Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Oxford First Glimpses, Part 1

Magdalen College Tower through the cloisters | Postcard by Chris Andrews Publications Ltd.

Our trip to Oxford and London -- a thrilling birthday present of a lifetime -- is now a cherished part of history. What a cache of happy memories, photos, and carefully selected mementos we squirrelled into suitcases for homeward travels. When my friend Matty asked, on our return, if the trip was all we had dreamt and more, I happily told her it really was 'and more'.

In trying to decide how to write this these posts, I thought let's give you the first glimpses of our first day ... and we'll go on from there.

After a long and (thankfully) uneventful flight over the pond and a pleasant bus trip through the English countryside, we found ourselves in front of No. 14 Holywell B & B. It was to be our home away from home for the next few days. And what a lovely 'home' it turned out to be.

Carrie, our lovely hostess, knew I wanted to see Oxford in the springtime aka that time when daffodils bloom wildly everywhere, and there by her front door she had created a sprightly collection of the spring blossoms in her garden pots. They were beautiful!

As it turns out, many fields of daffodils, being the early bloomers they are, were already spent, but there were still so many pockets around the town and countryside to satisfy the dreamer girl inside. Like the poet himself, I would be able to wander (not) lonely as a cloud ... to catch the hosts of golden daffodils beside the lake, beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze. And if you haven't heard Jeremy Irons recite this favourite Wordsworth poem, you'll find him here.

"Little acts of kindness that we render to each other in everyday life,
are like flowers by the way-side to the traveller;
they serve to gladden the heart and relieve the tedium of life's journey."
Eunice Bathrick

Then we got to meet Jack. Darling Jack! I can see why Carrie and her husband, Stuart, are in love with this little fellow. He's quite a character and a real dear-heart. I think he knows how to talk human, especially when he looks into your eyes with his dark brown eyes. And he certainly knows all about the in's and out's of B&B hospitality.

When we first came into the dark panelled breakfast room to get our room key and such, we could hear him making little noises off in the other room, and it wasn't until I mentioned "Can we meet Jack" that he made serious woofles. Carrie says, "Oh yes, he's waiting in the kitchen to meet you."

At first Rick thought she said, "He's reading in the kitchen." Which on second thought, Rick figured, okay, he's an Oxford dog. Ha ha.

Jack flew into the room, eager to see us -- tail in full swing and a face all happy to meet his new guests. Sweet, gentle, polite ... and sometimes just plain silly and fun.

We had a room with a view. Peering from our window out onto Holywell Street, we could see it was busy with people on foot or whizzing by on bicycles; there was no thoroughfare for vehicles. Lest you think it safe then to walk in the middle of the street, you best think again and stick to the sidewalk; those seeming benign bicycles from another era could take you down in a pedal-beat.

Across the street loomed the beautiful, centuries old New College. Founded in 1379, it is one of the 38 constituent colleges of the University of Oxford. According to the college visitor's guide, "New College, or 'the College of St Mary of Winchester in Oxford', is the second Oxford college to be named after St Mary Winton, which is why the College has been known as New College from early days."

As we visited the various colleges during our visit, it was a lot of fun to learn of the notable alumni from each college. From New College, you might be interested to know actor Hugh Grant is one, as is Lucy Worsley (English historian and a presenter of BBC television series on historical topics which show up on PBS sometimes); John Galsworthy (novelist of The Forsyte Saga); and Susan Rice (US Ambassador to the United Nations).

New College on Holywell Street

Holywell Street is a wonderful old street with so much variety in architecture and style -- all on one street. Well known as a spot for filming one television show or another, Carrie has a delightful post in which she shares the delightful scoop here (in case you missed the link in my last post).

Our first evening, we had supper at a happening pub just up the street from the B&B. The very old Turf Tavern was a place where Morse and Lewis would stop off for a pint after a hard day's sleuthing. In case you don't know Morse and Lewis, they are the fictional characters in the series of detective novels by British author Colin Dexter, which were turned into a long-running television series some years ago.

We got to chatting to an older fellow one evening who told us all about it. He got to be an 'extra' in one of the episodes, and from his countenance, I think the experience was a highlight of his life. He probably could have told us stories all evening long over a pint or two. Maybe we missed an opportunity to hear more of his Oxford stories by not just settling in, but we wanted to see a bit of the city as evening fell.
Holywell Cemetery
After supper we took an amble down the street and around the corner to visit Holywell Cemetery. A lovely old place to stroll through. The air was bracing and I was glad for the scarf round my neck, but still it seemed perfect for an evening in Spring. One of Oxford's hidden gems, the cemetery is the burial spots for some of the city's well known personages, but most well known to me was author Kenneth Grahame.

For anyone who loves Grahame's Wind in the Willows with his beloved characters Ratty, Mole, Badger, and Toad of Toad Hall--or perhaps you're one who is partial to the weasels because they really are funny--you'll understand the pleasure I had to come across a name I recognized. It was hard to make out all the words and letters, but if you peer hard, you can just make out his name on the grey stone below.

The cemetery is now a wildlife refuge for many birds and butterflies, as well as small and larger mammals, including deer and foxes. I hear tell Jack likes to take his mom for a walk through there so that he can sniff out who's been to visit during the day. You know, keep a doggie eye on things in the neighbourhood.

And so that is a peek of our first day. There is so much more to tell and show you, but your cup of tea must be getting cold by now. I'll stop for today and start working on the next post, so it should be up in a day or so.

Next time I'll show you what we had for breakfast here at Holywell B&B. And some pics of those dreaming spires for which Oxford is so famous, not to mention a few of the books we bought at Blackwell's. We got right to shopping that first day and in a bookstore. Perfect way to start, I said.

Wishing you a beautiful rest of the day,



  1. You've already gone and returned? Amazing. I am very happy that you saw Oxford in springtime. I hope that it was as Narnia magical as you had imagined. Had to chuckle at Jack the dog in Oxford who might have been reading in the kitchen. Sounds like a delightful children's book!

  2. We've all looked forward to your travel photos...a glimpse of the places you saw. How nice that you remembered to get a few of yourself along the way. I know it's hard to know what to take photos of. Looks like this first day was beautiful with Spring flowers blooming to greet you! Welcome home! Hugs, Diane

  3. Ahhh... I need to go back and reread this post again!!!
    I'll be back after I have taken in your beautiful pictures, and your storytelling adventures!
    Glad to have you back!!!

  4. I enjoyed seeing the photos on Facebook, but this commentary fills in much more detail. It's just lovely!

  5. How perfect. I'm so happy that you had such a lovely time. Oxford is a wonderful place to wander around, and you had a very nice BB!

  6. Oh, what a delightful post. It is a thrill to be allowed to tag along on this bountiful adventure.

    I love the Wordsworth poem, but had not heard the reading by Jeremy Irons. Thank you for sharing that! The Wind in the Willows is one of my favorites too. (I never read it as a child, but I've read it twice in adulthood.) What literary delights . . . and a book store to boot! :)

    Your home-away-from-home sounds wonderful too, including the "reading" Jack!

  7. Dear Brenda - I so enjoyed seeing Oxford through your eyes. Beautiful pics. As for Jack - he is adorable...I am sure he makes one feel even more at home at the B&B. Will be looking forward to your breakfast in the coming post. Have a super day. Hugs! P.S. I have a copy of The Wind in the Willows on my bookshelf - my home wouldn't be complete without it. :)!!

  8. That was enjoyable and informative - I'm interested to know if you bought any books in that first bookstore? It does seem proper to bring a book home from Oxford... My visit to England didn't allow for any time at all in Oxford, or even one bookstore!

  9. How lovely! I think I'd rather see Oxford in April than Paris, despite the well-known song! So it will be a blessing to read all about it and see your photos! I can already tell you've seen much more of Oxford than I did back in 2009 while en route from London to Bath.

  10. What a great first day! I didn't catch all your FB photos so I'm enjoying the blog post with the descriptives.

  11. How wonderful to see your photos and "be there" with you!

  12. You planned your trip so well!
    Love the B&B (even the name!),the room (with a view, no doubt), Jack, the darling dog, thoughtful Carrie the hostess, and of course all the daffodils! You couldn't have gotten a better home away from home.
    All your pictures are wonderful. I especially like the picture of your shadows, on the cobble street. What a fun evening mingling with the locals.
    This will be a trip you and Rick will remember!

  13. Oh Bren - this is a keeper, for me. I want to read and reread. I have so many favorites, the B&B, Jack, the magnificent architecture, the spring blooms and photos of you. There are simply no words to describe the happiness that radiates from your face. Indeed, one knows it was a magical time. Truly, "Glimpses of Heaven," for you.
    Wishing you glorious spring days - Hugs - Big Hugs!

  14. This is such a wonderful post, Brenda. I felt that I was right there with you. Big sign. And to find so many of my favorite things come to life. Wonderful.

  15. Oh, am loving this little 'tour' you are taking us on, Brenda! I felt like I was right there with you, walking up the steps to the B&B, meeting little Jack, sipping tea in the lovely room, walking through the cobblestone streets and peeking into the cemetery. You are a gal after my own heart....first stop - the bookstore! Looking forward to coming along on the rest of your journey! Love the Eunice Bathrick quote <3. xx Karen


To My Beautiful Readers,

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same. ~ Franz Peter Schubert

Thank you so much for leaving your 'footprint' here in my comment box. I do appreciate you taking a moment to share your thoughts today.

Brenda xo