Monday, May 31, 2004

Oxford - Thumbs Up

Oxford was really charming. All of the colleges are beautiful old buildings, and there is a botanical garden that Magdalen College uses for research, which also very lovely and peaceful. I found it strange, though, that one of the most popular attractions in town seemed to be the shopping district. One of the streets was all blocked off from traffic and was lined with "The Gap"-equivalent type stores. Why anyone would travel to a quaint medieval town, an ancient seat of learning and culture, to buy strappy sandals and brand name T-shirts I will never know.

One quirky thing I saw was the Norrington room of Blackwell's book store. There are more books for sale in one room here than there are anywhere else is the world. I think there are 3 miles of bookshelves. Also, I got to see Queen's College where Rowan Atkinson studied engineering before going on to Mr. Bean/Black Adder fame.

My favorite thing, however, was my daytrip to Blenheim Palace. The Duke of Marlborough actually lives there, so you can't wander through much of the palace itself, but the gardens and parks are spectacular. You can look at pictures at []. (I'm not going to go into too much detail about anything because internet access is bloody expensive. 30 minutes here costs £2.50, and the exchange rate is $1.75 per pound, so you do the math.)

I came to Salisbury today with plans of seeing Stonehenge and Avesbury tomorrow. Avesbury is Stonehenge's older, larger, yet for some reason less visited cousin. The hostel is pretty nice, but the location is particularly pleasant. It's on the edge of town, off the road, in a grove of trees. I almost feel like I'm camping. It's a nice change from the traffic of London and the lovely right-next-to-the-train-station locale of the one in Oxford.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Underwhelmed in London

Today I spent pretty much the whole day walking around looking at parks - St. James Park, Green Park, Hyde Park, and Kensington Gardens. St. James Park was beautiful. It's a pretty small park with a canal running through it, which is filled with all kinds of waterfowl, including - very oddly - at least five giant, not very shy pelicans. Hyde Park had a lovely rose garden with mounds and mounds of blooms. Other than that, the parks seemed to just be big lawns with trees and the very occasional statue. I'm sad to say I got really bored. I even fell asleep in a lawn chair in Hyde Park - a chair you had to pay to sit in!! I didn't care, though. I was so tired of walking around, and I knew I wouldn't be comfortable on the ground.

The only other sight I visited today was Buckingham Palace. Also mostly a non-sight. I got there too early to see the changing of the guard, and they only let people in late in the summer when the queen leaves. So, I was left to look at the front of a massive, unlovely block of a building.

I'm glad I'll be leaving London tomorrow for Oxford. Hopefully it will tickle my fancy a little bit better.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

I'm here - in London

I don't know why, but I'm not feeling too motivated to write much about London so far. It's no Paris, that's for sure. I can't really identify the difference. I guess London seems more modern. There are skyscrapers in the city proper and lots of cranes and construction going on. Paris has made a real effort to keep the city central picturesque and historical. Also, the traffic seems even worse here, and it was cRaZy in Paris, so that's saying alot. There's also quite a cultural difference. This morning in the reception room Everybody Loves Raymond was on the TV; yesterday the tour guide at the Tower made joke about KFC; and there are Starbucks on every corner. Just that right there would probably make the French throw up.

Anyway, I know I'm not going to come close to seeing everything I'd like to. However, the sights that I've seen have been incredible. I've been to the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, the British Museum, the Tate Modern art museum, and St.Paul's Cathedral. Unfortunately, St. Paul's is being restored, so the interior was not very impressive, but I climbed up all the stairs into the dome (it seems like I go all over Europe just to climb up stairs and look at things from up high) and got a great view of the city. It is such a crowded jumble of buildings. Not much is distinctive about the skyline.

I wanted to put some pictures here of what I've been looking at, but this computer service really sucks. It will only let me open one window, so I can't look stuff up on Google and edit this post at the same time. I guess you'll have to look them up yourself if you care.

I've written an awful lot for someone who isn't motivated to write anything, so I suppose I'm done now.