How do I start, where do I begin...

It's Friday evening in Oxford and I just got back from a day-trip to London with Karen and Colin. More on that in a second.

Yesterday, we browsed through the Gloucester Green market (pictured left), which was full of antiques, clothing, toys, stamps, coins, record albums, furniture, fixtures, jewelry and nicknacks galore. It was another gorgeous day, and I was on a mission to find a new toiletry bag since my shampoo bottle exploded and ruined the one I bought with me. Searching through a box of purses, I found one for just a £1. A bargain! I resisted the temptation to buy books and a postman's key from London. What the hell would I do with that anyway?

After the market, we strolled over to the beautiful Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archeology (pictured below). The building has recently been renovated, so it's ancient on the outside and ultra-modern on the inside. They have an amazing room full of musical instruments, including a Stradivarius violin made in 1716. There's also an amazing selection of sculpture, china and more than I could possibly list here. It's definitely worth a visit.

We had lunch in the Jericho neighborhood of Oxford – full of trendy boutiques and shops – at a patisserie called Maison Blanch. I had afternoon tea with Earl Grey and a delicious buttered scone.  I was still full from the English breakfast that morning in the Worcester College dining hall. American cooks need to come over here and learn the secret of England's scrambled eggs. They are fluffy and light and taste incredible.

I gave my lecture on social media in the afternoon to a full house of students not only from Karen's class, but from Colin's as well. I talked about using Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. They students had insightful questions and comments.

Last night, some old friends of Colin – Andrew and Janet – dropped by the cottage for a visit and we wound up over at the Worcester pub. We started talking about Kate Bush, and Janet said she had seen Kate's one and only concert tour in 1979. Sigh. She is incredibly lucky and I'm jealous as hell.

This morning we took the coach to London to see the Sally Mann exhibit at The Photographer's Gallery. It was a retrospective featuring the controversial images of her children (Karen called her the Sharon Olds of photography), the haunting images of Civil War battlefields and, most disturbing of all, the images of decomposing bodies at the Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Center. Mann used the wet-plate collodion photographic process, which involves coating a large glass negative with chemicals and exposing it while still wet, often in the back of her truck after a shoot. The one image that will haunt me is of the close up of a decomposing face turning into dust and becoming part of the ground beneath it.

We headed across London to Charing Cross Road and stopped in Foyles to browse all the books. I picked up the 25th anniversary edition of Jeanette Winterson's Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, which is gorgeous. We window-shopped at the other bookstores along Charing Cross and Cecil Court, before having lunch in the Crypt cafe of St. Martin-in-the-Fields church. The 18th century crypt is beautifully preserved and you literally dine on top of the ancient burial vaults of old Londoners. That's me in the Crypt at left.

The temperature was in the high 80s in London today, so that's a serious heatwave in a country that doesn't have much air conditioning. "London's Burning" was one of today's headlines and a health warning has been issued. Hundreds of people were in Trafalgar Square, dipping their toes in the famous fountains to stay cool. We stopped by the Fourth Plinth (where Karen famously stood last summer as part of Antony Gormley's One & Other project) to see the temporary art piece installed there – a giant ship in bottle to commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar during the Napoleonic Wars. Karen returned to the scene today, pictured at left.

After strolling through the Victoria Embankment Gardens along the Thames, we went to the Courtauld Gallery, which was filled with paintings and statues by Degas, Renoir, Van Gogh, Lautrec and countless more. I was a bit exhausted after our hike across London, but it was another amazing exhibition of work. Before we came back to Oxford we had a rare opportunity to go inside the disused Strand/Aldwych Underground Station. There was an exhibition of models and improvements coming to the Tube, but the real treat was seeing this historic station, which was used as a public air-raid shelter and to hide the artifacts from the British Museum during the London Blitz. The station is now used mostly by film and television crews to recreate the Underground in a controlled setting (you've seen it in V for Vendetta and Atonement most recently) A spectacular day in London! There's a ton of photos on my Facebook page, so check 'em out.

Tomorrow, we're off to Cardiff!

Comments

Lisa Allender said…
Wow, museums, great food(eggs are mostly "free-range" and no hormones are used in England's livestock), so the egg breakfasts are bound to be tastier, Coll.
And the touring sounds lover-ly.
"Fourth Plint". Niiice.
You both look great! :)
Lisa Allender said…
Shouldread:
"Fourth Plinth". :)

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