Where to go in DC and Oxford? – Ask Me Anything

Well hello there – it’s been a while since I’ve blogged on this little corner of the internet, and I figured I’d pull out my virtual pen and paper and write something to all of you.

I’m currently attempting to finish up my junior year, and it’s the last three weeks of the semester, which means that I’m going insane with all that has to be accomplished. But writing is therapeutic, right? I think that’s why I currently prefer working on my thesis proposal to working on anything else right now, because at least with that, I am creating something that is entirely my own – not an assignment with a pre-written topic, not an exam I have to study for.

Let’s be honest, if I could go back and do this all over again, I’d go to Oxford, where I could just write papers in tutorials all day. All day. (And have the Bod to work from, so there’s that…)

Speaking of Oxford and travel, I have a few questions from friends and readers to answer in today’s post!

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Paige What was your favourite part of Oxford? When I was in Cardiff me and my friend couldn’t decide on a daytrip to Bath or Oxford, so we went to Bath, but next time I’m back.. what in Oxford do you recommend??

Mary I went to uni in DC and studied at Oxford! (now in London). What’s your absolute must see for DC and Oxford?

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First off – Oxford. This is such a hard question because there are so many lovely places that you must check out while you’re there. If you’re there to study, then you must try to get access to the Bodleian Library (especially the Radcliffe Camera, which was my favorite place to study while there). However, since not everyone can access the Bod while visiting Oxford, my next recommendation would be to spend an early morning walking in Christchurch Meadows. These pictures are all from there – I roomed relatively close to them, so one of my favorite activities was to walk through them, all the way to High Street, get a cup of coffee or tea, and then wind my way back home or to the Bod through Oxford’s streets. I didn’t have data or a phone while I was over there, so I often got quite lost, but that resulted in my getting to really know the city, with all it’s nooks and crannies.

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DC is a hard one because there are so many lovely places to go. If you want to go to the Mall, then go to the National Gallery of Art, if wandering around art museums and getting lost in them is your thing. The other museums are great, but NGA is a bit less crowded, for the most part, and less overwhelming for those of us who come out of museums with heads spinning and glazed-over eyes. Plus, although pricy (typical DC), the food they serve is decent, and the museum shop is definitely worth going into, especially in cherry blossom season.

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However, if you’re not one for the Mall (trust me, I understand), and enjoy theatre, head into Penn Quarter, especially around 6th/7th and F Streets. The Lansburgh, one of Shakespeare Theatre’s two buildings, is there, as well as Woolly Mammoth right around the corner. There are a few great restaurants, but I normally head to Merzi for cheap, delicious Indian food (done Chipotle-style – SO GOOD). Then, I splurge a bit on Pitango Gelato (organic, really unique gelato flavors) for dessert! Some of my favorite trips into DC are in this section of the city, eating fantastic food and seeing shows in the Quarter.

Have a question for me about travel, DC or anything extremely nerdy/English-majory? Shoot me an email (amanda @ farmgirlwrites. com) or message on Facebook, and I’ll answer it on the blog!

Reading Diaries – v. II

As promised, an update on my reading list this week. Happy New Year!

Kim bookcoverKim. I don’t know how to describe Kipling’s novel, except that I wish I could relive the experience of reading it all over again. Initially, I wasn’t entirely unfamiliar with the storyline – I’d read Laurie R. King’s The Game, which sets Mary Russell and Holmes in the backdrop of Kim’s colonial India. But reading Kim itself was re-immersing myself in that world. Kipling’s sensory descriptions of places and people are phenomenal, and the narrative balanced the fast-paced action of the Great Game with the spiritual reflections of Kim’s lama. Although I draw issue with the blatant sexism(s) within the novel, I didn’t find it as overtly pro-Imperialism as I thought I might (Conan Doyle, I think, may be more of an Imperialist than Kipling is in Kim).

15808242My light read for today was Magnus Flyte’s City of Dark Magic. I think this one falls under the new(er) genre of New Adult, which is (from my understanding) a mix of YA-like narrative with the uncensured Adult genre. So, essentially, this novel is Prague + magic + art/music history + sex. It’s quite engaging, and a good read. I love the amount of research that went into this novel (it’s all about Beethoven), and spinning a fantasy tale from said research is certainly intriguing. That being said, as much as I’d enjoy Sarah (the protagonist and narrator) in real life, I found her narrative voice slightly annoying and somewhat predictable. (Note that this is one of my major complaints about the YA genre in general… yes, my YA-loving friends, don’t act so shocked.) Still a fun read, and it was a good way to transition from Kim to my next classic novel.

Reading Diaries – v. I

It’s finally post-Christmas – post-crazy, if you will. These are the two weeks of break that I am most looking forward to. Catching up with friends, reading, and brainstorming for the next semester. Tomorrow is New Years Eve, and I’m celebrating for the first time by going to a few parties with the Boy.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be using this blog as a space to reflect on the copious amounts of reading that I’m doing – I love writing about what I’ve read; I think it’s an incredibly healthy reading habit, and one that I hope to partake in for reflection purposes.

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Yesterday’s books were A Holiday for Murder by Agatha Christie and The Shelf by Phyllis Rose. The former, I’d already seen via the BBC Poirot adaptation, so no surprises there, sadly. But it was still a good read. After not reading (for pleasure) for a long time, it was absolutely delightful to start up again with something easy and enjoyable. If I’d started with Rose’s work, then I might have been less inspired to continue.

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Not that I didn’t like Rose’s book. Actually, I think it’s one of the better scholarly-lite works that I’ve read in quite a while. If you’re not familiar with her, Phyllis Rose is a feminist literary critic and essayist. She’s done a bit of work on Virginia Woolf, which is how I first became acquainted with her (although I’m not a particular fan of her approach to Woolf, I must note). However, I was entranced by the premise behind The Shelf, where Rose picks, at random, a shelf of library books that she has not read, and reads (+ writes) her way through them. LEQ to LES. Each chapter in the book is a mini-essay – some more scholarly than others (her chapters on “Women and Fiction: A Question of Privilege” and “Domesticities: Margaret Leroy and Lisa Lerner” are both phenomenal discussions on women and writing), while others are more anecdotal or take the shape of personal reading diaries.

This book is scholarly, but readable. It’s Rose both approachable and transparent, and through those qualities, I think I’ve come to love her scholarly approach – far more so than when I attempted to read her more formal work(s). The New Yorker concludes that “Rose’s stunt is useless – and wonderfully so” because it reminds us that reading doesn’t have to have an agenda or a due date behind it (source article). Besides the fact that this is directly relevant to my current reading experience (thank you, university), I’m just thoroughly entranced by this book. If this sounds at all interesting to you, please do read it. I think you’ll be surprised by it, in the best possible way.

Happy reading, and happy New Year, mes amis!