Myself and a couple of my London friends hopped on the trains on Sunday morning and took a day trip out to Oxford.
It's a lovely town – nice buildings, nice gardens, nice streams. After wandering past Christ Church, after which my native Christchurch is named, we went through the Botanic Gardens and looked at the interesting plants there, in particular the water plants and arid plants in the greenhouses.
Next we did a walking tour around which was well worthwhile – about two hours, it went through several colleges and various churches and other places, and gave a lot of interesting detail about the history of the place.
Incidentally, you're wondering why the iconic Radcliffe Camera is so named, as I did – “camera” is latin for a vaulted room.
Finally, we went down to one of the nearby river bridges and hired a punt. Unlike hiring punts in say Christchurch, here you can do it yourself! So of course I had to give it a go :).
Unsurprisingly, this is a lot harder than it looks. It's easy enough to go in a straight line, but maneuvering is quite difficult; the changes you make by sweeping the pole take a little while to rotate your punt, and by the time that's happened you really need to have angled back or you'll keep turning. And you carry far more momentum than you can easily impart, so it's very easy to find yourself moving sideways and turning with the current the wrong way. Did I mention you can't really brake?
Add in the depth in the middle of a stream, the substantial push from even gentle wind you catch in exposed parts, and the way that your pole keeps getting stuck in the mud, and basically every time you and another punt get close and have to get around one another turns into hilarity. One adventurous group, pictured below, had three lashed together, and got somewhat permanently perpendicular when they tried to go around us. Note the leaf in the foreground, from the bankside tree that I skillfully ran us into :).
Thankfully you're issued with a paddle to get yourself out of trouble, which the girls resorted to numerous times, but I found that it's really one or the other – if they paddled while I was punting, it completely threw the punting out – so I suggest you only use it when you need it.
By the end of the hour I was actually not too bad, navigating around traffic jams ahead (and only running into the bank every 5 minutes :P) but the pros could still run rings around us!
It's loads of fun and I highly recommend it. Word from friends who got punted by the pros and upgraded to the “with wine” option is to take your own wine, but as pleasant as being punted around is, I loved trying the punting itself.
Then we got off, I got my camera out of my bag and took a photo, paid, we walked two blocks…
And my camera went missing off my belt :(.
Of course we rushed back and scoured the two blocks we'd walked, but it was gone gone gone. Reported it to the police but it looks like I'll never see it again :(.
So aside from the camera itself I lost my photos from the day (thankfully not much more as I've been syncing most nights – just some squirrels from the previous day) which is a pity as there were some lovely ones.
Thanks to Raewyn Fisher for these Oxford photos – and for lending me her camera for the next bit of my trip until I replace mine!
The next day I flew out to Bologna.