We are on to another week, Monday swiftly coming to and end. Time slows for no one I suppose. However, I can bring you back to Saturday and regale you with my excursion to Oxford and Blenheim Palace.
As you may know, I go to a university in a little town called Oxford. This little town is based around the school and student life predominates the streets, most especially on High Street on a Friday night. I can only assume the same can be said of the High Street in this other town I visited on Saturday. The similarities only go so far, though. For my Oxford is surrounded by cornfields and barns while this, well, this is Oxford. The one that people usually think of. Miami University’s Oxford is not quite the tourist attraction as Oxford, England, I’ll admit.
Oxford was very cool and I really enjoyed the walking tour and strolling through the town. It’s a pretty popular destination apparently, as there were many other walking tours and people out and about making for a lively atmosphere. We also happened to be there on the day that graduation was taking place for the (generally smaller amount of) students graduating this term. So we did see some robes and gowns striding purposefully towards the circular Sheldonian Theatre used for any concerts, major lectures, and of course, graduation.
The walking tour was nice in that we were able to split up into smaller groups and I, at least, then had a clue as to what I was looking at. I had not expected the university to be so separated into its separate colleges, though I feel like I should have known having heard of colleges such as Exeter and Queen’s College. The Oxford University schedule is different as well, following three 8 week terms with a 5 week Easter break, a few months off for summer, and a lengthy Christmas break as well. And really, that doesn’t sound too bad! What I also didn’t expect was how spread out and integrated the college buildings are within the town! Unlike Miami, where there are clusters of dorms surrounding the academic buildings, Oxford has a college and its library or chapel here, some shops or houses, then you turn down another street and there’s another college. In fact, besides the many libraries, I’m not even sure where the academic buildings are – perhaps I was preoccupied taking pictures when our guide explained that bit…
But I do remember that Trinity college is extremely proud of having the nicest grass in their quad, that each college has a rival (usually whichever is next to or closest to it), and that Christ Church is easily the largest of the colleges. One of the buildings in it holds the staircase that can be seen in the first Harry Potter film actually (the part where Harry and co. are greeted by Professor McGonagall for the first time before being sorted). Or it would have been had they not been fed up with how long it was taking, prompting the film crew to build a replica back at the studio instead. It’s dining hall, too, can be seen in Harry Potter. While Oxford, Ohio may have hosted George Clooney in one of Miami’s Academic buildings, I think I can safely assume that another difference in the two is that Miami would not be able to charge people for a tour of one of their dorms. Christ Church college at Oxford University can and does, and fairly successfully from what I could tell.
Anyway, Christ Church was also right next to this delightful park and a few sports fields! Our tour ended at this area of Oxford. The guide was very animated and informative, and I did seem to be a favorite right off the bat. He fist pumped when I said I was going to school in Brighton, and after asking if anyone was studying history at the first corner we stopped at, I was the only one in the group to raise a hand. He declared “Studying in Brighton and studying history, you must be very cool!”. So I smiled and shrugged nonchalantly, after all I couldn’t really deny that could I? After the tour Brittany, Andrew, and I walked around a little more, stopped in the immense Blackwell’s bookshop that was recommended we take a look at by our guide, and then had time to sit in a little cafe called “The Buttery” for lunch (a nice cheese, tomato, and basil panini with a small salad and crisps).
While the day started out gray with a promise of rain, luckily when we rolled into Oxford the rain had stopped and about midway through our walking tour the sun was making its appearance. While still chilly, the blue skies and spire-topped buildings made for an absolutely beautiful town (despite a lack of red bricks). This brings us to our other stop for the day, Blenheim Palace, home of the Duke and Dutchess of Marlborough (the 11th, currently). And talk about beautiful! Upon our arrival (less than 15 minutes away from Oxford) we waited a few minutes for a leftover rain cloud and its showers to pass as we watched two huge rainbows merge over the grounds. Blenheim Palace is stunning. The building itself is very nice, the inside filled with original decor and exhibits paying homage to Winston Churchill, who was born there.
However for me, the most exquisite part were the surrounding grounds. A vast expanse of green grass and trees stretched on beyond the front and back of the palace, a large pond featuring in the former area and lovely gardens in the latter. To the side a river ran past beyond a small decorated area with statues of warriors, angels, small obelisks, and sphinxes. We hardly had enough time, most of it spent on the tour of the main rooms of the palace. This left us with just enough time to stroll to the Secret Garden (also recommended by our Oxford guide) and back to the entrance to turn our tickets in for a free year pass before getting back on the bus. The three of us are definitely planning to make a trip back to Oxford and the palace!
As the excursion came to an end we made our way back to London. Arriving earlier than expected, I took the opportunity to browse a small discount book store I’d seen on the corner. The deal on classics was amazing, as well as all the books in general! So I left the shop heading for the underground station, happily carrying a bag with two new books in tow. (Two books for 6 pounds, I might add!) The happiness was pretty short lived, however, to be replaced by a “well now what” feeling tinged with a bit of a “figures” attitude (I’m 2 for 2 in travel incidents when traveling alone so far!). The circle line had been closed for the foreseeable future (rest of the day) due to some circuit failure at another station. After standing around with the growing crowd in hopes that it would magically start running again, I finally was able to stop one of the workers who was nice enough to pause and help me out. After asking if there was another tube route I could take to get to Victoria Station, he said no since the Victoria line was also down (they’ve been doing construction on that line so it’s been down for a while now). But then he said that if I left out of Exit 3 and proceeded to the bus station around the corner, I could take the 52 bus to Victoria Station. Enter that feeling of “whew” and gratitude. I thanked him for his help and proceeded to the bus stop.
Because of the inconvenience, any tube pass would be ok for the bus but my pass was a day travel card in London anyway (so I was covered). Also due to the inconvenience, the bus was extremely crowded, and thinking it couldn’t be that long of a bus ride I decided to stand. Well I stood for 35 minutes as people got on and off, many still waiting to get to the train station like myself. I enjoyed looking out at the city as we went from stop to stop – until it got too dark to properly see the sights, that is. But really, it wasn’t that bad and I was thankful for having the experience of the first day trip to know that I could get on any train back with my ticket. That took off a load of worrying about whether or not I was going to make a specific train. We arrived at the station at 6:50 and, again, thanks to previous experience I knew exactly which platform the train to Brighton leaves from so was able to just make it onto the train leaving at 6:51! Upon reflection on the train ride back, I was hit with a powerful sense self confidence. Of pride in myself for being able to handle such situations with a sense of calm. The independence of being here, of studying abroad and growing more as person really kicked in during that moment on the train. Unfortunately I missed the train to Falmer by seconds – I watched it slowly pull out as I realized that was the train I wanted. You win some, you lose some, eh? Of course, I only had to wait about 15 minutes for the next one and was back at the flat by 8:30 to have a late dinner and quiet evening.
So there you have it; my Saturday. I would go back to Oxford and Blenheim Palace in a heartbeat to just enjoy a day strolling around them (heck I’d love it if I could walk the grounds of the palace everyday, but alas), and I took a bus in London for the very first time! Next weekend is the next (and last, if I’m not mistaken) Butler trip – an adventure weekend in Wales! More details on that to come, this post is already crossing the “hefty line”. Sunday was a quiet day in which a peaceful rain persisted all day long. Most of the day was spent baking cookies (coconut cranberry chews and chocolate espresso!). In some ways, my interest in food has grown here because in baking and cooking I feel a connection with home and my family. These next two weeks, however, will prove to be very busy for me and luckily I’ve hunkered down and started the week off with getting things crossed of that dreaded “to-do list”. Thank goodness I’ll have homemade cookies to keep me going! I hope your weekends have been as pleasant as mine has and here’s to a good week. Thanks for reading, cheers! Until then…