Because Malmaison Oxford is particularly posh, I am able to take advantage of the internet once again and share some stories from the past few days. Firstly, Malmaison is situated inside of Oxford castle (or very close to it), which was build in 1071 AD by order of William the Conqueror shortly after the Norman conquest of England. The hotel has apparently maintained two original cells from the prison that was in use for hundreds of years. Needless to say, when I return to Oxford I will be returning to this hotel--the bathroom was even equipped with 'snog me senseless' breath freshener. Really, anything that reads 'snog' will have won over my American hear (it's just a shame that winning over the hearts and minds in Iraq isn't quite that easy). BTW, the picture to the left is of Dublin Castle.
Secondly, a return to days past and back to Ireland-- after successfully making my way back to the Holiday Inn, Darryl and I woke up early in the morning so that we could enjoy Temple Bar and various other sites. We enjoyed a delicious traditional Irish breakfast and wandered over to Dublin Castle. I took some wonderful photos (which I promise to upload onto this site at some point) and then we found the Chester Beatty Library. I was not expecting to find such an amazing collection of rare manuscripts from Islamic, Christian and Buddhist/Hindi and other Eastern religions. One of the displays actually showed the oldest manuscript from Saul (Paul) and Deuteronomy, 150-250 AD, before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s. If that doesn't knock your socks off, one of the temporary exhibits in the museum was of traditional Japanese Woodblock Prints by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892). Yoshitoshi's work was absolutely magnificent, and was marked by the pivotal Meiji Restoration period that transformed Japan as it returned to an imperial power, heightened its military prowess, opened up to the west, introduced a new constitution and industrialization, and other social and political reforms. The perspective, color and detail in Yoshitoshi's works distinguish them from traditional woodblock prints. I had difficulty dragging myself away from the exhibit to explore more of Dublin. After we finished up, we went to the Christ Church Cathedral. We made it to the noon prayer, admired the architecture and went down to explore the crypt. Historically, the crypt was a major place of commerce and trade. I thought the contrast between the Gothic and Romanesque archways was very interesting. We walked past St. Patrick's Cathedral and then through Stephens Green (one of the city's Georgian parks). At that point we had run out of time and needed to get on a bus and catch a plane back to London. I must say Dublin was a bit of a whirlwind experience and I would truly like to have more time to explore the city.
Lastly, our return to London began by meeting Sir Happy Face Patrick (our Scottish/English comfort blanket) at Victoria Station. We picked up our bags from the ESU and met our formidable competition, A-L Squared, before returning to the Holiday Inn in Victoria. Ali and Alex were kind enough to take us South Bank to find dinner and of course, a pub. Darryl describes both of these events in the below post, and I would simply echo his sentiments regarding our visit to Parliament. We are very grateful to Patrick for arranging this opportunity for us and allowing us to see Parliament up close and personal (or at least behind a large piece of glass that was put up in the gallery after some angry parents dropped condoms full of exploding purple flower onto the floor of the House of Commons...). On Wednesday we debated Ali and Alex at the American School in London to debate the resolution, "This House Believes the American Century Has Ended." After thoroughly trash talking the UK team, they still managed to beat us in front of 20,000 person audience (some fuzzy American math - I am sure that eventually that many people will hear about our discussion on the US century). If I had a time machine, I would have refuted the arguments about JT, B. Spears, and American pop culture in general. I will say, however, that the world should begin anticipating Team America's political campaign ads and A-L Squared should start shakin' in their booties. My discussion on the global economy and the American educational system must not have been sexy enough (who doesn't love discussions on No Child Left Behind, school funding, standardized tests, capital markets, trade account deficits, multinational corporations, and the Bretton Woods institutions?). After the UK team's defeat in the American prison at the end of their tour through the US, we were quite happy that they were able to end their career as a team on a positive note. For the record, I did offend a 13-year-old Texan girl, and for that I am truly sorry, but I stand behind my analysis on Texas' educational system. We went and tried some more traditional British ales, and I had my first pint of Bitter. Despite the loss, I felt wonderful about the experience and quite privileged to make the acquaintance of Mr Alex and Mr Ali.
Today in Oxford we will be attending the Paper Debates sponsored by Oxford University. I will not be giving away all of the juicy details that we expect to develop tonight, but I am sure we will have an excellent time.