Day-trip: Oxford, Warwick Castle (and passing mention of Stratford-on-Avon)

I enjoyed this day-long bus tour. Our first stop was Oxford, where the university is made up of 32 individual colleges. Our guide told us that students apply to Oxford and are assigned to colleges, though I think applicants can indicate preferences. Many lectures are open to the entire university, and according to our guide you can study most subjects at most colleges -- it's not like there's a math college and a fine-arts college and so on. Anyway, he took us to one of them, Christchurch.

The dining hall may look somewhat familiar to some of you:

dining hall, reminiscent of Harry Potter

another view

The college's central courtyard:

grass square surrounded by buildings

I wonder what it takes to get privileges at the Bodleian library. Heck, I wonder what it takes to be allowed inside to gawk. (We didn't go in. So close to all those books, and yet so far!)

outside of building

After Oxford we drove through what would have been pretty countryside if it weren't January, arriving next at Stratford-on-Avon, Shakespeare's birthplace. I noticed that everybody there who talked about the house-turned-museum called it "The Birthplace" -- you could hear the capital letters. It was a nice-enough mini-tour; the house isn't that big, so there's a limit to what they can do. The guides wore period dress and offered up monologues and sonnets on cue (well, the cue wasn't strictly required). The street it's on is full of small shops and cafes and, we learned mere days after we returned, what is reported to be an excellent fudge shop. (There was somebody standing outside the shop offering free samples but we wanted to get lunch first and after that we failed to go back.)

From there we went to Warwick Castle. Now, most people who think of castles expect a middle-ages treatment -- but just because a castle was built in, say, the 13th century doesn't mean that its decor stayed that way if it was continuously occupied for several more centuries. So a lot of what we saw was of later style, to match the tastes of people who had lived there then. Makes sense; it just startled me when I walked into one of the parlors.

18th/19th-century painting in ornate frame

ceiling with metal gingerbread and large chancelier

The grounds are pretty expansive. We walked about ten minutes to the conservatory only to find that it was closed, but there was this lovely garden nearby so it wasn't a wasted trip.

sculted hedges in front of decorative trees

path between hedges leading to fountain