On August 22, my son and I flew separate airlines – thus arriving separately – to London Heathrow where we met up at our designated bus station outside the terminal. We both looked pretty wilted, but we put on our smiles and found our bus to Oxford. For the next two weeks we walked 8-10 hours per day with no exaggeration! Our memories were well worth it!
Oxford, for those of you who have never been, is the most delightful city in all of England as far as I am concerned. What is not to like? Every two steps there is something to photograph, something to learn about, something to absorb. It is called The City of Spires and is beautiful. The city is basically Oxford University. Our Number 6 bus took us to city center daily and we took off on foot, by train, or by a non-city bus to explore.
Our first two days were sunny, so when the following two days of rain hit, we seemed surprised and raced to buy umbrellas. The wet streets and 12th century buildings made the city glimmer and didn’t slow us down in the least. I won’t make this into a travel diary. But how glad I am that we stayed in an apartment in such a centrally located place. Oxford, alone, had free museums everywhere, pubs and shopping, the Covered Market, Oxford Castle, and our favorite haunt – Christ Church College.
Mike began taking pictures of our food on day two which was fun. We can now re-live the trip by which meal we had which day. My favorite spot – Christ Church-
with the Bodlein Library a close second. Mike’s was the Museum of the History of Science. Wow, interesting math and science things I knew nothing about….
Oxford put us one hour from most of our day trip destinations including Stratford on Avon, Bath, Blenheim Palace, and Warwick Castle. We saved Downton Abbey for another trip and didn’t manage to get south to the seaside which we will do in the future.
We missed trains and buses, hailed taxis to save us, and got on the wrong train to Bath, but we managed to land on our feet every time. (and met some wonderfully kind and helpful people in the process.) We stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast in Stratford. You need to stay a week, not the two days we managed. My highlight was the most professional Shakespearean play I’ve ever seen in the Royal Shakespeare Theater. The swans came in a close second and Mike stated he could easily live there. Bath was the golden city just as they claim. The sun shone on the Roman stone while we were there and we soaked it in. Bath Abbey is simply breathtaking, and the list of authors who once lived there is remarkable. I visited Jane Austen’s home, but she was out for the day.
Our favorite pub was built in 1212 and has such low doors and ceilings, most people (aside from we shorties) hit their heads coming and going. We also loved Tom’s Tavern tucked down a long alleyway north of The Bridge of Sighs.
My favorite day is still our drive through the Costwolds with the son and daughter-in-law of a good friend. I had already fallen in love with sheep and we found dozens of sheep farms on our journey. We picked fresh blackberries, wandered down winding lanes, and stood on bridges built in the 12-14th centuries. I took pictures of sheep while Mike took pictures of horses. Five minutes from our apartment was Port Meadow and it would take pages to describe. Wild horses graze and come to you to be petted; the river Thames runs through it so there are sailboats, motor boats, and geese, swans, egrets, and cranes. Mike started going each evening to photograph sunsets. It quickly became his favorite place of the trip.
At least that part of the trip. Mike took the train to Edinburgh for another week while I spent my last day in Oxford, then two more in London. He can’t stop talking about Scotland so I think England came in a close second. I enjoyed a little of London via a Thames Excursion boat and also toured Buckingham Palace while Mike photographed the actual royals at the Scottish Highland Games outside Edinburgh. He emailed me a picture of the queen while I was sitting in her gardens back in London.
Coming back home was difficult and Arizona’s 110 degree temps made it even worse. I long for green and trees and flowers and rain each day. But isn’t that what vacations are for? To experience things we may find we love? I’ve been fortunate now to have traveled several times to Italy, France and England. Each place became my favorite for some time. Right now it’s Oxford. Come spring, it may very well be Paris once again.
I’ll get back to writing now and hopefully have new material to add to this blog soon.