October 24, 2015
One of the places we knew we wanted to go was Oxford, but we didn't really have any specific plans or places we wanted to visit. While I didn't have any set expectations for our trip, it certainly didn't disappoint!
As we got closer to our destination, the clouds became much more dense and the rain started to pick up in intensity. As soon as we got off the train and out of the train station, we quickly realized that the rain was much more than we were prepared for and it was going to last all day. Oof. We were definitely not prepared for that. All I had was a light sweatshirt to keep me dry and warm, which was not going to cut it in the least, and there was too much rain and wind to really protect the two of us with our miniature travel umbrella.
It didn't take us long to realize that we needed to bite the bullet and make a few purchases. We ended up buying a heavy duty, large umbrella for the both of us from a random department store; then we went to a Woollen Mill store for some Scottish wool scarves. We were a bit bummed about spending the extra money, but we got some great deals and do not regret the purchases we made one bit!
After we were properly outfitted against the cold and the rain, we did a bit of wandering. Really, that's all we did our entire day there - we just walked the streets of Oxford and wandered around for hours and hours. There was so much to see just in the architecture itself that we didn't pay to enter anything and still spent all day perfectly content and awe-struck.
I should also mention that autumn was in full swing at this point, and Oxford was embracing it in every way. Holy moly, talk about beauty at every turn! Between the historic buildings, the cobblestone streets, the bright colors of autumn leaves, and the rainy weather bringing out the best features of all the above, we were not hurting for things to do or look at. We didn't realize this until right before we left for our trip, but the University of Oxford has over 30 different colleges - that's a lot of really gorgeous buildings. Once we left to go back to Birmingham, we felt like we hadn't done anything but had simultaneously done so much after literally spending all day just looking at all the amazing things Oxford has to offer.
All day long, I scoffed and scowled at the beauty that surrounded us because it was just so unreal. It is rare to find a large city who incorporates architecture that equals in beauty to the nature surrounding it, but Oxford is a rare and wonderful place.
Unfortunately, all the photos during this trip were taken on my phone. It was so doggone wet that it wouldn't have been good for my camera at all, so in that aspect I was glad that I didn't bring it. I can only imagine the shots I could have gotten, though!
|So. Many. Tickets. I think we have more train tickets floating around in random places than we do receipts!|
|Pre-scarves and hellooooo mini umbrella!|
|Christ Church at Oxford|
|Helloooooooo big umbrella!|
One of the biggest reasons we wanted to visit Oxford was to visit The Eagle and Child. This is the pub where the members of The Inklings met every week for several years to discuss, among other things, the books they were writing. You might know two of its members better as J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Not only have I had the chance to read and love the words and works and worlds created by these men, but I have had the privilege of teaching novels written by the both of them. Eleven years ago, I started falling in love with the man I would marry as we were watching movies based on novels - something to do with a ring of power, Hobbits, elves, dwarves, wizards, and this magical place called the Shire. What a wonderful thing to be able to visit the place where these marvelous men began The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia!
We set out to find these pubs and were pleasantly surprised to realize that they were literally across the street from one another. As it turns out, The Lamb and Flag is where the Inklings pledged their allegiance after their previous haunt was "extended" in the back and became less private. Leave it to a group of silly old men to get their panties in a twist about a renovation. This pub, though, has an incredible side alley and walkway toward the canals. The architecture isn't half bad either.
Realizing that it was a bit too early for dinner and that we had quite a bit of time to spare before our train departed, we wandered around and explored random paths as they struck our fancy. After all, we had the freedom to follow whichever path we so desired, so we took advantage of it.
After stumbling upon Worcester College during opening hours and being taken aback by its beauty, we ventured down into the grounds and through an open gate in a stone archway. It was then that we came upon a ridiculously breathtaking park that was void of people. And then I fell in love with Oxford all over again as I saw some of the most beautiful autumnal scenes of my life.
As we walked around this incredible park that was hidden from public view, I gawked at the beauty that literally surrounded me at every turn. Then we stumbled upon this gorgeous, perfectly still pond covered in autumn leaves and I just about died of happiness. As I stood and looked and took a million photos of this tranquil scene, two swans swam up and started searching for their dinner.
This stuff only happens in movies, guys.
It's an understatement to say that I didn't want to leave. My sweet and gentle husband eventually pulled me away from the pond at the park in order to walk and try to find our way to the canals that we wanted to see. We walked alongside them, separated by a fence of bushes, but it was completely fine by us because our path was dwarfed by the tallest trees of fiery colors and a blanket of orangey-reddish-brownish leaves covering the walkway made of dirt. And I died of happiness once again.
As we walked down the path next to the canal, I saw the sun coming out just in time for sunset - it had been cold, rainy, and dark all day long. I would often stumble a bit as we walked because I was looking at the tip-tops of the trees seemingly on fire in the early evening light (I also hurt my foot at some point during this venture). The sky was turning pinkish purple on the horizon, and my husband had to drag me along the path toward our dinner at the pub. Our route took us back through the park, and I practically died of happiness again because the trees on the pond were ablaze in color in a way I've never seen in my life.
|I have a theory that anywhere where swans reside is magical. I have yet to be proven wrong.|
We eventually got back to the pub for dinner after our incredible walk, and boy were we glad to sit down! As we entered the establishment, we were greeted with signs and pictures reminding the customers of its rich cultural history. Not only was it the local haunt of The Inklings, but it was also featured in an episode of the British television show Inspector Lewis it is a detective show that takes place in Oxford; Patrick has been a bit obsessed with it for years (I don't mind because it's a pretty great show).
As it turns out, the table we snagged was in what is called "The Rabbit Room" - it was the room where the Inklings met every week! Holy moly! There was a bit of tasteful memorabilia paying homage to the group hung on the walls, and the rest of the pub featured some quotes and artwork that made my heart so very happy.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. It doesn't get much better than having a pint and some delicious pub grub in the same establishment where literary geniuses Tolkien and Lewis did the same not so many years ago. A literary foodie's dream come true.
We were quite content and extremely tired by the end of the day, but it was the kind of tired where you're so grateful for the life you've been allowed to life.
I know without a shadow of a doubt that the Lord was giving me a bit of extra love that evening. A beautiful park fully embracing autumn, swans on the pond, a walk along the canal under the turning trees with feet shuffling the fallen leaves, a full rainbow against the evening sky, a sunset that made me feel so close to home and those Oklahoman sunsets that I missed so dearly, and the consumption of a delicious dinner in the same room where literary geniuses once sat and talked and ate and pondered. It nearly brings me to tears just thinking about what a wonderful day we had in Oxford, and how I was reminded during a very painful time that I was and am truly blessed.
That entire evening in Oxford was pure magic.
On the 24th of November and the 2nd of December, we made two other quick trips to Oxford to meet up with some wonderful people from back home, and it was such a treat each time! Funnily enough, we all attended Bridgeway (our home church) together, so it was great being with some of our church family for the first time in what seemed like ages.
First to visit was Ryan who was spending some time in England on his way back to Oklahoma from his three months in Turkey. We went back to The Eagle and Child for a delicious dinner because, let's be real, we weren't going to get tired of eating there after one trip. If you're a fan of either Tolkien or Lewis, it's a must-visit if you're in Oxford, so Ryan definitely had to check that off the list! It was so lovely getting to spend time with a friend who had experienced living abroad, and it was so nice spending time with an Oklahoman - being with Ryan for the evening filled a bit of the Oklahoma-sized hole in our hearts.
Second to visit were Elise and Travis. I'm choking up just thinking about how wonderful it was to get to see these two gems. We were a part of the same community group together, so we've walked through a few really tough life moments with them. I definitely started crying when I got to hug Elise - there's so much love and joy in that tiny little frame of hers, and I hadn't realized just how much I missed her presence in my life! Travis and Elise moved back to Georgia for Travis' job and we hadn't seen them since the beginning of the year; the reunion was far too short, but we were so very glad to see them both. Being with these two was a tall drink of fresh water that was very much needed! I might have teared up a bit when we had to say goodbye at the train station, but can you really blame me?
We haven't been back to Oxford since the early days of December, but we hope to get back there sometime this summer and explore some of the colleges in full force, as well as some sites more specific to J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carroll and Inspector Lewis (so many Lewis-es). Go ahead and say it - we're nerds, and we're not ashamed one bit! Oxford is exactly the type of city where I enjoy getting lost for the day, and I can't wait to do it again.