(Old) While In the Merry Month of May: Day One (Oxford)

(Originally posted on May 10, 2012)

This morning I arose early and took a cold and slightly rainy walk to the train station. It was a fairly uneventful (though crowded) ride to Gatwick Airport. I found the arrivals, checked the list of flights, and saw that there was a Dublin and Barcelona flight before Mary Cate’s Orlando plane. While I waited for her, I kept watching the people came out and trying to guess if they were American, Irish, British or Spanish… Happily Mary Cate arrived before I grew too desperate.

Hugs and hellos! Then it was off to the train station. We got our tickets, waited a bit, then went to the platform. This was amusing to me because Mary Cate (who was severely jet lagged) tried to stuff her train ticket into the slot it should have come out from. But we did make it to our train in good time, and had a peaceful ride back to Reading. We discussed the crazy Berry drama I’d missed, and cooed at the wee lambs in the fields along the way.

After arriving in Reading, we ran up to drop off Mary Cate’s luggage. Then it was back to the station and on to Oxford! I’ve been to Oxford before, back during Project Petticoat. However, for the longest time I recognized absolutely nothing we were walking past. At last we found Tourist Information, and I grabbed a map and double checked where the Eagle and Child should be. Mary Cate was a real sport, since at this point she was starving to death as well as jet lagged. It was also raining and windy, so typical England but not the funnest first day weather.

We found the Eagle and Child shortly thereafter. It was very quiet and peaceful. I had fish and chips, which honestly was one of the best fish and chips I’ve had here. It was wonderful being back in that nostalgic place. After drying off and warming up, we set out again.

We stopped in Blackwell’s, which did not disappoint. I ran all up and down the various floors, unintentionally losing Mary Cate (who had no idea how big it was). There was much hemming and hawing and books I longed for but could never afford (The Annotated Pride and Prejudice, the new illustrated Sense and Sensibility, an edition of The Hobbit which included an unpublished manuscript version). There was a lack of mythology (other than Greek and Roman), which made me sad. I eventually ended up with a humorous Roman history book, which I plan to read and then possibly give to my brother.

From there we went to the Bodleian Library. I hadn’t seen this the last time I was here. Better yet, they had an exhibit called “The Romance of the Middle Ages.” Count me in!

This started with a page from The Two Towers manuscript, with illustration by Tolkien. I pretty much got as close to that page as I could get without setting off the alarms. Mary Cate can testify.

But it got even more awesome. Among many, many, many freaking amazing medieval manuscripts, there was C.S. Lewis’ copy of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, with notes and illustrations scrawled in the margins. There was the earliest copy of Malory’s Morte d’Arthur. The Arthurian collection covered a lot of Tristan and Isolde, Lancelot and the Grail quest. … It was like my Medieval Lit class, except all in the original!

There was also the earliest edition of Havelok the Dane, which I gaped at and giggled over. It was so awesome to see the original of a story I’ve been researching all semester.

Basically: Awesome.

We didn’t end up going in the library itself (though I’m hoping to take my mom). We made a pit stop in the shop, which may have been a mistake. However, I got a beautiful print of an illustration from The Hobbit, so I’m not complaining.

After that, we wandered our way slowly back to the train station. When I first came to Oxford, I was really disappointed in it. It just didn’t feel like it lived up to the hype. Instead it felt busy and dirty and shoppy. But this time, I really did love it. I think maybe part of my disappointment last time was because I wasn’t familiar with European cities. Or maybe I wasn’t as hyped up as I was before. Either way, I’m really looking forward to going again.

Mary Cate and I returned to Reading, stopped to buy breakfast and a pillow, had dinner with some other study abroad students in the dining hall, and then retreated to my room for some well deserved rest.

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