Thursday, December 17, 2009

Day 3/4: Oxford/London

**This is a series of post that I am putting up from notebook entries during my trip to England in the first 10 days of December

The last two days have been unusually sunny to begin with (today it is a dreary rainy Sunday and I am stalling to join the dampness).

I went to Oxford full of hope and expectations - excited to visit a place of storied past and overwhelming reputation. I passed the hills and plains outside London with horses and sheep grazing on frost-covered sunlit hillsides and even spotted a hovering hawk (always my personal omen of good things to come). While the campus of Oxford sent chills down my spine (I have a softspot for white- and yellow-toned stone), the tour of the art history department was disappointing lasting all of 5 minutes in some pseudo-modern (aka 1970s) construction. compared with the Courtauld, Oxford did not seem to hold a candle (although, not to discount from its teachings, Oxford does have a great reputation for being academically rigorous and first-rate).

I spent the rest of my time wandering around, touring the recently reopened Ashmolean museum, sampling cornish pasties and mince pies, and trying to get a sense of Oxford (when I stay there this coming week I'll have more of a chance to absorb it). Off I went back to London to visit the strange architectural funhouse which is the John Soane Museum and then spent the evening wandering a bit with my host, Brian, from pubs to supermarket and back home for dinner and a viewing of Russian Ark.

The following day was a beauty and I met up with Matilde and Katherine for a PSYL reunion. We strolled through the lovely Regent's Park, popped into a swanky gallery and over to a showing at Christie's. This was an experience, seeing the people examining the works and the people working the room. The Art! A sketch by Raphael estimated at sale of 12 million pounds (it sold for 29 million pounds) and a lovely painting/sketch by Puvis de Chavannes of his Boston Public Library Mural. I had such fun catching up with Matilde and Katherine, walking all around town, getting caught in the madness on Oxford Street, Piccadilly and Covent Gardens. It ended nicely sitting in the sparse St. Paul's Church listening to a rehearsal of that evening's Christmas concert.

And so now, a bit of walking with my brolly in the chill and rain of London - my final full day in the city of the trench coat and the umbrella.

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