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Cheers, Oxford

My last dinner in Oxford consisted of a pint of Guinness. My lunch today was a beef and stilton pie. I think I’ve grown much too accustomed to British life. Luckily (and sadly, in a way), tomorrow I make my way to Paris for Part 2 of my Travels around Europe(an Museums).

In the meantime, I’ve been quite busy and all over the place.

I realized there are other museums to see in Oxford besides the Ashmolean, and they’re free, too! The Natural History Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum are connected by a building and are FULL of wonderful things to see and even touch.  The Natural History Museum is home to many a skeleton of animal and dinosaur, stuffed animals for the touching (I got to pet a cheetah), exhibits of biodiversity and gems and minerals, and even home to the Oxford Dodo.

The Pitt Rivers Museum is almost like a house museum of a very organized hoarder, in that it is just brimming with this and that object, though thankfully each case is grouped thematically. Even the floors are (sort of). The 3rd floor is weapons and armor — they have some ‘war quoits’ which are basically circular blades which REALLLLY is another name for Xena’s chakram. 😀 The 2nd floor is all sorts of games. And the 1st floor, the bottom floor you see here, is full of EVERYTHING ELSE: boat models, instruments, a totem pole, shrunken heads… you name it, I bet they have it.

Did you know that Oxford is also very centrally located to many interesting cities, sites, and even castles? I did. Many of the students here went to Stratford-Upon-Avon, Blenheim Palace, Nottingham, London, Salisbury, Stonehenge…  I went to Broughton Castle. I took the train to Banbury, which is best known for the nursery rhyme “Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross”, and from there walked west and just south for about 3.5 miles to Broughton Village. Turn right at the “Saye and Sele Arms” pub and soon you will come upon Broughton Castle, home to Lord Sele and Lady Saye (the Fiennes family, yes of Joseph Fiennes and Ralph Fiennes). The castle, church, and grounds date back to the 13th century, and have since been improved and updated and added on to. It is encased by a moat, has a charming little garden, the stables are now a tea room, and the grounds beyond the moat are free for public use.  The castle is full of portraits and period rooms and it is well preserved, and the docents are full of knowledge. It also comes with a very friendly current Lord Sele and Lady Saye, the latter of whom striked up conversation with me on the staircase.  If you can get there, I recommend you go.

Now it’s not all fun and games here in Europe, you know!

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I’ve been occupying my academic time slots in the Brasenose Library, for one, which has a pretty good selection of scholarship on Classical literature and such.  Not to mention it’s got a good interior view!

I also got to spend my time among the books and photos and drawings at the Beazley Archive! Yes, there is the entire database online for worldwide accessibility, but being able to physically spend time with the photographs and notes, and being able to spread multiple images across a very long table, really puts a new perspective on visual comparisons. Plus I got to meet Sir John Boardman, Donna Kurtz, and Thomas Mannack! And of course I’ve been spending much time still at the Ashmolean with the lovely Archaeology class.  Awww aren’t we just a good little group! We also managed to take a field trip to the British Museum and that was lovely (naturally).

Afterward the BM, I took advantage of being in London and went to the Tate Modern, but after one floor I’d had enough of Modern Art. I also stopped by CrossFit Central London, where I’d visited when I was last in London over Thanksgiving break, and saw Brian, the owner, and did some clean and jerks under the careful eye of Sauro. He was an enabler and had me attempt a max effort clean and jerk at 75kg (165#) — which I just kept failing (barely). Sadly. The clean was not happening. Needless to say, yesterday at Oxford Powersports I tried it again and got it nice and easy on the 3rd attempt. Speaking of Oxford Powersports, and this being the end of my trip, I made them all take a farewell group photo with me on my last day!  Because every girl loves to be surrounded by men with muscles, right? Right!

I’m going to miss all these people, including all the other Oklahoma University Honors Program kids who were staying at Brasenose. I like to say I left knowing all of their names, and I assure you that our ‘funny farewell photo’ should more aptly be named a ‘personality photo’: Good bye, Oxford! I’ll think of you fondly during my onward travels!

Next stop: PARIS.

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