Archive for July, 2011

Well, go figure. All of a sudden I can access the Internet again. So here we go. A few arches and then, as I was walking around, I was taken by the amazing variety of the small front gardens of the rowhouses in Iffley.

So here we go. These are barely arches, but it is a nice arrangement.Next is a nice series of arches on a pub.    I love the use of brick to bring out the arches here.        I love, love love the arches that make up this beautiful entry.     Finally the arches on the building beyond the Rusty Bicycle. We ate dinner at the Rusty Bicycle last night and it was wonderful. A portabello mushroom sandwich with pesto and cheese and a medza plate. Wonderful!   Ok to the front gardens. It is stunning the variety of ways people treat them. Many are just there, but many have had lots of attention paid to them. A universal challenge, as seen below, is that the garbage bins are placed out front and don’t add a lot to the ambiance!  I did find one can that had been transformed by a wildflower skin. Nice.   Some gardens, unfortunately, are completely utilitarian! The car rules!  Isn’t this simple but nice?   Here is sophisticated and elegant.   Nicely done – both pretty and utilitarian with bike and garbage cans.  There are a few with wood fences, but most are masonry.   There are few trees on these neighborhood streets, making the canopy provided by this one rather nice.       And here is the last one. I love the clean, organized, beautiful look of this one. 



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Computer Problems

My computer won’t connect to the Internet anymore so more posts on England until we get home. We’re slaves to and subjects of our technology!

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This is a seriously nice church. It’s in part of Oxford called old Iffley. It sits above the River Thames and is part of a medieval village still set off from the rest of the city. The village has a couple of beautifully thatched roof buildings, a small grocery store, and a pub where I hope to eat sometime this trip. Just below the village is a gorgeous, stone lock on the river with a lock house surrounded by the most beautiful and well tended flower beds.

It is said St. Mary’s is England’s best Norman church. It is quite handsome and it has lots of arches. What is amazing is that each window is a different arch and the doors are incredibly decorated arches themselves. You’ll see! You can see on several of the arches remnants of a previous arch. So changes have been made. Perhaps a couple of the arches were the same originally – looks like it to me. But you never know – one of the mysterious joys of looking at old architecture.

The pictures below move from the front of the church to the back and the main entry. The farther towards the back you go the more ornate the arches, as you’ll see.You can see this first arch is quite simple, yet beautifully proportioned. This next arced window is a little more complex, still beautifully proportioned. There is evidence of an earlier window in the brickwork just above the window. Different shape and style. Again, there is clear evidence of a more rounded arched window previous to this one.     This is the side door into the church, quite near the front of the building. Incredible detail!     Here you can see the door in more detail. Just beautiful.  This is the front and top of St. Mary’s. Look at the amount of stonework in the arches and rose window! Here you get a closer look at the detail of one of the upper windows. Now we’re looking at the entire front of the building. A little closer look at the front door. The outer two layers of the arch are called dogs teeth. You can see why in this and following images. And . . .                                        And finally below is a view of the entire church. 

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Oxford Architecture

We’re back in England. This is the 5th year Kristi has taught here in Oxford at the Oxford Summer School. Lucky me gets to travel along.

If you like architecture, shapes, patterns, this is a fabulous city. Since I love all those things, I am endlessly entertained just by walking around and looking. I think I got into historic preservation because old buildings are so different, unexpected, varied. They are warm, cozy, surprising. And they are all about geometry, the one math class that came naturally and easily to me. Because this city has a wealth of great architecture resulting from all the different colleges making up Oxford University, there is much to enjoy in a relatively small space.

I don’t know how many times I’ll post on this blog while here, but I do have an idea of what I want to do. Today, I’m just going to share some pictures that grabbed my attention the first couple of days here. This will provide just a bit of the flavor of Oxford, though by no means covering all its diversity. Then, what I thought I’d do, is arches!

While walking around the first two days I came to appreciate all the different Gothic arches there are here. At first I thought I’d do a series of entries of pics just of Gothic arches. But there are some nongothic arches that are pretty nice too. So I’m just going to do arches. And who knows. I may be inspired by other things as the week unfolds. And I’m discovering that each day I could limit myself to the arches of just one building. It is amazing how many different arches a single building can have.

Finally, what does this have to do with Italy? Well, you’ll find lots of arches in Italy, a fabulous Gothic cathedral in Orvieto where we spend most of our time. But Italy? Well not much I suppose except that, if you visit England or Italy or anyplace different, there is, quite simply, sheer joy in seeing things so different it makes you stand up and take notice. So here is a bit of what I’m noticing here!

Oldest Street

I love this, Oxford’s oldest street, the brick crosswalk amongst the stones, and the facade behind. Medieval period.Isn’t this a wonderful set of windows, near to the street above and part of Merton College.Look up anywhere in the center of Oxford where all the colleges are located and you will see spires. Simply wonderful. This is Merton College again.Then there is the Thames which flows through the city. Much of it is surprisingly rural and this carriage path is a great way to see it. This is just above Iffley Lock. People in shells, canoes, houseboats, tourboats. People walking and biking on the path. Just alive and fun.Just around the bend on the Thames is the Isis Cafe where we sat on the back lawn having tea. We love our Iffley neighborhood south of the center. Beautiful row houses of all style and size. The repeating gables, the details, the details catching light makes it a delight to walk.There are several pubs in our neighborhood. This is the Rusty Bicycle, our favorite serving Arkel ales. Just at the end of the street is the Magic Cafe where we go for coffee and Internet. Chimney pots in our “hood” in the fading light, which here in the summer is about 9:30. A taste of Oxford. Cheers!

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I had forgotten how much fun it is to plan travel to a new place. Going as we do twice a year to Italy, the sheer novelty of researching new places there  is gone. We always go someplace new in the country, and I like to research those places. It is a diverse land so each place we go is different, but it feels similar to researching places to go in the U.S. – fun, but somehow familiar.

One of Oxford's many beautiful colleges

Kristi will be teaching in Oxford this summer. This is her 5th year, yet the UK still remains mysterious to me, much more so than Italy which I have visited something like 18 times. So it has been great fun to begin the research, to look at options for places to go. It is a wonderful process of discovery and anticipation. I am really glad to be engaged in this research, because I can feel what it is like for those who are coming to join us on one of our trips to Italy. I envy them the thrill!

This is such a different process than it was when I first began researching trips abroad back in 1993. Then, it was done through books, lots of them. I would read and read, take notes, begin to see where there was consensus about places to stay or visit, but also looking for those places off the beaten path. Hardly anyone had web sites or e-mail. Faxing from the U.S. was not inexpensive, but it was a great way to communicate quickly.

We visited Galway, Ireland - a wonderful place

Now, the world is at your fingertips via the web and all its tools. I have to say that, while it is certainly easier, the level of anticipation and surprise can be much diminished when you can go to Google Earth or Maps, do a street view and see exactly where you are thinking about going. Knowing what a place looks like provides comfort on arrival, but the thrill of discovery is lessened.

Well, there is no going back. I love all the tools. But I do have a bit of nostalgia for the old way, for relying on instinct, and discovering when you arrived if your instinct was correct. Still, there will be plenty of wonderful surprises as we discover yet another part of the UK.

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