Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice At Oxford Castle (Photos)

We have been very busy over the past few days, so I haven't had time to sort through all the photos we've also been very busy collecting. (Except the Hall of Jewels at the Tower of London and the interior of Westminster Abbey. Fun-killing yahoo camera Nazis. Grr). Anyway, here are the pictures from Oxford Castle, where we went to celebrate the winter solstice. And a lovely time was had by all, as usual.

This is what we call the faerie hill, also known as the mound where the original Norman motte-and-bailey castle was built in 1071 by Robert D'Oily, one of William the Conqueror's vassals. Since I have been big into this period of English history lately (my new project has a lot to do with it) this was especially cool for me.

Definitely a very atmospheric shot of a tree. Look out for the Little People...

The passage underneath the hill, found at the very top. Very sadly, it had a gate in the way, because we were extremely curious.

The gate. Complete with CCTV. Dammit.

The castle as seen from the hill.

The tower of Nuffield College also as seen from the hill.

The castle again as seen from the hill, and the tree as it looks like from the top. The tower in the background is St. George's Tower (remember this name, as it's where we actually went up BEFORE these pictures on the hill were taken, but I rearranged the order to make a more logical progression). St. George's Tower dates from pre-Conquest England and was likely already standing when Robert D'Oily set out to build the rest of the castle.

Gillian in front of the tree. As you can see from her hair, the wind was howling.

A closer shot of St. George's Tower through the branches of the trees. Where we head off to....

...climb a lot of very twisty, much-darker-than-this-but-my-camera-has-flash-control-problems stairs!

Very very twisty stairs. 101 in fact, all the way up to the top of St. George's Tower.

The roof of one of the rooms on the way up to the top.

A vaguely spooky view of a lantern on the stairwell. I think...

The arrow slits at the top of St. George's Tower.

Gillian in one such arrow slit.

Me in the arrow slit. I am pissed that this picture turned out blurry. Blame the wind.

The faerie hill and the Nuffield College spire as seen from the top of St. George's.

Another shot of Nuffield and the hill.

Gillian demonstrating how much the wind was roaring at the top.

The doorway back down the stairs...

... the very very twisty stairs...

... all the way to the haunted Norman crypt. This was me attempting to show how dark it was down there, but my camera retaliated for me turning off its precious flash by making it blurry as heck.

So I capitulated. Besides, it wasn't quite THAT dark. But apparently quite haunted. The electric candles break all the time and other weird things have been reported.

The passageway leading out of the crypt.

Gillian in the crypts. If she looks slightly leery, it was because the tour guide had just told us that one of the chief two ghosts is supposed to haunt the corner directly behind her -- a priest with piercing eyes, who is notably unhappy about anyone coming to the crypt who is not a fellow priest or the corpse of a convict to be dressed for burial. So Gillian gave the corner one or three suspicious looks over her shoulder before she turned her back on it. (The other ghost is apparently a monk named Bernard, and since he doesn't do anything but stand and stare, nobody is sure how they found out that his name is Bernard. That and sap people's energy and break candles. Sounds interesting).

The vaulting in the crypts.

Gillian in the old prisoners' quarters, giving her best unhappy face.

That does it for the December 21 pictures. Next post: London! (We took like 70 photos, and it would have been twice as many if they'd let us take pictures inside Westminster. I can't even describe that place, it's simply jaw-dropping, and may have to raid Google to see if I can give a sense of what it's like).

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