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29th June
written by Hazel

I just have to start this post by saying that I completely neglected my camera for this part of the trip. I think it was because we were staying with friends and family and were so busy enjoying their company that I didn’t even think to get it out! So this post will be light on the photos. I’ll try to make the writing extra descriptive, but I’m not sure that will make up for it!

We had an easy bus trip from Durham to Oxford and even though it was raining when we arrived we had no trouble finding another bus to my aunt’s house. She has always been very encouraging to me and on several occasions has had chats with me that have very much helped me figure things out or see things more clearly, so I was really, really happy to see her.

She took us to a high table dinner at Brasenose College (Oxford University) and we had a wonderful time! Before she mentioned it to us, I did not even know what this event was, or even that it existed, so I’ll try to explain and people can chime in on the comments if I have it wrong. The colleges at the university serve dinners for the students and staff and it is an opportunity for everyone to meet up and share a meal. The high table is at the end of the hall and is where the professors and lecturers and their guests get to sit. There is a formal seating arrangement and they serve you amazing food and wine and you get to meet all kinds of people who you might not otherwise meet.

Probably the closest that Americans would know to this event is the dining setup at Hogwarts in Harry Potter. The hall was full of undergraduates at long tables and we were up at the top table with all of the academics (in their gowns!) and the other guests. American universities don’t really have anything equivalent and I think it’s a bit of a shame, because, as I said, we really enjoyed it!

We took a taxi to the college and then had a quick tour. Then we went to the Senior Common Room (where all the cool university people get to hang out) and had a glass of sherry and met some of the other people who were attending the dinner. Then the head of the college led us all into the hall and we took our places at the table. Justin and I were sitting next to each other, with my aunt across the table and I think we were both a bit intimidated at this point. We need not have been though because everyone was very friendly and we both had a really good time chatting with the people around us. We had had a quick review of how to make sure we didn’t embarrass ourselves at a fairly formal British event, and I think we did ok, no major faux-pas.

After dinner there was a concert/lecture by a visiting jazz pianist, Mark Applebaum.  He gave some really entertaining and informative speeches/demonstrations about how improvisational jazz works and played a lot of good music. I especially enjoyed his lecturing since I’ve heard a lot of jazz, but never much had it broken down and explained. This took place in the college’s chapel and there were probably about 40 people in the audience.

After the concert we all trooped back to the common room for dessert and once again, the food and port was really good.

We spent the next day with my aunt before heading to London in the late afternoon.

In London we stayed with another of Justin’s friends from Cornell. She ends up hosting a lot of friends coming through and there was even another couple there at the same time as us! I loved getting to spend some more time getting to know Justin’s friends.

We had a really good couple of days, but didn’t actually see much of London as we spent our time just hanging out with friends. We were able to meet up with some good family friends who gave us a delicious lunch and let us talk endlessly about our travels. It was great to catch up with them!

Friends in London

Friends in London

The time flew by so fast that we ended up not really being prepared for the next leg of our trip. But that crazy story will have to wait for the next post…


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