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View of Christ Church Spires from Courtyard

The farewell gala evening started with a champagne reception behind the impressive Christ Church Cathedral. Our Country Houses class along with our tutor marked the moment with a group photo. Then we entered the Great Hall for a formal banquet.

Oxford Experience Farewell Reception–My Classmates and Tutor

Spellbinding Atmosphere

This evening we sat with our classmates and tutor. The keepsake menu unveiled a dining delight of smoked salmon with potato mousse, wasabi and beetroot followed by seared scallops with black pudding. The main entree was roast breast of duck with honey, orange and thyme sauce, shallot mash, butternut squash with lime and choi sum. My favorite was the summer berry and prosecco terrine with fruit purees, panna cotta and strawberry sorbet. Dessert of course! A selection of wines and house port was bound to keep us jolly!

A Kepsake for the Memory Box

Roast Duck Presentation–A Feast for the Eyes

Once seated the grace was beautifully said in Latin: In the neediness of our human condition, which invites your compassion, almighty God and heavenly Father, we give you reverent thanks for the food which, in your kindness, you have lavished on us for the sustenance of our bodies, and we also beg that we may use it without greed or excess and with enjoyment. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Captivation…Ooooh What An Evening!

Following tradition, each class presented their tutor with a gift in what turned out to be “which group can cheer the loudest” format! I think the “Revolution, 1789-1968: France Leads, Europe Follows” participants prevailed.

A special moment of accomplishment silenced the group as our tutor presented each of us a certificate of completion (which will keep company with my diplomas). We toasted Queen Elizabeth and enjoyed a short speech by David Beard, Director of Studies–Oxford Experience.

Before I knew it, the magical week and evening were drawing to a close. It was time for hugs as the next morning was early departure. The Oxford Experience, long on my yearning list, had exceeded my expectations and then some!! This one goes in the memory bank. I will cherish the feeling of being a member of the Oxford learning community and be grateful for that moment in time. Its recollection will forever make me smile.

Blessings!

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To eat well in England, you should have breakfast three times a day.
—W. Somerset Maugham

Awe Inspiring Views Everywhere You Look

Poached and fried eggs, fried mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, baked beans, sausages, toast—This traditional English breakfast served every morning in the Great Hall fortified me for the scholarly adventure. My favorite part was (and always has been) slathering toast with orange marmalade.

Our class convened at 9:15 a.m. The meeting room was small and cozy with a couch for three people and eight straight back chairs arranged close to each other around the perimeter of the room. The Country Houses tutor sat next to a table holding a big screen monitor. He worked from a stack of handwritten papers and laptop computer. A door led to an adjacent room where he stayed at night. Two large windows flooded the room with sunshine and refreshing breeze. A tea and cookie break at 10:45 for a half hour was a great way to mingle with participants from other courses. Topics ran the spectrum from Castles of Britain, Life of Sir Winston Churchill, Oxford Murder, History of the English Language, Meaning of Life, Glory of Byzantium, Sixteenth Century English Reformation and Creative Writing. We resumed class until 12:45 following this schedule Monday through Friday. Most courses had a field trip all day on Thursday.

High Street City of Oxford…juxtaposed architecture caught my eye

Oxford is a blend of ancient and modern architecture with a population of 135,000. Established in the 9th century, the city is home for the oldest English-speaking university in the world. In the 21st century around 20,000 students including 12,000 undergraduates and 7500 postgraduates attend Oxford University.

Oxford…City of Dreaming Spires…loved this view

Teenagers were everywhere enjoying field trips or coming to Oxford to take a summer program at one of the 38 colleges making up Oxford University. Wide open spaces, gardens, river walks, pubs, cultural attractions and shopping are enticing in Oxford. But you can probably guess what I did on free afternoons–off to look for vintage buttons!! I wasn’t disappointed. A delightful dealer at an open air market had a myriad of sewing related items. The little vintage belt buckle collection was a nice find. Antiques on High is an eclectic dealer mall that I had visited in 1989. I found lots of pink buttons.

More Little Art Pictures

When not foraging in interesting little shops, I photographed magnificent buildings and clever signs. I headed down an alley and a street sign comically reminded me of one of my kitties, a Tortie feral I adopted in April. I named her Maggie Mae and nicknamed her Magpie. Just had to get a shot of this cool sign for my cool cat!

An Oxford Alley…My Tortie Maggie Mae loves to be called Magpie

I was fascinated with the façade of the Meadows building where I stayed. I stood on the outside and identified my windows. How intriguing—the ivy is growing around the shape of the Gothic architecture. As I approached a gated area to return to my room, the entry was crowded with young people beginning a tour. The attendant spotted my name badge identifying “The Oxford Experience.” I will never forget what she said: “Please let this lady by. She is a member of our college.”

My Meadows Double Gothic Window and Stone Balcony

Next Travelogue Post: Lacock Abbey Field Trip

Blessings!
Linda

All Dressed Up…and Somewhere To Go

How exciting to attend High Table after the first day of class! A small group gathered with some of our tutors and staff at a sherry reception prior to dinner. Fascinating students included the Amsterdam couple who have participated eight years. A Texas grandmother brought her 16-year-old granddaughter to Exeter College for two weeks of pre-law while she took two courses at Christ Church. As the rest of the people entered the Great Hall, they followed tradition and stood until the High Table guests sat at their nameplate.

After we were seated, the director of studies David Beard (who started The Oxford Experience 27 years ago) delivered the grace in Latin. Here is translation: In the neediness of our human condition, which invites your compassion, almighty God and heavenly Father, we give you reverent thanks for the food which, in your kindness, you have lavished on us for the sustenance of our bodies; and we also beg that we may use it without greed or excess and with enjoyment. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

High Table on Dais

High Table is just what the words imply. The table sits on a platform or dais above the main floor. It is at the top of the Great Hall furthest from the screen passage. During the Middle Ages, the lord of the castle could indeed “look down” on his household. His servants or subjects had designated seating in vertical rows of perpendicular tables according to status. Nobility and high ranking guests sat at High Table. They were served first and had the best quality food and drink. In 2017 at Christ Church, everyone in the hall enjoyed the same delectable food with turkey saltimbocca as the main course. Harry Potter or the Hogwarts teachers were not there! However, the Harry Potter films built a replica of the Great Hall in their London studio.

William Murray Over Door, Student 1723, First Earl of Mansfield

Many members of Christ Church were there in spirit. Ninety-two portraits grace the four walls of the Great Hall. Henry VIII oversees all as he is positioned on the High Table end of room in the middle. He founded Christ Church in 1546 as a dual foundation of college and cathedral. Cardinal Wolsey established Cardinal College in 1525 and his foundation is the original of Christ Church. His portrait is hung to the right of Henry VIII. Queen Elizabeth who united Christ Church and Westminster in 1561 is to the left of Henry VIII. The bust of the Queen Elizabeth II is below Henry VIII. I sat facing these formidable characters and felt their presence.

Other famous scholars of the college include Thomas Locke philosopher, John Wesley theologian, William Gladstone statesman and Lewis Carroll writer. Thirteen prime ministers studied at Christ Church.

Evening End Revelation

For me, the evening was steeped in great history, tradition, friendship and conversation. As shadows flirted with the exquisite stained glass windows, the ambiance of the Great Hall changed. A new reflection here, a new reflection there. For me, that is what education is all about. Members of Christ Church have sat at High Table in centuries past conversing and debating the challenging issues of the era. I know 2017 is no different. Later this year a second female portrait will keep company with Queen Elizabeth in the Great Hall, Professor Judith Pallot who joined the college in 1979.

As I leave High Table and meander through the hall (not wanting this to end), I follow a row of portraits. In my mind’s eye one causes me to pause. I see the sixteen year old pre-law student all grown up, and she is gazing at me with a faint smile. I return her smile, but I am beaming!

Next Travelogue Post: Class Time Free Time

Blessings!
Linda

Christ Church College

As the Chinese proverb goes, a journey of a thousand steps starts with a single step. Sometimes, a journey starts at the train station as my trip to Oxford did. London Paddington is a bustling station and Sundays are no exception. I like to ride trains and have done so on other trips using a BritRail pass. It is an easy and efficient way to travel. The scene at Paddington is hectic and fast paced. Travelers stand in mass staring up at time table boards that will eventually indicate a platform number from one to fourteen. An inbound train may only be in the station minutes before departure. So a stampede follows the instant the platform is known. I dashed off to platform 1 and a kind, observant man offered to lift my suitcase onto train. Oh, the perks of being a senior!

Tom Gate Christ Church 

Sixty-three minutes later I arrived in Oxford and taxied to Christ Church, one of thirty-eight constituent colleges in the University of Oxford system. I was about to embark on The Oxford Experience where I would be a student for six days. The impressive point of entry is known as Tom Gate. After being greeted and given a welcome packet, a scout (member of domestic staff) escorted me to the Meadows building. My private suite was on first floor which is second floor by American standards. The view looked out over a meadow, and I thought I was in the country. The exquisite blue sky was a beautiful backdrop for my photo shoot of architecture.

Later in the day following a short orientation meeting and wine reception, we had our first meal in the Great Hall of Christ Church. As I entered the hall, I was mesmerized. I commented later to a dinner companion, that if The Oxford Experience had ended at that moment, it would have been worth it. I am still at loss for the right words to describe my feelings. Being in a room where Henry the VIII and countless other historic figures have dined, was a pinch me I’m not dreaming moment!

Great Hall Christ Church Founded 1546

 

Great Hall Christ Church

A little background on great halls….They can be found in palaces, castles and large manor homes in the Middle Ages and in country homes in the 16th and early 17th centuries. Colleges at Durham, Cambridge, St. Andrews and Oxford also have great halls for dining. In the Middle Ages, the hall was a living space where the household of family and servants ate and slept together. The hall was typically a long rectangle room, roofed in timber and entered at a screen end with a high table at opposite end.

After dinner, we were escorted to our classroom by our tutor Nick Doggett (which is what the professor is called) for a short get acquainted meeting. The aerial photo at top of this post gives you an idea of the massive space Christ Church covers. We were hopeful we would find our way the next morning for the official start of class. The eclectic class of twelve students included three married couples from California. The rest of us gals represented New York, Ohio, Florida, California again, Germany and New Zealand. Many of us have had (or still have) education careers. Two are architects, and I suspect they will add an interesting perspective to the Country Homes course. Class dismissed!

Entrance from Quad & Christ Church Cathedral

Next Travelogue: My High Table Dining Experience

Blessings!
Linda

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