in the 18th century and is a single, circular domed room with a large terrace/balcony encircling inside, creating a second floor of sorts. Next, we walked through the "new" underground tunnel (crammed with an overflow of books) back to where the tour began.

The tour guide had mentioned the "oldest" cafe in town (well the building is old at any rate) the Vaults Cafe at University Church. So we decided to seek it out and have lunch there. An excellent choice, the food was truly superb!

Above: the Vault Cafe, located in the church before us.
So, next we strolled back to the Museum of the History of Science, next door to the Bodleian, and Jen went snap-happy with the Orreries, pocket sundials and various other curiosities.
Above: a small Roman pendant sundial

Above: Armillary Sphere with planets.
Below: Orrery.

Above: Behind Steve is Einstein's handwriting on a blackboard.

By now our feet were tired, so Jen had a hot choc and Steve enjoyed a pint at the Prancing Pony (OK, the White Horse) pub across the road, which is one of the places where Tolkein (Steve's all-time favourite author) liked to meet with his friends.

Sun 09 Dec 2012
Oxford Day 2. 
Some morning wandering about the town, including poking our noses into the quadrangles of several colleges. We also stopped off at Carfax Tower, climbing about 80 steps to the rooftop, to take in the views of the "dreaming spires of Oxford".

 We spent the entire day at the Ashmolean museum where many fine artefacts caught our imaginations. Steve lingered most in the Gold Coins of Britain room. Jen was delighted by the Coptic patterned cotton fabrics. Also of interest was the 'Pre-Roman Italy' room, the silver room, the renaissance watches and the Victorian Pre-Raph gallery.

Above: the only known surviving coin in the world depicting
this Roman emperor.  Dug up in England of course! 
Above: renaissance pocket watch - compass and sundial in one.
Above: a very small Roman brazier

Above: 'Ariadne' by Waterhouse
 Next, we enjoyed a most excellent dinner at the Eagle and Child pub which is where the "Inklings" regularly met - i.e. Tolkein, Carroll and friends. Then off to a fab 16th century concert in St Barnabas Church, with interiors best described as a fascinating mash-up of pre-Raphaelite and Byzantine styles. The concert "To Shorten Winter's Sadness" was most excellent and made Jen feel like madrigal singing all the way home.

Mon 10 Dec 2012
Oxford Day 3.
We arrived early for our pre-booked behind the scenes tour of Christ Church and private gardens. There was time enough for a free guided tour of the Christ Church Cathedral and cloisters.

Above: the outside of Christ Church Cathedral.  Below: looking behind
us at Lewis Carroll inspiring tree and tiny garden wall door.
We saw the garden and tiny door which reputedly inspired Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, and the Chestnut tree where Alice's cat would often get stuck, inspiring the Cheshire Cat character. 

We also heard tales of the old Dean who always was running late - most inconvenient when none of the scholars could start dinner in the great hall until he'd arrived - inspiring Carroll's white rabbit. Before entering the great hall, Jen was intrigued by the fine fan-vaulted ceiling above the Hall Staircase (which leads to the Great Hall). Let alone the feeling that we're about to enter Hogwarts!

Above: The tree had mirrors and playing cards as decorations on it - all very Wonderland themed.

We went back to our B&B and detoured slightly, driving north-west of Oxford, to see the most easterly stone circle in the UK - the King's Men stone circle, and Whispering Knights - part of the Rollright Stones. 

Above: the Whispering Knights
 Wed 12 Dec 2012
Steve tried and tried desperately to get tickets to see Kraftwerk at the Tate modern, but the website and phone system was jammed up. Most disappointing! So instead, for that night, Steve and a few guests will enjoy a video playlist on our projector, and make a night of it. Same city, same time (8 Feb), same music, just not live. But it will be in the comfort of our own home and without the press of the mob,  also with whatever drinks and nibbles we want to hand. The next best thing really.


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