April 5, 2014

Oxford walls

I wanted to see if I had fallen in love with London or just England on the whole, so the fourth day of my UK adventure I took a day trip. I can only name a hand full of English towns, one of which is Oxford. What I knew about Oxford boiled down to essentially that there is a college there, and that was enough for me (again, ever-scheming for a good excuse to move to England).  

I googled a few tid-bits about Oxford before boarding the bus to my destination for the day, and off I went. I must say, my internet skills were particularly lazy that fair day, so the only thing that stuck was that The Grand CafĂ© had excellent high tea. It's obvious I pay attention to the most important things in life. 

You may have noted some sarcasm in that last bit, but really we should appreciate that statement in all seriousness, because high tea was prime. I was brought a whole pot of English Breakfast Tea (my favorite) and two scones, one plain, and one made with raisons and dried cherries. On the side I had jam and clotted cream, which I am not entirely sure what is, but gander is butter that is going to clot my arteries double time. The whole thing was delicious and completely un-nutritious, but oh how I will long for those scones.

After my attempt at being a proper English-lady having tea (and hiding from the drooling rain), I went in search of a map. I soon located said map, and some poor souvenir-store lad I could harass until he told me where to go (again, I really did fail at the internet research). He recommended I check out the libraries. 

The first library I found was the so-called Radcliffe Camera, originally built for Oxford University in the mid-16th century. The outside was outstanding, but unfortunately it takes a library card to grant you access to the inner sanctum of the rounded space (souvenir-store boy failed to mention this).

Luckily, right nearby to the Radcliffe Camera is another library I could sign up for a tour of. I gained an hour to kill and went to walk around in the rain and try to get a grasp on Oxford. 

The first thing I discovered was the Bridge of Sighs, a model of the original in Venice

I found wandering around Oxford a bit strange compared to other places I've been. I don't know if it was the rain, or just the quietness of the streets, but I felt awfully out of sorts that morning. There was a kind of eeriness as I walked down the cobbled path. The architecture in Oxford seems to hide all the life in the town within its building walls.  

After a brief walk, it was already time for my tour of the Bodleian Library. There were unfortunately no pictures allowed inside, but I can give you a pretty good idea of what it looks like, you wanna know why? Do ya, do ya? 

Ok, I'll tell you: the Bodleian Library is more famously, the Library of Hogwarts. In its very walls, the books and magic of Hogwarts were brought to life. There's a lot of history surrounding the Bodleian Library, but this was absolutely everyone's favorite fun fact. 

Inspired by the library, and an in-town book fair, I soon found my way to a the Blackwell bookstore, where I can shamelessly say I exited with two books (2 for 1, I couldn't say no!). I've so far only read one of my two texts, The Last Tycoon, by F.S. Fitzgerald. It was excellent, at least what there was of it. Word to the wise: always read the inside cover and maker sure you're not purchasing an author's last and unfinished work. Talk about a cliff hanger. 

Per usual, I got myself distracted and a little lost. There's a little stream in Oxford that will lead you all the way up town if you go far enough (I bet you can guess where I accidentally went). The walk was one of my favorite pieces of Oxford though, because unlike the hallowed buildings it was open, inviting, and serene. I love getting lost.

Eventually, after a leisurely stroll by the bank of the river, I orientated myself towards the center of town and headed back in the right direction.

On my way back, I ventured into one of the few colleges of the University that was open that day, Keble College

Being allowed to venture into Keble confirmed my suspicions, Oxford's life is hidden behind walls.

The inner grounds of the college were breathtaking and mesmerizing, so foreign in their symmetry. The stark contrast to the thick walls of the facility only added to the effect. 

It was strange to feel so at home, too, in this foreign place. There is a very distinct atmosphere within the walls of a college; all that knowledge and youth breaths into a student, even if she doesn't go there (yes, "she doesn't even go here"). 

I may not have loved Oxford the way I love London, but it still felt right in a way few other places I've been have. Something about England really does feel like home. In particular, a pink house down the street from an immaculate park in Oxford really called my name; that building unmistakably had my name written all over it. 

Even with my pink flat in my mind, I was delighted to return back to the streets of London that night. I strolled some city streets, enjoying the hustle and bustle everywhere I went. The call of London is far stronger than that of Oxford. That must be why the Clash called it "London Calling". 

Yours, Kenna 

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