Firstly, apologies for my absence. The past two weeks have flown by and I have not had a minute to spare and any seconds that I have found have, of course, been spent reading. Once I was over the flu, work and life took off and I am currently doing two part-time courses at City University which are enjoyable but with a full time job, blog, friends and family something is going to be neglected and sadly, it has been Bloomsbury Bell.
In the midst of the chaos I did manage to go away to Oxfordshire for the weekend for flu recovery and an escape from the madness of my diary at the moment. We visited the new Ashmolean which, was truly stunning and the perfect escape from the driving wind and rain which greeted us on the morning of our trip. The museum does not only provide a refuge from the weather but from the hustle and milieu of the Oxford shopping streets which, on a Saturday, were heaving.
The new galleries are light, spacious and full of the Ashmolean's wonderful collection which spans centuries of archaeology and art. Instead of a warren of gloomy galleries all leading further into the bowels and depths of the building, the new galleries invite panoramic views, space and light so you can stand in a gallery and see into many rooms at the same time as this photo shows.
Walkways pepper the building so you catch glimpses of other visitors in various parts of the space.
I particularly liked the paintings galleries as they have a great collection of medieval art and also a room dedicated to the Pre-Raphaelite movement which included this stunning portrait of Jane Morris, entitled Reverie, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
The muted, autumnal colours and thoughtful pose of Jane Morris make this portrait utterly enchanting. I have always wanted pre-raphaelite hair, but sadly I have poker strait, boring hair which refuses to conform to any sort of style. So, standing in front of this beautiful portrait in the Ashmolean my mind did not soar to higher plains - I was thinking about my hair.
Once I had moved on from my vain navel-gazing I found The Hunt in the Forest by Paolo Uccello which is an extraordinary study in perspective as it completely draws the viewer in to the centre of the action. The colours are still so vibrant considering it was painted in 1470.
During the trip I found a rival for my favourite library - previously written about here - as we discovered the village of Bampton which has the prettiest little library that I have ever seen.
I can easily imagine spending hours in there with the rain pattering on the window and the cosy cardigan wearing librarian stamping and cataloguing books. The library was closed when we arrived but I had a good look in through the windows and saw comfy reading chairs and a delightful childrens area. Paradise.