Monday, June 30, 2014

S and J Take Oxford

I realize that I haven't finished updating you about our trip. Last week kind of got away from me, but this week I plan to finish my updates, of which there are two more.

If you want to read about the London part of our trip, click here and here.


Here's something I noticed about London on this trip. Back in the '80s, the first time I visited London, I found it charming because the city, in fact, the whole country, seemed about 20 years behind America. I liked that I could still find Mom and Pop stores and that people still slowed down enough to pop into a tea shop for a good cup of tea in the middle of the afternoon.

What I noticed this time is that London has caught up. No longer does the city seem a little slower-paced than the cities here. The people are just as fast-walking as New Yorkers. Look out or they'll mow you down! The stores look just like American stores. In fact, we walked past a Five Guys in London (and, no, we did not eat there).

I'll say they've caught up!

(Side note: Everything in London looked especially spruced up. It was so clean and so easy to get around this time. I wondered if this was a result of the Olympics. Anyone have an opinion on this?)

So, after the fast pace, noise, and congestion of the Big City, Julia and I were glad to make our way to Oxford to start the second half of our trip.

Oxford is one of my favorite cities in England for several reasons. The history. The University. The architecture. The bookstores. The back alleyways. I could go on and on. Oxford is lovely, and if you've never been to Oxford, you really should give it a couple of days on your next trip.

We left London early on a Sunday morning, caught our train to Oxford, and made our way to our B&B--the Cotswold Lodge Hotel.

Let me just say that everything about our stay there was perfect. When we arrived, the woman at the desk was so sweet to us. Our room (an upgrade!) wasn't quite ready since we were early, but she stored our bags while we took off to explore. Once in our room, we were wowed! It was huge--even the bathroom!--and very comfortable.

Plus, it was just down the street from the house I had stayed in when I studied in Oxford in college.

Boy, did that place bring back memories!

Our first order of business was to take a walking tour of Oxford, which was fun, especially getting to see inside some of the colleges.

After the walking tour, we walked some more--over to Christ Church to see the famous dining hall after which the Hogwarts dining hall was modeled.

And we both fell in love with this in Oxford:

I totally want one for tooling around our town.

Our second day in Oxford was so much fun. We started out early at the rental car place, and soon we were off to explore the Cotswolds.

We started in Minster Lovell, a beautiful little village I had seen once before and wanted Julia to see. There is a ruin of an ancient manor home here that I think would make the perfect setting for a magazine spread. This place is magical.

We drove around a bit after exploring Minster Lovell, and made it to Whitney in time for lunch with Sarah of Modern Country Style. Yes, there was a blog meet-up in the Cotswolds! I've already shared a bit about that here, but let's just say that Sarah is such a dear and I already miss her. Visiting her was like visiting a long-time friend. I could have stayed for hours.

But we had more countryside to see, so we sadly said goodbye to Sarah and went on our way.

Much of our afternoon was spent driving, just seeing the beautiful Cotswolds countryside.

We did, however, make a stop in Bampton to see a couple of Downton Abbey shooting locations. This is the church where Mary and Matthew got married and where Edith got left at the altar.

We also found a village that Julia had researched called Bibury. What an absolutely charming place!

Along the way we saw more Cotswolds limestone buildings than we could count, each one prettier than the next.

And now, for those of you who have bothered to read this far, I have a humiliating funny story to tell you.

It was the end of our day, and I had gotten quite used to driving on the left hand side of the road. In fact, I had gotten just a bit cocky, because as I was driving into our very last village (the one I had wanted to see), I said to Julia, "You know, I think I'm getting the hang of this driving on the left thing. I'm getting pretty good at it. You always think you're going to hit something and then you don't!"

Famous last words.

Not 30 seconds after I said that, BANG!

"What was that?!" I screamed.

I glanced over to my left and saw that the passenger side mirror had flipped in toward the car and was completely shattered. I looked in my rear view mirror and saw that I had hit the mirror of a parked car, and a piece of said mirror was lying on the ground.

After a few tense moments, during which a choice word or two that my daughter had never heard me utter before in her life may or may not have flown from my lips, I turned the car around in the middle of the street to see what I had done. Yep, I had hit the mirror of a parked car because I didn't give myself enough room to go around it.

All I could think was, "What am I going to do? How do these things work in foreign countries?" If I were at home, and the driver wasn't around, I could just leave a note on the car with my phone number, and we'd figure it out later. But A) I wasn't from there and B) I didn't have a phone number I could leave and C) I didn't know what the heck to do.

In the end, Julia and I found a place to park, walked back to the car to inspect the damage, found out that the plastic piece that had fallen from the mirror actually snapped back in place, fixed it, and left the village immediately.

We didn't even get to walk around because we were too flustered by what had happened.

I guess I'll have to visit the Cotswolds again sometime.


  1. Oh, Shell, that was so fun to read. If I ever get to England, I want you to take me and show me around. But I would have to do a serious training period beforehand to get in shape to keep up with you!

  2. I would LOVE to show you around, Linda. (You have no idea how many people have said that to me. Maybe I'll have to lead a "moms" trip someday!) :)

  3. Your trip looks like it was SO MUCH FUN!! I think the Cotswalds look amazing, I would simply LOVE those limestone buildings. What a treat!

  4. Oh gosh, isn't that the way it always goes?! I'm glad the part on that car was fixable, though!

    I just know that if I ever get to travel abroad (no. WHEN I do. *thinking positively!*), I will have to work hard to put down my camera. Because I will want to take pictures of ALL THE THINGS. I have enough trouble experiencing the moment in my normal life (instead of recording it) that I can't imagine how I'll figure that out then. You know, since you've traveled so much and take great pictures but also seem to really experience the trips and enjoy your family and friends - maybe you could write about that sometime?

    Or maybe you don't need me telling you what to write. ;) Either way, I love traveling the world vicariously through your blog until I can do it on my own!