On Saturday, the program moved to Oxford for the week, where we’ll still be having classes and all of that jazz, except I won’t have my internship or my usual volunteer stuff. As a side note related to my internship, Bath Phil had a concert last week and I spent 10 hours that day at the venue working, and it went off really well. They have a program pairing with a local private school and were as one orchestra with students and members of Bath Phil, and it was a beautiful concert. In academic news, I have turned in all of my first round of papers, so we’re steadily moving through the semester.
But back to Oxford, on the drive over, we stopped at Blenheim Palace (see photo below), which started being built in 1705 and took a total of 28 years to build. We were running a little behind on time, so I didn’t get to see everything that I wanted to see, such as the butterfly garden, but we were given a tour of the palace itself. They had an exhibit called “A Passion for Fashion,” which meant there were a bunch of replicas of clothes from the time period, starting with a piece made entirely of paper (see additional photos). I also learned that since a lot of their makeup actually had poison in it, their hair would fall out which would result in two things. One, that’s where powered wigs would come from, and one was discovered with an absurd number of lice in it. Two, they would skin rats and use the skins as eyebrows. There were also 10 tapestries throughout the palace that were made in Belgium and took a total of 8 years to make. The main one is of the battle of Blenheim (see additional photos), which was a victory for the first Duke of Marlborough, and the reason he was given the land for the palace. One of the tapestries also has a mistake in it, there’s a dog who has horse hooves instead of dog paws (see additional photos). The tour ended in the library, which has over 10,000 books and is over 183 feet long, in fact there was a Dior (I think) fashion show there recently. Fun fact, Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim, although he never lived there. We then got lunch and mostly just wandered around the grounds until we had to leave, as we didn’t really have time to do much else before we had to leave again.
Then we headed over to Oxford. A fun fact that a lot of people don’t realize, Oxford University is not really a thing, there are 38 colleges that make up Oxford. We are staying at University College, which is the oldest of the bunch. We all are in single rooms, and I have the pleasure of being on the very top floor of the building I am in, so I get to climb a slew of stairs whenever I go up to my room. My building also has a memorial to Percy Shelley, the poet, who went to University College, also called Univ (see additional photos). We got an introduction to the college from a former ASE tutor who is not a Senior Tutor at Univ, he went very in depth with the history, as that is his subject. It’s funny, he described Oxford as being a “newer” city because it was established in 800 AD, which is pretty different from what we hear in America. Univ, though, is one of the oldest universities/colleges in the world. We then got a tour of the college, the library which we have access to, and the town. There are a lot of museums and things here, so you will definitely hear about those later as I get to them. Then we were left to our own devices, some of my housemates and I got some Thai food and then there was an ASE event thing at the Univ bar, which we were welcome to go to or not. I did go, again with my housemates, and it was pretty fun. We taught one of the staff how to play flip cup and another one joined us on the dance floor for a couple songs.
Yesterday was much more open, so I ended up walking around town with some people, mostly just trying to get a handle on where everything is. We started at the Christ Church Meadows (see additional photos), which were beautiful. Christ Church is another one of the colleges, which I will be going on a tour of later in the week, a lot of Harry Potter was filmed there, so that’ll be exciting. We also wandered by an old cemetery which was very peaceful and had a small little labyrinth in it. Then we went by the Eagle and the Child (see photo below), which is the pub that CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien would meet in and talk, and one of them would sometimes even hold his seminar classes in the pub.
In the afternoon, we went punting. I’m guessing you don’t know what that is, so basically it’s doing what the guys who steer gondolas do, with the long poles and all that. It was a little windy, so it was marginal if we were going to do it or not, but we did end up going out. I got the pleasure of being the first person in my boat to be doing the pushing (see photo below) and steering, and let me tell you, it is much more difficult than you think it is. We were supposed to go around a little loop, but we couldn’t get past this one part nearby where we were supposed to begin to turn on the loop, so we decided to turn around and come back the way we had come so as not to be too late. We did trade off who was steering, but I don’t think that any of us excelled at it, we had a paddle in the boat that was definitely used liberally to try and move us along and steer as was a large part of the way we were able to get back. It was also very helpful in making all of our crashes into the bank much more soft. Happily, no one in our boat ever fell in, but there were two people on the program who unfortunately made it into the water at one point, although only one fully went under the water. I would say that it was a fun experience though, kind of one of those situations where you just have to laugh at how poorly you are doing.
We’re back to classes today, and I’m curious to see how my drama class will go because we’re done analyzing plays and moving into figuring out what we’re going to perform as our final for the class. I also have entirely free days on Tuesday and Wednesday since I don’t have my internship, so a lot of exploring will be done around that time. I do like Oxford though, I think it’s a cute but still energetic city.