Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Eat, drink and be merry

I assure you we do far more at Oxford than simply dress up and go to fancy parties (indeed, we also go to bops and 5am breakfasts and...oh yeah, sometimes the library), but sadly this post will do nothing to disprove that belief. The month of May is famous for its May Balls (and May Morning), and though we only made it to one ball - my god does this sound indulgent! - we did, in fact, have quite a ball, all May long. 

It all started with yet another exchange dinner, with St-Hugh's College this time. Hugh's and Hilda's are similar in both size, scope and geographic location (as well as sharing a first letter), so it comes as no surprise that our student bodies are rather kindred in spirit and ... lifestyles as well. Their food is however much, much better than our dining hall's. And so is their port.

The Hilda girls at St-Hugh's. 

And then the next day, much to the detriment of...some people who shall remain unnamed but might have overindulged the previous night on wine and port and beer and liquor, it was St-Hilda's Ball. (Not wanting to go to a bloody BALL because of a terrible hangover is incredibly gauche. Not to mention ridiculously flimsy, no matter how head-splitting said hangover is. Or...erm, so I hear.) The theme of the Ball? Fantasmagoria. Dress code? Black tie with a dash of surrealism.

Our homage to Magritte.

Bowties are cool, too.

I also attended St-John's Guest Night the following week, where I attempted to channel Tudor fashion (I'm not sure I was entirely successful) and enjoyed a wonderful evening of period food in a most fitting environment. Lemons is to lemonade as old English buildings are to...Tudor-themed parties?

With B, who kindly invited along to her college's Guest Night.

After dinner, we asked whether we could visit St-John's legendary wine cellars. (They're supposed to hold some 150,000 bottles!!! Goodness, I suppose that they aren't able to spare a few to give to Hilda by any chance...?) They accepted, we swooned at all that lovely wine and couldn't resist having an impromptu photoshoot. As you do when you are surrounded by crates and bottles of stuff you can't afford.

"This week on Oxford's Next Top Model...a wine cellar!"

Finally, last weekend we had the motherlode of all exchange dinners, namely an exchange dinner with Peterhouse College of THE OTHER PLACE! That's Oxford lingo for that Bridge-over-the-river-Cam place, though I believe that they also call us by the same name. We bussed over, dined and wined with some lovely Cantabrigians (makes "Oxonian" not sound so simple, no?) and generally enjoyed our overnight stay in Cambridge. Cue the gasps and shouts of "Blasphemy!", yes I know.

Peterhouse is the oldest college in Cambridge, so they have all the trappings of
 a medieval college, such as a quad (or "court", as they say in the Other Place).

Seating chart for the dinner. 

Despite all of its similarities on paper, I was surprised at how different Cambridge felt in person. If Oxford is the stately, poised and square older sister of a town (and it is quite literally square, in its street layout), then Cambridge is the hipper, artsier younger sister. Even the town is laid out in a quirkier, circular manner. Oxford is probably more beautiful, but Cambridge more charming.

The river Cam, as seen from our hotel's balcony.

King's College, which is comparable to our Christ Church except much
more difficult to photograph. 

The differences between the two places were all the more surprising because I had hardly discerned any such distinctions during my previous visit to both towns, a year ago. (Those in the know may recall that I had applied to both universities for my current master's programme.) At the time, I had only sensed that there was some vague difference in atmosphere between the two, and that Oxford was by far the larger city. And though I think that I ultimately made the right choice, I also believe that I could have very, very happy at Cambridge. 

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