Woke up at a early 6:15am so I could have breakfast and get to the bus stop by 7am. Susie woke up as well, to make me a black tea (drastic switch from the expresso/lattes I have been having) but warm and welcomed!! Cereal… and she gave me a sandwhich, apple and a couple kitkat bars for lunch! J I know I am fully capable of making my own sandwich…but it was just really nice to be taken care of like that. Maybe I’m not as grown up as I hope. Maybe it’s something that happens when your in a foreign country for two months..maybe it’s a traveling alone feeling… who knows? Whatever the reason, I appreciated it a lot.
Oh! And Francois drove me to the bus stop that early as well! Forgot to get in on the opposite side of the car though.. had to be intentional in remembering that…
Two and a half hours later! Disembarked at the Embankment stop, so I could walk across the bridge to get a look at the city and get my bearings. (So I was told) It really did help, francois was kind and they were both full of tips and suggestions. Then approached the daunting subway/”Tube” system. (In London, it is The Tube…not the metro). One of the workers handed me another map, and once inside, another worker pointed me in the right direction. (thank you!!!) when I say point, I mean..point without gesturing and with full sentences! English language. Comfort level just spiked!
Well, after some wandering, a great deal of map scrutinizing, and a few directions… I was in the middle of a stare down with a map…determined that if I didn’t blink first it would be forced to surrender the information I was seeking.. when I kind lady asked if I needed help! (and I understood what she wasy saying!) She dragged me on a bus (the oyster metro pass lent to me worked on there. Oyster=magic for transportation) and told me when to get off and which road I would be on, which sides the museums would be located on (she even had me repeat! 2 right, 1 left)
Strolling down the road, the first one I came to was the Museum of Science. I had every intention of entering and exiting without out lingering too much.. Well. This place is like the Carnagie in Pittsburgh on steroids. There’s different levels, and different wings to each level, and different rooms and mamma mia! Kids everywhere!! Short, medium, screaming, running, carried, crying, families, school uniforms. Phewf! It was cool though, because then when I was eagerly leaning towards an exhibit, I was usually surrounded by a small pack, just as eagerly (if not more so) looking as well. There was the history and progress of machinery, with an old steam engine..explained and with a mini model. (including a special new technology, F1…Fast Forward. I don’t really know how (tho I eagerly read most of the captions), but it can be used for everything from knee replacements, car racing. I really started missing Pappy. Perhaps that why I investigated nearly each level and lingered a bit too long. I knew he would have enjoyed it. I could imagine him pointing out interesting things to me and staying behind to figure out the diagrams.
Kicking myself for staying so long I hustled next door to the Natural History Museum. History of the earth, layers of rock (fossils!)…natural disasters like volcanoes and earthquakes. Layed out so that the mass amounts of kids everywhere could understand it. But still interesting so that I could shamelessly look at everything as well.
Highlight: The floor with all the different sorts of rocks. By rocks I mean the sparkly kind too! Of this and such a mineral in a crystal, and that sort of composition making this pretty color. There were rainbows of colors in all types of crystals.( Including Kryptonite! )
Also, a human anatomy section. *bright eyes* and I KNEW WHAT THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT! Nervous, reproductive, muscular, skeletal. I got giddy that I could recognize the systems, remember names, follow charts. (look at the brain with the CNS down the spine still attached) Though I didn’t remember nearly everything, I did remember just enough to bounce away feeling like I knew a very small piece of something worthwhile.
Just when I thought I was done, I walked through these halls with bird species, and then fossils. Now, when I say fossils, I mean dino style it seemed. Crocodile sort of creatures that took up half the wall and whose bones loomed over my head. Holy tamoli. There was a Darwin area too..though I only sort of breezed through. Natural selection. Bird beaks.
Still one more museums that was recommended that I decided to hit with the hour I had remaining…Victoria and Albert Museum! Good thing I didn’t start there…but wish I could have stayed longer. There were artifacts from different countries. Sculptures, clothing, art. European, Middle Eastern, Oriental. I might have glanced through half. Maybe.
Hurried off to Victoria Coach station (beginning to love the metro system). Arrived in enough time to catch a bus to Oxford earlier then intended..but had to stand in line for a ticket..so nix that plan. Sadly, by the time I caught the next bus(3:00 or 15:00)…then got stuck in heavy traffic in two cities…I didn’t make it there until after 5. Oh well, plans rarely work out like they look on paper.
I practically lept off that bus I was so excited! I had printed off a map… but it was missing several key things. So I bought one of oxford at the info center and strode down the road. It was a shame that I would only get a few hours there, because it seemed like a really interesting and lovely place!! Then, off to my left there was the Eagle and Child J Along with a hanging wooden sign. I asked someone to take a picture of me in front of it. (could not convince myself to feel embarrassed by the waiter who walked out to see me grinning in front of the camera) I intended on just going in and getting something to drink and sitting in the corner. But realized I should probably get something on my stomach. So I ordered Fish and Chips with a “Green”-ness (Happy St. Patricks Day!) I didn’t even put on the cool, confident, single lady sitting to the side façade. I was SO JAZZED just to be there! So, to describe…
The front of the Eagle and Child is right on a mainstreet. Stepping inside, through a low doorway..there are a couple rooms of tables and chairs on the left and the right. Following the main passage down a few yards, the bar and where you order is on your right. Glance at menu and order there then get a good drink served on tap. Carrying drink, find a place to sit down! There are a couple rooms that go almost straight back. Some with tables, some with stools along the side where there’s a table top fixed to the wall. Some of these rooms also had more. I thought about quietly sitting in one of these corners. However. I was interested in The Rabbit Room. It is the first open room one comes to from the door, past the bar where one orders. There is a large fireplace on the farside as well. It is also WHERE THE INKLINGS MET!!!!!!!!! These men formed a literary group that met every Tuesday there at the Eagle and Child, and called themselves the Inklings. The basic idea of the group was to promote literature, fantasy and reading/writing. To think that in this shadowy room Tolkien could have read a chapter idea or song he had jotted down. Or C.S. Lewis may have presented a chapter in progress from Narnia. I sat in the corner closest to the next room directly next to the fireplace. The waiter handed me my delicious (hot!) food with a wink (me: still too glazed over and excited to bother registering the move and flirting back ) So I sat in the corner, scrawling away in my notebook, chowing down and imagining all sorts of fanciful conversations and characters. I did stand on tip toe to examine the framed papers above the fireplace. One was a letter of thanks or something written to the pub for letting them use the place. Another had all their signatures! I was very excited at how illegible their handwriting was.. simply because mine is as well. I suppose it is a sign of potential for brilliant things ;) A lot of the men were of high position in society (deans, professors etc) and therefore: I shall never again feel childlike in my imaginative little jottings!
Walking away with an accomplished and excited feeling bubbling inside of me…I set off back down the road. It was evening, and just getting dark. I was beginning to wonder what I would do for the little over an hour that I had until I had to catch the bus. I was intending on walking around a bit, but I didn’t want to wander far and get turned around, nor did I have any clue where wandering would be interesting. Oh. And the whole safety bit too (seeeee friends, I DO use my common sense. No need for concern!)
Standing outside a passageway with the iron decorated arch of the Black Friars (they are a big deal here it seems. A whole metro stop named after them). I was just walking away when this short lady came bustling up towards the door. Her shopping bags were swinging, and her curls were bouncing, and out of breath from running. She called out that I can come inside if I like! Mass is just starting! I declined... I am not catholic, nor was I all the keen on spending my time in yet another church while finally here in Oxford. (Along with the fact that I had a bus to catch She insisted, it is only a half an hour long. Anyone is welcome! (yikes, I should think with my face less or something) was it her persistence and enthusiasm that encouraged me? Was it the lack of any other direction for the evening? Was it the st. patty’s day celebrators that I had just passed on the street?? Whatever the reason, I decided why not!
And attended my very first Catholic mass!
Crossing herself when we walked in (I just sort of bowed my head) then kneeling before turning into the row of seats ( I did a little bend at the knee) and sitting all but 3 rows from the front, right in the center! *arrows and signs over head all screaming, “out of place!”
The church itself was plain, but lovely. With a very high ceiling that arched overhead. In the front on a step up, the priests and…black robed brothers (monks? Friars? Terminology!) sat on the pews along the sides.
I followed along like a pro. I knew next to none of the words, but my lips were moving with words in pretty good sync. Plus my friend next to me would point out where we were at. The sermon was actually really good..on st. Patrick getting rid of all the snakes. The priest/guy in the different robe leading had a good sense of humor and presented it in a way that was applicable to life. ( I liked him a little more when he mentioned how even the church and leaders are not free of “snakes”, because of all the issues back home in the states. Because he didn’t just ignore it and act like the church is all perfect)
The liturgy was sung in monotone… or, well I don’t know what style but with only a half step or step up or down a few times in the straight line. Our voices melded together and floated to the ceiling before echoing about the open spaces. It was lovely.
Panicked a little bit when we went to go take communion. But when I told her I wasn’t catholic she taught me the defensive pose of having my arms crossed over my chest (left over right??) for when I approach the alter so I could receive the priest’s blessing. It was pretty awesome.
(Sometimes I get unexplainably angry or frustrated at such church rituals and protocals. But the whole time I spent in that church, for the first time completely surrounded by such things..I was void of any anger or inner annoyance. I was able to appreciate those things and let them be a comfort that I could exist inside.) The whole time we prayed and such, I kept my hands clasp or on the seat in front of me and just simply thanked God for having me be where I was, and asking Him to help me understand and learn or whatever I am supposed to from being there that evening.
Stayed a little longer for the singing afterwards. Call and response following the same notes that rarely changed. It really was beautiful to be there.
Afterwards I got to talk to the lady who had led me inside. She told me she had thought I was catholic, for I had seemed really pious.We talked some, where we were from what we were doing (she was dressed in all white for the area of the church of which she is studying) She also told me at first she thought I was French ! (because of my “visage”…direct quote) We walked towards the bus stop, talking back and forth. Her rapid chatter was kind and very friendly, I really enjoyed listening to her.
I know I just spent a lot of time with a strung out description that is leaving you skimming over the “main points”. But forgive. It just seems significant, at least at the time. Maybe it’s a side effect from traveling alone…
Stopped at the Eurobar…just to walk through. It was on the corner, right by the bus stop. Apparently it was the inspiration for Tolkien’s design of the Prancing Pony. Not how I pictured it..but when I paused to take a good look, imagining the beloved characters from within the dimensions Tolkien wrote them.
Caught the last bus out of Oxford to Cambridge (three hour bus ride part three)….And was picked up at the bus stop by francois again J I am so blessed by wonderfully nice people.
Flopped into that wonderful, warm, big double bed at the end of the day.