All Souls College, University of Oxford

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Joe and I stumbled upon All Souls College the other day.  All Souls is one of Oxford's 44 Colleges and it's right next to Brasenose.  We weren't planning on stopping by but as we passed it, it looked so inviting and the weather was so nice that we decided to give it a little walk-around.  

One of the (many) things Oxford is known for is the Harry Potter movie franchise; several scenes from the various 8 movies were filmed in or around Oxford.  As we strolled through All Souls, we were convinced it was the setting for at least a scene or two of the movies (it's not).  We also met a young man -- from a non-English-speaking country -- traveling alone.  He asked us to take a photo of him (I took about 12) and then chatted with us for a minute, inquired about Joe's studies, how we like Oxford so far, etc.  My knee-jerk reaction was to invite him to spend the rest of the afternoon with us.  In fact, as our small talk winded down and I watched our new friend wander over to a bench, sit down (alone) and open a book, I felt as though I had an affirmative duty to show this guy around Oxford and ensure that he had a wonderful time.  Joe, on the other hand, thought I was crazy.  So I explained to him that traveling alone has its own special code; there's sort of an unwritten rule that lone travelers stick together, or at least look out for another other.  This is how Kaitlyn and I spent an afternoon kayaking with an Australian in the Schwarzwald, how I spent a day at Brindisi Beach, Italy mourning Heath Ledger's death with an Irish guy and an Australian girl, and also how I found a very dear friend in a fellow single passenger on a train ride in Poland.  I ran through all of these anecdotes for Joe -- along with a dozen other stories -- but he remained unconvinced that every lone traveler we come across should be our new best friend.  Whatever.  We went on to have a very pleasant afternoon at All Souls nonetheless!

But more important than our afternoon at All Souls was what happened before our afternoon at All Souls: we stopped by the bus company's office to find out the best way to get to London tomorrow.  Because....we're going to Belgium!  I talked to the woman at the counter and figured out a) which ticket to get (2 student return tickets), b) which bus stop we should wait at (the stop on High street), c) how much it will cost for the both of us (74 GBP), d) how long it takes to get to Victoria Station, which is where we board our ferry bus (around 100 minutes), and e) which bus to take (either the X90 or the Oxford Tube).

Belgium, I can't wait to see you again!

And Joe just can't wait to see you!

About Brasenose College, University of Oxford

Monday, August 31, 2015

The University of Oxford is made up of a handful of colleges -- actually, maybe two handfuls.  That is to say, a grand total of 44 colleges comprise the university as a whole.  Our college is Brasenose, which means Joe's classes are at Brasenose, we live at Brasenose, we eat at Brasenose, etc.  Brasenose is very beautiful, but then again so are all of Oxford's colleges.  

Brasenose was founded by a lawyer, so maybe that's why we're here?  Who knows.  I do know that at one point, the college had the reputation of being the wealthiest Oxford college and I can say with certainty that that is not why we are here.  There is also a legend about the devil coming to Brasenose to claim souls, so hopefully that is not why we are here, either.  And there's also a well-known story about a young woman being brutally murdered at Brasenose in the 1800s, but I'm not going to get into that.... instead, I will talk about how fun, magical, and safe this place is!  Because it is all of those things.

Oh, but before I get into that, I will mention two noteworthy items about the college's name: (1) I cannot, for the life of me, pronounce it correctly.  I pronounce it like it's a German word.  And it is not a German word.  I have asked Joe 100 times, "How do you pronounce the name of this place?"   and yet, for the life of me, I only see/hear/say it in German.  In any case, the correct pronunciation (I just double-checked with Joe) is Braze-nose.  Braze-nose.  Got it.  (2) The story behind the name is interesting; it's said to have derived from the words "brass" and "nose."  The story that often accompanies this explanation is also interesting; in the 1330s, a group of rebellious Oxford students left Oxford and made it to Stamford in Lincolnshire before the king ordered them to return.  500 years later, a house in Stamford went up for sale -- a house with an ancient door knocker (an animal with a brass nose) that was believed to have been installed in the 1300s.  Convinced that the rebellious young men had stolen the door knocker from Brasenose College in 1330, the college bought the house in Stamford for the sole purpose of removing the door knocker and returning it to its 'rightful owner' (believed to be the college itself).  It has hung in the dining hall above the High Table ever since (where we eat our breakfast and dinners -- I"ll try to remember to get a picture of it).  And now, 'noses' are symbolic to Brasenose students for that very reason.

Now I'm too tired to talk about how fun, magical, and safe this place is, so I will just let these photos speak for themselves.

P.S. I drank yet another cup of coffee today.  What is happening to me??!  Jet lag, that's what.  Although does it count if it's just a chai latte?  (I know nothing.)

Burgers in Oxford

Friday, August 28, 2015

Powering through our jet lag -- and fighting the urge to take a 4-hour nap in the middle of the day -- Joe and I took a good, long walk down High Street for lunch.  The first order of business on our list, though: buying me a sweater!  

I generally have this problem when I pack, and I warn you that it's a really, really stupid problem to have: if I'm hot while I'm packing, I (subconsciously) only pack summery, springtime clothes.  If I'm cold, I tend to mostly throw in sweaters and scarves and other items conducive to layering.  I'm well aware that this method is devoid of things like logic and reasoning.  And yet, I still ended up in Oxford with one hoodie, and one million tank tops.  That is to say, no jackets, raincoats, sweaters, or other reasonably warm articles of clothing made it into my suitcase, despite the fact that Oxford (like the rest of the UK) is known for being chilly and drizzly and gray.

Thus, soon after we arrived in Oxford, we realized a shopping spree of sorts was in order.  The only problem?  THE FREAKING EXCHANGE RATE.  Now is not the time to be traveling Great Britain with a USD bank account, let me tell you.  So, in our quest for something long-sleeved, we surveyed several stores to compare prices before finally settling on a men's XXL cashmere sweater we found on clearance for 13 GBP.  It was super soft, cuddly and cozy, fairly warm, totally oversized, and most importantly: the cheapest thing we found all day. 

We made a mental note of some other souvenirs to eventually buy before we officially leave Oxford (a hoodie here, a tea towel there), but that will require us to actually have any sum of money leftover, so I think it's safe to say this mental note was made in vain.

Other mental notes made in vain: the yoga pants I picked out at Sweaty Betty (the UK's version of Lulu Lemon) and a jacket/vest combo I fell in love with at Fat Face.  The old Euro-me would have just charged those items to a credit card and said, "YOLO!" but the new Euro-me understands that the 'YOLO!' way of of life is less fun when you can't afford breakfast, lunch or dinner (a concept I had to reiterate to Joe as he carried a 300 GBP coat around the Barbour store a bit too long for my peace of mind).

And then we stumbled upon All Bar One: a UK burger chain and altogether generic dining choice.  But we were so tired and disoriented and tired and cold (and did I mention we were tired?) that we marched on in, got ourselves a table, and threw all budgetary caution to the win as we dropped 30 pounds on a casual lunch date (30 GBP is just shy of 50 USD, and no, I don't want to talk about that).

Here is why it's okay (post-splurge rationalization coming your way):  the food was so good.  We both ordered burgers; a boring, regular, ordinary, run-of-the-mill burger for Joe (look for it on the menu!) and the ever-original butternut squash burger for me.  Mine came with hummus, carrots, beetroot, chili sauce, avocado, and a gratuitous reminder not to order avocado in the UK (unless you're into perpetually out-of-season fruit).  I also ordered a side of parmesan-and-rosemary fries, which were delicious enough to make up for the tasteless avocado. 

One of our professors later asked us where we'd eaten lunch and when we admitted that we'd eaten at the chainiest restaurant in town, I halfway expected him to judge us.  To our surprise, though, he commented, "Oh yeah, their burgers are great!" and he wasn't even being sarcastic!  We thought they were great, too.

Also worth noting: I drank coffee during this outing.  This is the 4th time in my life this has happened -- a "you win, jet lag" moment if there ever was one.

So in conclusion, we would love to eat at All Bar One again, but we probably won't.

Because 30 GBP is pretty much our budget for the week, not our budget for lunch -- today was just an exception.

OR we'll be back next week, because the 'YOLO!' habit is a hard one to break.

Either way, I'll be sure to keep you advised.