Salmon sandwich trip tally: 14
Day Sixteen saw my last morning in Oxford and it never gets any easier to pack up and leave the City of Dreaming Spires. Showered and packed up just after 10 am, I checked out of the hotel and headed across High Street for a final breakfast at the Vaults and Gardens, enjoying the view of the Radcliffe Camera for the last time this trip.
Between toast and tea, I wrote a couple of postcards and did some typing until I had to tear myself away, stopping at the post box on the way to the hotel to pick up PJ and hop my taxi to the train station. I caught the 12:31 and arrived into London Paddington just before 1:30, giving me time to enjoy another cup of tea – while watching/listening to the mariachi band – before walking the short distance to my flat, a perfect home away from home that I found on my first trip. I’ve spent the afternoon doing laundry and unpacking (since I’ll be here six nights) and in about two hours, I’ll head back to Paddington to catch the Tube to the Harold Pinter theatre to see the amazing Imelda Staunton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I expect the performance will crush my heart and destroy my feels…
I really can’t even word right now. Partly because I’m physically exhausted but mostly because my feels and psyche have been destroyed by this evening’s amazing performance. The whole cast was brilliant – particularly Conleth Hill – but Imelda Staunton was…typically perfect in every way, delivering a powerful, emotional, just…everything shattering performance. It is not a happy, feel-good play by any stretch and it assaults the audience with some really heavy stuff, but if you have an opportunity to see it, I very highly recommend it. And then I recommend cuddling a boatload of puppies or bunnies (since I currently have access to neither, filling the flat with happy musical soundtracks will have to do while the washer finishes this load of clothes).
Distance travelled: 7.15 miles
Salmon sandwich trip tally: 13 (but I also had salmon sushi for dinner so one could argue that salmon meals stand at 14)
Day Fifteen was my last full day in Oxford and even though I don’t leave until tomorrow afternoon, the thought of having to say goodbye makes me sad. I let myself sleep in again this morning and like yesterday, was on my way to breakfast at the Vaults and Garden around 10 am. The sun wasn’t out, but since it wasn’t raining, I couldn’t resist sitting outside to enjoy the view of the Radcliffe Camera again.
After breakfast, I went to the post office to mail home that box filled with Jaffa Cakes and caramel biscuits. They were busy again (I have a feeling that post office, being in the Oxford City Centre, is always busy), but it wasn’t too long until I was back on St. Aldate’s, heading toward the River Thames. I’d decided to dedicate as much time today as necessary to walk down to Iffley Lock, a location from my favourite episode of Inspector Lewis (“The Ramblin’ Boy”) that a friend showed me the way too during my visit last year. It’s just over a two mile walk each way along the tow path and I wasn’t in any hurry as I made my way along the river, stopping on my journey at a horse-filled meadow for a few minutes (although they were busy eating and ignored me).
I reached “The Bridge” at Iffley Lock and after snapping lots of photos, sat on a bench to watch the ducks for awhile (there were lots of ducks and I’m not sure who was more fascinated, me or them).
After enjoying a trail mix bar and some water, I made my way back along the towpath, past the horses (who had either disappeared or all turned into geese), and across the Thames, deciding to take the daffodil path along the Cherwell again as a longer means of getting back to the Broad Walk at Christ Church College. After stopping at Paperchase for a luggage tag (funny that my luggage makes it to my destinations but my luggage tags don’t seem to), I headed to the Ashmolean Museum with the intention of seeing some of the exhibits I didn’t get to last year, but found it difficult with it as crowded as it was. So, I didn’t stay particularly long, visiting the museum shop before stopping at Boots and then Wasabi for some take away sushi for dinner (something not Costa), making my way back to my hotel via Market Street, Brasenose Lane, and Radcliffe Square.
Tomorrow I return to London for the final stop on my trip, one last week which I know will fly by no matter how desperately I wish time would slow down.
Distance travelled: 4.6 miles
Salmon sandwich trip tally: 12
I decided that on Day Fourteen, I would sleep until I woke up without an alarm…which meant sleeping until 8am. Around 10am, I headed across High Street to the Vaults and Garden, my favourite breakfast spot in Oxford (and perhaps my favourite Oxford spot period). They have delicious sourdough toast and the view really can’t be beat.
After breakfast, I wound through Merton College and along Dead Man’s Walk to the University of Oxford Botanic Garden, situated along the River Cherwell near Magdalen Bridge/College. I spent about two hours meandering through the glasshouses and along the paths and river, encountering the same duck couple multiple times (they seemed particularly friendly, even though I didn’t have any duck snacks…but Mrs. Duck’s limp made my heart hurt).
I considered taking the bus down to the university’s arboretum on the chance that their bluebell wood would be in bloom (the above flowers are Scilla), but decided against it (figured the chances were remote if I haven’t seen a single bluebell anywhere else – I’m hoping they’ll make an appearance before I head home). I thought I might make my way up to the Ashmolean Museum to see some of the things I didn’t manage to last time but that will be on tomorrow’s agenda, since I wandered south along the Cherwell and Christ Church Meadow to the Thames, passing huge patches of daffodils splashing yellow along the banks. Navigating the numerous geese (and their presents) and managing not to get hissed at, I made it to the Inspector Lewis Robbie/Laura fangirl bench (from the episode “Beyond Good and Evil” – see posts from last year’s trip) and sat for awhile to watch the river and take in the quiet.
Eventually, I wandered back up Poplar and Broad Walks, dodging massive groups of school children and tourists, and crossed St. Aldate’s to Tesco for multiple boxes of Jaffa Cakes (don’t judge me) and then to the post office for a box in which to ship them home (please don’t judge me) and some more international stamps. As they were quite busy, it took awhile, but I was finally successful and then grabbed a late lunch (from…Costa) and headed back to my hotel room to read and relax. A short trip out for dinner later and then back to the room to read some more…and sing and dance along (badly) to musicals again. Current album stuck in my brain: the original Broadway cast recording of Into the Woods, one of my most favourite favourites.
Distance travelled: 3.25 miles
Salmon sandwich trip tally: 11
Day Thirteen was the day I said a fond farewell to Bath and returned to lovely, beloved Oxford. Showered and packed up before breakfast, I lounged around and read and then left PJ at the B&B while I wandered out to see a bit more of Bath since I had plenty of time before my 1:43 train. My first stop was to browse the Roman Baths shop, since it was swarming with people during our visit the other day. After buying a single postcard, I headed to Bath Abbey since I hadn’t visited it before and spent about half an hour there before walking back to the Parade Gardens, empty of almost everyone except the gardeners and four ducks (probably the same four ducks from the other day). I then strolled back to and across Pulteney Bridge and along the opposite side of the river and slowly made my way back to the B&B, stopping at the sweet shop around the corner for some sherbet lemons.
I collected PJ and rolled her to the train station (a very short walk and easier than a cab with the way Bath’s streets are set up), getting there with still more time to kill before my train so I found a bench and a cup of tea. Eventually, I caught the 1:43 to Paddington, changing at Didcot Parkway for Oxford and arriving in the City of Dreaming Spires just after 3pm. After catching a taxi to my hotel and checking in, I set out on a short walk down the High Street to Cornmarket Street in search of a late lunch/early dinner, stopping at Boots on the way. After procuring nibbles (not Costa this time), I wandered along Broad Street and through Radcliffe Square on my way back to the hotel (where I’m now trying to tune out the annoying giggling from the restaurant patio below my window with my musicals playlist – your giggling is no match for Julie Andrews, yo).
Salmon sandwich trip tally: 10
When I originally planned my trip, Day Twelve was included as a second full day in Bath to allow myself more time to explore the city, since I had only given myself one full day on my first trip and it was a mistake I didn’t want to repeat. However, last month I learned that the next in a series of talks led by the wonderful Jim Carter to benefit The Tricycle Theatre on Kilburn High Street in the London Borough of Brent had been rescheduled and would coincide with my trip (this particular talk would feature Jim discussing the works of Danny Boyle with the gentleman himself). While it meant a train ride into London, it was too good an opportunity for this fangirl to pass up, so I sacrificed my second full day in Bath.
I caught the 1:18 which got me into London’s Paddington Station just after 3pm, where I grabbed a bite of late lunch and then caught the Bakerloo and Jubilee Lines to Kilburn Station and wandered down the high street to the theatre, getting there with plenty of time to spare (big surprise). I think the majority of tonight’s proceeds will help support the theatre’s community arts/outreach programmes so as a theatre-lover and avid supporter at home, it’s a cause dear to my heart.
The talk with Danny Boyle lasted a little over an hour with questions from Jim followed by more from the audience. The talk was followed by a screening of Slumdog Millionaire and the last bit of business before a quick intermission was an auction to benefit the theatre, the prize being a bag of treasures signed by various epitomes of greatness who are working to support the Tricycle (Dames Judie Dench and Maggie Smith, Jim Carter, Imelda Staunton, Emma Thompson, etc). Let’s just say I couldn’t resist and am heading back to Bath with another bag and that fluffy feeling of helping something amazing keep on being amazing. After the auction, I got to chat with Jim, who recognised me from the Downton Abbey Special Olympics charity evening that a friend and I attended in late 2015 that featured dinner with the man himself.
After talking with a few of the wonderful people who help make the Tricycle possible, I bid them and Jim farewell and headed back to the Tube, having decided it would be best to pass on the screening due to the long train ride ahead of me and paranoia about somehow missing the last train back to Bath. I got back to Paddington with a little bit of time to kill before the next train, just enough to grab a bite to have for a late dinner when I get back to my B&B, which should be in about 45 minutes, since the train is due to get in in just over half an hour. Tomorrow, I say goodbye to Bath and head to lovely, beloved Oxford.
Distance travelled: 6.8 miles
Salmon sandwich trip tally: 9
Day Eleven began around 7am, giving me time to unzombie-fy myself before breakfast at 9. Afterward, I chilled in my room for awhile before heading out to stroll around Bath a bit before it was time to head to the station to meet C’s 1:26 train. I wandered through the Parade Gardens and then made my way along the River Avon, past Pulteney Weir, and up to and across picturesque Pulteney Bridge, popping into a few of its quaint little shops. I then headed back down along the other side of the river, crossed it again, and meandered along various other streets before heading to the station.
Since it was lunchtime, we hit the pub across the square from my B&B, managing to snag a table on the patio (so that our meals could be enhanced by secondhand smoke). We caught up, filling each other in on our respective trips, and then decided to visit the Roman Baths which – unlike on the cloudy Thursday when I first visited – were swarming with people on this sunny Saturday (as all of Bath was).
After the Baths, we retraced my trek from earlier over Pulteney Bridge and back and with time to kill before our dinner reservation, wandered up to the Circus and over to the Royal Crescent, two well known examples of Georgian architecture (the dominant style in Bath).
After a yummy meal at Bill’s, we headed back to the station so C could catch her train back to London (she flies back to the States tomorrow) and I eventually made my way back to my B&B for the night.