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Englandaganza, Stop 4: Oxford
Arrived 9:30 at Oxford, got free wireless at the station long enough to download just two junk mails, went to the wrong university building (A) an hour early, and broke the shoulder strap of my bag — all in twenty minutes. Fortunately my colleague Anthony went to the wrong building too, so we got to intersect, and he gave me an update on his own travels.
The day was booked out with meetings at the Oxford e-research Centre (B): basically Anthony being debriefed about the status of various projects in Oxford, and me taking notes (as well occasionally reading up on LolCat when noone was looking). Excellent catering, Oxford has; must get the recipe for them pesto mini bruschettas on toast thingies.
Btw, I’ve heard of unisex toilets, but this fixture of the e-research centre, is just silly:
The day done, we shlepped back to Anthony’s hotel room (The Royal Oxford (C), rather sensibly positioned close to the station) rather than mine (Hawkwell House, plucked from wotif.com, and positioned the next village down from Oxford). Stopped off to buy a backpack ten minutes before closing time: no late night trading in downtown Oxon, thank you very much. Regaining the use of my right hand while travelling is a welcome win.
There wasn’t much in the way of twelfth century spires going on along our way — our walk basically involved High Street, so the houses looked closer to 18th century. Keble College, opposite the e-research centre, was as Oxford College as I got to see:
High Street is a jumble of clashing buildings. A theme-park kind of jumble, which made little sense as a cityscape. With a lot of people out and about of a Friday afternoon. Some in their best upper class finery.
A juvenile upper class dinner was being held, apparently. You could tell it was an upper class dinner from the fact that a separate entrance was signposted for workmen and entertainers. And from the fact that people were wearing top hats without being immediately beaten to death.
Anthony and I had our own upper class dinner plans, and made our way past Oxford University Press (D) —
(which does not at all like I thought — I guess I expected some kind of glass and air structure, which would really be completely inappropriate for OUP)
— to a brasserie française (E), which advertised itself as informal, relaxed, and integrated into its community. Relaxed relative to a community of straitlaced upper class top-hat wearers, I think; but lovely eats, nonetheless, and a surprisingly mellow shiraz.
My hotel was in Iffley, which really was the next village down:
There was at least a block of unused land between Oxford and Iffley. The guidebook says Iffley features one of the few extant instances of 12th century Romanesque churches in England. By the time I got there (and my fourth cab in a row that had never heard of credit cards), it was pushing 10 pm, and I wasn’t checking out any churches, Romanesque or Arabesque. The receptionist thought my check-in banter hilarious: I guess the upper class top-hat wearers don’t deign to share their wit with the staff. (Sure enough, four female equivalents of upper class top-hat wearers burst in, looking for the dinner dance.) I failed the IQ test of finding where my room was multiple times, but I managed to get inside my room by, uh, 10:30 (which meant just about dusk). I got to delight in some of the local televisual culture: nice quiz show Stephen Fry has there.