1 August 2004
After class Thursday, we decided to catch up on things we hadn't seen yet in Oxford. We visited the Sheldonian Theater, the Bodleian Library, and Trinity College. They're all in the same part of town on Broad Street.
The Sheldonian is where Oxford students go to graduate. It's an ornate building with a cupola that looks out over the whole city.
In front of Sheldonian
Here's the family in front of the Sheldonian (you can see a couple of the Emperor heads in the background on the fence – one of those is the one in the Worcester Provost's garden). To the left, is the Bodleian, and you can see part of the Bridge of Sighs (a copy of the Venetian one) in the background.
Organ in Sheldonian
We didn't get to see much in the Bodleian – we got there too late to take the tour, and the tour is the only way to see the Divinity School and Duke Humphrey's Library, where they filmed parts of the Harry Potter films.
We had particularly wanted to visit Trinity College because that's where our friends Gregory Abowd and Meghan Burke stayed when they were in Oxford.
Kids sitting in the Chorister section of Trinity College Chapel
Whole family at Trinity College gardens
That evening, Philip and Liza came over to play soccer until late – until it was too dark to play anymore. They were both leaving on Friday, and they didn't want to go. They exchanged email addresses and screen names with Matthew, then we walked them home.
We took a bike ride in the Cotswold's. Jim Craig had gone to this bike shop at the train station at Moreton-on-Marsh a few weeks ago, so he led a group (turned out to be a big group – about a dozen GT students, plus us and him) out on the train (30 minute ride).
Jenny and Daddy with their Tagalong/Trailer
We put Jenny on a trailer with my bike, and we probably should have done that for Katie, too. She'd never used hand brakes nor gear shifts before, and certainly never biked for 10 miles with (occasional) cars. She enjoyed it less than the rest of us, and both Barb and Matt cut themselves on their bikes.
Still, it was a nice ride. We saw a church that was 1300 years old (with a Yew tree outside it just as old). We had lunch in the Fox Inn in a small town with a large town green. We saw tons of sheep, and cows, and lovely fields. We only went about 10 or 11 miles, and got back at the same time as the GT crew (that went 20+).
Walking our bikes to lunch
Matt and Jenny pointing out the Sheep behind the Inn
That night, Matt, Jenny, and I went on a Ghost Tour of Oxford. Katie was pretty tired out, so Barb stayed with her and put her to bed early. Jenny's been saying a lot lately, "This trip has been NO fun!" (Barb thinks it's her way of dealing with leaving, that she's disassociating herself from the whole thing.) When we asked her what would be fun, she mentioned the ghost tours, so we did that. It was okay – interesting stories, nothing particularly scary, nice walk through the oldest parts of town. We heard that Harry Potter 4 is going to be filmed in New College next week. Jenny was particularly not scared – she's learned a lot of cynicism from her brother. "That's probably not true" and "But there's no such thing as ghosts...right?"
Saturday we used the last day of our Britrail passes on a carefully orchestrated route through Salisbury, Stonehenge, and Bath.
We caught the 9:20 am train to Salisbury, first. Salisbury has this huge cathedral whose most interesting claim to fame (besides being a huge cathedral) is that they have one of the four extant copies of the Magna Carta which we did get to see.
Cathedral at Salisbury
We were in a rush to catch the bus to Stonehenge, so Matt, Jenny, and I got Burger King for lunch. Katie and Barb tried to get take-away Tandoori, but it didn't open until 12, so they got sandwiches at a pub.
Katie was okay with Stonehenge, and Matt loved it, but Jenny was totally bored. We didn't stay long. Barb and Matt particularly would probably have liked hearing more of the tour, but we had a bus to catch back and Jenny was moaning. It turned out that she really did have good reason. While sitting in the grass eating our lunch, she complained that the grass "poked" her. Not clear what it was that got her (plant or insect) but her arm broke out in a bumpy rash. Barb washed it off with soap and water, and I got her some ice. By the time we got to Bath, it was fine.
Girls at Stonehenge
We had some time back in Salisbury before the train to Bath, so we stopped at the Cat Tavern and had a proper English tea, complete with scones, jam, and clotted cream. The kids had orangeade and raspberry milk shakes.
Bath was really nice. It's a pretty city with great parks and a huge Abbey. The Roman bath house is amazing – well preserved, large, lots of great details and tour stories. Jenny was getting bored with the carvings and things, so she and I moved ahead to check out all the water sights: The spring, the drain, the overflow, the various baths.
Jenny at the main bath
Kids trying the (warm, metal-tasting) Spa Spring Water
When we left the bath house, it was after 6 so almost everything was closed. We tried a local pub, but was told that they weren't licensed for under-18 and we'd have a four block walk to the closest. So, we ended up at KFC.
As we got to the train station, we started to see balloons! We must have seen a dozen on the way back to Oxford.
Here we are on our last Britrail leg, from Bath to Oxford, on the last day of our pass.
We're planning to mostly pack today, with a break later to ice skate–Oxford's rink is near us. Tomorrow (Monday), Barb is taking the kids to London for their last touring day (while I work on my final exam, promotion case, CS Ed Research conference call for papers, etc.). Tuesday will be odds-and-ends packing day, and we'll leave on the 8 am coach to Gatwick Wednesday morning.