England: Oxford, Plymouth,
If you’ve been following my blog lately, first of all, THANK YOU! I truly appreciate your interest and readership. As you know, this summer I’m writing up a series on some of my travels around the world, and using some fun photos from my adventures. Last week, I wrote about fabulous London (here’s the link if you missed it), and today will be about the other beautiful parts of England I’ve seen.
What a fantastic view! This photo is of High Street in Oxford, taken from the top level of a double decker bus. My very smart and ambitious friend, Suzanne, earned her PhD from one of the colleges here at Oxford University, and I am just so proud of her! Oxford is one of those small European towns where people enjoy their tea in quaint cafes, students zip past on their bikes, and you can feel the antiquity in the architecture and in the cobbling of some of the old, narrow streets.
Apologies for the photo not being all that great. The story behind it is more interesting anyhow. This pub in Oxford is where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien often met to have a pint and discuss their literary ideas. You know, such as Lord of the Rings. My friends, husband, and I had lunch here. I can’t remember what I ate, but my husband had the burger made out of boar (which was a special at the time) and he said it was delicious.
Stained glass is such an amazing form of art. I have no idea what sort of painstaking work goes into making it, but I sure can appreciate the beauty of it. Part of experiencing the wonder of beautiful stained glass windows (such as these found in University Church of St. Mary in Oxford) has to do with being inside the dimly lit churches in which they’re found. Everything is so quiet and calm, the air having the scent of incense and old parchment paper, with a reverence for God felt all around.
Getting to all of these great places requires great transportation. Being 7 months pregnant the first time I went to England, I’m pleasantly surprised I was able to keep up with with my friends and all of the traipsing around that we did! I guess being a runner paid off. For times when walking just wouldn’t work, we took either a bus, the Tube, the train, or a taxi. Here I am with my good friend, Martha, in one of England’s “black cabs.”
Now, we’ll talk about the seaside city of Plymouth, starting with a little backstory. I’ve had my pen-pal from England since I was 10 years old. Her name is Janine, and we still write to each other. Now, however, it’s usually through Facebook Messenger or email, with the odd hand-written letter or card here and there throughout the year. She lives in Plymouth, and I got to meet her for the first time a few years ago.
Plymouth is where the Mayflower ship set sail for America back in 1620. My husband and I got to stand on the actual dock, and it was surreal being there, thinking about the people who left from that very spot on such a long and dangerous journey. I suppose that I will eventually need to see Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts (where the pilgrims landed) so that my Plymouth travels can come full circle. Anyhow, this beautiful seaside city is where I had British fish and chips with a most unusual and delicious dipping sauce: curry sauce! It was really different, but tasty!
This might be my most favorite of all British culinary customs: afternoon cream tea! The one pictured here happened to be a special tea service we had at Saltram House, a historical estate where scenes from the 1995 film version of Sense and Sensibility were filmed. We enjoyed munching on finger sandwiches, spreading our scones with jam and then clotted cream (the “correct” way to do it according to Janine’s mother, who I have adopted as my own “British mum” ❤ ), nibbling delicate slices of cake, and sipping hot tea and hot chocolate. It’s a simple and light meal, but everything is so delicious and seems so much fancier when you’re having it on posh fine china with your posh British friends!
The most beautiful things about Saltram House are the walking trails all around the estate. I felt like Marianne Dashwood in all manner of Sense and Sensibility as we were ambling along these trails, breathing in the fresh country air, feeling the soft mist of rain, and admiring the way nature’s beauty made us feel so calm and revived.
By the way, here I am with Janine and her mother, who I lovingly call my “British mum.” This is the second time I met them, when they came to visit me in Oxford. In this photo, we’re about to have dinner at a rather nice restaurant, called The Folly, along the Thames River.
Behind me is Stonehenge, as I am sure you’ve figured out. There’s a really great visitor’s center/museum that you see first, and then you can walk or take a shuttle bus to the actual site of Stonehenge. There’s a rope fence around it, so you cannot actually touch the stones. If you take a look at the sky in my photos, you’ll see that the typical British rain was on its way. We lucked out, as it only started pouring down near the end of our sight seeing here.
Just like everyone else, I pondered the mysteries of Stonehenge. You’re out in this huge, open, rather empty landscape, and right there plunked in it is a circle of massive, well-cut stones, all evenly spaced apart and intentionally placed. It was obviously constructed to be noticed and to last through the ages. And it has, for over 4500 years. What do we have in our modern life that could even compare? Earthquakes topple our tallest buildings. War and greed demolish our cities. Modernization builds over our memories. And yet, Stonehenge remains. Perhaps it’s a testimony to the resiliency of human nature’s productive and awe-inspiring capabilities.
Thanks for stopping by. ❤