Thursday, 26 February 2015

Reflections on February in England

I feel like there isn’t much to say about our first February in England.  It was a quiet month for us, not much traveling except for our very fun trip to London.  I'll share the rest of that trip with you next week.  These pictures are from our last day in London when we visited Kew Gardens which holds the largest collection of living plants in the world.   

There are trees in Kew Gardens that were planted back in the mid 1700s and are still alive today.  Walking by these old trees, it was fun to image the people and styles of dress they've seen pass by over the course of 250+ years.  

It may seem like a funny time of the year to visit a garden, but I was in dire need of whatever kind of warm, tropical fix I could find and glasshouses full of lush, vibrantly green trees and plants were just what the doctor ordered.  It's still winter outside,

 but inside, it's warm, colorful and beautiful!

There happened to be an orchid show going on, so on top of the vast array of plants that are normally in the glasshouses, there were also beautiful, exotic, colorful orchids all over the place. 

February in England was cold, but it doesn’t feel right whining about that when so many of our friends and family are back in the states freezing their butts off because I assure you, it never got anywhere near 0ºF here in England.  The one thing I will say about the weather in February is that while what Mother Nature is actually throwing at us in terms of precipitation, sunshine and clouds feels like it changes from minute to minute here, the actual temperature is very steady.  Looking at the forecast each day is quite frankly boring because you know it will say the high will be 45ºF, or 46º, or 44º.  Very little variation.  Yes, I know most of you are probably thinking “I’ll take it,” but it really is boring.  At least when it’s a high of 5ºF one day and a high of 30º the next you have something to get excited about and look forward to.  

Valentine’s Day – no Valentine’s exchanges at school in England.  In fact, I heard no mention whatsoever of Valentine’s Day activities in school.  It is celebrated in England though.  For the couple of weeks prior to February 14, upon entering the grocery store you were greeted not only with a huge display of Valentine cards, candy and flowers, but also with the most horrendous, cheesy, 80s love songs belting out of speakers on top of the display.  In no way, shape or form did that awful music entice me to buy a Valentine for someone.  It made me laugh though.  

I’ve reached that point in the school year where making lunches and getting the kids to do their homework each day is getting old.  Seems like this happens around this time every year, and since school goes into July here, I feel like we have a looooong time until we reach the end and get a much needed break for a couple of months.  But Eric and I continue to really enjoy hearing about what the girls are doing in school here.  Leah’s been learning about penguins and got to do a penguin huddle in school the other day.  She’s started division in math.  And she studies French once a week.  They both do actually.  A French teacher visits their school one day a week and gives each class a lesson.  I love it!

Ellie just finished reading The Hobbit.  That one took her longer to read than the rest.  Most of the books she brings home from school she breezes through in a couple of days.  I think The Hobbit took her a whole week.  We can’t keep enough books around for that girl.  She’s wrapping up studying the Maya at school this week with a trip to Cadbury world.  Our little sugar queen gets to take a trip to a chocolate factory.  I bet she is in heaven right now.   

Ellie started playing the flute this month.  Once a week a music teacher visits the school and gives music lessons to those who want to play an instrument.  After trying to play a few different instruments a couple weeks back, Ellie announced she had decided to play the saxophone.  Yikes!  How would we get a saxophone home from England?  We’ve already accumulated enough stuff in our few short months here that I’m worried about getting it all home and thinking about what we can leave behind.  And I don't think she realizes how heavy that big, bulky case is to lug around.  Well, I do because I use to play the sax and dreaded each day that I had to drag that case onto and off of the school bus.  That’s a heavy instrument for our pint sized Ellie.  After talking to her music teacher, we realized she had only picked it because it was the easiest instrument to get some sound out of on the first try.  We intervened and persuaded her to try the flute instead and now she’s glad she picked that sweet sounding petite little instrument.  She’s only had it for one day but already she’s gotten pretty good at producing some decent sound from it.  If she wants, she can try the sax when we get back home and we don’t have to worry about lugging it onto a plane. 

Eric continues to work hard during the week at Rolls-Royce.  He is busy, busy, busy and I know he enjoys coming home each evening to the very low stress life we have.  Not having a house to work on is a vacation in itself.  We’ll be back there someday and weekends will once again be spent working on the never ending list of projects, so for now, he seems to be relaxing and enjoying this little intermission from our normal lives.

The past few years February has whizzed by for me because I was working and March 1 was a major reporting deadline for many of our clients.  I worked more hours in February than any other month and really didn’t mind because, despite being the shortest month of the year, February can feel like a long month to get through when it’s cold and snowy outside and having a lot of work to concentrate on always made the month fly by heading towards spring.   

This year was quite different.  February was slow and felt very long, but maybe that’s how it should be.  Maybe we need a month like February where nothing much is happening to let our bodies rejuvenate before the flood of spring and summer activities begin.  So I did my best to relax and enjoy it, taking care of the normal day to day household and kid related chores, I started reading Ken Follett’s 1,014 page long World Without End which I had brought with to England to help me get through the winter, I spent time making plans and reservations for our next couple of trips, and I got outside for a walk whenever I could despite the damp, dreary conditions.   

This quiet time is about to change for us.  As the weather gets nicer, we will be doing a lot of traveling, welcoming family to our new abode here in England, and wrapping up the end of the school year which always seems to be a crazy busy time.  I feel rested, relaxed and ready for the craziness to begin.  Thank you quiet February!

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

London Calling

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the things I love about living in England is that there is a plethora of neat places to visit that are only two hours away.  We can pretty much take off driving in any direction and end up at a castle, beautiful estate home, national park, the ocean, gardens, ancient ruins AND we can drive two hours south and be in one of the great cities in the world – London!

On a bridge over the Thames with Big Ben in the background.
Last week was midterm break for the girls.  No school for the week.  Thank goodness because I think the entire town needed a break after the scarlet fever epidemic that swept through the week before.  We spent the first half of the week relaxing at home and taking a break from the busy school schedule.  But we couldn’t stay home for the entire week.  We are only living in Europe for two years after all and we feel the need to take advantage of every opportunity we have to do some traveling and see as much of this beautiful continent as we can.  This time, we decided to keep our feet on English ground and headed to London for a few days. 

I love London!  You know those cheesy t-shirts you see with this slogan on it?  I’m going to get one because I really do love London.  It’s a huge, bustling, beautiful mixture of old and new.   

The old with the new being constructed behind it.
You can walk down busy Regent Street in Soho passing high end shops like Burberry with big, red double-decker buses whizzing past and then turn a corner onto a quiet, quant, cobblestone side street filled with bookstores, pastry shops and small restaurants, and a few moments later you are walking under hundreds of brightly colored lanterns hanging high above the street in Chinatown.  One minute you are walking along museum row passing huge building after huge building not sure which one to duck into because there are so many to choose from, and the next thing you know you're lost in Hyde Park wandering the trails through the trees and grassy lawn with no buildings in site.  And the people watching – oh my, the people watching.  More than once I had to tell the girls not to stare, that we would discuss it later.

So here we go – our first day in London!

After a two-hour drive Thursday morning, we started our visit in a coffee shop in the suburb of Ealing where we decided to stay for the three nights we would be visiting London.  Don't worry - we weren't shacking up at the coffee shop, but at a hotel down the street.  We had just ducked in here for a cappuccino and a sandwich before heading into the city.  We found some seats downstairs where the chairs are upholstered in coffee sacks.  Wish I could get one of those home with me to Indiana.  While London is a beautiful vibrant city, it is also a very expensive city to spend a night in.  That's why we decided to stay just outside the city in a wonderful neighborhood called Ealing.  Another great thing about London that I did not mention above is it’s public transportation system which is what makes staying outside the city and paying less for a hotel room a viable option.  From our hotel, it was a 10 minute walk to the Underground station (London’s subway system) where we could jump on a train and be dropped off a short time later deep underground in the heart of the city.  The girls loved riding the Underground.  They had been on a subway once before when they were both much younger, but they don’t remember it so this was another new, exciting first for them.  After the first trip, they were pros at jumping on and off the trains with the few seconds you have at each stop.  

The Underground actually starts aboveground when you are outside the city but goes down into the tunnels as you get closer to the center of London.
Our first stop in London – the British Museum, a treasure trove of world art and artifacts.  The building is gigantic.  What should we see first?   

We started off in the Egyptian hall wandering through huge remnants of statues of great Pharaohs. 

Walking through the vast halls you feel like you are in a scene from Indiana Jones.   

If Leah and Ellie stood next to the head below, they would barely reach his ears.  These guys are enormous.

Leah couldn’t wait to see a mummy and they have several at the British Museum – even cat mummies.  Seeing the mummies led to lots of questions about how people were turned into mummies.  I tried explaining that the people weren't actually turned into mummies but that it is how the Egyptians used to preserve and bury the dead.  My explanations were met with vacant stares.  You see, to a seven year old, a mummy isn't a person, it is a monster from a scary movie or cartoon.  With some of the people we would see on the streets of London and some of the exhibits we visited in the Museums, Eric and I got would get lots of questions over the next four days.

We saw the Rosetta Stone, one of the most famous pieces in the Museum, which is a decree written on a stone in Greek, demotic and hieroglyphics which allowed historians to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics. 

The Lewis Chessman (photo above) – another one of the most famous artifacts in the Museum because it is one of only a few surviving complete medieval chess sets.  It is suspected that the set was made in Norway during the 12th century.  The set was found in a sand dune on a beach on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland, hence the name.  Why they were in a sand dune in Scotland no one knows.  Most of the pieces were carved from walrus ivory, and a few were made from whale teeth. 

We also visits the clock gallery which was filled with all manner of devices purported to keep time.  Some do this well, and others not so well.  Above is Congreve’s Rolling Ball Clock – a gorgeous piece of work but not so good at keeping time.  There is a little ball that rolls back and forth on a zigzagged track.  It takes the ball between 15 seconds to one minute to roll back and worth, hence the reason it doesn’t keep time so well.  But it’s pretty!  

Taking a break from all the walking.  The museum was busy - very busy.  We grabbed a seat where we could.
By the time we left the British Museum, it was dark and raining but the streets of London were still beautiful. 

We were hungry.  I had done my research.  There are thousands of restaurants in London and we wanted to make sure we chose a good one.  Before coming here, I had searched for things to do in London with kids and happened upon the top ten recommended restaurants to visit with children.  One of them was a Belgium restaurant called Belgo Central that was within walking distance of the British Museum.   

The Belgo Central on the left.
Why is it recommended for children?  Well, they did have a good kids menu, and the restaurant is located deep underground where you feel like you are eating in a cave (this is not the place for claustrophobics), and the wait staff are all dressed in long Trappist monk robes.   But I suspect whomever made this top 10 list wasn’t just thinking of the children.   If you remember back to our trip to Belgium in October, Belgium + Trappist monks = GREAT beer!  Eric has been obsessed with Belgium beer ever since and the Belgo Central serves all types of frothy Belgium beer, including my new found favorites, the fruit beers.  I enjoyed two – a cherry beer and a peach beer.  Delicious!

Beer crates outside the entrance of Belgo Central.
Time to head back down into the tunnels of the Underground for the ride back to our hotel.  It was a short day in London.  We hadn't arrived in the city until the middle of the afternoon but we had three more days ahead of us to see the sights.  

It was a bit of a ride back to Ealing, maybe 30 minutes or so, but we didn’t mind.  It was nice to just sit and rest after spending the afternoon at the British Museum and filling our bellies with some hearty Belgium food and drink.  Now, time to rest because tomorrow is another day in London!

Friday, 13 February 2015

Alone at Waddesdon Manor

Our new house!  No, not really.  I wish.  Well, actually I don’t really wish.  I cannot image being comfortable in a house this grand.  But – it was awfully fun to walk around this magnificent Waddesdon Manor like we owned the place.   

You see, when you go and visit an estate like this in the dead of winter, when it’s cold outside and no flowers are blooming, when the inside of the house is actually closed for a few months for annual repairs and upkeep, you will virtually have the place to yourself.  And it is awesome!   

We could stand on the front doorstep like we were waiting for the butler to the open the door and let us in.   

Eric could take picture after picture after picture and not spend ten minutes waiting for the crowd to clear so he could get a clean shot of the ornate architecture.   

Even without any flowers blooming outside, the gardens were beautiful to stroll through.    

 At any given moment, we maybe could see one or two groups of people walking around the estate. 

We did get to see a little bit of the inside of the house.  The estate run cafe was open so we stopped in for some lunch.  It's located in what was formerly the kitchen for the huge house.  See that long black thing behind me that runs the length of the wall and is covered with copper pots?  That is the original stove.  There must have been some grand parties here back in the day.  A couple of the pots were big enough to bath children in. 

After lunch, we wandered through the woods following trails that will be lined with tulips and daffodils in another month or two and found the former estate stables. This is the only horse that is kept here now.

We continued to follow the trails through the forest and stumbled upon a woodland playground.    

Winter isn’t really the time when I think about the girls in a playground, 

but the setting was beautiful, 

the equipment fun, 

so we couldn’t resist letting the girls run around and play for awhile.  

Time to head home.  

It's a two hour drive back to our house, so one last look at this beautiful home before the walk back to the car.   

Waddesdon Manor is owned by the National Trust and we have a membership that gets us into all National Trust sites.  If we pass back this way in the spring or summer, we'll stop back to see the inside of the house and the outside gardens in all their blooming glory.  

Update on the scarlet fever post from Wednesday:  Neither of the girls have scarlet fever, at least not yet.  As I suspected, Leah simply had a rash.  She's a redhead.  Redheads are prone to rashes.  Their delicate, white skin shows even the slightest of irritations.  It is gone already and she's back in school.  Ellie came home with a sore throat and fever on Wednesday, just in time for Leah's trip to the doctor to verify what I already knew but needed to hear a doctor say so I could send her back to school.  The doctor checked Ellie over too.  No scarlet fever - just a simple virus.  Rest, lots of fluids and she'll be better in a few days.  Thank goodness they have next week off.  Of the eight staff members at their little school each day, only three were there this morning when I dropped Leah off.  All the rest are sick too.  Ellie's class had to combine with one of the younger classes because the two teachers and one assistant for her class are all sick and no substitute could be found.  Or maybe no substitute wanted to set foot in this germ infested school this week.  I can't blame them.  Of the two teachers that are still healthy and in school, in addition to teaching the two combined classrooms, one of them is also serving as interim head mistress (principal in US terms) for the school as the actual head mistress is also out sick.  And Leah's poor teacher who usually has two assistants because she has three different grades in her classroom has been left to fend for herself in a room full of 4 through 8 year olds.  That's a wide age range.  They watched three videos yesterday.  I don't blame her either. 

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Scarlet Fever

Scarlet fever.  You might be expecting this post to be about a Jane Austen novel or a trip we recently made to an old historical hospital here in England, but you are wrong.  I wrote “Scarlet fever” because this post is actually about present day happenings here in England.  There has been an outbreak of scarlet fever at the girl’s small primary school.  Nine confirmed cases since Monday in a school with a total enrollment of 63 students.  That’s a lot.  And when Ellie came home from school on Tuesday, she said other students were dropping like flies throughout the day.  Her good friend left in the middle of the day with a sore throat, one of the first symptoms of scarlet fever.  She overheard the teachers talking - they had discovered a rash on a little boy’s neck – one of the telltale signs of scarlet fever.  He left too.  Along with a few other students.  Several other kids didn’t even make it to school.  It appears we have a small epidemic here in our little town.

What is scarlet fever?  That’s what I asked when we got the first text on Monday saying there had been a confirmed case of it in school.  First of all, in today’s modern day medical world, scarlet fever is not something to fear as it once was.  It’s related to the strep infection and is easily treatable with antibiotics, and most cases today are milder than those from past history.  The name is a pretty good indicator of the symptoms.  ‘Scarlet’ – it causes a widespread, fine pink to red rash that feels like sandpaper to the touch and it itchy.  Usually, it’s accompanied by a high temperature, hence the word ‘fever’ in the name.  And because it’s in the strep family, it can cause a sore throat as well.  But the big problem with scarlet fever is that is it highly contagious.  Not only can it be past on through coughing and sneezing, but you can also get it simply by touching the skin of a person who has it.  Now picture a small school with all the kids packed into three classrooms, running around the playground together three times a day, and where the entire school meets together in one big room for assembly each morning.  It’s like a big, fat germ fest.

On Monday when I received the text that there was a confirmed case of scarlet fever in the school I thought, “What the heck?  We can still get scarlet fever?  That’s still a disease?”  Call me naïve, but I had no idea what is really was.  Both girls came home from school that day with a two page letter about it.  Right before bedtime, I noticed Leah itching her neck.  I took a look.  Yikes – a red rash wrapped all the way around her neck and onto her shoulders.  Here we go.   The odd thing was that she had no other symptoms and from the research I did on the Internet, you should really have other symptoms besides the rash to truly have scarlet fever.  Can you really have scarlet fever is you don’t have the fever? 

Tuesday morning, she still had the rash but no other symptoms and it hadn’t spread like I had also read it should.  But I was in a bit of a pickle.  She was perfectly healthy, but I would have promptly gotten a call had I sent her to school with a rash on her neck.  So she had a free day pass from school and stayed home and played all day.  Late in the day we received another text from school – eight more confirmed cases of scarlet fever and the disco that was scheduled for after school on Thursday (a dance for the kids to just have fun at sponsored by the PTO) was canceled because of the outbreak. 

Wednesday morning (today) she still has the rash but no other symptoms.  I finally decided to call a doctor.  I can’t send her to school again today for the same reason listed above, so I decided to take her to see the doc and see what he/she says.  If she doesn’t have it, I’m hoping they’ll give me a note saying such so she can go back to school tomorrow.  If she does, she must have the mildest case you can possibly get so do I really want to give her antibiotics if it will clear up on it’s own in a few days?  We’ll see.  I’ll keep you posted. 

Incidentally, the school is on break next week.  What timing!  I bet the school officials are wishing they had planned break a week earlier this year.  Not having 63 kids together in close quarters this week would have been great!

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Oxford and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Oxford – the “city of dreaming spires.”   

 Home of the world-renowned Oxford University, the oldest university in the English-speaking world.

Future Oxford University students?
Home of beautiful architecture every which way you turn.

 Home to some seriously beautiful stonework,

 And sometimes some seriously whimsical stonework.

Once home to literary royalty including the likes of:
-       C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia who taught at Oxford for thirty years;
-       His good friend J.R.R. Tolkien, a professor at Oxford who first shared his story The Hobbit with a literary group called the Inklings that included Lewis and often met at a little pub in Oxford called The Eagle & Child.
-       Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, who in 1862 went for a ride in a rowboat with one of the heads of Oxford University and his three daughters, one of whom was named Alice.  While on the boat ride, Mr. Dodgson told the girls a story of a bored little girl named Alice who went on an adventure.  They loved it and the story later turned into Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Oh, and Harry Potter.  No, J.K. Rowlings did not attend Oxford (she did apply in 1982 but sadly was not accepted – sorry Oxford).  But with hallways that look like this, 

you can see why Oxford was chosen as the site of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy for many scenes in the film versions of the books.    

Hermione walking the halls of Hogwarts with her nose stuck in a book.  Oh, wait - that's Ellie.
We are a family of fantasy novel and film buffs.  We could visit Oxford, a mere two hour drive from our house, and walk in the footsteps of Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Harry Potter.  Need I to say more?  I think this gives you a pretty good idea why Oxford was on our list of places to visit in the UK.  

Our journey into Oxford started with a ride on a double-decker bus.  Oxford is a busy city.  Not only does is contain the extensive Oxford University full of thousands of students and staff (Oxford consists of 38 Colleges and 6 Permanent Private Halls of religious foundations –not sure exactly what that means), but with the shopping, restaurants and amazing architecture, it is hot tourist destination.  Instead of trying to find a parking spot in the center of town, we parked at a park & ride lot where every ten minutes, you can catch a bus that will drop you off in the center of town.  Leah was ecstatic when she saw that the bus was a double-decker.  We hadn’t been on one yet.  Up to the top deck we went and she jumped into the seat at the very front where there is nothing between you and the street down below but a giant glass window.  Ellie was hesitant and opted for the seat behind Leah. This is exactly how my girls roll.

We exited the bus in the bustling center of the city with beautiful buildings and shops in all directions.  Our first stop was down a narrow cobblestone side street off the main drag to a dilapidated old building where a literary group has set up an amazing maze of storybook rooms over three levels called The Story Museum.  Each room is decorated as a scene from a variety of popular children’s literature.  In one of the rooms, the girls got the opportunity to become their own storybook character, including creating the name for their character.  

Allow me to present Ellie, The Wonderful Witch of the Stars,

And Leah, The Mysterious Fairy of Nutwood.

From the Museum, we headed towards Oxford University and to what is traditionally considered to be the most aristocratic of all the 38 colleges, Christ Church College.  Christ Church has produced 13 British prime ministers and is the home to the beautiful Christ Church Cathedral which serves as the college chapel.  It's also home to this grand staircase where Professor McGonagall met Harry Potter and the rest of the first years as they entered Hogwarts for the first time and it is here that Harry encounters Tom Riddle and a young Albus Dumbledore when he enters the diary in The Chamber of Secrets.
And at the top of this staircase is the Great Hall of course.  Well, actually it is the Christ Church dining hall for students, but it is this dining hall that was the inspiration for the Great Hall in Hogwarts used in the films.  Sadly, we have no photos to share.  Unfortunately for us, the dining hall is currently closed for several months because it's filled with scaffolding.  The ceiling isn’t really enchanted showing the sky above it.  Rather, it’s made out of wood that requires ordinary muggles to perform some conservation work now and again to keep it in its magnificent form.    

The actual movie scenes of the Great Hall were filmed at an airplane hanger outside of London where a life sized replica of the Christ Church dining hall was built.  Many scenes were filmed right here at Oxford, but why didn't they just use the Great Hall as well?  Well, during the first Harry Potter movie, they did actually start shooting scenes in the Great Hall right here in Christ Church College.  It wasn't long before they discovered a big problem with this though.  The dining hall at Christ Church really is just that – a dining hall for the student.  Trying to feed students in this beautiful room three times a day while you have a film crew and a couple hundred kids dressed up like wizards running around doesn’t work very well.  And a lot of scenes throughout the Harry Potter books take place in the Great Hall.  So the hall was recreated at an airplane hanger turned movie studio outside of London to shoot the scenes in the Great Hall.  Oh, and stay tuned because we will be visiting said airplane hanger turned movie studio to see the Great Hall and other sets and props from some of my favorite films while we are living here in England.

A fountain inside a courtyard at Christ Church
As much as I geeked out on seeing the sites where Harry Potter was filmed at Oxford (to borrow a term from my dear friend Anna Gough), the highlight of Christ Church for me was the Cathedral and its magificent stained glass windows.  

I’m not sure what is was about these particular stained glass windows that set them apart from the many others I’ve seen, but I wandered from one to the next in absolute awe, mesmerized by their beauty. 

My favorite were these three round stained glass windows.  The top window is depicting a ship of souls carrying St. Frideswide, the patron Saint of Oxford, to heaven.  The two windows below show the Tree of Knowledge (left) and the Tree of Life (left).    
Maybe it was their bright, vivid colors, more colorful than any I can remember seeing.

Maybe it was because the scenes were so clear and easy to decipher.  They weren't cluttered with a multitude of different scenes in one window.  Instead, many of the huge windows contained just one scene from top to bottom.  

The cathedral was also home to beautifully hand carved woodwork, 

and tombs and shrines. 

The tomb of John de Nowers, with his head resting on a cow
Behind the tree is a shrine to St. Frideswide, the patron Saint of Oxford, parts of which date back to the 1200s.

When we entered the Cathedral, the girls were given a scavenger hunt which kept them busy.  The sheet they received had different figures on it and they needed to search the church to find them.  This kept them busy while I gazed at the windows.

After leaving Christ Church, we roamed around the campus a bit.  Below is one of the libraries on campus called Radcliffe Camera.  Interesting name.  Camera means room in Latin.  

From there, we headed to Oxford's Divinity School, a huge room built in 1488 for the teaching of theology.  It's significant for a few reasons.  This room contains 455 carved bosses - protrusions of stone or wood usually found in ceilings.  This is also the earliest room built mainly for teaching at the University, as well as its first examination hall.  

But there's one more unique thing about this room, a rather recent development in the grand scene of things at the University.  This room also served as Hogwarts' hospital wing where Madame Pomfrey cared for Harry and his friends when they were injured.  It was also here that Professor McGonagall gave the students of Hogwarts dance lessons in preparation for the Yule ball in the Goblet of Fire.  

A couple of Hogwarts' students waiting for their dance lesson
After our Harry Potter adventures at Oxford were over, we visited the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.  This Museum is housed in one extremely large beautiful glass roofed room - not like any museum I've seen before.  The objects on display (preserved animals, rocks and minerals, dinosaur bones, etc., all the things you would expect to find in a natural history museum) were lined up in rows and you just wondered up one and down the next.  

It was late afternoon by the time we made it through the Museum and we were hungry after our day exploring Oxford.  

Was that the knight bus?
We headed back towards the main part of town and found The Eagle & Child pub, the frequent haunt of Tolkien and his friend C.S. Lewis.  

See the chain around Ellie's neck.  At the end of it is a time turner.
We got the only table available at the very back of the small, cozy pub.  It's a popular place.  
Is this where Tolkien sat when he first slid his handwritten copy of The Hobbit across the table to his friends for them to read?  Maybe.

After a burger and fries, a good English beer (cokes for the girls) and a pleasant conversation with the group of college students sitting next to us who turned out to be from Indiana too (apparently Notre Dame has a very small campus in London - who knew!) and it was time to make the bus trip back to our car.  This time, Ellie wanted to sit in the very front of the upper deck too.  

There is more to see in Oxford that our one day visit just didn't allow the time for.  I would also really like to see the inside of the Great Hall.  We'll be back Oxford.