Another British Ramble – Day Seven

Distance Walked: 3.75 Miles

Salmon Sandwich Tally: 5

Writing Soundtrack: Marvellous Musicals Playlist (It’s a VERY long playlist)

*** All photos are property of yours truly – Please don’t use them ***

I had tentatively planned on returning to the University of Oxford’s Botanic Garden today, but since there’s less rain forecasted for tomorrow, I though that’d be the better day for it. So after breakfast at The Vaults in Garden (a favourite Oxford spot) I went to the Ashmolean Museum, which I’ve visited on past trips but haven’t even begun to see all of.

I’d forgotten that I’d booked a spring special package with my hotel rate which included tickets to the Ashmolean’s current exhibition (America’s Cool Modernism: O’Keeffe to Hopper) and Blenheim Palace (which will sadly have to be saved for another trip, I think). It’s a bit funny that whenever I visit, the featured exhibition has to do with American artists (last time, it was Andy Warhol). Like many great museums in the UK, admission to the Ashmolean is free (a £5 is kindly requested but not required). The collection of English and European silver is particularly stunning (no, seriously, with that lighting, it’s stunning) and includes a variety of pieces from pocket watches to toys to wine bottle emblems.

There isn’t much interesting to report on the rest of the afternoon as I just wandered the shops until I headed back to the hotel…where I was serenaded by church bells through my open windows (a sound I love in Oxford) until the rain started to blow in.


Adventures of a Wanderess – Day 16

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…
*Post-WAOVW Update*

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).

Adventures of a Wanderess – Day 15

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.

Adventures of a Wanderess – Day 14

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.

Adventures of a Wanderess – Day 13

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).

More Busy Wanderings: Another Big British Adventure – Day 13

A busy day and a late night yesterday means another late post. Day Thirteen began early so that I could be ready, packed, and checked out of my hotel by 10am. Checkout wasn’t until 11 and I didn’t have to head to the Oxford train station until around noon, but I wanted enough time to walk to Radcliffe Square for breakfast at the Vaults and Garden, a place I discovered on my last trip. It’s a great cafe located adjacent to the University Church (the one with the tower I didn’t climb), “housed in Oxford’s old Congregation House of 1320.” I enjoyed a pot of tea and a plate of toast (they have really good toast) at an outside table with a lovely view of the Radcliffe Camera, trying not to eavesdrop on the conversation from another table about Downton Abbey; I was rather unsuccessful.  
Sadly, I eventually had to say goodbye to the Rad Cam, quickly stopping at Boots on my way to the hotel to await my taxi to the station. Soon, I was aboard the 12:31 from Oxford to London, arriving into Paddington right on schedule, the station being just a couple of blocks from the flat – a top floor gem that I found last time – that will be my temporary home for the last leg of this trip in the UK.  
I spent the next few hours doing laundry and writing the previous day’s blog post before I got ready and walked back to Paddington to catch the Circle Line, alighting at Temple Station and walking to the Aldwych Theatre to see Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Unable to fit the Broadway production into the New York City segment of my trip next week, I decided I’d catch it while in London … and I’m so glad I did. It was phenomenal. Well, I already knew the music would be, but the entire production was superb. If you’re in London, see it. If you can get to London to see it, do it. It’s fabulous. After the show, I hopped back on the Tube and made my way back to the flat where I FaceTime-d with my creators, checked again to see if there was any way to wedge the Broadway production into next week’s schedule (there wasn’t … pook), and went to bed.  

More Busy Wanderings: Another Big British Adventure – Day 11

I didn’t have any plans for Day Eleven other than to spend more time wandering around Oxford, so I decided not to set an alarm (it is Sunday, after all) and to just sleep in … until 7:30. But since I was awake, I figured I should slowly start my morning ritual of un-zombie-fying myself and a couple of hours later, I was ready to face the world. My curiosity and a recommendation yesterday from B led me to visit the Ashmolean, “the University of Oxford’s museum of art and archaeology, founded in 1683” that contains “objects dating from 8000 BC to the present day.” I spent a couple of hours wandering through the various amazing collections before making my way to the Ashmolean Dining Room on the top floor for some tea. Eventually, it was time to wander on and I headed down Broad Street to Catte Street (noticing on the way that the bluebells have just begun to bloom) past the Bridge of Sighs, and into Radcliffe Square, passing the Radcliffe Camera.  



My destination was the University Church, not for religious reasons, but because the views of Oxford offered from its tower are unbeatable. There was a queue with approximately a 25 minute wait when I got there and while that wasn’t a deterrent, I began to consider just how uncomfortable I am with narrow, winding stairs. After the girl in the gift shop confirmed that that was indeed what led up to the tower, I decided, sadly, that it was probably best to give it a miss. So I was off to wander some more, retracing part of yesterday’s walk back to the River Thames to visit the other Lewis spot from yesterday: a bench along the towpath. 



 As I sat on that bench, watching the river and people go by, I was joined by a couple who stopped and rested for awhile. We got to chatting and I learned they’re visiting Oxford – as they do every year – from the Lake District, and their faces lit up when I mentioned that I’d just come from there. After a bit of lovely conversation, they decided to resume their walk as a large tour group was heading our way. I sat and enjoyed the scenery a little while longer, but eventually, I couldn’t feel my face or my bum (it was very chilly), so reluctantly, I wandered back toward the centre of town, stopping into Alice’s Shop on the way, a store filled with all things Alice in Wonderland (This is, after all, Lewis Carroll territory). I made my way past the partially ruined Oxford Castle and the castle mound, which you can climb for £1. Since my plan to view Oxford from the top of the church tower didn’t work out, I paid a pound, but didn’t stay up very long as being up so high freaked me out more than I expected. After carefully making my way back down, I wandered around some more before stopping into Debenham’s to scout out luggage, since like with my last trip, I may have to buy another suitcase for the return journey; I haven’t really bought much at all, but I worry that PJ is over the 51 lbs weight limit. Luckily, Debenham’s is having a massive sale and if I get another suitcase, I’ll have room for Jaffa Cakes.