As much as I love London, there is a large part of me that still longs to explore more of the United Kingdom. While daydreaming about my upcoming trip, I asked Alex for some good suggestions for a day trip, and the literary nerd in me was thrilled when the prospect of Oxford finally became a reality.
Every street in Oxford is beautiful, charming, unique and worthy of having its portrait painted. Alex and Megan and I arrived mid-day, making our first stop, my most anticipated: The Eagle and Child. This pub is where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien named themselves the 'Inklings,' and encouraged each others' works of art in writing. The place is still a frequented spot by locals and tourists alike, and it was just like any other pub I'd been to in England. Not to say it was a let down, it most certainly wasn't. The food was great and I drank the first beer I'd had in two years here: the best. It was a little more comforting to know that this was just as if me and my friends were discussing my life's work over a table at a favorite coffee shop or some great Italian chain restaurant we love.
After lunch we walked through the university, gaping at every angle, gawking at those on campus who were just going about their daily business as if being in a place like this were normal... We headed into the School of Divinity, a place Alex prefaced as one of her favorites in Oxford. I walked in and was immediately struck with a familiarity I couldn't place, but finally realized with complete assurance that this was the filming location for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire's dance lesson scene with Professor McGonagall. I turned a corner and, low and behold, my suspicion was correct: a poster telling just that fact with production shots from the movie.
The room was heavenly, the ceiling carved with such impeccable skill, the light streaming in the windows and the glass distorting the ancient buildings around the school. No idea how I would have ever concentrated on any classes if I'd been a student. Too much architectural distraction.
We continued to see idyllic scene after scene as we moseyed around the university. We made a visit to the university church, where C.S. Lewis first delivered 'The Weight of Glory' in 1941 to a congregation of future Oxford alumni. Several other notable speakers have preached there, but let's be honest. We were there for Lewis.
Alex led us to a little shop hidden on a backstreet called Objects of Use, where we perused a carefully curated group of items that were both practical and pretty. Ceramics, fairly expensive everyday sundry items like matchboxes and rolling pins. It's worth a visit for the visuals alone: the place is very well done.
Because no trip is complete without some sort of garden, we visited Oxford Botanic Garden, which housed some of the best greenhouses and wildflower mixes I'd yet seen. We walked (sometimes barefoot) through the beds, picked our way through the greenhouses and I geeked out at all the insectivores. The true Pokémon, I guess.
We kept walking and taking in the beauty of the forgotten backstreets, finding our way to Chiang Mai Kitchen, because I can never eat enough Thai food and others like me being there as an excuse to try some exotic cuisines. The curries and coconut soup we ordered were incredible, and I glimpsed a whiteboard completely covered in Thai script as we left the little alley that hosted the dive.
This place transported me back in time and out of time to a year when I was a student at Oxford. I lived in a beautiful old row house and spent my time in between classes eating Thai food in back alley ways and biking over cobbled streets to class. Also I sat in fields of grass and took the bus across town for Ben's Cookies and bookstore shopping.