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

Knutsford: Chez Taylors

This is a very belated post. So sorry...

Its been a great week and weekend, which I promise I will sum up in a post tomorrow. Right now I am excited to share about my adventures in the north!

The last time I saw the Taylors, two Thanksgivings ago before they moved. I showed this picture to Ollie and he gasped..."Me?!"

The last time I saw the Taylors, two Thanksgivings ago before they moved. I showed this picture to Ollie and he gasped..."Me?!"

Last friday I woke up, packed a bag, and jumped on a train up to Manchester to visit my dear friends, the Taylors! Dom, Anna, and their sweet kids Arabella and Ollie are so special to me, and one of the reasons I was so excited to do this program was because I knew that I may be able to pop up and visit them. I got to know Dom first as a student at FOCUS, when he was the area director in Boston. Over the course of a few summers on the vineyard I met, and quickly fell in love with, Anna and Arabella. Then over my year off after St. A's I interned for Dom at FOCUS Boston, which was the best. Needless to say, I was so sad to hear that they were moving back to the UK, (where they originate from), but I knew it was a fantastic opportunity. That was an amazing year both for me and for them, as Ollie came into the world. :-)

So last friday I jumped on the train and headed north. I had to take the train to Bristol (15 min) then transfer onto a bigger train. I got some great reading done on the train (working on Emma), transferred once more, then got on my last train. I was supposed to arrive in Macclesfield around noon but our conducter got wind that some dummies were playing in the tracks...we had to inch our way into the station. Seemed like ages, but I finally made it. Anna and the kiddies were there waiting, with a yummy sandwich to boot! The best. On our way Knutsford (technically a suburb, but really just an adorable English town outside Manchester) Anna pointed out all the sights including Dom's highschool, and some incredible English countryside. We drove to the local park, (another National Trust...can't rave enough about these properties) and played for a while on the swings. I am sure Johnboy will chuckle when he sees this, as Arabella has always been an avid swinger. In the playground sense. Obviously. Anyway, not much has changed!

                                                                                              Sweet Ollie and I.

                                                                                              Sweet Ollie and I.

That night we had a yummy dinner at a local pub. Great time to hang and catch up. The next day we got up and headed into Manchester to do a little city exploring, and execute an important shopping mission for some exciting upcoming weddings. That was a success, and it was really cool to see a bit of the city. I didn't know much about Manchester other than it is home to two of the biggest football teams in the country, and I expected it to be very industrial. I was very pleasantly surprised though! It is a very friendly city, not too huge and easily traversable. There is a great tram system, which the kiddies enjoyed, and over all it has a sort of Boston-ey vibe, versus more fast paced places like London or New York. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the area!

                                                                                     "Its a window Ollie!"

                                                                                     "Its a window Ollie!"

That afternoon we relaxed a bit and then Dom and I headed over to the Heath (Heathe?) w Arabella and Ollie for some frisbee/soccer/tig action. Tig as in Tag, of course. The heath is this gorgeous huge field of lush grass in the middle of town, and also ideally in the Taylor's front yard. After a nice little play we headed back, had some (delicious) dinner, and relaxed while watching The Voice.

The next day we went to Church, which was fantastic. It was so nice to be able to go to church because I havnt been since I have been here, and their church is great. And the sermon was about marriage! Its like they knew I was coming...After church I was seriously spoiled because Dom and Anna cooked up a huge, yummy, english breakfast for us! Mushrooms, tomatoes, beans, and all! It was SO good. We ate and I packed up my stuff and we said our goodbyes. The best part about was that it wasnt sad saying goodbye because I knew that I would see these guys in just a few weeks back in the States!

I had such a lovely weekend with the Taylors. It was amazing to see them and catch up, as they are so special to both John and I. They completely spoiled me with yummy food and good conversation, and I came back to Bath feeling so refreshed.

Things I got addicted to in Knutsford: Jammy dodgers, lemon-lime marmalade, Country Living Magazine. And the incredible truffles that I found two days later which some sneaky, wonderful person had snuck into my bag.

Love you guys :-)

Bath: Pleasure Gardens

Spent the morning in the beautiful Sydney Gardens here in Bath for Jane class, discussing the significance of pleasure gardens in Georgian England.  The gardens have been here since Austen lived here herself, in fact she lived right across the street from them, and wrote to her sister Cassandra that she was so thrilled about their new house because they could have breakfast in the gardens every day! At the time the gardens were a center for daytime pastimes, such as tea, hot air balloons (!), promenading, and all sorts of socializing. There was also a ball room and parties and concerts were frequently held there. There was even a pit for an orchestra! The gardens are still beautifully kept, and the river Avon runs right through them.

We also talked a ton about the significance of outside space and walking in Austen's novels, particularly Pride and Prejudice. I came to the conclusion that as most of Elizabeth and Darcy's significant moments happen outside, either during walks or in some sort of natural space, Austen uses the outdoors as liminal space. Those moments are transitional moments for their relationship, moments of realization and changing dynamics. Therefore, as good readers of Austen, we should be able to predict that when Darcy proposes to Lizzie in the drawing room initially, rather than some kind of outdoor liminal space, he will fail. Interestingly, the recent movie with Keira Knightley and Michael Macfadyen depicts that scene happening in a rotunda in a field, but that is not true to Austen's original portrayal in the book.

In other, probably not suprising, news--I have fallen in love (again) with Pride and Prejudice. Read almost the entire novel in a day yesterday...

Adventure: Cornwall

Hello! So sorry for the radio silence, I have been very busy here in the UK but have much to report.

Last week was great, lots and lots of reading. Classes are going well, but most of my week days have been devoted to reading and study, with a few hours a day outside exploring, sitting on the Crescent, or getting a quick run in.

One highlight of last week was dinner at the Saracen's Head Tavern, where Dickens himself dined and stayed. After that my friends Ali, Alison and I grabbed a few drinks at this gin and wine bar called the Canary, which I can highly recommend for a fun drink. I had a really nice damson gin and tonic. I am not a fan of gin usually, but I do love damson and sloe gin, both gins distilled with berries local to the UK, and semi-hard to find outside of the UK. Damsons are a bit like plums, which sloe berries are small red berries.

This weekend my whole program hopped on a bus friday morning and headed to Cornwall! I have never been to Cornwall, but have always been intrigued by it. We were not disappointed! Cornwall is a beautiful part of England, with a beautiful coast. It is also covered with hills and moors, sheep, cows, and wild ponies! Gorgeous..

It was a long drive so we broke it up with various excursions. On friday we stopped at the ancient ruins of Tintagel, which all you Arthurian experts with recognize as the alleged birth place of King Arthur. I love Arthurian legend, and was so excited to see the ruin. The little town itself was adorable, with pubs, cornish ice cream stores, and little souvenir shops, all atop a cliff overlooking the sea. When we got off the bus we hiked down to the ruins, had a quick lunch on one part of the cliff, with a nice view of the waterfall and Merlin's cave. After lunch we hiked up, up, up to the castle, and through the meadows around it. The views from the top were amazing, with miles of Cornish cliff coastline in view. Also, the water in Cornwall is as turquoise as the Caribbean. The cliff sides are adorned with hundreds of species of wild flowers, and they were all in full bloom. It was very windy, but also beautifully sunny, and it was great exercise hiking up and down the stone steps.

After exploring for a few hours we hopped back on the bus and headed to Coverack, the town where we were staying. Coverack is a quintessential tiny Cornish town on a hill, with a nice beach at the bottom. We moved into the hostel we were staying in, which was actually pretty nice, and then headed down to the (only) pub for a dinner of traditional Cornish pasties. They were actually seriously good! Loaded with veggies and steak. They say that pasties were created for the coal miners in Cornwall to eat with their dirty hands--they would grip the pasty by the crust and eat it from the top, and then discard the dirty crust when they are done. Pretty smart!

The next day we hiked the Lizard, which is the southern-most tip of England. It is known for its dicy weather and dramatic views, but we lucked out weather-wise, thank goodness. Apparently last year it was windy and rainy and generally miserable. We, on the other hand, had a great guide and a great time! Our guide told us all kinds of interesting Lore about Cornwall and the Lizard in general as we walked the 4 miles on the edge of the huge cliffs. The moors on top of the cliffs, which we traversed, boast the most endangered plant species in the UK, mostly wild flowers, and everything was in full bloom. It was sublime. There were incredible succulents hanging over the cliffs, and all sorts of other beautiful and colorful flowers. Not to mention the vibrant blue of the ocean beneath us. Our guide told us this was the premier "box of chocolates" view that England had to offer, and I cant say that I disagree. Spectacular.

After our hike we spent the afternoon in the town of St. Ives, a lovely beach town. It is much larger than Coverack, and it was cool to explore and grab some lunch. There is a large surfing community and surf school there, and it was fun to see all the Brits enjoying the beach in all their pale glory ;-)

Jokes...I cant say I am the most tan at the moment either.

                                                           This one is for Emily Bartlett-Cats in other countries...

                                                           This one is for Emily Bartlett-Cats in other countries...

That night we had a bbq at a local organic farm near Coverack, which was so neat. On our way our road was blocked by three adorably scruffy wild ponies, who eventually trotted down the road out of our way.  There was a lot of bonding going on all weekend, but that night definitely cemented our group and broke down any barriers that existed before. Its not a large program, I think there are 50 of us, and over the course of the weekend we all got to hang and get to know each other a lot better, teachers included. One warning to note: beware the Cornish cider. 

Yesterday our long drive was  broken up by a stop at the historic estate of Nightshayes, in Deven. Kept up by the National Trust, Nightshayes is a beautiful old victorian estate, dating from the 1800's. It was privately owned until 1972, and then was handed over to the National Trust. It has been beautifully preserved with all the original decorating, and we walked all over the house admiring the Georgian and Victorian interiors. It was all beautiful, but the ceilings were particularly cool with amazing molding, engraving, and painting.

We got back to Bath around 6:00, exhausted but happy. It was so nice to be outside all weekend in such a dramatically beautiful place. We truly got to experience the flavor of Cornwall, which is definitely different than Bath. I would love to go back some time and see more :-)

Busy week this week, few papers and presentations. Ill try to be a little more consistent with posts, but I cant make any promises.



ps. please forgive all the photos--I love the minutiae...