Saturday, October 14, 2017

People say that life is the thing.

Here's the long story of my trip to England. I know you have been waiting.

I went away for ELEVEN days. Skipper was sad about it, and I pointed out that she has been to summer camp, so it's not like we've never been apart. "Yeah," she said, "but that time I left YOU! This time, you're leaving ME."

I met my mom in Heathrow*, and we went straight to Oxford for a few days. We visited some colleges. (Duchess now wants to go to Oxford, so she can eat at a dining hall that makes her feel like Harry Potter.) These are dining halls in Oxford - I can't remember which colleges. (The dining halls at my college were mostly in basements. One had big windows, which made it very fancy.)

We even visited Balliol, which I knew only as the alma mater of the fictional Lord Peter Wimsey (the second person in a book I wanted to marry, after Sherlock Holmes - I have a type). We went to Evensong at Christ Church. We visited the Botanic Garden and climbed the tower at St. Mary's. We walked under the Bridge of Sighs. We walked past the Bodleian and the Radcliffe Camera and Oxford Castle. We even watched people punting. We went to the Ashmolean Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum (I could have spent weeks at both those locations).
Oxford Castle. I am wearing my absolute favorite piece of clothing. My poor mother saw me wearing that wool hoody every single day of this trip.

Then we went to the Cotswolds, and walked bits of the Cotswold Way.The Cotswolds are so preposterously picturesque that I just kept taking photos, none of which did the place justice. Walking is the perfect way to see them. (Though I found that four straight days of Full English Breakfasts was three too many for me.) I can't recommend it more, though we lucked out on weather, and rain might have dimmed my enthusiasm. Should you wish an itinerary (because I really wanted to find one when I was planning the trip, seeking a lazy no-more-than-five-miles-a-day approach), here it is:
1) Train to Moreton-in-Marsh, which is where we learned that in the Cotswolds, traffic signs are funny, and all the buildings are made of yellow stone. The roofs are made of the same rock as the walls. In Moreton-in-Marsh, a lot of the roofs have little fences at the edges, presumably to catch the slates before they slide off onto your head.
My mom, being silly.

2) We took a taxi to Chipping Campden. (The bus doesn't run on Sunday. Because nobody without a car needs to get anywhere on a Sunday.) Chipping Campden was sunny and ludicrously charming.

This is the underside of the slate roof of that really old market hall.

3) Walked from Chipping Campden to Broadway. This walk was basically the definition of picturesque. The official end point of the Cotswold Way is at that market hall. I wish we had had time to go all the way to Bath.

My mom, being silly.

Dover's Hill, the site of the Olimpick Games. I'm pretty sure I'd be really good at the shin-kicking competition.

My mom, being awesome.
My mom, being silly.

4) Caught the bus to Toddington, walked to Winchcombe.

Hailes Abbey
Hailes Church

This polite notice is the most passive passive-aggressive thing I've ever seen. 

Downtown Winchcombe
St. Peter's Church in Winchcombe
Our hotel

The view from our room

Behind Sudeley Castle, which we did not visit.

5) Walked to Cleeve Hill, caught the bus to Cheltenham.

Belas Knap

Cleeve Hill

Cheltenham, as it turns out, is the birthplace of Edward Wilson, Robert F Scott's saving grace, and a hero of one of my absolute favorite travel book, The Worst Journey in the World.

Then we caught a train to London. London has a LOT of people in it. Also, a lot of art, and we saw ALL the art.**

I really liked this painting.

Portobello Market

This reminded me of Duchess.
Tate Britain

Piccadilly Square

Harrods, where I didn't buy you presents.

Whistlejacket at the National Gallery

The ceiling of the lobby of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The batshit weird Wallace Collection, which I tremendously enjoyed.

It was a fabulous trip. I missed Cook and the girls a lot; I was actually physically homesick for them, something I haven't experienced since childhood. However, I loved everything we visited, and I loved learning about new stuff,**** and I just felt really lucky.

*Heathrow is a terrible place.
**We did not see the portrait of Thomas Cromwell, which was disappointing to me, as I had picked up a used copy of Wolf Hall in the Powell's Books at the Portland airport and plunged into it with an immersive pleasure I did not expect*** and then been astonished and delighted to run into Thomas while walking in the Cotswolds. 
***This book, you guys. How did I go this long without reading this book? (What other books have I been overlooking? How many hours of my life have I wasted doing other stupid things when I could have been reading?!) Maybe I'm just at the right moment in my life to read it, but this book devastated me. I sat on the plane in the middle of the night, squished between two friendly Canadians, weeping desperately over the death of the daughters of a fictionalized version of a person who has been dead himself for nearly 500 years. I don't know. Something about life and death and love and the transience of everything, and the flickering attempts we make to mean something. Our almost-instincts are almost true.
****American history classes do not teach about the suppression of the monasteries, and all I knew about the Tudor period was pretty much "divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived," so I feel I've made leaps and bounds there. Also, I learned a little bit about the Arts and Crafts movement in England. Artists, man. They're so adorable.