Daniel Oukolov volunteered to write blog posts for the 21st and 20th after the trip had concluded… You can find them below.
After all the hard work, we all woke up ready to present our projects. Harrison Eastman presented on Anglo-Saxon history and brought us to the Ashmolean while Liam King brought us to various towers around Oxford. Jimmy gave us a look into Architecture around Oxford and Agus shared some history surrounding the culture Rugby. Nick and I wrote academic journals on our religious experiences in Oxford and Hugh finished us off with some Oxford United and Arsenal soccer comparisons. It was nice to see everything come to a close and nice to think about the wonderful memories made in Oxford together. We had time to reflect on the entirety of the trip during our final banquet. The 3 course meal took place during dinner in the Medieval dining hall. We dressed in our school ties and settled down for a nice long meal where we got to enjoy each others company before returning to the U.S. on the 22nd.
We enjoyed some wine that had been paired with each course, and shared some laughs as a group one last time before we headed off to bed. The shared experiences, the blood, sweat, and tears on the trip, and the camaraderie made the trip a once in a lifetime experience in England.
After waking up I realized that our final projects were due the next day, so I kicked it into high gear and capitalized on all the opportunities to write my academic journal. Throughout the last week or two, I indulged in C.S. Lewis’ books on Christianity as well as Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion.” I have been tracking my thoughts on certain subjects to better understand the material as well as develop a collection of, hopefully, academic opinions. So, after breakfast, I wrote during the given times as well as worked on my presentation of Magdalen College. Mr. Blain gave Mr. Preston and Mr. Wixted the idea of picking a particular college and researching the background and story behind the structures. I was assigned Magdalen, the biggest and most nature-centric college. After finishing my presentation, I worked for about four hours reading and writing until I finally submitted both projects. The boys and I went out to our favorite pub for the last time. The Kings Arms, our first discovered pub and our last visited, provided the perfect last night for our journey in England.
After waking up for our usual 8:30 AM breakfast we had eaten the usual scrambled eggs and hash browns in the Brasenose Dining hall. After breakfast there was a quick intermission for those who were not able to beat their buddies in the race for the showers before 8:30. Soon we all reconvened in the classroom where we had a great lesson on Winston Churchill and debated the ethics of controversial actions such as bombing the French Navy at Mers el Kebir. The lesson was perfectly timed for the previous day in London we had went to the Churchill war rooms and the night before a few of my friends and I had watched some of “The Darkest Hour,” which is a film following Winston Churchill which had large chunks of the film take place in the war rooms the place we had just visited yesterday. After our class both Mr. Preston and Mr. Wixted had told us that we had spent too much money on tapas the previous night so we would have to end up going to a fast food joint. However they made us dress in button downs claiming that we would visit a “Historical Site” which drummed up suspicion among the boys in the group.
As we followed Mr. Wixted and Mr. Preston they ended up leading us to a beautiful steak house rather than a fast food joint surprising us all. The food was really good as we ate deviled duck hearts, bone marrow, massive bowls of French fries, and of course large perfectly grilled steaks. Everyone cleaned their plates and we then walked back with the weight of our stomachs holding us down.
Once we arrived back to Brasenose we all finalized our work on our Oxford College which had been assigned to us earlier in the trip. Once we finished we then ate dinner at the dining hall and headed out for a fun night in Oxford. We convened at Hassan’s for our last late night dine in with our favorite food truck. After talking a picture with Hassan and Ali we went back to Brasenose and went to bed.
After another early morning departure to London our group moved swiftly and with purpose as we took on London one last time. After arriving in Victoria Square, we waited in line for the London eye, but we decided breakfast was more important before our private tour of the Churchill War Rooms. Mr. Wixted, our fearless commandant, sacrificed his time and efforts in the ticket line, but realized we had already left. After breakfast, we made our way to the underground bunker for our private tour in the Churchill War Rooms. The museum had completely preserved almost everything in the rooms but built glass rooms around the doors to prevent visitors from ruining any artifacts. Our private tour guide allowed us to enter the rooms as they explained the rich history in front of us as we felt out the rooms on our own terms. The museum was ruthlessly obsessed with preservation so much so that they didn’t update or touch any lamps, clocks or maps and kept one secretaries sugar cubes left in his desk. It exemplified the British and their appreciation for their history. Personally, I enjoyed seeing Chuchill’s cabinet room where you could see the nail marks and ring tap marks on his chair he made.
After the war rooms, Mr. Wixted and Hugh broke off and went on to the Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal Football Club, for Hugh’s mastery credit.
As for the rest of the group, we visited the National Gallery where we saw the works of Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Rafael, Rembrandt, and many more artists. It was truly the opportunity of a lifetime. Afterwards, we met up and went off to a restaurant by the name of Barrafina that Mr. Preston had saved for the end of our days in London . On the way, we ran into Ian McKellen, who has also been known to go as Gandalf and Magneto. His bodyguards prohibited us from taking photos with him, so we proceeded to our destination with haste. The Spanish tapas were nothing short of amazing, and proved to be the favorite meal of several guys in the group. We made a pointed effort to try out a wide range of food that included but was not limited to milk-fed lamb brain, ox tongue, exotic cheeses, cornish hen, and pork that tasted as if it had been cooked for Zeus himself.
The energy of Barrafina was fast-paced and loud, but the crowded atmosphere only added to the overall experience. After dinner we stopped at Balthazar Bakery for some of the best pastry this side of the Atlantic. Each of us enjoyed a treat before we hopped on a bus back to Oxford for the night which marked an end to our endeavors in London.
After a turbulent week that involved lots of travel within the UK the 17th saw us return to the classroom. Although there was a lot of free time in between classes to rest, we had multiple interesting discussions on the morality of ‘Empire’ and what makes someone a national hero. We started by looking at people who we perceive to be heroes today like Mad Dog Mattis, and Chris Kyle. We then moved to compare the traits that we associated with them to some of the national heroes we had seen the British pay tribute to over the course of our trip. These conversations piggybacked off of our time in Greenwich during which we got an in depth look at Horatio Nelson. As the debate circled around we moved from questions surrounding the British empire of the 19th century to if America is an empire today by reading some Niall Ferguson and Robert Kaplan and some rebuttals to their work.
In total we had about 4 and a half hours, with a brief break for lunch. In light of our recent excursions this may seem like a rather dull day, but the class sessions and debates were anything but. I went for a run with Daniel and Mr. Wixted in the evening to Port Meadow where we managed to catch another sunset before heading back to Brasenose.
After we started the day with a breakfast of eggs, ham, and potatoes, we embarked on our 15 minute walk to a bike shop. There we rented 9 bikes for everyone in the group. Our bike ride was along the Oxford canal all the way to Blenheim Palace which was a 9 mile bike that took just about an hour.
Upon arriving at the palace, we were told to chain our bikes to the fence because a Bollywood production was in progress in the palace. They were quite hilarious with their massive dancing routines. The palace was stunning and massive.
I have to say that I was quite jealous of Winston Churchill getting to grow up on such a lavish estate. We ate lunch in the cafeteria where I tried a macchiato for the first time, which I specifically ordered because of Jean Girard in Talladega Nights.
The bike ride home was shorter due to our knowledge of the path and a better pace. After a little free-time and another dinner in the dining hall, we walked to the Oxford Castle to watch Shakespeare’s a Midsummer Night’s Dream. The play was funny yet bizarre. The comedy was taken to the extreme in its witty bizarreness of costumes and acting. After the play we agreed as a group that we were exhausted and went to bed.
After a three-day long trip to London, Mr. Wixted decided to give us a sleep in until 9 o’clock -our regular time is 8:30. Isn’t he great. Instead of going to breakfast at Brasenose, we went to breakfast at Turl Street Kitchen where besides having a wonderful English breakfast, we also had an unhealthy amount of coffee.
We worked on our Advanced Master Credits (AMCs) for the rest of the morning. I first attempted to fulfill my Creative Writing credit, but, as is often the case with these things, I ended up staring at a blank page for about 15 minutes, at which point moving on was overdue. Besides my Creative Writing credit I am also gunning for a Creative Thinking mastery credit on Rugby. I want to learn more not only the game’s general history, but, more specifically, how the game affects the local Oxford Community. My research yielded some fascinating results -fascinating only to those who hold history close to their hearts. I discovered that the Oxford Harlequins, Oxford’s rugby team, are one of five founding members of the Rugby Football Union that are still active. I also found two interesting connections: The first is between rugby and class. To explain it here would be as boring to the reader as it would to me, so I won’t even try. Suffice to say that it has a lot to do with what my rugby coach once told me “Rugby is a sport for brutes that’s played by gentlemen.” The second is between Rugby and the British Empire. Rugby is one of the many things that the British carried with them when they were painting the world red. If Dawkins were studying it, he would call it a meme. But that’s enough about that. As was the case with the first connection the reader nor the author is interested in enough in pursuing the matter at the moment for it to be worth doing so.
After lunch, we met Will Figg ’13 who is working towards a P.H.D at Oxford as on organic chemist. He kindly showed us around Oxford’s amazing facilities and answered our million questions about the nature of his work. For those of us interested in the sciences, the meeting was fascinating. Followers of Clio, however, were not as elated. Our meeting having been concluded, there was some more AMCs time, but we cut it short at four so that we could go watch the France-Croatia game. My Francophilia kicked in at that moment and I found myself cheering for les bleus, although I cannot say that I was as happy as the French were when they won that game.
That is all that transpired that was of any note. If I forgot something, blame not me, it must have been rather forgettable.