It’s been over a year since I returned from England — for that matter, it’s been more than a year since I last posted about it — but there has still always been that one last post to write. I delayed for several reasons, including schoolwork, my focus on sports blogging, and my uncertainty about how to illuminate an overarching theme of the trip, until every time I thought about writing a conclusion it seemed too troublesome to pull off and completely trivial to delay another week.
Now, though, I have to come to terms with the reality of how long it’s been since I last discussed the trip and how long the story has spent without an ending. So I thought I would do in this post what I’ve done best in the whole blog — simply describe the remaining events of Oxford as they happened, and post a few photos. Perhaps that’s what this adventure needs for a denouement: not an ending at all, but a final exhaustion of stories to tell.
I’ve saved the best for last. Mostly.
One of the subtle but important goals of the program was to familiarize us with some of the facets of British daily life and how the nation’s history and class live on in modern traditions. This was important for two reasons: first, it provided some local flavor for our travels; and second, it gave context to cultural nuances in the older works we studied, such as The Wind in the Willows.
On the grounds of the Wilton House.
In all the hustle and bustle of continual excursions and weekend trips, it was easy to forget how magical it was just to explore Oxford. Some of my most pleasant memories of the program are not from Stonehenge or studio tours but from local excursions and just walking around town. When the weather is nice (which isn’t always), Oxford has a safe, dreamy quality, making it more like a rural English town and less like the bustling tourist destination it usually is.
First visit to the Black Pine.
Our first taste of this came in an event mentioned earlier, when we walked through the Botanic Gardens on Alice’s Day in the first week of class. While the gardens were peaceful, this was not the full Oxford experience; dreary skies and crowds from the holiday celebrations dampened the pastoral charm of the gardens. However, the greenery was infectuously cheerful and helped brighten spirits even in the rain.
Yeah, we got a private tour of Stonehenge.
In one of the more unusual excursions of the program, our class got up on the crack of dawn and made our way to the brand-new Stonehenge museum, where we would receive an inner-circle access tour of the famous monument.
For thirty minutes we were allowed to step over the ropes and walk around the stones before the area opened up to tourists. A tour guide joined us to provide details on the order of construction of Stonehenge’s rings and creatively used a popup book to demonstrate what the completed structure looked like.