Sunday, July 28, 2013

England {day 5}

We celebrated the fourth of July by visiting Oxford. Yet again we did not have enough time to see nearly as much as we would have liked, and in Oxford that seemed especially the case. We left a little later than we had originally planned and consequently from the very beginning everything we did there felt rushed. But in spite of that we enjoyed our time there very much.

Our day started with a bus trip to Oxford and then a second short trip up to Wolvercote Cemetery, the resting place of J. R. R. Tolkien. Thomas is a huge Tolkien fan, and our day in Oxford fittingly had numerous Tolkien connections. At the grave Thomas read some passages from The Hobbit
look, I was there too!
After getting back to the city center, we had an insanely rushed breakfast--as in, I was eating my French toast as we ran down the street to make it to our next tour. Luckily Thomas's food came first or I don't know what he would have done. This was his first experience with the full English breakfast, and it quickly became a favorite of his.
so rushed the food was half eaten by the time I took a picture
We went on a walking tour of the campus and really enjoyed it. There are many, many colleges in Oxford and the tour mainly gave us a closer look at one of those colleges. It just so happened to be Exeter College, where Tolkien went. We were able to see the dining hall, the chapel, the front quadrangle, and the Fellows' Garden.

The tour took us around many other parts of the campus and we saw many other colleges from the outside. Here is Christ Church College, which is lovely but which you cannot enter without a separate fee thanks to parts of Harry Potter being filmed there.

After the tour, we ran (literally) to the Eagle and Child for lunch. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis (along with other Oxford writers, a group called the Inklings) used to hang out there, and eating there was on our must-do list for Oxford, but unfortunately, in keeping with the theme of the day, we had very little time to do so. At least we were able to eat our whole meal sitting down, so it was a step up from breakfast.
Happy 4th of July.

After our very quick lunch we took a tour of the Bodleian Library. It was very interesting and we were able to see some beautiful places that are typically only available to students. We weren't allowed to take pictures in two of our favorite portions, the Bodleian reading room and the upper level of the Radcliffe Camera. Here is a shot of the Divinity School, where our tour began:
if you look closely, you can see Thomas standing here, just inside the Great Gate to the library
Radcliffe Camera
me in front of Hertford College, where Evelyn Waugh went. His experiences there inspired parts of Brideshead Revisited.
 When we got back to London, we went to the Globe Theatre to see Macbeth. Of course it is not the original Globe Theatre, as it burned down, or even the rebuilt one, since it was destroyed at the hands of Oliver Cromwell. (digression: that reminds me, in Oxford, we learned that nothing there was harmed by the Blitz because Hitler planned to make Oxford his capital when he overtook England.) They rebuilt the theatre as closely to the original as they could, though of course some guess work was involved.

Both because they were very cheap (£5!) and because it seemed like the true Shakespearean experience, we got groundling tickets. And we got in line early enough that we were able to stand right by the stage (or at least I was right next to it, and Thomas was just behind me). It was awesome. Yes, our feet hurt after standing for 3 hours, but at this point of the trip that was pretty much standard procedure. And we were very lucky to have perfect weather that night because the theatre is open air, and you're not allowed umbrellas.

We absolutely loved the play. The actors playing Macbeth and Lady Macbeth both did superb jobs. And we were delightfully surprised to find Billy Boyd (aka Pippin in The Lord of the Rings movies--yet one more Tolkien connection for the day) playing Banquo. I was only a couple feet from him at several points of the show. We loved the experience of being up so close to the stage, practically in the action, and if we're ever able to go back we'll definitely do the groundling tickets again. Of the three shows we saw in London, this was our favorite.

The picture doesn't really do it justice, but as we were leaving the theatre to head back to the flat for the night, we had a beautiful view of St. Paul's Cathedral in the twilight.

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