We were treated to a breakfast of almond croissants with butter and honey this morning. I have always loved croissants but I've never had one with almond goo inside. It was so good I can't find words to describe it that aren't expletives. As our friend Sarah would say, "This is so good I just want to throw my plate at the wall!" (or something like that). Tara tells me France will blow my croissant-loving mind. I can't wait :)
With breakfast taken care of we rode the bus into Oxford with Richard for a mini tour. On the way we talked about being a ham radio operator (he, Liz and his daughter Rowena are all licensed) and orienteering with short-wave radio transmitters. Getting my license is on 'the list' and our conversation definitely served to remind me why!
When we arrived Richard took us to the top of St. Mary's Cathedral, around the Radcliffe Camera, under the Bridge of Sighs, to Christchurch Cathedral and lots more.
Richard paid for our bus fare as well as the ticket to climb St. Mary's bell tower, so I insisted that we were buying him lunch. There is a pub (Turf Tavern) just outside the city walls that dates back to the 14th century with a 'hidden' entrance between two buildings by the Bridge of Sighs. We headed that way and shared a relaxing lunch over lagers and cider before parting ways to do some 'solo' (Tara and I) sightseeing.
We headed to the History of Science Museum, one of the few that were open on Sundays; to our pleasant surprise entry was free. Right as we arrived, a curator announced that there would be a "table talk" in the basement in a couple of minutes. Excited to be just in time for a (hopefully) interesting lecture about one of the artifacts in the museum, we went downstairs and sat on stools around a huge old wooden table. The talk was about the combination of art and mathematics, and we got so see a tool that had been used to draw precise perspective in architectural drawings of buildings. After the lecture we wandered around and I felt like a little kid looking at all of the exhibits about chemistry, cosmology, radio waves, etc. It is amazing how much we've discovered in the last century! I think my favorite part (I tried to take a photo but it was awful) was a blackboard on which Einstein had worked out some equations describing the apparent size of the universe during a general relativity conference. Having just finished A Brief History of Time and The Elegant Universe, it was really cool to see.
Most everything was 'shut' (as they call it here) because it was Sunday, so there wasn't a lot to see when we were through at the Science museum. We decided to head to the famous bookshop, Blackwell's, and ogle the vast array of books. I have a love/hate relationship with bookstores. On the one hand I am always excited to see loads of information all nicely bound and waiting to be consumed (fiction doesn't count here) and on the other I am endlessly annoyed with the idea that I will only have enough time on earth to study a very small amount of it. This dichotomy carries through to a lot more than books; it definitely has a quite a bit to do with this trip we're on!
Leaving the book lined shelves of Blackwell's behind us we took the bus to the Gaskell's and were treated to a traditional British dinner prepared by Liz. As it turns out this was the same meal that my mother cooked almost every Sunday for most of my childhood! Roast beef, cooked carrots, potatoes etc. It was all delicious and reminded me of home. After a few hours of conversation and heaping bowls of "sticky toffee pudding" with vanilla ice cream, we retired to our house so I could do a bit of work before bed. Another great day :)
Here is a photo of one of the many bicycle lined streets in Oxford: