Saturday, June 27, 2009


After leaving good ole London we hopped the train (we and our four delicious cookies who joined us for the ride) from King's Cross to Oxford. It was a fairly crowded train and we kept hoping no one would decide to ask us to move our backpacks so they could have a seat. I mean, we wouldn't want to be stuck talking with some stange British person. We enjoy being anti-social at times.

We made it to Oxford with no major problems - the only hitch was that we had to change trains in Reading due to some malfunction with the one we were on. We walked nearly two miles to our rather run down hotel, our backpacks feeling much heavier than they ever had before. The dingy hotel was nothing we hadn't seen before - old carpets, worn paint, thin walls, a faint strange smell. All in all, not bad! Their breakfast was one of the best we've had on our trip so far. They even had chocolate muffins and...some pate-like stuff. I ate the chocolate muffins. As well as my full English breakfast. And here I thought we might actually be able to lose weight on our trip. Silly me.

On our first day of sight-seeing we went to the All Souls College and got pictures of the beautiful Radcliffe Camera. We stopped for some shots at the Botanic Garden, but didn't actually go in - the rose garden out front was good enough for me. And we spotted a game shop that had a bunch of really nice chess sets in the window: Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Poo vs Peter Rabbit, Lord of the Rings, etc. There were quite a few game shops like this around Oxford actually. We went to the covered market for lunch and chocolates. It's quite a good market! Dare I say it's almost as good as Borough Market in London. There's a number of fruit and veg vendors, a couple of meat stalls (one of which is organic), a few fishmongers (I love that word), a cake shop, a chocolate store, and various other random shops. We had some savory pies with mash (aka mashed potatos) for lunch at stall called The Pieminster. After that we walked down High Street to New Road. This area is filled with shops of all sorts. It seems that this is probably where most of your clothes shopping can be done in Oxford. We saw the Oxford Castle from the outside and got some pictures. Didn't look too impressive to be honest, but I'm sure it's nice. And after that I got myself a piercing. Eeeps! Yes, a piercing. I got my lip pierced. Now, don't look at me like that. I decided that I may as well do it now, since I've always wanted to have one. While I'm on this trip I don't have to worry about people who have some amount of control over my life judging me (ie: being fired due to facial piercings). So I got my lip pierced! And yes, it hurt, but not as much as I was expecting. I got it done at a place called Tiger Lily, which turned out to be a bit better than I was expecting. So hopefully all goes well and I don't die from some random piercing malfunction. In fact, it was just in the papers over here that some kid died of blood poisoning after getting his lip pierced. I did my best research on the place, asked the piercer a few questions, and crossed my fingers from there. Anyways, lets move on!

Our next big day out was to the Oxford Natural History Museum. I loved that they had dinosaur footprints in the field out front of the museum! Nice touch. The architecture of the building once you get inside is astounding. It's just beautiful! The ceiling is all glass, held up by a sort of honey-comb frame which is supported by these clusters of delicate-looking columns. And the room is bordered by columns of different types of stone, the names of which are engraved at the base. So it's as though they built geologic displays into the architecture of the building. And on display were quite a few different skeletons from dinosaurs, to prehistoric bears and cows, to fish and frogs. There was a stand alone "box" with a heavy velvet curtain that you could go inside to look at various rocks that fluoresced under UV light. Upstairs was a big display of bugs and creepy-crawlies. They even had a glass case housing a giant millipede, another with some sort of beetles, and another with a ton of different cockaroaches. And I'm talking huges roaches - bigger than the Palmetto bugs back in Florida (woot, represent). These were about three inches long and icky looking. They gave me the shivers at the same time that I was fascinated.

At the back of the museum is another huge room called the Pitt Rivers Museum. It's packed full of display cases which, in turn, are packed full of human artifacts of all sorts. To be honest, there were so many things on display that I was completely overwhelmed. They had varieties of musical instruments from all over the world, and all throughout time. And model ships. Woven tapestries, Hawaiian feather capes, sleds, items of worship, a giant totem pole, shrunken heads, enemy skulls, etc. The shrunken heads had a very interesting description of how they're made. Basically you take the head and remove the skin from the skull, throwing away the skull and brain. Then you heat the... head skin (for lack of a better word) with hot pebbles that are stuffed inside. The heat shrinks the skin, you sew up the eyes and mouth, have a ritualistic ceremony to placate the spirits and voila! Your very own shrunken head!

Oh, the really fun part about the Pitt Rivers Museum is that it's quite dark inside (I assume to help preserve the artifacts, as light tends to damage things). Due to not being able to see so well they hand out wind-up flashlights at the enterance. The room is filled with the soft 'whir-whir-whir' hum of everyone winding these flashlights to see the displays better. It's rather amusing actually. And it makes you feel good about generating your own electricity and being green!

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