Thursday, January 6, 2011

On air from CBC London

I lucked out with my internship. We were very short-staffed while people went home or on vacation for the holidays, so I was able to take a few more opportunities than my job description stated. I learned some of the tasks of a CBC producer, and I did my first on-air rant, meaning telling the story to the camera and illustrating it with pictures or videos, rather than reporting from the scene.

Only two more workdays for my internship. I'm quite sad about it since I've had an incredible time, but hopefully this won't be my last work with CBC.

And once again, I acknowledge that I've been neglecting this blog a bit over the past two weeks or so. I intend to upload the rest of my London photos and share my touring experiences, but it may not happen until I'm back in Toronto. At least it will give me a way of reminiscing about my time here, and help me look forward to getting back.

Monday, January 3, 2011

2011 travels begin with Oxford

In discussing English universities, many people seem to be in one of two camps: Oxford and Cambridge. Which one is better? Which one is prettier? As I visited Cambridge (albeit spending most of it after dark), I decided I had to stop into Oxford as well.

I was partial to Oxford because of its filming locations for the Harry Potter movies. The Bodleian Library was used for the Hogwarts library scenes, and Church Christ College's dining hall was the inspiration for the movies' Great Hall. Additionally, many of Hogwarts' corridors were filmed inside this college.

We took the Oxford Express coach into the town. Definitely a great, cheaper alternative to the train, and it didn't take much longer to arrive.

We began with a walking tour, which took us through a few of the older colleges and their cathedrals. Our guide, Stuart, explained the collegiate system used at both Oxford and Cambridge. From my understanding, it works like this: Students decide they want to go to the university. Then, when they apply, they consider the different colleges. Some of them have some sort of distinguishing characteristic, for example, sports or music, or they might be for mature students or have some sort of religious affiliation. A student would live in their college and eat there, but their classes would be spent with people from all over the university. Although the guide said Oxford and Cambridge are the only universities with this kind of system, there are some more around the world, including many in Canada, such as the University of Toronto.

Some of the colleges even have pets, such as this beautiful cat.

I thought our tour was quite informative, although the guide was a bit pretentious. He was an Oxford graduate, having studied metallurgy. When he told us his degree, he followed it up telling us that most people don't understand it, so they've changed the name to material sciences. Perhaps going to Oxford gives one the right to be pretentious—although one might imagine a fancy degree is unneeded to become a tour guide.

After the tour, we stopped in Christ Church College, and I got my photos in Hogwarts.

This one is in the beautifully lit Hogwarts corridor.

I followed the path McGonagall took the first-year students in the first movie up to the Great Hall.

And finally, we made it to the hall. Sure, the ceiling didn't show the sky, but it was as real as it gets. While it was much smaller than I had imagined, it was surreal seeing this scene in person.

Finally, we crawled up the narrow stairs of the University Church tower, where we got some breathtaking views of the city.

It was extremely narrow on the balcony. There was barely room for more than 10 people, so I can't imagine what it would be like to visit during the high season, rather than on a cold winter's day.

The verdict: Oxford is my favourite. It's very grand throughout the city, as opposed to Cambridge, which seemed to be very generic in the city centre (although the university itself was beautiful). I may be biased—the Harry Potter locations may have raised my opinion of Oxford—but I would definitely recommend a visit to this beautiful city.