Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Visit to the Old Country, Part 3

(Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.)

The next day, Tuesday, was another in-town day, and the main stop was Westminster Abbey. We'd been there before, but this time around we took a verger tour. Our verger had a good sense of humor, bordering on the irreverent, which made the tour fun rather than dry.

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Before dinner we stopped at the bar at Duke's Hotel. Frequented by Ian Fleming in his day, the bar maintains the James Bond connection with a menu of drinks named after Bond characters. Drinks are prepared tableside: a bartender rolls out a cart containing the ingredients for the round of drinks. The liquor and glasses come straight from the freezer, so no ice is involved. He describes each ingredient before adding it to the mixing glass, stirs twice, and then pours the concoction into the frosted glass. An interesting process. Because of the lack of ice, the drinks are undiluted. As a consequence, the drinks are unbelievably strong. Well worth a stop, as long as your physician clears your liver for the ordeal.

Wednesday, Oct. 3, was an out-of-town day, this time to Winchester. (The reader will by now have sensed a cathedral-centric theme to this trip. Though, to be fair, I've spared the minor stops and most of the bars and pubs.)

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The cathedral has a small library, and its claim to fame is a 12th-century illustrated bible, dubbed the Winchester Bible. The docents all seemed a little deprived of company, so we had a good chat with several of them.

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For those Austen-ites out there, Winchester is also the burial place of Jane Austen:

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Thursday was a break from the original plan to alternate days in London and train trips out of the city, necessitated by plans to go to the British Museum in the evening - Friday is the only day the museum is open late. Thus, Thursday saw us on the train to Oxford. It's a nice city, but it's no Caledon Oxbridge.

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We dipped into the Ashmolean museum, leaving just before a massive school group arrived, wandered through Blackwell's massive book store, saw the Bodleian Library and Radcliffe Camera, only from the outside, alas.

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The "Bridge of sighs," connecting the old and new parts of Hertford College (and often seen in the Inspector Morse shows).

There's a marvelous shop in Oxford called Scriptum, filled with blank books in leather, inkwells, and reading- and writing-related antiques. I almost bought a half-dozen things, including a 1908 inkwell set and pen rest, but couldn't quite bring myself to spend 95 pounds.

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