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Plants, animals, and scientists set in stone

As with the Natural History Museum in London, I like the building of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History just as much as the collections it contains. There is so much to be seen on the stonework: squirrels eating acorns, carved tulips, pineapples, irises, orchids, meat-eating plants, ferns unfurling, birds and a frog hiding between leaves, and a fair number of plants and animals I don’t recognise.

Not only are the stone pillars adorned with carvings of animals and plants, the iron pillars are beautifully decorated with leaves and branches as well. Whale skeletons seem to swim in this sea of pillars.

Statues of eminent men of science stand guard in the court on the ground floor.

Some like to have a picknick on the lawn in front of the museumNatHistMuseum-37

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Back alleys of Venice

Venice is said to be an enchanting town. And I think it is, if you know where to look.

In my opinion, one should avoid the overcrowded Piazza San Marco, where hoards of tourists queue to get into the Basilica di San Marco or the Palazzo Ducale. I’d say the same for Ponte di Rialto, though the bridge itself it is a pretty sight.

What I love about Venice are the quiet waterways, the narrow back alleys, the deserted piazzas.

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Oxford pub signs

In Britain the naming of inns and pubs became common by the 12th century, according to Historic UK. With the names came the famous pub signs. A few examples from Oxford.

The Eagle and Child in St Giles is the pub where the literary discussion group the Inklings used to meet. Among its members were the famous authors C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. They nicknamed the pub ‘The Bird and Baby’.

 

The Lamb & Flag, opposite The Eagle and Child, is owned by St John’s college. The name of the pub refers to the symbol of Christ as the victorious Lamb of God (Agnus Dei), carrying a banner with a cross. The Lamb of God is also a symbol of St John the Baptist, and so emblematic of the college’s ownership.

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The Turf Tavern is one of the most popular pubs in Oxford, and yet one of the most difficult to find – stand under the Bridge of Sighs and you’ll see the sign! Public figures such as Tony Blair, C.S. Lewis, Stephen Hawking, Margaret Thatcher dined or drank at the tavern, as well as the cast and crew of the Harry Potter movies. The Turf is old: its foundations and use as a malt house and drinking tavern date back to 1381.

The Rusty Bicycle is an old pub with a fairly new name. It’s a popular place to meet outside the city center, on the corner of Magdalen Road and Hurst Street. The bike on the wall needs more time to weather and become truly rusty.

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The Mad Hatter, on the corner of Iffley Road and Circus Street, is a place of English eccentricity – according to it’s webpage. Google maps identifies it as a quirky cocktail bar with speakeasy vibe. It’s very clear though that in a previous life, the pub used to go by the name of The Cricketer’s Arms.