Sunday, July 10, 2005

London Again, and Oxford

Appropriately enough, July 4th was the day we came back down to London and met up with various fellow Americans. Borden was kind enough to let us stay at his place in Greenwich for a couple nights, and we also saw Miriam's parents and sister, who were in London for a few days at the end of a trip to France.

Profiles Having enjoyed our previous time at the Globe so much, we convinced Miriam's family to go see Pericles with us that night. Her parents got actual seats, but Maya came down to stand by the stage with us. This play was done as a "modern practices production," so it was a good complement to the original-style one we had seen before. It also featured some exciting acrobatics on ropes suspended above the stage. I think they had to scour the world to find people who could do that kind of thing and act. Great show, and very much worth going to the Globe again. If I lived in London, I would probably go see every play that goes on there.

Flowers and the Radcliffe Camera The next day, Miriam and I made a short trip out to Oxford. I think that if I had Stanford to do over again, I would probably consider a quarter or two in Oxford much more seriously. I liked it there. Seems like it might be weird though, to be a student at a place where tourists pay admission to come poke their noses in. Oh well.

Christ Church Cathedral was lovely, but had a very mysterious sound. It was a low, rumbling hum, just barely a note rather than a noise, that seemed to come from somewhere off in the distance but surrounded us nevertheless. I imagine there are shifting staircases, Hogwarts-style, somewhere, or other parts of the building are humming to themselves.

In the afternoon at Magdalen College we were starved, having skipped lunch, so we went for a quick bite at the little cafe in the college, fearing a dull, expensive little tourist trap. To our delight, it wasn't like that at all. The only people there were two friendly waitresses and a man who travels around the country taking photographs of cathedrals, and who spent our lunch time telling us all about it and showing us pictures. He was a very nice guy, retired I think, and just doing this as a hobby, though he said he might put together a book some day. So that was a fun little interlude in an afternoon of sight-seeing.

I liked All Soul's College because they have a gorgeous courtyard, but it's hidden. You see a small, simple green square when you first go in, but that's just the decoy courtyard. If you head to the back right corner, you find a short hall leading out into a much larger, more ornate courtyard, with some beautiful views. Plus, they have a song about a giant duck. Must be a cool place.

Blackwell's bookshop was also fantastic. I wish I could swap that in for my local Borders. There are several floors above ground, with new, used and antique books, but the basement is the really fascinating bit. It's set up on three concentric split levels, so that when you're on the top level or the stairs, you can see not only the large horizontal expanse of books, but also three levels of depth. I wonder if that's the largest number of books I've actually been physically able to see at once? Felt like it, at least. It's like a bibliophile's heaven.

That evening we went back to London and had dinner with Borden. Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to see much in Greenwich, though we did get to walk under the prime meridian, which is marked by a green laser beam arching across the nighttime sky. It's amusing to think that Borden lives in the Eastern hemisphere but works in the Western hemisphere. What a commute!

Other notes:
  • Goddard's Pie House has some delicious and cheap meals. We didn't go back for the jellied eels, though, I'm afraid.
  • Magdalen Chapel had monochrome stained glass windows, which seemed odd at first but which was fascinating in its own way.
  • We at dinner at a restaurant with goldfish bowls suspended from the chandeliers.
  • Innocent Drinks juice bottles have stories about monkeys on them.
  • On our flight home the next day, the pilot announced that London had won its bid to host the 2012 Olympics. People applauded, and it was a nice resolution to two weeks of seeing "back the bid" and "make Britain proud" posters.

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