Adventure: Oxford

                                                                                             All Souls College, Oxford

                                                                                             All Souls College, Oxford

All that is gold does not glitter,

Not all those who wander are lost. 

The old that is strong does not wither,

deep roots are not touched by frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,

A light from the shadows shall spring;

Renewed shall be the blade that was broken,

The crownless shall again be King.

J.R.R. Tolkien

Really slacking on the weekend posts here...figured I would do better than last time and post before this weekend is over about our trip last weekend to Oxford...

In short...It was a blast! Here is my journal post for class about the weekend:

Oxford is a place that I have been interested in for a long time. In middle school I had aspirations of going either there or Cambridge for university. Obviously, there is the element of their prestige, but I think what more fascinates and attracts me to Oxbridge is the depth and history of the pursuit of knowledge that has taken place there. It baffles me to think of all of the discoveries that have been made, all of the books that have been written, all of the inspiration that has occurred there. Not to mention that the communities of the colleges, and the greater community of the town and university seemed very cool. I didn’t realize how deeply invested Tolkien and Lewis were in these communities until a few years ago when I started learning more about their personal lives. I loved our Inkling’s tour because not only did I love becoming acquainted with the town and university, but I also loved seeing the places where Tolkien and Lewis lived and worked.  Being there was like going to Giverny and seeing Monet’s gardens, something that is also on my bucket list. Oxford was obviously a place that deeply affected them both, and a place where they found inspiration—both in places and people. It is amazing that a place exists where it is semi-normal for a group of men to get together once a week and discuss their fantastical writing.

During our free time I explored Blackwells for a good hour…and that was speeding. At home, when I am grumpy, sad, or just bored I have been known to drive to the nearest bookstore and just peruse for a while. Never fails to make me feel better. It is when I am standing between shelves of books that I find my happy place, or one of them at least. Therefore, being in Blackwells bordered on euphoric. I don’t think I need to say more.

After Blackwells we explored a bit, and then Ali and I settled into a really neat café/bar/restaurant coffee shop for some coffee and reading time. Although some people may think that it’s a shame we sat inside for an hour reading when we could have been exploring, I actually felt like I was really experiencing authentic Oxford…tucked in a corner of a cool coffee shop, surrounded by people hard at work, doing my own reading, while enjoying a delicious cream tea with a bowl of fresh strawberries. It was divine.

I have to say, my favorite part of the whole weekend was visiting the Kilns. It was so close to how I pictured it! I thought that our tour was great, and I loved hearing the anecdotes about Jack’s daily life, as well as his companions. It was surreal to stand in the room where he wrote some of his greatest works, to look out the window where he gazed as he thought about Narnia or about grace.  Lewis’s theological (I know Tolkien would probably object to his works being classified as theological, but I don’t) works have had a profound influence not only on my faith, but also on the people who helped to shape my faith. Learning that there is a community of people who still live in his house and discuss Christianity and faith was very moving for me. Honestly, going to the Kilns almost felt like a pilgrimage of sorts. Knowing that this was a place where C.S. Lewis encountered God frequently and vividly made it feel holy.  I won’t be quick to forget our time there, and I hope that I can someday go back to the Kilns, and maybe even spend some time there.

                                                                                    Lovely roses outside Lewis's house...

                                                                                    Lovely roses outside Lewis's house...


We spent two friday and saturday in Oxford. We toured all over the town, and had private tours of the

Bodleian library , as well as  C.S. Lewis's house, The Kilns (which is now a very cool christian study center).

                                     The Bodleian Library

                                     The Bodleian Library

We also visited Tolkien's house, his grave, Lewis's grave, and the church where Lewis worshiped. Incredible. I may or may not have recited the poem by Tolkien at the beginning of this post by memory. All you FOCUS kids holla at me. 

C.S. Lewis's Church

C.S. Lewis's Church

                                            C.S. Lewis's Grave

                                            C.S. Lewis's Grave

                                                The Kilns

                                                The Kilns

                                                                                                       Tolkien's Grave

                                                                                                       Tolkien's Grave


Blackwells is the insanely huge and amazing bookstore based in Oxford. On friday we had lunch at the Eagle and Child, which is where Tolkien and Lewis met with their literary group, The Inklings, every tuesday to share and critique each other's work. They called it "the bird and the baby."

That night after dinner we went to a great (and tiny! and hidden!) pub called the Turf, a 13th c. ale house, recommended by JR Richey.

That last one is for you, Dad! xoxo

Bath: First Day of School!

"Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker."

J.R.R. Tolkien, On Fairy-Stories

While J.R. Richey was catching wild brown trout Ireland, I was over here in Bath having my first day of classes. Yesterday was a pretty boring day, standard orientation, so I was super excited to dive into my courses.

Bath Abbey

I am taking two courses here in Bath, one on Jane Austen (who lived here for at time), and one on Anglo-American Fantasy, focusing on Tolkien and Lewis. I came here specifically for the latter course, I felt I couldn't pass it up, but I am pumped to revisit Jane as well. LOVE her!

I started out the morning with my Austen class at 9:30. My tutor (Brit for teacher/prof) seems fantastic, she is about to start a fellowship at Christ Church at Oxford. She has been teaching at Oxford for a while, but she has been coming to ASE in the summer to teach this course for a few years.  She is young and bright, and also quite brilliant I think, as she already has her PhD. Very excited to look at Jane with her. We are starting with Northanger Abbey, moving onto

Pride and Prejudice, followed by Emma, and then Persuasion. 

Bath features prominently in both Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion,  and it is so neat to be able to recognize some of the places that she mentions, such as the pumprooms, and Milsom St, which I have walked along every day!

At 2:30 I had Tolkien class, which was great. As some people may know, both Tolkien and Lewis were great men of faith,  which is very evident in their writing. It would be, in my opinion, an incomplete reading not to address this when studying their work, but many people gloss over it, especially when studying Middle-Earth. (Lewis's allegory in Narnia is so wonderfully overt that it is hard to ignore.) I was unsure how this was going to be treated in this course, and so was very pleased when my professor decided to tackle this head on by asking us each to share a little bit about our religious background and what we believe. This may not look intense on paper, but in person it was aggressive and bold, but essential.

It was interesting hearing where everyone was coming from, and what they believe. It helped me to understand everyone so better, including my professor, and was also a cool opportunity for me to share my belief in the Gospel and the J-man. I wasn't alone in that either, which was also a wonderful discovery! The discussion left us in a great place where we know where each person is coming from, and can reflect on Tolkien and Lewis's work respectfully, but also honestly, because we had already shared our personal beliefs.

After class I read for a few hours. ( I will be reading for the next million years...aside from the 10 books we are studying in the next 5 weeks, my professors also gave us about 400 more pages of supplementary reading today...dang. The nerd in me has to admit that I love it though... and I already ready 7 out of 10 books.) After that we all headed to a cocktail reception with the whole program, including professors, in one of the art museums in the city, called the Victoria Art Gallery. Drinking wine with our professors was a bit weird at first, but we got used to it! Everyone mingled, and it was so great to get the opportunity to get to know each other on an informal and social level. After a bit, the director of ASE,  Jonathan Hope, invited us all out to the pub! Everyone went to the "afterparty" at the Pig and Fiddle, a great local pub in Bath. After oneCrabbies (current fave) and some lovely chats with my professors, I called it a night, and headed home to bed and two brand new pillows...cozy!

Hope all is well across the Irish and Atlantic Seas!



ps. Lots of fun stuff coming up, including a "tour of flirtation" for Jane, and trips to Cornwall, Oxford, and Manchester! eeek :-) pumped.

                                               Oops! Ali and I wore opposite but matchy outfits...including our gold shoes!

                                               Oops! Ali and I wore opposite but matchy outfits...including our gold shoes!

Oops! Ali and I wore opposite outfits...including our gold shoes!

Bath: And So It Begins!

"Now they rode away amid songs of farewell and good speed, with their hearts ready for more adventure.."

Tolkien, The Hobbit

Not much to report today other than that John and I parted ways for the next five weeks. Our trip so far has been amazing...We had fun talking the past few days about the things we have learned about each other that we didn't know before. We have traveled a fair amount together in the past few years, but usually to visit family, go to weddings, head to the Vineyard or Vermont, or with our families, and so this was our first trip overseas, alone. As i was telling my best friend Emily, there is something to planning and going on such a big trip all on your own, with so much to see, that really reveals stuff about each other that you never knew. She sagely replied that that is actually really nice and oddly reassuring, because it would be depressing and boring if your already felt like you knew everything there was to know about someone. Too true!

It was sad, but I am so excited for his next leg, Ireland, and I am ready and excited to start my program here in Bath. This morning I packed up my stuff and met up with my roommate, Alison, who got here yesterday. We had a yummy brunch at Sally Luns, and then headed to our program office, where we were led to our house, called Linley house, right across the street. We lucked out with location, there are eight of us in this house and everyone else is 15 minutes away outside of the city center. We are right smack dab in it! Our house was built in the 1700s by John Wood, the man who also designed the famous Bath Crescent, as well as the circus. It's very neat and old, and our room is quite spacious! There are 3 other double rooms, two kitchens, a class room in the basement, 2 bathrooms, a dining room, and a living room. We are on the third floor, right next to the showers, score. Oddly enough the bathroom is on the 4th floor, all alone, so you feel like you are climbing up a turret to the toilet!

After we settled in we did a little walking around and window shopping. Bath is actually known as one of the premier shopping places in the UK (dangerous) so there are many beautiful stores and neat boutiques. We then grabbed some lunch and headed back to our house to meet our housemates, who all seem great, and have a small meeting. Then we settled down to reading Tolkien's essay On Fairy-Stories.

Let summer school begin!

Pretty low key night as it seems everyone else is fighting jetlag. We grabbed dinner and drinks w our friend Ali, who is also on the program and then headed back to our house. We have orientation all day tomorrow with the programs.

Word is Johnboy made it to Ireland, though there may have been a glitch w his hotel. Hoping he is currently sleeping somewhere other than a ditch right now. Good news-- he will hopefully continue blogging from Ireland, so we will all know soon enough how he has fared!

Weather was gorgeous today in Bath, all sun and no clouds. Huzzah!


Emily (Sans JB. Sad)

Paris: Day 1 en Paris

Hello everyone! Here marks the very first post of our blog which will chronicle our trip to Paris, London, and Bath, and then hopefully my stay in Bath and beyond! Who knows...maybe this will be a thing. We shall see. At the very least, I hope that this helps our family and friends keep up with John and I as we travel in the next few days.

First... a little about our trip! I am graduating this fall from the University of Mary Washington and was given the opportunity to apply for a program studying J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and early Anglo-American fantasy in general at the University of Bath this summer. I jumped at this, of course, because (nerd alert) Anglo-American fantasy is a passion of mine, and I have long been fascinated by the work, lives, friendship, and faith of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. I will be spending 5 weeks in Bath, starting June 8th, with other students from Mary Wash, taking that course and then also taking a course at the university on Jane Austen. Yay! Jane! She is also an old friend, and I am beyond excited to dive into her work in the city where she lived and wrote!

Ensign John R. Richey just graduated from Annapolis last friday, and has a month of leave. (I'm sorry Johnboy, ill never refer to you like that again in this forum, it just really hasn't gotten old yet. So proud.) This is the longest time that he will have off for quite a while so we decided why not go over to Europe and celebrate our engagement, his graduation, and my trip with a little adventure of our own.

And so  that is how we ended up here, en Paris.  What a lovely, lovely idea.

And so, without further ado, our first day...

Le Premier Jour à Paris

We left Boston at 6:15 pm last night flying Aer Lingus, through Dublin. Freebie for international travelers coming from Boston to Dublin-If you get to the airport very early and are hungry eat at the restaurant right next to the line for security. When you finish your meal they will give you a fast track through security so that you don't have to wait in line! Who knew?!

We had a quick breakfast in Dublin and then jumped on our plane to Paris and arrived around 9:30. Neither of us really slept on the first flight as I was readingThe Hobbit for class, and John was watching Zero Dark Thirty.

We napped on the second flight, but before we knew it we had touched down in Paris! As soon as we cleared customs and got our bags we hopped on the Roissybus from CDG to L'Opera, which is near our hotel. We decided at dinner tonight that we would definitely recommend this to anyone wondering how to get from the airport to where they are staying Paris. A cab would have cost us about 45 Euro, and the bus was 20 Euro for both of us. Yes, it was crowded, but we were so tired from the red eye that it didn't really matter. 35 minutes later we arrived in L'Opera, jumped off the bus and pulled out our map. We are staying at Hotel Langlois in the 9th. It took about 20 minutes to find, but most of that was probably due to the fact that we were functioning on zero sleep, in other words not functioning at all.

After brief naps, we headed out to walk off our flights. And walk we did! We left the hotel around 2:00 pm and did not get back until 7:30!! We walked from down Rue Lazare, down past Les Grands Magasins et La Madeleine on Rue Tronchet, down Rue Royale, all through the Tuileries, until we reached the bank of the Seine. We were thrilled to discover a Flower show and garden exhibition at L'Orangerie, which we explored for quite a while.

After that we walked to the Louvre, and down Rue Ravioli, where we stopped for a late afternoon glass of wine and some people watching. We took notes on French style and mostly came up with this: black! Oh!! A pop of Red! More black...gray...camel...and more black! That being said, I have to admit I am very drawn to Parisien style, and I am storing away mental pictures. Eventually we walked back up Rue Montmartre and then made our way back to Hotel Langlois.

John napped for 45 while I did some research, and then we headed to dinner at a brasserie around the corner called Bistro Des Deux Théâtres, which we would HIGHLY recommend. They have a prix fix menu of an aperatif, three courses, coffee or tea, and a bottle of wine for a great price, and the food was wonderful. I had an amazing appetizer of artichoke hearts marinated in honey mustard with smoked salmon and a poached egg on top, and then a delicious rack of roasted lamb. John got escargot, and then roasted Duck, which he thought was to die for. (I cant stand the sight of duck since my Italian cousin offered me raw duck bacon which I couldn't refuse seeing as I was 14 and he was 80, and we had only just met...eek) For desert we had crepes and a vanilla custard flan type pastry, but I can't remember it's name...woops!

All in all a fabulous first day! We are weary from travel, but the walk did us so much good, as did our wonderful. Not to mention the fact that Paris is lovely and green and, well...Paris! We are blessed to be here, to say the least.

Please excuse my rushed entry, I can hardly keep my eyes open. Also, we have more pictures to share from the day but right now I cant get my charger to work with the adapter and my comp is about to die so we will have to post those tomorrow. Je suis tres désolee.

Tomorrow-- Versaille. Stay tuned. I am beyond excited.

Bon soir, mes amies. Nous vous aimons beaucoup.

Emily & John