Out of the Blue

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Out of the Blue, an excellent a cappella group from Oxford, play at Oxford’s New Theatre. They’re semi-finalists for Britain’s Got Talent this week on Thursday & I believe they have won several other awards along with touring the UK and the USA. I had such a blast and really hope they win Britain’s Got Talent. Fingers crossed!

During the concert, I have to admit, I kept picturing how crazy some Smithies I know would go to see a stage full of well-dressed Brits singing in suits. I suspect it would lead to a calm down dear David Cameron moment.

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Well, it’s been a while

My first ever football match – Blackpool vs. Arsenal

It has been far, far too long (more than two months!) since I last posted, but I’d rather post ever so belatedly than give up altogether! I had six weeks of vacation time after the end of Hilary term, and since I only had a spare amount of lit reading to do during that period it really was a break. At Smith, my spring break (only one week long, mind you!) is always swamped with essay preparation or grammar review (Italian, German, Old English…) so it was rather surreal to get total freedom – especially as all my friends back in the USA were gearing up for the final April stretch!

enjoying the Colosseum! 

I had a great break. It had its ups and downs of course, but I got to travel a bit around Europe and see good friends back here in England. I spent a week in Rome (with a day trip to the seaside town of Sperlonga), almost a week in Paris, and just about a week up North visiting Blackpool (bonus: a visit to the Lake District on my 21st birthday!). I also had the pleasure of my mom and aunt visiting Oxford all the way from America as well as my beloved Rebekah who has spent this spring semester in Copenhagen. I ALSO (the list goes on!) saw Wicked in London (thank you again, A!), went to Windsor Castle twice, and many other adventures I am probably forgetting. My only regret is not seeing more the UK, but with just over a month and a half left, it’s not time to panic yet.

The Lake District

As much fun as vacation was, it’s nice to be back to a more routine-oriented schedule (though interrupted by fun things like seeing The Oxford Imps at The Wheatsheaf last night). I can’t believe it’s already third week – time seems to be flying by now! Today I start writing my third history paper of the term, on the Anglo-Saxon conversion to Christianity. Something probably very few people would consider cool (though even I have been complaining about reading so many saints lives!) Still, I’m still struck by the privilege I have at studying here.

Oxford in the sunset

My Post-Modern Walk to the Library

illustration by Hark! A Vagrant

Today I had my last history tutorial of Hilary term, on the topic of the Henrician Reformation. To study the early modern period (16th century!) felt like living on the edge, man, the historical edge. Plus, Henry VIII has been a guilty pleasure to study since I did a project on him in 9th grade (6/7 years ago) so to discuss his affair with Anne Boleyn with my tutor was really fun.

Yesterday was probably one of my favorite days in Oxford as well. I got to take a nap in the sunshine (indoors, of course, as it’s still winter!), bake chocolate chip cookies, and work on my last history paper of the term, all in complete relaxation. As I walked over the bridge to stop by the Teddy Hall library around dusk, I was really taken aback at how beautiful this city is and how lucky I am to be so happy here. Here is a somewhat cloudier (of the literal, rather than metaphorical variety) look into what I see when I walk to the library:

First I walk over Magdalen Bridge. I love it’s when it’s clear out and I can see centuries-old towers standing in the haze.

Usually when I walk down the High Street, I am still prone to gape at how pretty some of the buildings are. Or else get annoyed at how many tourists there are blocking the sidewalks. I love all of the colors of Oxford, from the old stone to brightly painted buildings. I’m used to Manchester as my reference for what a British city looks like, so needless to say Oxford exceeds all expectations in terms of beauty.

I turn down Queen’s Lane if I’m going to Teddy Hall’s library, which is in that 12th century Norman church. I am a huge fan of this library and it’s my favorite place to write papers. It also has a rather good collections of medieval history books…awesome! I also walk down Queen’s Lane if I’m going to the History Faculty library.

Farther down the High Street is the turn off for the Radcliffe Camera, where most of the books I need are located. But so many other places I want to go as well! More often than not I end up wasting time wandering around Oxford when I’m meant to be at the library. Oh well, it’s all an adventure.

Destination reached! Unless, of course, I am headed somewhere else.

avventure

In the past few weeks, I have stood outside Buckingham Palace, got lost in Chelsea, saw the Sutton Hoo helmet, translated runes from the Franks Casket, tried on (but resisted) furry hats in Camden, saw mental Canadians at The Comedy Store, and enjoyed the adventure that is London.

I’ve also studied late medieval Wales, read Troilus and Criseyde, seen friends from all over Britain and Europe, booked a trip to Rome (!!!), discovered the beauty of the Taylorian Institutution Library, learned about Anglo-Saxon jewels at the Ashmolean, almost got trapped in Christ Church Meadow, and watched Empire Strikes Back with a bunch of geeks.

And of course there’s the food: amazing Valentine’s dinner with gorgeous rack of lamb; brie, cranberry and bacon pie from Harrods; duck in London’s Chinatown; falafel and mulled wine in Camden; bacon/fried egg/onion ring burger (the ‘Audrey Hepburn’) from Atomic Burger; homemade bagels and muffins; Wild Boar sausage with Jorvik ale; the cookie monster from G&Ds (a scoop of ice cream between two warmed cookies); mussels (my first ever!) from Pierre Victoire and so many other treats.

The next few weeks look to be equally as intense and exciting as the term comes to an end (WHAT?!). I have only two more tutorials before break when I’ll get to enjoy friends, family, and travel. And, I expect, much more food.

homemade bagels. HOMEMADE.

 

Sniffles and The Other Place

Well, I’ve been in Oxford just over a month now and have proven to be a rather lax blogger. I’ve been struggling with complications from my wisdom teeth removal and more recently a rather severe cold, so unfortunately a lot of my free time has been sucked away. Luckily, I seem to be on the mend overall (fingers crossed!) so I shall be reporting more regularly on my time in Oxford.

In the mean time, enjoy some photos from my trip to “the other place”, aka Cambridge.

It was very rainy and cold, but still quite pretty (not as pretty as Oxford, of course ;D)

Full English breakfast with King’s College in the background…mmm.

To prove I was, in fact, there.

Corpus Christi at dusk.

This is Why You’re Fat, Oxford Edition

Oxford, the land of dreaming spires and deliciousness. This past Tuesday I had my first formal hall, which basically means I got to dress up a bit, wear my academic gown (my ‘commoner’s robe’) and pretend I was in Harry Potter. Good times.

The dessert at formal hall was truly fantastic…strawberry ice cream with sauces and biscotti. Overall I have been very pleased with Teddy Hall food.

Other food fun has involved introducing people to (American style) pancakes with maple syrup and bacon layered together (mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm) as well as lots and lots of chips (not with the pancakes). This is England, afterall.

This, my friends, is a waffle sundae with Baileys flavored ice cream topped with maple syrup from George and Delila. Aka probably the only place I’ve ever been that rivals Herrell’s ice cream (watch out Northampton, you have competition!)

I haven’t been spending all of my time eating, but I must admit that I love that I actually get to feed myself vs. when I’m back at Smith. My breakfasts tend to be greek yogurt with fresh fruit with lots and lots of tea. I live about 1 minute away from a Sainsbury’s, and the temptation to go get baked goods in the morning is often hard to resist.

And, as always, Oxford is still ridiculously pretty.

Oxford

I have now been in Oxford for a week and a few hours and I can honestly say that it has been one of the happiest and amazing weeks in my life. When I first got a glimpse of Magdalen Tower and walked across the bridge into the midst of those famous dreaming spires, my jaw actually dropped. My friends tell me that I looked like I was going to explode, and though the threat of spontaneous combustion by beauty has somewhat subsided by now, I still can’t believe that Oxford is a real place. No where is suppose to look this pretty!

my college!

I have been lucky enough to have a wonderful guide around the city (people here are so awesome and friendly) who has led me around everywhere from Christ Church Meadow to the Eagle and Child (oh, how my Inklings heart swooned! And on a side note, they have really good chips…) but I still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of places to see.

I already have a lot of work, but honestly I am so ridiculously excited to study the medieval period in a medieval city at such an outstanding (MEDIEVAL) university that I don’t really mind (if anything, that may be a bit of an understatement…)

why don't all streets look like this?!

I seriously think that applying to Oxford was one of the best decisions of my life.

Penny Lane

I have been in Oxford for almost a week now, and will post about it soon, but I belatedly need to share that I made Jane and Luke drag me to Penny Lane. Yay friendship!

Liverpool

Yesterday in Liverpool, Jane was kind of enough to take me around some parts of Liverpool I’d never been before. After sleeping in (having a lie in, as said here) we headed out to the Georgian quarter and cathedrals for a bit of sightseeing.

The grounds of the Anglican Cathedral were so calm and still, which is pretty remarkable considering they’re in the city centre. We looked at graves (we found one of a ship captain from New York with symbols that reminded me of Free Masons. I like to imagine we uncovered some sort of secret…) and, of course, up at the cathedral which is GIANTIC. I mean, absolutely huge.

Yes, that is me on the left standing next to the cathedral. Looking up at it is like looking at a skyscraper…but it’s a cathedral. Kind of mind-blowing. Inside was gorgeous with an exhibit about some of the heroines commemorated in stained glass windows. Some of the church was destroyed in WWII – I actually didn’t know much about Liverpool being bombed during the war – but it is a really lovely place.

Then we wandered to the Phil Harmonic and went to a pub across the street. I really love pubs and pub culture. I can’t wait to see more of them (and hopefully find a good one in Oxford where I can watch football…). This one was no disappointment and was quite pretty inside. Then we continued wandering before going for lunch in the absolutely gorgeous Georgian quarter.

We were both quite tired so the rest of the day was spent resting, grocery shopping (I was way too excited for a trip to ASDA), and (naturally) watching TV. I don’t watch much TV anymore, since I’m usually studying or reading, but since coming to the UK I’ve been enjoying it immensely. It’s fun for me to turn on the TV and see my favorite comedians and shows since I am, of course, a massive British TV nerd (well, nerd by US standards). We ate curry takeaway and watched Big Fat Quiz of the Year, which was boss and hysterically funny. I have insane love for (the rather insane) Noel Fielding, and seeing him on a team with Richard Ayoade was fantastic.

Back in the UK

photos by Caius...this fountain monster is a pretty good idea of what I'm like when I get too hungry

I’ve been back in England for a few days now, but I think I’m only just properly adjusting in my sleep and eating. It’s taken me a while to really realize that I am abroad. I spent the past few days in Manchester with friends from the summer and it just feels so normal to be there that it wasn’t until I got to Liverpool, where I’ve been enjoying an amazing amount of coziness and good times with Jane and Luke, that I starting getting excited (aka incredibly dorky) about everything different.

back in Manchester!

Yesterday I got to have lunch with my friend Caius, which was really nice after not seeing him for so long. We went out to Wetherspoons, a chain pub, before wandering around the Manchester city centre. It was really nice to catch up (and, as the Brits would say, take the piss out of each other). We then wandered up around the Arndale centre and Manchester Cathedral (where I’d actually never been before). The extremity of age – from the modern shopping centre to the ancient Cathedral – was really remarkable.

Town Hall done up for Christmas

Then I got to see my medievalist-friend Chera – a fellow American who is pursuing her PhD at St Andrews – and got to be super nerdy talking about our beloved Middle Ages. It’s nice to talk to someone who understands why I’d consider learning Medieval Welsh a useful life choice. After everything closed down around 5:00 PM (being England around Christmas time, as you do) I packed up some of my stuff and headed over to Liverpool. I really, really love this city and I’m very excited to be here for the next few days. All and all yesterday was really lovely and I am so happy to know I have such wonderful friends.

P.S. As a side note, despite JFK looking somewhat like a refugee camp when I flew out, Virgin Atlantic made my time in the airport simple and wonderful. I absolutely love that airline (I got to watch The Inbetweeners, I.T. Crowd, etc on the way over…) and will fly with them whenever I can. Plus I get a real kick out of their new ad: