Your Amazing Race: London Calling

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Magdalen Bridge with PuntsCredit: Joss O’Kelly [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia CommonsOxford Town
Chugging away from Paddington Station, the teams headed to Oxford. Like London, this city has so much more to offer than I can fit in this article. For this reason, I am going to focus on the racer’s experience.

Oxford is home to The University of Oxford which is the oldest university in the English-speaking world. It is also one of the most famous and prestigious in the world. Oxford and Cambridge are the British equivalents of our Ivy League schools in the US, except MUCH older! There is actually no known start date to the University but there are records of lessons being taught dating back to 1096 AD. Because the history of this city is so extensive, it’s no surprise that it is steeped in tradition and embraces its past.

#KeepItClassy Travelers! Do not Pee off a Punt!

The racers this season got a taste of Oxford’s heritage as they headed to the River Cherwell and Magdalen Bridge. This site has remained unchanged since the 18th century. The teams were required to punt their way down the river to their next clue. The trick to this challenge was to punt from the Cambridge end and not the Oxford end. So here’s the skinny on how to properly punt and the distinctions of the rival ends:

"The user stands at the stern and tries not to fall into the water while holding the (rather heavy) wooden pole (known as a quant). In Cambridge, the punter is balanced on a flat wooden platform, whereas in Oxford, where the punts are shaped slightly differently, the correct position is to stand on the slatted decking in the punt. A naive attempt at propulsion by pushing with the pole against the mud at the bottom of the river is likely to result in the punt’s moving in a circle, or heading constantly into one of the banks (as we saw with many of the racers). Usually, numerous spectators will be present on bridges and banks and will find it greatly amusing (as all of America did), but consuming a sufficient amount of alcohol beforehand will increase the punter’s confidence (see the next slide for pub recommendations) and sense of accomplishment, regardless of the actual merit of the performance (I would high-five you)."

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Want to give it a try? Check out the Magdalen Bridge Boathouse. The punt can carry up to five people and cost £20.00 per hour. The Boathouse is open seven days a week. Always remember, if you start spinning in circles in front of spectators, wave a mini Union Jack and keep on smiling.

Christ Church, Oxford By Bloody-libu via Wikimedia CommonsAfter an afternoon of punting, the teams received their next clue and headed off to Christ Church College. The racers were greeted by with bowlers and umbrellas. The umbrellas gave the clue for teams to get the Fast Pass and the bowler led them to Winston Churchill’s birthplace – Blenheim Palace.