Phil's Travels - Oxford
Phil's Travels Blog
Oxford (June 2014)
One of our current projects is so exciting, highly confidential and cutting edge that it required a visit to Brasenose College at Oxford University. Antonio (a senior executive of a major hotel company) and I started the day with a quick coffee at the Pullman St Pancras Hotel. The lobby was humming with life, both business people and leisure guests. Antonio was very impressed (and a little envious I think). The cappuccino was of high quality too.
After a quick morning snack, we walked to our first appointment (where the cappuccino was not so good) with a technology company that has designed an incredible piece of furniture. If it can do half of what they claim, it will revolutionise the hotel experience. Our discussions were going so well we nearly did not make our train from Paddington to Oxford. It takes nearly an hour to get to Oxford by train, which I find amazing given how close it is to the capital. I can drive there in under that time and yet trains are supposed to be the quicker form of transport.
In Oxford, we caught a taxi to the college and Antonio caught his first glimpses of this historic centre of educational excellence. We were met at the college lodge by the Professor, who guided us through the beautiful quads to his study. I have been to Oxford a few times before now as a tourist, but I have never been deep inside the college grounds, nor seen the hallowed interiors of the buildings. The quads are pristine, calm and quintessential England. In one of the many, we saw a group of young gentlemen partaking in croquet. All they were missing were straw hats and colourful jackets to complete the scene. Inside, the buildings are a maze, and they ooze history, learnedness and privilege.
The Professor's study was exactly as one would picture it - wood-panelled walls, floor to ceiling book shelves (weighed down with important works and learned tombs), comfy armchairs, lead windows overlooking equally historic architecture and a serenity that must send every don into a contemplative stupor worthy of their status. The only thing we could not find was the sherry bottle hidden in a secret wall panel behind the desk.
Leaving the premises, the Professor pointed out lots of old features (a small building dating back to the 1500s) and incredible majesty in the form of a church behind one wing of rooms and a gorgeous circular library building that dominates the square in front of the college entrance. Even the architects in our team were mesmerized by the beauty and aura of the place. Despite a stressed Achilles (my ankle, not my son), we walked back to the station and saw more of the city up close. However, as you pull away from the colleges and get closer to the station, the architecture changes completely and you could be in any provincial city.
The good news is the Professor is very keen to work with us on this exciting project. The bad news is the next team meeting will more than likely take place in London, and not in the sun dappled quads of Oxford. However, as the project could extend over 12 months or so, with luck we will get another chance to visit the inner sanctums of this ancient seat of learning.