Apparently Saturday August 9 was the day for taking pictures. I’ve narrowed down my small collection to just 81 that I will include here. So if you’ve been coming for the pictures, this is your day. I had some pretty great subjects in the quaint town of Salisbury, the stunning cathedral and its cloister, and C. S. Lewis’s house. So if you’ve ever wanted a photo tour of Lewis’s house, look no further.
We made a few interesting discoveries on this day, chief in my memory being that driving in England is a huge pain in the butt. At least driving from Salisbury to Oxford past Avebury on a summer Saturday. Not recommended. We gave ourselves four hours for a less-than-two hour drive and needed all four of them. At one point we opted for the major motorway rather than risk the winding and congestion of back roads, only to end up in a half hour of stand-still traffic, as we watched all our margin for arriving in time to tour Lewis’s house tick past on the clock. But we made it in the nick of time. Meanwhile, we read a good chunk of our novel, which I retrieved from the trunk at one point during the fifteen minutes it took us to inch into the roundabout connecting our route to the route bound for Stonehenge. Everybody in England went to Stonehenge on August 9. I know, because I watched them.
We also discovered that there are all kinds of busses from London to Oxford and that Oxford has this sweet park-and-ride system that gets you into the center of town painlessly (if you look past the couple pounds). Maybe next time we will skip the rental car and take busses and trains. Or maybe we won’t. Annoying as it was sometimes, going at our own pace (at least the pace the traffic would allow) with no fellow-passengers was a pretty good time.
Sunday 10 August, 8:30 p.m. The Eagle and the Child, Oxford
It’s been a whirlwind two days. We went to 7:30 communion yesterday morning at Salisbury Cathedral; the rain had gone and the sun was shining again. It was cold. The service was so wonderful, so intimate, in the rear chapel. Afterwards we drove around town awhile, picked up a few things for lunch at the bakery, and paid three hours of parking. Back at St. Ann’s House we ate breakfast and chatted with the owner, a very successful chef, formerly a personal chef to several very famous people. The breakfast was fabulous – had the chef touch, with peppercorns in the pineapple and anise in the orange marmalade, and an amazing breakfast quinoa. Really never had a better breakfast. The chef, Michael Riley, was fascinating, educated, articulate, friendly. After checking out we wandered town (down to the mill and the quaint river walk) and the cathedral – I am ever more taken with the cloisters.
We took the long way to Oxford, driving past Avebury Stone Circle and reading Love in the Ruins to pass the time. We arrived at the Kilns with two or three minutes to spare, joining a tour of 8-10 other pilgrims, wandering through the house and gardens. What an inspiration!! We had just enough time afterward to check into The Talkhouse and bus into the heart of Oxford for Evensong at Christ Church Cathedral, an unforgettable experience. Walking through the doors and emerging in the quad was like entering Narnia. All magic. Afterward we wandered Oxford’s empty streets on empty stomachs. The town quiets down at 7, especially after a heavy rain. By this time we were tired and a little burned out. We couldn’t get our bearings, without a map and flanked by tall buildings, walling us out of the colleges’ mysteries. Everything was closed. We returned to our lodging and settled in for pub dinner and beers and catching up on the internet work we needed to attend to. It felt luxurious, settling in for an early night at a place where we will stay a second night. The Talkhouse, like all our other accommodations, did not disappoint. It is like quaint rural England, but magnified as though it’s a page from a novel or a scene from a movie. A tudor-style building, low to the ground, with a red phone booth tucked in its side and hanging baskets exploding color against the white walls. Our room is spacious and comfortable and the whole setting is just perfect and picturesque. Bussing into the city is easy, too, a sweet relief after all the cities we’ve inched across in our rental car. This city makes me insanely happy, and Mike grins to see me so excited, so eager.