Friday, December 18, 2009

Day 6/7: Back to Oxford

**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

Oxford. Yet another university name that comes loaded with baggage. Intimidating and inspirational it seems like Oxford has existed forever (since the 13th century) with most of the world's illustrious Brits coming from its almost 40 colleges. In a blustery and cold afternoon (complete with rain, of course), I joined a tour group and wandered the city and campus of Oxford, a dream of limestone, pitched windows and storied history.

Over the course of the walking tour, I established that I'm not so much for an endless rambling of facts as for inspirational moments and spaces. Highlights from the tour were definitely the all stone sculpture altar (from floor-to-ceiling, Jesus and apostles) set in an intentionally gloomy church at New College and later spotting a pheasant in the garden of New College. One college on campus, All Souls, admits no students at all - it acts more like an elusive think tank whose wine cellar is only rivaled by that of Buckingham Palace. Apparently to be a research fellow there, you have to submit to 6 three-hour exams on a variety of topics (from politics to economics to philosophy to art) and then submit to an interview at the hands of the entire professorship of the college. Talk about elusive.

On day 2, things were luckily much warmer and I took advantage by strolling the Christ Church Meadows. I saw grouse and magpies and geese and ducks and swans! Oh my! A nice way to start the day. I toured a few colleges and then climbed to the cupola of the Sheldonian Theatre where I feasted my eyes on Oxford's spires from above.

Later, I entered the Pitts-Rivers Museum - an anthropological and archaeological warehouse of a museum, chock-full of artifacts from musical instruments to shrunken heads to magical amulets. At the end of the day, before a plate of fish and chips, I got to feast my eyes on an exquisite ceiling of English Gothic style at the Divinity School.

All in all, I have to say that I was reasonably enchanted and still am a little mystified by Oxford.

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