Hello all! It’s been a while – I’ve been busy. Oxford life has begun in full swing. I promise this will be the last vacation-orientation-special event post, and next time I’ll get into my real Oxford life, but I want to wait to do that until I’ve had my history tutorial. But Ari, you ask, don’t you have your secondary tutorial every two weeks? Hasn’t it been two weeks? Yes, that’s true! As Lauren will attest, on Thursday I was supposed to have my tutorial at 4:15 and I was convinced it was at 5:15. Oops. Sorry, Oxford’s thousand-year academic history. I’m just a colonist, forgive me. My tutor was really nice about it though, by e-mail at least. And I wasn’t prepared anyway.
Because…MY FRIEND LAUREN CAME TO ME from Rome and I needed to get my work done fast! Lauren goes to school with my back home, and she’s studying abroad in Rome this semester. It was a fantastic visit, though one certainly lacking in sleep. It began when I rushed with my dinner to the bus station to pick her up, and when she arrived my hands were covered in cheese, so the hug was extra awkward! After eating dinner (on Lauren’s part) and ice cream (on my part) at the delicious G&D’s, I promptly abandoned Lauren for the ever-entrancing Mansfield College library, where I proceeded to compose the worst essay ever written on the nobility’s part in the early French Revolution. I finished at 1:45am and was in bed by 3:00am – perfect for our 7:45am wakeup the next day!
But at least it was for a good reason. LONDON! We left on the 9:01am train for a full twelve hour day. Of the three times I’ve been to London, this was by far the best. We started off with the most important stop – Platform 9 3/4. It was lame in a way because it was moved to the side of King’s Cross Station – when I’d been there last summer it was in its rightful place (as much as it could be, as there really is no wall between platforms nine and ten). At least there was a lovely sign telling us that the platform had been moved, directing us to the new location where all Hogwarts pupils could catch the train. At least we found it – no need to take the flying car!
From there we went to the Tate Modern. I wouldn’t normally go to an art museum while in London – I’d rather do cultural or historical things like the Tower of London. But all of those things are almost 20 pounds a piece, and the museums are free. Also, Lauren – as most of you will know – is obsessed with art and insisted that we at least go to one museum. As she loves modern art best, the Tate was our choice. It was actually really cool and kind of inspiring. I haven’t thought about anything creative in a while, and it was great to finally do so.
Next (I think?) we went to Buckingham Palace. I was excited about this because it was the only major London sight that I’d never at least laid eyes on. It was cool – we saw a guard marching in a ridiculous manner, and Lauren insisted on asking a couple to take a touristy picture of us. For some reason it wasn’t THAT impressive to me, though. I think the beauty of Oxford is going to my head. Or maybe it’s that I actually find the country estates I’ve been to to be more beautiful.
Another thing I was excited about was our visit to St. James’s Park, because I’d heard a lot about London’s parks and I’d never been to one. Again, I didn’t think it was THAT amazing if you compare it to Central Park. I thought it was pretty much the same except MUCH smaller and with a better lake. The only thing that made it very clear you were in London was the view of Buckingham Palace in one direction and Whitehall and the London Eye in the other. So, not a bad place.
I’d totally forgotten about Whitehall, so we walked through the park to see it. For some reason I didn’t know it existed right in the middle of London, or that it existed at all anymore. It was beautiful with a lot of turrets and austere men on horses (I think it’s the place for the royal cavalry or something), and I was glad for the happy accident that brought us there.
Next we went to Trafalgar Square, and since it was much earlier than we thought it was – and since we were still poor – we decided to go into the National Gallery. The feel was very different in this museum than the last – it was much less, well, modern, and (in my opinion) much more beautiful with its wood paneling and impressive rooms. In a way the art wasn’t as interesting because it was mostly portraits and that sort of thing, but apparently I looked at some really famous stuff (says Lauren). I think I liked it better than the Tate because I could recognize historical trends in the rooms from the Georgian era.
When we left the museum we had the inevitable and essential experience of being rained on in London without umbrellas! We took cover in a bookstore and had a break of coffee and hot chocolate, much like our cafe dates at Kenyon (except now Lauren is a coffee snob thanks to Italy). When we were finished the rain had cleared up, and we made our way to Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Eye. They were impressive as always.
At this point we were kind of at a loss to do (ridiculous, I know, but remember that we are poor), so we decided to check out Harrods, the famous London department store. It was a fun experience to look around in there, but we weren’t buying anything! I loved one necklace, but unfortunately it turned out to be just short of 2,000 pounds. Oh well. BUT we were successful in one room – the most important room – the chocolate room! Yes, there was a room FULL of fancy chocolate. After a very short deliberation Lauren and I decided that we should treat ourselves to one expensive truffle each, and when Lauren went up to a counter to ask how much they would cost the woman gave her two for free! It was the beginning of the delicious food we’d have that night!
Dinner was where we went next – Covent Garden to be specific. We went to an amazing French bakery/restaurant called Le Pain Quotidien. There’s one in New York that I went to once, and it was insanely expensive, but this one was quite reasonably priced and just as good. I got a quiche and salad, Lauren got an open-sandwich thing that I forgot the name of, and we drank a glass of wine each. We topped off the brilliant meal with a quick walk over to Snog!, the same frozen yogurt place I’d gone to on my birthday during orientation. It was just as amazing. The whole trip was one of those days that you can never recreate but you always wish you could have back.
After Snog! we ended our London trip with an exhausted tube ride to Paddington, where we finally caught the train back to Oxford. When we got back to my room, we collapsed pretty quickly into bed because we had a lovely 5:30am wakeup the next day for my rowing practice. It was freezing cold, I didn’t bring adequate clothing, and we were SO TIRED. More about rowing in the next post (for real this time).
After another G&D’s stop for breakfast, Lauren napped (lucky her) while I edited the paper I’d written the other night. We ate lunch in one of Oxford’s lovely cafes and then I finally got my PATISSERIE VALERIE RASPBERRY TART that I’d been dreaming of every since I’d eaten one the first time last summer! It was SO SATISFYING.
Our next stop was the farm! We took the bus to Hampton Poyle and then I took Lauren along my beloved footpaths to Willowbrook. It was a perfect day for the walk – sunny and crisp, just as I like it. We visited the Radwans at the farm, which was great as always.
I THOUGHT we left early enough for my tutorial, but obviously THAT didn’t happen. After walking around Oxford for a little while longer and purchasing weird English candy in a sweets store RIGHT out of Harry Potter, we ate dinner in college so that Lauren could get the Mansfield experience. She saw the library too before we headed back to my room, again collapsing in exhaustion. That’s okay, though, no need for energy when you’re watching Pride and Prejudice!! We’d planned to do it the night she got here, but my paper prevented that. So it turned out to be a goodbye thing rather than a welcome thing, which was just as great.
We went to bed pretty soon after the movie, as we had a 5:45am wakeup the next day. At this point you can imagine that we were pretty sick of getting up before the sunrise. As soon as I’d dropped Lauren off at the bus station I walked home dropped back into bed.
I still haven’t recovered from the lack of sleep. In fact, I kind of want to drop into my bed right now, and I think I will very soon. Good night everybody! Next time I promise there will be more daily life stuff. Just got to make it to my tutorial on time…
Everything in general is going very well here. I hope all is well at home!