Monday, July 28, 2014

Farewell London, hello Oxfordshire

Unlike when I arrived in London, I had my exit strategy all worked out. Well, mostly. But I knew the most important part, which is that I needed to walk to Charing Cross station and catch the tube to London Paddington, where I would purchase a train ticket to Oxford.

That's where it got a little complicated; there are a number of routes that stop at Oxford, and I wasn't sure which one I wanted. So, I started towards the ticket & information booth, only to see a very long queue. Well, I wasn't having any of that; I went to the self-serve ticket machine and pressed the button to start the process; lo and behold that Oxford, being a common destination, appeared on the left-hand side in the column 'common destinations'. So, I pressed that, selected a single adult one-way ticket for the train departing at 10.22 (it was about 10.15 at this point) on the Hereford line and it kindly (after charging nearly £30 for the privilege; I was a bit shocked by that) spat it out the chute at the bottom.

It didn't say which platform, though - concerned, I looked around and saw that such information was on monitors all over the place, and one was telling me that 10.22 departing on the Hereford line was boarding on platform 2, so off I went.

These trains go pretty damn fast, so once we left the station we were fairly belting along. On the way to Oxford we went through Slough (where the original series of The Office is set, and which is the butt of many jokes in the UK) and Reading before, after about an hour, rolling into Oxford.

I got off and wandered the few hundred metres from the train station to the rental car place where I picked up my light blue Vauxhall Corsa. I was a little bit disappointed by this; I had hoped for the Renault Clio they gave as an example of the car in the class that I'd opted for - but they did also say 'or similar', so I couldn't be too upset.

Anyway, it looks like this:

I couldn't check into the B&B I was staying for a couple of hours, so I decided I'd drive around for a while and check out the famous Uffington White Horse. This involved driving on some very narrow roads - I had been warned about this, but probably wasn't quite mentally prepared for it - and some very pretty scenery; I got very excited the first time I went under an interlaced tree canopy that shaded the entire road.

Some photos from White Horse, including the skyline (from a not especially good angle), a bee (bees here look different from how they do back in Australia) and what might be a thistle. Oh, and ivy-covered trees, which I though looked impressive at the time. Now I've seen about a gazillion of them, I'm less fascinated.

By then it was time to check in to the B&B, which I did; my first move after that was to do some laundry, and my hostess said there was one not terribly far away so I packed my dirty clothes into a bag and started walking. Got there, found that it would cost me £6 for a load plus an unspecified amount for the dryer (all the signs told me was that it, too, only took £1 coints; this was a problem as I only had seven £1 coins - so, I loaded all my stuff in, put in the detergent that I'd brought all the way from Australia with me (a smart move because of course the dispenser there was broken) and set it to running. While it did that I dashed down to the cafĂ© and bought a slice of rocky road and got another pound coin I could put in the dryer.

Sadly, £2 is not enough to dry a load of clothes properly, but I didn't have many other options at this point so I grabbed my stuff and went back to the B&B where I draped my still slightly damp clothes on whatever I could; fortunately, I had a cupboard with coathangers so my shirts were fine. But it had been quite warm in the UK, with that being forecast to continue, so it wasn't really a problem.

Then I wandered towards town - about a 20-minute walk; I'm sure it seemed closer when I was shopping around for accommodation - and starting taking it what an amazing place Oxford is. The first thing you have to remember about the university and I still recall being surprised whenever it was this was first explained to me ,years ago - is that it's a bunch of essentially independent teaching institutions united under a banner of 'Oxford University', i.e. you don't study 'at' Oxford, you study at your college, which is part of Oxford.

Eh, read about it here.The things to remember when you're a tourist here is that a) there are a lot of colleges and b) they're spread out all over the town of Oxford.

I went on what's called the 'ghost tour' - there are said to be ghosts in a few of the colleges, and there certainly is a long history of violent death here; apart from the feuds between the townsfolk and the students, Oxford was the home base of Charles I in the English civil war. Then you've got things like suicide and the usual kinds of murders that happen anywhere. The tour was okay, but it did give me the opportunity to take a few photos.

After all the walking I'd done I decided I deserved a break and so I caught a bus back to the B&B - easy enough to do since it was on the main road between Oxford and the nearby town of Abingdon; it's greatest claims to fame include being where MG cars were made for many years and for where being where the members of Radiohead met while going to school. Day over.

No comments:

Post a Comment