Already, I am backlogged in writing about my adventures. I spend so much time absorbing every moment and movement around me that I forget to share them. So please bear with me as I slowly try to catch up and recount the beautiful stories of my past week. Oxford was a story of unprecedented friendship, simplistic adventure and, of course, tree climbing.
When my bus pulled in to Oxford Friday morning I could not keep still. Eric had said he’d meet me at the bus station, but I was early and knew I could kill some time wandering. I eagerly set foot in the snow with my ridiculous duel backpack get-up in toe. The town was fairly quiet. Eyes darting in every direction and feet restless, I headed towards the most bustling street. People were just starting to move about. Although I embrace the strange looks my pack gets me, I felt a tad out of place and took the opportunity to marvel at every side ally. Finally I returned to the bus station just in time to see Eric pull up on his bike.
This is a friend I have not seen in three years. Not only was that the last time I saw him, but it was also the first time I met him. We spent a long weekend together at our one year reunion for The Mountain School sapping maple trees and disputing who ruled the kitchen. So when he turned the corner and we skipped the small talk, I knew nothing had changed.
The whole day was spent discovering what Oxford has to offer. Although he’d already been studying there for a semester, I was just touristy enough to ensure that we found everything he hadn’t done. He first showed me around his college, Exeter; I was dumbstruck by just how green the grass was. I quickly learned that this was not a classic “the grass is greener across the pond” scenario but that a certain pride is taken from not walking on the lawn. Once the snow picked up, however, that all changed.
After a delightful lunch of local, organic food in a little café in the basement of an old church (apparently even 4 day friendships know my food tastes too well) we went to climb to the top of the bell tower. I braced myself to hand over 5 pounds to catch a glimpse of the whole city. Instead, we were told the tower was closing early because of the snow but if we could be up and back down in 5 minutes we could go for free. Challenge accepted. Taking two steps at a time we breezed through the museum set up and straight to the spiral staircase. It quickly narrowed and some stone steps had practically eroded. Needless to say, our pace slowed a bit. But, the view from the top was every bit worth it. Castle spires towered above rainbow colored store fronts and snow covered coble stone. We made it back down just in time to hear some other adventurers turned away, smiling to ourselves at our good fortune.
Next we hit up he covered market, a maze of tiny stores full of trinkets and goodies. Most importantly, there was a well-known cookie shop with the thickest cookies I have ever bitten in to. To all my bakers out there, I had a cookie decked out with chunks of chocolate and ginger. Try it. Warm cookies in hand we headed to the Christ Church meadows and strolled next to the river that feeds in to the Thames. Watching some of the Oxford students try to have a snowball fight made us northern kids smile. They clearly had never packed a snowball before and just kept launching powder in to the air. Frolicking in powdery snow along the river Thames became the perfect opportunity to fulfill my tree climbing prophesy. After getting my pants properly soaked in snow we went to warm up in Blackwell Bookstore, a haven of 3+ miles of literature. They too were closing down early because of the snow, which we weren’t about to miss any more of, so we walked the mile back to Eric’s place. What I think was truly remarkable about this day was that Eric and I never ceased having something to talk about. And it wasn’t even that we were catching up on the past three years. We could simply just be and talk together. All things considered it could not have been a more perfect day to jumpstart my travel experiences.
We indulged in some authentic Indian cuisine before heading back in to town for my first pub experience. What better of a place to start then where the Inklings (J.R Tolkien and C.S Lewis) use to hang out: The Eagle and Child. Then we went on to meet up with some of Eric’s soccer friends at Exeter and on to this adorable back ally pub called the Turf. An evening stroll home through yet another snow covered field was the perfect end to my first day abroad.
The following day was Eric’s birthday. We started the morning off right with chocolate chip pancakes. We spent most of the afternoon being touristy: popped in and out of museums, had afternoon tea at Turl Street Kitchen, and continued to just walk down every path available to us. We wandered over to some bordering neighborhoods to discover their vibe. As it finally started to get dark we met up with Eric’s friends for his birthday dinner where I got vegetarian bangers and mash! Most interesting about the pubs is that the majority of the beer they serve is brewed by that pub itself. So, when I asked for something local it was received with a quizzical look. After dinner it was back to their house to find more friends to help Eric celebrate his 21st birthday in true American style.
The following morning I got to see Exeter dining hall (a mini version of the Hogwarts style experience) and taste a full English breakfast. I’m still confused by the baked beans. Then we jump started our senses with the best coffee in town from The Missing Bean before. It had been a marvelous weekend and a great introduction to England, but I was restless for new adventure.
London here I come.