This is England – Day 3

The third day of our travels have been blogged by Becks which you can read here – – http://www.happyrambling.com/this-is-england-blog I’ve also included a copy of it below!

Day 3 – Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, City of London
Written by Rebecca Morgans

Arriving late into Oxford, and walking the necessary 15 minutes across town from the car park to our lodgings, tired and laden with bags was worth it. Not only does The Tower House and Turl Street Kitchen provide a comfortable room and delicious locally sourced food, they are a social business that supports The Oxford Hub. And it is located right next to the quads of Oxford University allowing an early start exploring!

Oxfordshire

“In spite of the roaring of the young lions at the Union, and the screaming of the rabbits in the home of the vivisect, in spite of Keble College, and the tramways, and the sporting prints, Oxford still remains the most beautiful thing in England, and nowhere else are life and art so exquisitely blended, so perfectly made one.” Oscar Wilde

Whatever, Oscar, I never liked Oxford anyway. I’m lying. I really like Oxford. But we came for the Bodleian Library, specifically the reading room with its 17th century books; and they wouldn’t let us in. So I’m sulking! Our research was good; the library does indeed open at 9.00am. But our research was not good enough; the guided tours – which are the only way you can visit the reading room because, as the librarian with the fixed smile and slightly patronising tone told us at least 5 times, it is a working library – don’t start until 10.30. Tears were fought back and a full-on tantrum from both of us was considered. Because books! Because of the knowledge, and history, and social commentary, and fantasies they contain within their pages. Because of the dreams, curiosity and understanding they inspire. Because the feel of their covers and the smell of their pages. OK, we might have been a little bit tired, but we were massively disappointed.

As Hilaire Belloc so succinctly put it; “There are few greater temptations on earth than to stay permanently at Oxford in meditation, and to read all the books in the Bodleian.” We both silently and seriously contemplated hanging around for the first tour, but we’re on a schedule so we skulked off to find the Eagle and Child; favourite hang-out of literary heroes JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis and the rest of the Inklings, hoping some of the clever that permeates the air of Oxford would rub off. It didn’t. But walking in the footsteps of some exceptionally awesome people took our minds off the Bodleian a little bit (not much).

From Alfred the Great to Sir Winston Churchill (who was born at Blenheim Palace), and all the literary fellows in between, many great people have called Oxfordshire home. Outside the city of Oxford itself, the south west part of the county falls within the Cotswolds and has some of the prettiest villages you could hope to wander through. We are lucky that it is close enough to home to revisit as often as we like. Which we will! On this short visit, we soaked up the stunning architecture, bridges and spires of the quads in the gorgeous morning light before breakfast; and before the town became busy with students and tourists. Cam loves these early starts whatever she might say 😉

Buckinghamshire

“Well, maybe it started that way. As a dream, but doesn’t everything. Those buildings. These lights. This whole city. Somebody had to dream about it first. And maybe that is what I did. I dreamed about coming here, but then I did it.”  James and the Giant Peach

Is there a child that hasn’t, at least in some small way, had their imagination fuelled by the work of Roald Dahl? The museum in the pretty little town of Great Missenden where he spent many years, was created by his widow, and includes the contents of his writing shed exactly as he left it the last time he worked in it. I stood there for I don’t know how long taking in all the nic-nacs, feeling quite emotional. (Did I mention we’re a bit tired?!) I cheered myself up my making silly rhymes on a faux fridge door with letters provided. An hour or so later we emerged from this little piece of loveliness and hit the road, making a quick upwards detour to fit in Bedfordshire.

Bedfordshire

‘Up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire’ … OK, so not a quote that conveys a sense of the county, and I’ve no idea where this comes from but my parents always used to say it to us and now I say it to my kids.

We’re really sorry Bedfordshire, but 48 counties in 9 days is a pretty tall order and some counties must be flown through. You are one of them. I’m sure you have some lovely treasures hidden away but they weren’t forthcoming in our research so we chose a fly by photo shoot of London Luton Airport, taking a few moments to dream of where we could have spent 10 days, rather than driving through England. So, yes, London Luton Airport … because Bedford’s in London apparently. It’s not! Bedfordshire, you don’t even border London; you’re not even a home county, so bit of a stretch of the imagination there. But I will take this moment to thank Sir Stelios for cheap European flights! Hurrah for Luton Airport … it is a wonderful gateway to mainland Europe.

Hertfordshire

The East India Company was founded in Hertfordshire, with the objective to break the Dutch monopoly of the spice trade with the East Indies. And George Bernard Shaw, Beatrix Potter and Ron Weasley all herald from Herts. But we chose to eschew all that good stuff and spend a couple of blissful hours in the scorching sunshine admiring Henry Moore sculptures!

The Henry Moore Foundation sculpture gardens, resplendent with orchards, sheep fields and, um, sculptures provided a couple of hours of tranquillity which we savoured ahead of our impending soiree up town. And he was a jolly decent chap by all accounts. Lived very simply, turning down a knighthood for fear of alienating himself from his fellow working class artists whom he felt deserved equal acclaim, and pouring all his (significant) profits from sales of his work into the arts.

Again, the car journeys have been characterised by lush spring countryside, though starting to flatten out the hedgerows are adorned with swaying cow parsley and horse chestnut trees in blossom. The winding roads, lined with avenues of arched trees, are punctuated by pretty little villages boasting pubs with names like The Queens Head and The Red Lion.

There was an air of procrastination about our onward journey to the capital. Tired, and anticipating another late night, neither of us was feeling particularly Londony. We both love London, but usually our visits aren’t the full stop at the end of several days of travelling.

City of London

“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” Samuel Johnson

Well, Sam, we’re women. So there! And we are not tired of London. And though we arrived at our hotel hot, sweaty and tired, we were more than happy to hop on a tube into the City of London, admire Christopher Wren’s magnificent St Paul’s Cathedral and pootle over the Millennium Bridge for a steak supper next to the Globe Theatre. City of London – done! Bong, bong, bong!

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