This morning we joined the Gaskells for a delicious breakfast of almond croissants (something we must have more often) and cornflakes. Sufficiently fueled for a day of sightseeing, we set off with Rowena's boyfriend Richard, and Rowena's dad Richard. We wandered around camping stores for a bit and I bought a blue melamine mug. The ones we have already aren't very big and when you pour a hot drink in them, they don't insulate well enough to wrap your hands around them safely (or stop you from burning your lips when you try to drink). We got our old cups because they were super light and stackable and we were worried about space, but it turns out that weight isn't really an issue at all and we have plenty of extra room in our panniers. I can't wait to use my new mug!
Shortly after we finished up at the camping stores, we said goodbye to both Richards as one was headed back home to York, and the other was off to work. Tyler and I wandered off towards the covered market to do one of my favorite things—meander around looking at cheese shops, butchers, florists, fresh fruit stands, and bakeries. After a nice relaxing stroll (we didn't buy anything) through the market I led us in the direction of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History (also housing the Pitt Rivers Museum).
As our trip continues my sense of direction is becoming increasingly keen and my navigation skills are greatly improving. I'm finding it easier and easier to read maps and I navigated for us around Oxford today as if I were a local. Sweet!
When we arrived at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History I assumed we would be exploring your normal run-of-the-mill natural history exhibits. Was I ever wrong! It was easily the most beautiful and appealing museum that I have ever been to. We ran around gawking at everything and touching the exhibits (you could!), until Tyler decided that we should start at the beginning so we wouldn't miss anything important.
We followed exhibits about evolution and the history of life on earth, getting excited when the first trilobite appeared and the first winged creatures managed to fly. Dinasaur bones, meteorites, and Dodo birds were luminous in this beautiful old building with a roof of skylights. Even the columns supporting the building were labeled with the type of stone and the place it came from. Upstairs, a beehive was connected to the outdoors by a small passageway through a window, and you could see bees doing the waggle dance and flying out to collect nectar. It was absolutely awesome!
Within the Natural History Museum is a smaller section called the Pitt Rivers Museum, a jumbled collection of "archeological and ethnographic" artifacts from around the world, collected by General Pitt Rivers in the 1800s. The museum is an artifact in itself—an example of what museums were like in the 1800s. The items have hand-written tags and labels, yellowed with age, and under the two-hundred-year-old glass exhibition cases are thick wooden drawers which you can pull out to find even more treasures inside. As it was the General's private collection, it's an eclectic mix of everything from Inuit clothing to Naga shrunken heads, snuff boxes and opium pipes to Buddhist statues. How cool!
We felt we could have explored the museums for another couple of weeks, but we left so Tyler could get some work done. He typed away on the laptop while I read The Two Towers. After several hours we set off to buy provisions for the coming days, and took the bus "home", our arms full of groceries. It was a double-decker bus and we sat up top in the very front, a huge window allowing us to enjoy the scenery.
When we got back, Tyler worked on my bike a bit, putting new bar tape on my handlebars (they were torn up from the accident), while I made salami & camembert wraps for the next couple of days. Then we went over to the Gaskell's and we were once again treated with a delicious meal and loads of interesting stories. We talked for hours about camping and camping ovens, and Tyler and Richard were both so excited sharing different ways of making fire. The Gaskells are so kind! Richard even gave us a screen for our stove (so we won't have to use our crappy foil one)! Thanks guys, we so loved being your guests!
We will miss our warm-hearted, enthusiastic new friends, but even if it is years from now, they are always welcome to come visit, and we know we are always welcome in their warm and cozy home. After dinner and hours of conversation, we were sad as we said goodbye and gave big hugs to Richard and Rowena. We'll see Liz in the morning, but she gave us huge hugs and lifted us off the ground, proving that she hadn't over-fed us afterall.
Back at our "house," we talked with the kids on Skype, and Tyler is currently packing up our things as I write this journal entry. It is now 1:00 the morning and I am oh so sleepy! It would be great to go to bed without journalling but I feel certain that perfect days like this one would fade quickly without writing it all down.