Live and Learn at the Oxford Summer School

The Beatles – Shakespeare – Henry VIII – Cotswold Towns

A suggestion for your first and best new year’s resolution: learn something!  Consider a vacation this summer at England’s legendary Oxford University, surely the oldest (almost a thousand years,) most prestigious and eternally elegant in the English-speaking world.

The vast and varied menu of more than 60 summer courses, called “The Oxford Experience,” is an intellectual smorgasbord – - heavy and light, serious and amusing, indoors and out, across a variety of disciplines, and open to everyone. No requirements, no exams and no papers. All classes are taught by friendly tutors and usually limited to 12 students:

Charles Dickens • Paradise in an English Garden • From Rasputin to Putin • Cathedrals of Britain • The Victorian and Edwardian Home • The Gothic Novel • Alice’s Adventures in Oxford • The Operas of Verdi •  The Indian Empire • Political Philosophy • 20th-Century Poetry • Spies in British Fiction… and more.

Live and study at Christ Church, one of the most prestigious and beautiful of the 40 Oxford colleges.  Dine in the ultra-aristocratic Hall which attained celebrity stardom in the Harry Potter films. Sleep well in good dorms.

Most courses also offer excursions to stately homes, cathedrals, museums, tours of Christ Church and the city of Oxford. In the evenings: a pub crawl, a special lecture, wine and croquet in the Master’s Garden, the vetty British “Morris Dancers,” or Evensong in the college chapel which is the Oxford Cathedral. All enjoy the college gardens, riverside walks in Christ Church Meadow and boating on the Thames (known as the “Isis” in Oxford).

Summer students range in age from 25 to 85, though the average is about 60 and the mix is cosmopolitan: Europeans, Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, Asians and lots of Americans and Canadians.  Some sign up for two or three weeks and many have been returning for 10-or-more years.

A one-week course costs approximately $1,885 (extras for excursions and rooms with private bath.)  Tuition, accommodations and all meals (a full English breakfast, buffet lunch and a served three-course dinner) are included.  Everyone dines together in the legendary Hall and on one night during the week each participant is invited to wine and dine at High Table. The last night, everyone dresses up and gathers for champagne in the flowering Cathedral Garden and a celebratory farewell dinner.

Their very popular summer session runs from June 30 to August 10, 2013, Sundays to Saturdays. Registration deadline is May 1, but early application is urged as courses fill quickly. Please use the following site for information and registration forms:, or send a snail with mail to The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JA, U.K.

Whistle Stops: How To Travel By Train Almost Anywhere

Fed up with the unfriendly skies?  For a happy break from frenetic and increasingly unpleasant air travel, check out the award-winning “Man in Seat 61” a sophisticated, encyclopaedic website for travel by train, track-by-track, almost anywhere on the planet. This colossal collection of routes, prices, timetables, and even ferry connections generates fodder for heart-poundingly inspirational travel.

Hang out with The Man in Seat 61 for a fun jaunt like Moscow to Beijing via Kazakhstan.  Or, for more fun, he says, “It’s easy to travel by train all the way from the UK to Belgrade in Serbia, to Skopje in Macedonia or Podgorica, then to Bar in Montenegro.”

We love his “Beginners Guide to train travel in the Ukraine.” Malta anyone? Kenya? And/or even a choo choo in Morocco?  No prob. Delve directly into the details of even more far-flung tracks in Bangladesh (Dhaka to Chittagong e.g.) or in Australia: from Perth on the west coast to Adelaide, then south to Melbourne and ferry to Tasmania!

He seems to have worked out every route and permutation on earth.  Last one: The weekly Nile steamer links Aswan inEgypt with Wadi Halfa in the Sudan, and then a weekly train will deliver you directly to Wadi Halfa with Khartoum. This page explains not only how to make the journey, but also what it’s like.

We are crazy about that Man in Seat 61 who, in real life, is one Mark Smith, an energetic Englishman and international railroad encyclopaedist who is not as mysterious as his moniker.

To know more, click (and save this site for a rainy day):

Aaaall Aboard!


New Year’s Resolution: Summer School

Where better to learn something new than at England’s legendary Oxford University. Their Oxford Experience - a residential program of one-week courses – is open to all from July 1 to August 11, 2012.  Thrillingly, there are no requirements, no exams and no papers to write.  Summer students live and study at the venerable 500-year old Christ Church, one of the most prestigious and beautiful of the Oxford colleges.

Students of all ages pour in from the U.S., Canada, all over Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Europe, and Asia. Choose from a menu of more than 60 subjects: Virginia Woolf and her Circle; Castles in Britain; Anglo-American Relations and the Making of Modern Britain. The Celts in Britain; Tudor London; The Beatles, Popular Music and Sixties Britain. The Georgian Home; Oxfordshire Towns; The Brontës; Wagner’s Ring; A History of the BBC; English Country Houses; From the Blues to a Symphony; Page Fright—And How to Overcome It; and Warfare in the Modern World.

Feel an undeniable frisson entering Christ Church’s main gate beneath Christopher Wren’s Tom Tower and entering the great quadrangle known as Tom Quad.  Loll about in the college gardens, and meander along the riverside in the Meadow.

These ultra-rich courses also include excursions to stately homes, cathedrals, museums, evening pub walks, a whisky tasting, a quirky performance, evensong in the college chapel, plays and concerts. And on the last night, all together, drinks in the flowering Cathedral Garden and a sumptuous farewell dinner in Harry Potter’s Great HallCheers!

Bargain! The price of a one-week course—including tuition, accommodations, all meals (except those on excursions) and evening activities is ₤1,135 (about $1,775 U.S.)

And hey, slackers, a headsup: Sign up now and avoid the spring rush. The deadline for summer 2012 registration is May 1, 2012 and some courses have already sold out. For more info, or to register click: