"All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts…" Shakespeare's As You Like It - 1600
07.08.2010 - 11.08.2010 25 °C
"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts…"
Shakespeare's As You Like It - circa 1600
Day 1 - 2010-08-07
Where do I start? This was my first real trip to England. I'd flown through Heathrow a few times and was in London for a day when I was about 4-5 (all I remember is the Tower Bridge on a sunny day and a very bad hamburger) and felt that this was a good time to visit as well as ease myself into Youth Hostel type accommodations which I will be using extensively for the rest of my trip. Also, as an English speaking country, communicating with the "locals" would be easy…
My introduction to England was made even easier by the brilliant welcome I got from Caroline whom I'd met in New Zealand. She took me to Stratford-upon-Avon, birthplace of William Shakespeare where we toured the city, looked at the location of Shakespeare's house, his grave and then had fish & chips under the rain (...to make it a typical British experience). After that we saw the brilliant Shakespeare production As You Like It performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in the Courtyard Theatre which had an interesting configuration. I counted about 600 or so seats and apparently nobody is more than 12 metres from the stage, which extrudes into the room and is surrounded on 3 sides by spectators. The RSC performance was brilliant; one of the best theatre performances I have ever seen!
So the thing I learned that day that blew my mind, as a concept, is that all of the swans in open water in England… belong to Her Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. It just strikes me as so incredible that a whole species of animal in a country would de facto belong to anybody… Ah! The joys of Monarchy… I'm glad to say that the Queen of Canada doesn't de facto own any animal species… ;-)
Warning! Queen's property:
Location of Shakespeare's house:
Day 2 - 2010-08-08
The next morning, I got a tour of (Royal) Leamington Spa which is known for the healing properties of it's spa water. Having tasted the water, I'd say that it is the closest thing I've ever tasted to sea water so far from the ocean. It was very salty!
After that, we went for a 6 mile hike through the countryside to the site of the Battle of Edgehill (1642) stopping halfway or so to get a typical Sunday roast (beef). The weather was warm and sunny which was really nice.
I then got to visit Blenheim Palace, the former residence of Winston Churchill, on the way to Oxford.
I then made it to Oxford and after checking in to my backpackers, walked around till the towers of Christ Church College pulled me in their direction. I then spent a few hours sitting by a creek in Christ Church College Meadow as the College was closed to visitors. On the way back, I figured it was time to have a local ale; my first since arriving in England so I went to a pub where a kind local, somewhat inebriated, suggested several things I should see the next day (including CCC and the Turf Pub).
Leamington Spa town hall with the statue of Queen Victoria
Location of the Battle of Edgehill:
Palace of Blenheim in Woodstock - where Winston Churchill lived:
Looking into the Quadrangle of Christ Church College, Oxford:
Day 3 - 2010-08-09
Getting up bright and early the next morning, I decided to explore more of Oxford and found St-Mary's church which, at 9:00 would let me in for an elevated view of the city. After getting something to eat, I returned there and climbed the 127 or so steps of the smallest diameter spiral staircase I'd ever been up. Seen from above, the old city of Oxford really has many fantastic buildings. It reminds me of Venice which has so many picture opportunities.
I then visited Christ Church College which was grand, then had a cornish pasty for lunch. After that, I had a walking tour of Oxford where we visited the Bodleian Library, New College (ironically, the second oldest - and where a short scene of one of the Harry Potter's was filmed in the Quadrangle), part of St. Edmunds College, then All Saints. After that, quick ale at the Turf Pub for an "Education in Intoxication" then off by train to London.
One interesting statistic about Oxford is the student to professor ratio. There are about 23000 students at the University of Oxford and about 5000 professors. That is about a 5:1 rather which is very high and permits them to have a tutoring system which is supposed to be very effective in gauging the student's progress (and assigning him/her extra work).
I made it into London around 17:00, dropped my bags off at Palmer's Lodge near Swiss Cottage subway station (the best youth hostel/backpacker I've ever stayed at - Quiet rooms, lots of people but doesn't feel crowded, and great facilities that are well cleaned daily… I'll be returning there next time I'm in London!) and proceeded to London Bridge tube. I then walked to the Tower Bridge and from there walked to the Palace of Westminster taking way too many pictures along the way and finishing off my day's sunburn.
Christ Church College Meadow
Bridge of Sighs (lookalike) with the Bodleian Library in the background:
Turf pub where I had an ale:
Radcliffe Camera with Brasenose College in the background:
Radcliffe Camera with All Saints College in the background:
All Saints College, notice the telescope shaped towers in homage to Sir Christopher Wren whose wonderful architecture adorns Oxford and London. He wasn't trained as an architect but as a physicist and astronomer. The two towers were built in the shape of telescopes with each lower section larger than the one above it. In later years, they added the spike in the centre to give it the shape of a W in his honour.
All Saints College:
Radcliffe Camera and Brasenose College:
Christ Church College Cloister:
Fan ceiling on the way up to the dining hall, Christ Church College:
Dining hall, Christ Church College:
Detail of Hermes fountain in the Quadrangle at Christ Church College:
Christ Church College Quadrangle:
Christ Church College:
Bridge of Sighs (lookalike):
New College (the second oldest in Oxford):
New College Quadrangle where a scene of Harry Potter was filmed...
Tower Bridge seen from London Bridge:
Bit of a sunburn and need a shave...
Palace of Westminster:
Day 4 - 2010-08-10
Rainy day all day… I started my day by returning to the Tower of London which I visited having as guide Moira Cameron, the first female Beefeater. Her tales of the drama surrounding the Tower of London and the events that took there over the years made the tour very interesting as did her sense of humour. After that, I took the tube to Westminster Abbey which I visited. It is fascinating and certainly well worth a visit, though unfortunately we can't take pictures from the inside. I then walked to Buckingham Palace. Following that, I headed for Richmond to have tea with Jacqualene. Richmond is rather nice and surprisingly quiet considering it is technically part of London.
Grenadiers at the Tower of London:
The White Tower, Tower of London:
King George V statue with a pigeon as a guest on his head:
Day 5 - 2010-08-11
Next morning, I decided to get up later, and return to the Palace of Westminster for a few sunny day pictures, then proceeded to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard. I arrived a little late and it was really crowded and rushed to the airport halfway through as my flight was leaving shortly after.
Palace of Westminster:
Eye of London:
Changing of the guard:
In summary, Stratford and Leamington were great, Oxford was beautiful and I only saw enough of London to whet my appetite… That and I absolutely love the British... I need to go back someday!