Monday, November 8, 2010

Amidst My Weekend Escapades...

Stonehenge is right up there on the list of places that are way more amazing to see in person than you could ever have imagined.

It's hard to describe the feeling that these 5,000-year-old rocks gave me. I went there this past Saturday with two friends from the Stanford-in-Oxford program, and I think we were all in awe.

- R

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hoping to get back in the saddle!

To follow up on Rachel's post...I'm also looking to get back in the saddle as soon as possible. I don't think that I'm ready to try my hand at polo yet (lack of hand-eye coordination might be a small problem) but I'd be happy just trail riding somewhere at this point. I've never gone more than a month without riding so I'm definitely starting to get a little antsy. Hopefully I can start riding a bit at the eq. center near my homestay-- can't wait to see if my Italian is good enough to get me some jumping lessons! Should be interesting to say the least. Now that I'm not riding though, a lot of the time that I would usually spend at the barn has been taken up by traveling so I guess I can't be too sad :) Here are some photos from Venice and San Gimignano over the past couple of weekends:


San Gimignano

More later when I don't have papers that I should be writing!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Back in the Saddle

Since Oxford is a university with as many (if not more) student clubs and groups as Stanford, I've taken the opportunity to get involved. I've joined the boat club for my affiliated college, Corpus Christi, super early and cold mornings out on the water and all. Now, my two years in the Bay Area haven't quite dispelled my native New Mexican wonder at actually seeing water, much less substantial quantities of it, and I'm also not the most coordinated rower - but oh well. It's been an exciting new challenge, and it gets me out of the library.

More excitingly, though, I've had the chance to go out and play polo! I've missed the horses a ton since I've been here (to the extent of having frequent riding-related dreams), and although the polo club here is rather loosely organized and my schedule's often packed full, I've been able to make it out to ride twice so far. My questionable ability to connect mallet to ball notwithstanding, it's been a lot of fun, and today we even played a mini-chukka three on three! Granted, it's an entirely different kind of riding, but pulling on my boots, getting back in the saddle, and coming back smelling like horse: almost nothing makes me happier. Especially when I also get to enjoy the idyllic, sprawling green fields and fall colors of the English countryside. The polo ponies are so agile and clever, too, I can't get over it. Now those horses know their jobs!

I had the wild notion that it'd be fun to go foxhunting, too, but I think that idea will fall through...

- R

Monday, October 25, 2010

Italy, the good the bad the ugly

First of all i want to wish everybody good luck at the dressage show this weekend! you guys are going to be great. As you say in italian "in bocca al lupo" (in the mouth of the wolf).

Italy is beautiful. I went to venice this weekend, expecting to be disappointed, but it really does live up to the myth. Italian people are also beautiful. Its not just a stereotype that italians are well dressed and elegant. Italians spend more money per capita on clothing than any other country, and it shows. Italians frequently stop into stores every week and buy a new shirt or a scarf or a purse. Appearances really do matter. Last week my host mom invited her boss over for dinner at our house. When my host mom told me that her boss was coming i asked if she liked him. Her response was "physically, no. Hes a very short and ugly man." Then i replied, "but you like him as a boss?". And she said "oh yes certainly". Even the word for nice "carino" also means cute or pretty.

Now for some ugly: italians making out in public. Italians seem to be much more cool about PDA than americans. It's pretty common to see a couple full on making out and groping each other on the street. Furthermore, the italian definition of making out tends to be more broad then ours. Kissing is not meant just for the lips, lips and tongue tend to travel towards the chin and cheek region. Its basically a full face workout. Another ugly thing: italian toilets. When you go into a public bathroom theres something missing, and its not just soap and paper towels. Theres no toilet seats! Maybe thats how italian women have nice legs even though they never go to the gym. One of the grossest toilets i have encountered thus far was at the train station in perugia a week ago coming back from the chocolate festival (: A friend and i decided to try our luck across the street at the mcdonalds, which turned out to be one of the nicest bathrooms ive found in all of italy. Go figure.

A Bit of the Red Barn in London!

An advertisement in one of London's underground stations. It made me happy, a piece of Stanford catching me where I didn't expect it:

- R

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Castles, Churches, and Countryside

To add my own quick update to all of the Bing trip posts: two weekends ago the Stanford-in-Oxford crew traveled to York, in northern England. No gorgeous seaside views or amazing cheeses here, but we did get to see miles of sprawling green countryside, as well as several old manor houses and estates from the 17th and 18th centuries. It was just like stepping into a classic British novel!

York itself was a town still very much possessing shades of the medieval, with well-preserved stone walls surrounding the older heart of the city. We took a walk around these walls, near where the moat used to be (very much like being a sentry on duty, peering in between the turrets), and also visited York Minster, the towering cathedral that is one of the best-known icons of the city. This building was a stunning display of Gothic architecture, but brighter and cheerier inside than other Gothic buildings I've seen, such as the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. It still wasn't quite as visually overwhelming as St. Paul's Cathedral in London, though.

After York, our last stop was Rievaulx Abbey, an old monastic ruin from the 13th century. The entire place had a haunting, yet serene air with its walls and pillars of half-crumbled stone, grass and moss taking over what had clearly once been a spectacular structure. We clambered over the ruins, took pictures, and breathed in the picturesque air of the hills and surrounding countryside against the roughened stones of the ruins.

All in all, the Bing trip was a great weekend out of Oxford, one which I really enjoyed but some others complained a bit about - I guess old country houses and churches didn't fit their idea of entertainment... Still, it's these historical places that have been my favorite part about England so far.

(Much more about York and many other UK shenanigans on my other blog -! Please check it out! Sorry, I don't feel like writing long updates in two places.)

- R

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bing trip photos

Raclette: Half a wheel of raclette chese under a heat lamp. As it melts, it is scraped onto your plate, and eaten with potatoes and charcutrie

Fondue: delicious melted cheese with white wine (and maybe some other things), which is eaten by dipping pieces of bread on forks into it. Yum!

Big ovens at the bell foundry for melting the bronze. It was really impressive!

Palais de l'Ile in Annecy--at one time home to the prison, offices, money mint and archives

Looking out over the city of Annecy from the fortress at the top of the hill. The picture doesn't do it justice, and had there been sunshine I'm sure it would have been breathtaking.

More photos on facebook!