Day 46 – Saturday, June 9th

I got to play this beautiful instrument

Christchurch College

Saturday morning fun in downtown Oxford

Backlit bell-ringer

Today I continued on my “See Oxford” theme and visited the Bates Collection of Musical Instruments. It is a very intimate (ie small) museum but with hundreds of instruments displayed. There was one reproduction “Flemish Virginal” that I was actually allowed to play. It was such fun to listen to the twang of the sounds that came out of it. In the children’s area they had a Steel Drum and a Marimba that you could also play, so I acted like a child and had a wonderful time. They had two Theremin in one of the display cases. According to the information panel, a Theremin is an optical device that allows the player to generate a wide spectrum of sound pitches based on the distance that you are from the instrument. I first noticed that as I walked there was this funny deep sound in the gallery, but thought that the couple in the next room were doing it. Then I realized that the sound was changing in time to my movements and finally figured out what was going on. You could run your hands to and fro on the instruments and produce a very eerie music.

I was headed for another museum (about Oxford), but realized that it didn’t open for another 20 minutes, so instead I just walked through the town and enjoyed the Saturday morning festivities. There were street vendors everywhere and the buskers ranged from “American Indian” pan flute players to a drum corp, with several guitarists, violinists and saxophonist mixed in. I even ended up at a “Hands up for Darfur” festival that had all sorts of crafts, food and games. I enjoyed taking photos of the different pubs with their interesting names. I even found one called the “Slug and Lettuce”……not sure that we want to eat there!!!!

As I was walking back home, Michael called me and said the Bells at Merton Chapel (just across the street from our house) were being rung. It was such fun to listen to them as I walked home. When I got there, Michael suggested that we go across to the Chapel and listen from there. When we got in the Ante Chamber of the church we realized that the bell ringers were standing on a ledge just inside the cupola on top of the Chapel. We sat and watched and listened for some time.

At dinner we decided to try something different, so we walked to a Lebanese restaurant called AlHalim. Since we didn’t know anything about Lebanese food, Michael asked the waiter if he could make suggestions. He said that the chef could do a special for us with a lot of different foods so that we could try them all. We said ok and the feast began!!!!

The first thing that he brought out was a plate with vegetables….. whole vegetables…. on it. We had a bell pepper, cucumber, small head of lettuce, tomato, olives, pickled peppers, pickled Turnips (we had to ask what these were), and chunks of carrots

Then came the starters ……Hommos, Foul Moukala (fried Broad Beans, cooked in olive oil and lemon juice), Fatouch (mixture of fresh green salad, topped with toasted Lebanese bread, sumac and olive oil), Falafel (chick peas and broad beans, mixed with spices and deep fried), Sanbousek (pastry filled with feta cheese), Fatayer Sebankikh (pastry filled with spinach, onions, pine kernels and lemon juice), Maqaniq (Lebanese fried cocktail sausages) and Lebanese Bread.

We were so full after eating all of these, we couldn’t believe that we had the main courses yet to go. The main courses were Kafta (minced meat mixed with parsley, onions & grilled), Chicken and Lamb cubes garnished with onions and grilled tomatoes), and another course with Lima Beans and meat in a tomato sauce served over Lebanese Rice. It was all wonderful.

We noticed that the room next door was a “Bubbly Bar”….not champagne, but Water pipes, so we moved in there and gave it a try. Since we had NO idea what we were doing, our waiter said that he would set us up with one…..the first was a Melon flavor and then we also tried another one that was Apple flavor. They were very interesting, but didn’t have a huge amount of flavor to them. I had a cup of mint tea that was a wonderful ending to the meal.

We strolled back to the house, enjoying the architecture, people and flags.

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