Monday, October 5, 2009

Final Oxford images and that's a wrap.

I'm really glad I got to see Oxford before I had to leave England. Here are some final images.

Lots of alleys, sidestreets, and hidden places to explore in Oxford.

Chairs in the lobby of the Oxford Castle Hotel.

A hallway in the old castle prison. The doors in the hall are to small cells. The gift shop at the end of the hall probably wasn't there at the time.

Lunch at Piemasters, a fast-food place in a busy indoor market, in downtown Oxford. I had the Chicken of Aragon with potatoes, gravy, and mashed peas.

We met Lynn, Robin's former tutor at Merton College, at the college where she teaches full time, Regent's Park. Robin and Lynn walk through the school's quad on the way to Lynn's office.

The Regent's Park quad.

We could use a few of these in downtown Santa Fe.

We stopped at The Randolph, a 5 Star hotel, to have a cider. This guy claimed to be a musician (an organist, I think) who'd just been recognized and cheered at some event. Besides being cheered, he was also drunk as a skunk, alternately spewing BS and almost falling asleep. As you can see, he invited himself over to our table. He tried to leave without paying for his drink, which he just snatched off the tray of a passing waiter. When the bartender insisted that he had to pay for his drink, he wrote a check but the writing was totally illegible scribbles.

Cider at the Randolph.

The Randolph Hotel.A TED conference was held here a couple of summers ago while Robin was studying at Merton College. She ran into some long-time Mac friends who were in Oxford for the conference.

William Herbert watches over the Bodleian Library.

The building where Oxford graduates get their degree has a circular courtyard, surrounded by busts with almost cartoonish faces. We'll have to ask Robin to get the inside story on this one.

All of the busts have bugged out, popping eyes, and mouths agape. Very cool indeed.

Farewell to Oxford, now one of my favorite college towns.

Ivy at Regent's Park College.

More Oxford

Tudor style - downtown Oxford.jpg
Oxford is actually a time travel portal. Sometimes you can see through the thin veil of time that - hey look!

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Cemetery and bicycles.

Robin enters the Bodleian Library courtyard.

Entrance -to-Bodleian.jpg
The statue on the other side of the courtyard is William Herbert.

Around the courtyard perimeter are doors, entrances to different areas of knowledge. This door is labeled SCHOLA METAPHYSICAE.


You've heard of The Ivory Towers of Academia? This is them. Really. I'm not kidding.

Oxford Castle.jpg
Oxford Castle dates back to around 1100. It later became a prison, and now a luxury hotel. Some parts of the castle and prison are left as they were for tours. Most of the rooms are now hotel rooms.

Oxford - Universities Galore

Oxford is a fascinating place. I'd imagined a sleepy little village with some ivy-covered towers. Instead, imagine a small town with approximately 40 universities, world-renowned libraries and museums, and street crowds that look like a busy day at Disneyland. Robin says it's good to be here now, because it really gets busy in the summer. This is the Friday before classes start, so lots of students are just arriving.

Universities grew rapidly here starting in 1167 when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris.

Ye olde downtown street scene.

Another ye olde street scene.

Ye olde Oxford mother with children.

From the bus window: ye olde tavern.

One of the lanes that connects a maze of small cobblestone streets, near Merton College, where Robin has attended summer classes.

William Herbert, son of Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke. This statue is in the courtyard of the world-famous Bodleian Library.

The dining hall at Merton College. Looks kind of Harry-Potterish, doesn't it? Robin has had many meals here at Hogwarts - I mean Merton College.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Brunel to Heathrow, Heathrow to Albuquerque

Aaahhh. Nothing like being the first (and only) people walking across the Brunel campus a 5:15 in the morning. Robin walked me to the U3 Heathrow Central bus stop in the middle of the campus, to catch the 5:24. I started getting nervous when 6:00am rolled around, but finally, bus headlights appeared. Thanks, Robin, for waiting with me.

The bus trip took about 30 minutes, winding through small towns (and I really mean "winding") and traffic circles. No more than a half dozen riders that early in the morning.

At the Heathrow Central bus station there's a tube station that connects to all terminals. Thank goodness the signage is excellent and it was relatively easy to get to my gate destination (easy, except for my two overstuffed carry-on bags, full of clothes, cameras, laptop, external hard drive, cables, adapters, batteries, battery chargers, and other random devices and accessories).

Everything went smoothly until, at take-off time, the pilot announced that flight control was having problems and there would be at least a 4-hour delay. That sounds bad enough, but the "at least" part was pretty freaky, especially considering a non-delayed flight is going to take 8 hours to get to Houston. I wanted to call Robin, but I'd taken the SIM card out of my iPhone, and I didn't have a pin or anything small enough to use to eject the SIM card holder, so I could re-insert it. I asked the woman next to me if she had a pin. She said no, but then said "Wait, try this." She took the earring out of her ear and I was able to use the pointed stud to eject the SIM card holder, then call Robin and tell her what was happening.

I was very relieved when, one and a half hours later the pilot announced that we could leave Heathrow. The almost two hour delay meant I'd miss my Albuquerque connection in Houston, but Continental automatically rebooked me on a later flight and sent an email notification to Robin. When I got to Houston, I called her and she told me the good news as I stood in a looooong Customs line at Bush International, Houston.

I'm sitting at the Albuquerque gate in Houston International now, three hours early. But the hard part of the trip is over.

Update: I arrived back home around 9 pm to a warm welcome from Rosetta and Pumpkin, who had lots of nice stories about the nice people that had been here taking good care of them for the past two weeks. We talked for hours before going to sleep.

Thanks Jim'Bo and Janet for a job well done.

I'll post some more Oxford photos today, and soon I'll post a blog address for Robin, as she keeps us updated on An American At Brunel.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A great time in Oxford

Oxford is really interesting. A very cool place. We got there around noon, after a very short tube ride and a very pleasant bus ride. I'll blog some photos and details later, but before I go pack my bags, I just want to say what a great visit we had with Robin's former Oxford tutor, Lynn, and her family, husband Neil and son James. We met Lynn around 5pm near Regent's Park, the college where she teaches. After showing us around, we took a bus to the Park & Ride, then she drove us to her village, Long Hanborough, for dinner at her house, which Neil had prepared (minced meat and potatoes, his specialty). Delicious. Loved it. Better than any meal so far. In addition to the great meal, we had a great visit, and reluctantly said goodbye. Neil was supposed to drop us off at the bus stop so we could catch the bus back to Hillingdon, then catch the tube to Uxbridge, then walk from Uxbridge to Brunel. Once in the car he informed us he was driving us all the back to Brunel, with some lame excuse that he wanted to show us where he works, close to Uxbridge.

You're a prince, Neil. We owe you one - or several. I hope we get to even up with you. Thanks for a memorable evening - and everything else.

Lynn. A friend and sweetheart.

Henry (another sweetheart) and Neil.

James. A super nice, cool guy, and fun to talk to.

Henry, a Mastif-Golden mix, loves his family.


We're on the Oxford Tube, a double-decker bus with free WiFi, heading to Oxford. I'm using my iPhone to write this post. I've removed the sim card from my phone to ensure I don't rack up unexpected data and roaming charges.

More later

Thursday, October 1, 2009

London to Uxbridge, The Seahorse, and more

After the Globe, we headed back to the nearest tube station, but decided we should visit The Sea Horse. The Sea Horse is in the exact spot that used to be The Mermaid Tavern, a famous place where the greatest writers, artists, & thinkers of Shakespeare's day would gather on the first friday of every month (there's no record that Shakespeare was ever there). The gathering was called The First Friday Club.

The Mermaid Tavern was on the corner of Friday Street and Bread Street, a triangular property in which these two streets meet at an angle. And that's where the Sea Horse is located.




The Sea Horse is small, with contemporary decor, but you can sense the ghosts of Ben Jonson, Thomas Dekker, John Middleton, etc. Especially Ben Jonson.

Oh look. I've caught a great artist or thinker or something going inside.

The current owner doesn't even realize that great artists and writers are still hanging out here.

After a cider at the Sea Horse, we made our way to a tube station and Uxbridge. Lots of people going home after work.

By the time we got to Zone 6, the train wasn't crowded.

Return to the Uxbridge Station.

Moonrise Over High Street (in Uxbridge)

When we got back to the Brunel campus, another dance class was being held on the third floor of one of the buildings.

Tomorrow we go to Oxford!

The Globe Theater and Loves Labors Lost

We saw Loves Labors Lost at The Globe (the only structure in London allowed to have a thatched roof). A very good production. Enjoyed it. Directed and acted to be more of a comedy than I thought it to be. Unfortunately, the last scene (which is serious and has some of the most serious lines) got the biggest laughs. The main characters are merrily frolicking around on stage (having a food fight with small bread rolls, in this production) when the Princess learns her father has died. The mood turns somber. Then, as the main characters are giving their final, serious lines, pigeons, one by one, begin swooping down from the stage roof, onto the stage (barely missing the actor's heads), and gobbling up the bread crumbs that litter the stage. The audience (lots of young people) erupted in loud laughter every time a new pigeon swooped down, paying more attention to the pigeons than the actors or dialog. It pretty much ruined the moment as planned, but it did become a memorable Globe moment - for me at least.

A Globe poster.

Waiting for the play to start.

Groundlings jockey for position at the stage edge. No sitting allowed for groundlings after the play starts.

Musicians mean the play is starting.

At the Globe, the play is always followed by the actors doing a dance (based on the tradition in Shakespeare's time of the actors dancing a jig after a performance).

The actors take multiple bows, then acknowledge the musicians.

As London an afternoon as one can have.