Oxford, Coventry and Birmingham

Another belated post, sorry Mum!

Last weekend, well actually by now it's the weekend before last, I went to Oxford to visit my friends the Bennetts again. I stayed with them when I first arrived as well. I took the train from Swansea to Didcot, where Deborah picked me up just in time for dinner! Edmund is very enthusiastic and involved in the local theatre groups, so we went to a play he was in in the evening. I would wax poetic about how great it was, except it really wasn't at all. Edmund was very good in his parts, but it was a very technically difficult musical and the skill level they were attempting was over almost everyone's heads. Plus the play was just badly written in the first place.

The next day, Friday, I went into Oxford to wander about. I went to Oxford a few times the first time I was here, but then only went at night for music gigs the second time, so I was really looking forward to seeing the city again. I'm really starting to get a feel for where things are, which is really nice.

The main shopping part of town is mostly pedestrian, which is really nice. The roads are fairly wide, and there are plenty of shops. The building on the corner is apparently the oldest pub in Oxford, or at least it was. It is now a mobile shop!

Oxford is obviously full of old historic buildings, most of them part of the university. This is the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archeology, which houses what I understand to be a very extensive collection. It was built in 1683 and has undergone many transformations over time. This building is only part of the museum.

This church is located on a triangle of land, surrounded on everyside by busy roads. I think it is St. Mary Magdalen Church, on St. Giles.

While wandering about I found and followed signs for Oxford Castle.

When you walk in from this entrance, there is a time line inlaid in the stone courtyard recounting the history of the site. It began construction in 1071, and was used as a functional jail until 1996, at which point I suspect they realized they could make more money off tourists.

They don't seem to have taken the grills off the windows from it's former jail days, but it is still a lovely old medieval castle. The bit on the right is actually the tourist shop, which is very modern looking with floor to ceiling glass windows. From what I saw, the additions onto the building were done very tastefully, using lots of glass, which let the castle itself remain as the focus.

Like many castles, this one has a big pointless hill to go along with it. Well, I'm sure it served a purpose at the time, probably spotting the enemy or something, but now it's a big hill. I think you can usually climb it, but there was a sign saying it was temporarily closed due to a landslip caused by heavy rains. It will take them a while to put it back together.

Afterwards I had tea with Meg and Robin, before heading back to eat dinner with Deborah and Edmund. Edmund had another performance to do, so I headed over to Claire and Joe's to hangout. We talked about me doing some learn to knit workshops in May for the festival they are running. It's a eco-friendly weekend of music and workshops for the whole family. I'm very excited. I ended up sleeping over there, since I didn't want to bike back in the dark. I was woken up very early by the postman!

The next day Claire and Joe and I drove to Birmingham for Joe's sister's engagement party. Katy is the one girl of the four Bennett kids. Their younger brother Chris was there as well, and it was excellent to see everyone again, as well as meet Katy's fiance Lorna.

On the way we stopped in Ikea in Coventry which was great fun. Claire is from New York and we both got a little nostalgic for home while we were running around. Since Ikea is exactly the same everywhere in the world, we both forgot where we were. I heard someone talking and I though "hee, that person is British!" before mentally kicking myself for being silly. Of course they're british! Coventry is a most unfortunate town though, and I hope to never go there ever again. It has the stupidest ringroad in the world, which involves a terrifying game of chicken every time you want to get on or off.

The next day I was lucky enough to get a ride back to Swansea with the boyfriend of a friend of Katy's. Steve is Welsh and lives in Cardiff, so it just worked out. We did get stuck in a traffic jam though, which wasn't fun, but we made the most out of it and just played lots of music.

All in all, it was an fun, but pretty relaxing weekend away with lots of friends around.

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