Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Stories: Oxford

On our way to the train station I needed to stop at a grocery store to pick up a couple of things. We found a place called the ASDA that seemed to have everything. I picked up what I needed and then we went in search of something Stork needed. Looking at the price we were shocked to see a sticker that said it was a "Roll Back" price with a happy face. At the checkout we spotted written on the wall "Always Low Prices". AHHHHHHHH. Walmart has followed us to England. Sure enough, we later discovered that ASDA is owned by Walmart.

Oxford is, I'm sure, a wonderful city full of historic charm and fabulous people. We appeared to have seen it on an off day. Starting with the train station where the women's bathrooms were closed indefinitely. Then they didn't have any place for left luggage (they did tell us where to find one in town). We set off into Oxford in the drizzling rain. The hostel for the left luggage should have been called "Perfume City". I couldn't even go in the door. Stork dragged both of our luggage up the stairs and checked it. One obstacle cleared. We then set off in search of a tourist information centre (the one in the train station didn't have information other than how to find the real centre). While Stork was stocking up on C.S. Lewis walking tour information, I was managing to give myself a deep and painful cut with my umbrella. It's really hard to get bandaids open when you're bleeding badly. I'm just saying.

We then went off to the covered market. I figured this way I would be able to find a bathroom and get lunch at the same time. Harder than I would have thought. We walked around for ages trying to find a bathroom. Eventually I asked someone and was directed to a McDonalds. Thank goodness for McDonalds. I must break into the tale at this point and mention how frustrated I was getting with accents. Due to the nature of our trip - different city every day - I was having trouble understanding accents. I'd just get used to one and we'd move on to the next city. While in the bathrooms at McDonalds there was a mother and her child talking. I had this "aha" moment when I realized I could finally understand what they were saying with no problem and that they had no accent. I minute later I realized they were speaking French. Sadly, I appear to operate better in a foreign country in my second language than my first!

Then we went off in search of food. We had gotten a little spoiled on our other stops. Since we were traveling after peak tourist season we had pretty much everything to ourselves. Oxford, being a college town, was completely packed. It was hard to find a table and even harder to find a table not located next to a chain smoker. We eventually found a french sandwich shop and had lunch while Stork studiesd the C.S. Lewis spots in town.

The afternoon was spent checking out his favorite pubs, walking spots, college, the apartment where he lived and some other key spots around the town. Throughout the time the weather went from pouring rain to drizzle to bright sunlight. My umbrella went up and down and up and down all day. It was hard to take pictures with the light changing every few minutes. I got a great picture of Stork with his sunglasses tucked in his shirt (close at hand) and his umbrella up.

I got to see the Oxford version of the Bridge of Sighs (and we even walked under it after a small temper tantrum by me), the punting boats on the river, Magalen College and lots of other postcard worthy spots.

Before we left we stopped at a place called Yates for dinner. I was super tired, so I didn't analyze things too much when we went in. I ordered scampi (which isn't like our scampi) and Stork ordered bangers and mash (which turned out to be like the sausage from my home region). However, as we were eating, we realized this was also like a nightclub. And then we realized there were little podiums with poles on them. Hmmmm... Even more interesting, one of those podiums had a high chair on it. Talk about mixed messages!

We retreived our luggage, caught a train and finally got to West Drayton (where we were staying outside of London). This time we didn't have too much trouble with directions.

Next - the big day in London.


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