Sunday, July 8, 2012

City of Dreaming Spires

Note: This was WRITTEN the day of the Oxford trip, but then I got very busy, and very behind, and thus it is very late.

Today we went to Oxford after a leisurely (on my part) breakfast. The drive was lovely, about forty five minutes long,  and the area our friends live in is BEAUTIFUL. Everything looks exactly the way I'd hoped England would.

Unfortunately, the trip reminded me of exactly why I am such a bad tourist/sightseer. The minute it gets really warm, I get tired and cross, especially once I get hungry, and then nothing is particularly impressive any more, and I just want to sit down and not move for a while. Fortunately, it never got quite  that bad today, but it was a near thing. (As in by the time we got to the Bodlian Library in the afternoon, I was too tired to care whether or not we actually went on a tour of the place.) But other than that, Oxford was amazing. Although it threatened to rain, it didn't do much more than drizzle, and then it cleared up, and if it hadn't been for the HEAT, it would have been perfect. (Of course, here I am complaining that 80 degrees was too hot, when NYC is in the middle of a heat wave, but given that the weather has been in the sixties mostly, it WAS rather miserable by comparison!) This trip definitely confirmed for me that I'd love to live and go to school in Oxford, in a perfect world, where I could do exactly what I liked and didn't have to worry about money.

Anyway, we got to Oxford around lunch time, but wandered about before eating on the steps of one of the buildings facing the New Bodlian Library, which is under heavy construction. Then we wandered around a bit until two, when our tour left. Amusingly (or annoyingly) enough, by some chance, we had walked around in all of the places the tour went, but while we didn't see anything new, at least we learned about what we had already seen.

Among the most interesting locations (for me) were Merton College, the Bodlian Library, and the Radcliffe Camera. 
The Radcliffe Camera

The Bridge of Sighs. Apparently we have one because Cambridge has one, and everything Cambridge has, Oxford also must have.

Unfortunately, as it was accepted students day, we weren't able to go IN to any of the colleges, but we were able to walk around the outsides of them, which was tortuously tantalising. However, we're hoping to come back to Oxford at the end of our trip, and then maybe I'll be able to go into Merton and the others. My interest in Merton is twofold, firstly because Tolkien taught there, and secondly because if I am lucky enough to go to Oxford, chances are  I'll be at Merton. The outside of Merton, however, is quite lovely. There were even roses rambling along the back wall! 

Dear Old Merton

Merton College Chapel

one of the oldest buildings in Oxford, if I'm not much mistaken!

The Bridge of Sighs again

Didn't know Edmund Halley lived in Oxford!

The entertainingly (now) named New College, which is, in fact, quite old.

Probably Merton again

Merton Roses

Merton Chapel

The Camera again

The Bodlian!

detail of the gate of the Bodlian

Inside the Divinity School

The amazing roof of the Divinity School

By the time the tour ended, I was completely exhausted, and warm (it was in the eighties! In ENGLAND!) and we took refuge in the Eagle and Child (aka The Bird and the Baby of Inkling fame), and sat under the plaque about the Inklings while drinking pints of lemonade. It was excellent, and just what was needed. I think my brain has failed to quite register that I was in some of the same places that Tolkien and Lewis frequented, which might explain why I'm still coherent..

You've had a whole half already!!

After we had sat there for some time, being fortified by our lemonade, and having conversed with another American girl, about my age who had also come to pay tribute to the Inklings, we drove to a charming place called The Trout Inn for dinner. 

For those of you who watch Inspector Morris (I, unfortunately, am not  one of these), our friends who ARE Inspector Morris fans had seen the Trout on the show, and were curious to see if it was good. It was indeed. First of all, the inn is HUGE, having not only an expansive indoor seating area but also an extensive outdoor seating area right on the Thames. There was also a peacock, of all things, in residence! The food was absolutely delicious, and we had the most scrumptious lemon tart for dessert.  

On the way back from the Trout Inn, we drove by Milton's Cottage, AND William Penn's grave. Penn's grave is on the grounds of a Quaker meeting house, which is still used today, and is not far from a barn whose structure reputedly contains beams from the Mayflower! We got back to Chalfont St Peters very late, and between exhaustion and an excellent dinner, I even fell asleep in the car! Which normally doesn't happen!

The meeting house

Milton's Cottage, unfortunately a bit blurry.
All in all, a very successful, if slightly overwhelming day! I hope we get the chance to go back and see the insides of the colleges, the library, and get out to some of Tolkien's old haunts, like the house on Northmoor Road where he wrote most of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings...

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