This morning we all woke early and made our way out to Paddington Station where we met Aunt Joanne and Uncle Dick, Jess and Joey (their youngest children) for a day trip to Oxford. Since they had bought 1st class rail passes to travel around the UK for the next few weeks, they thought it would not be very gezellig (Dutch for something like cozy or comfortable) if they were in first class and we way back in second. So, they bought us first class tickets! I have to say, there is a reason that people choose first class if they can. The seats are big and comfortable and spacious and someone comes around to serve you coffee or tea. We very much enjoyed the train ride, chatting away with family and watching the countryside go by as we chugged along.
Oxford is only about an hour train ride from London so really it is quite an easy trip. Once we stepped off the train, Richard became our guide since he is the only one who had been to Oxford before. (You may recall, Richard took a research trip about 4 years ago to study in the library there). Oxford is such a wonderful little city. It’s pretty busy, with cafes and pubs and tourist shops everywhere. Not to mention all the cute boutiques. One little clothing store in particular caught our attention (well only Aunt Joanne and I–I dare say the rest were not as enthusiastic). This little shop had some really lovely things and of course I found something I liked (well I found many things that I liked actually, though most were way out of my price range, even if I did my trick of pretending the price was in dollars!)… and alas a supple little leather jacket that I found calling like a siren to me was on sale for 400 pounds…. So, siren or no, it was not meant to be. In the end, I much prefer the soft sweet eyes of my husband who says, “You have good taste my love, I’m sure it would have been lovely on you” to crashing into the stony and bewildered eyes that say “You spent what!?” Yup. Jackets are not so nice when you are they only one happy about them ;).
Our (very handsome) tour guide took us through some cute little markets and narrow passageways leading us around until we stopped at Christ Church College, which is stunning. It is the only college in the world that is also a cathedral. It was built in the Romanesque style in the 1500’s by Thomas Wolsey (King Henry VIII’s main man, until Wolsey fell out of grace for not helping him marry Anne Boleyn). The buildings are so distinctive and lovely that they have been copied by other academic institutions (for example the University of Chicago has a reproduction of Christ Church’s dining hall) and have been the set for many films and books. You can see why too: its buildings are enchanting, intricate and dominating. See what I mean?
By the time we finished walking through the church it was past lunch time and we were starting to get quite hungry. So Richard led us back in search of food. As we approached the busyness of the downtown Richard led us past all the wonderful smelling cafés and pubs and bakeries along the main strip, making me wonder whether he understood that we were all expecting to eat now. But our guide did not fail us. A short way down, just passed the Ashmolean Museum is a very famous little hole-in-the-wall pub. Yes, Richard led us to The Eagle and Child! What a charming little place! The whole restaurant is a long narrow passageway, perhaps 10 feet wide. It feels a whole block long. The light is dim as you walk in, since there are few windows. Tables and bars line the walls on either side of as you walk deeper and deeper inside to find a seat. We sat about half way between the bar where you order your food and drinks and the back (that was full) where there is a sky lit room that looks a bit like a green house. As we sat down we were given menus and pointed to the bar to order. The food is actually decently priced and the helpings generous and very good. I had a steak and Richard had fish and chips. We would recommend either! As a result, Sydney decided that she loves fish and she wanted fish and chips. So we thought we would just share with her. Well she got fairly obsessed and as we were waiting for our food, stopped the waiter and asked him if she could have some! He thought she was pretty cute and assured her that we had already ordered and food was coming. When the food did come she gobbled it down. I am pleased to say that I have won the battle — Sydney now loves fish. Yay…. or not… now she will eat all my sushi! ….oh well. If you ever find yourself hungry in Oxford go eat at the Eagle and Child. Even if just for the opportunity to sit where C.S. Lewis and the Inklings sat so long ago. You will not be disappointed by the atmosphere or the food.
After lunch we were on the move again. Richard showed us (from the street) where his room was when he stayed here in 2008 and then led us across to the Bodleian. At each entrance, as you enter, is a sign that says “Silence please”, because even though the quad is full of tourists milling about taking pictures, students and researchers are still working away in the libraries surrounding the courtyard. We didn’t get a chance to go in. For one, we didn’t have access to the special libraries, but also because we just didn’t have the time to do so, because we kept having to find the girls a bathroom! I would have loved to just go inside one of the buildings to peek into the library, but it wasn’t meant to be…. at least not this time. I at least got a picture of Richard in front of a couple of the doors.
By this time it was getting late so we started back to the train station. On our way we stopped for a cup of coffee at one of the cafés and sat outside to enjoy the end of the lovely day, taking in the charm of Oxford, the sun and the company. It was such a lovely day. Our train ride back home was smooth and uneventful. We parted ways with the hope that we would all get back together on their way back through London for home. Thanks again for such a fun trip, Uncle Dick and Aunt Joanne! It was wonderful to see you again and tour around with you!