A Pilgrimage to Oxford


6th July, 2016

Having gotten fairly well pissed the night before (at least me, since I’m not much of a drinker when not on holiday), we were slow to leave Godmanchester.

In Kentucky, you only have to drive about 20 minutes in any direction to see some change in the land and hear a little change in the accent. Sometimes a lot of change in both. We discovered that England is pretty much the same in that way.

We were staying in an old inn near Oxford, not in the city proper, which I was glad for after we took a trip in. To get to Oxford, we had to cross a very narrow bridge and pay a 5p toll. The bridge obviously was constructed before we had huge vehicles, but I encountered a tour bus on my way across. I had to go up onto the sidewalk to avoid getting sideswiped, and then a cyclist came my way on the sidewalk. At least I only paid 5p for that near heart attack.

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This wasn’t the toll bridge, but it’s a similar one on the same road.

That experience pretty much summed up driving in Oxford. I’m sure the streets were great back when people rode horses, but they were not made for cars.

Nathan was pretty excited about Oxford, since it was the stomping ground of the Inklings, the writing group that included J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, both of whom were really formative for him. Though I’m not quite the fan that he is, I do love me some Hobbitses. (The only Lewis book I like, The Horse and His Boy, never gets the credit it deserves.)

Our first stop was at the edge of Oxford: Wolvercote Cemetery, the final resting place of Tolkien. It was a small, pretty cemetery, and we enjoyed the walk around it until we found what we were looking for.

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The path toward Tolkien’s grave

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J. R. R. Tolkien’s grave. Apparently folks leave him notes and coins. We left him some tobacco.

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The view from Tolkien’s grave

We also discovered that Tolkien’s son was buried just a few plots over.

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Tolkien’s son was also a member of the Inklings

After the cemetery, we went into Oxford proper in search of one of the main hangouts of the Inklings, The Eagle and Child, aka Bird and the Babe.

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At the pub. Wish it was better.

Right off, our excitement got squashed by a rude barmaid when we got our pints, but we took a seat under a poster of Narnia and ordered some pretty standard fare: a steak pie for Nathan and some sausages and mash for me. I wanted to like it, tried even to give it the benefit of the doubt. But it was bad, really bad. And overpriced.

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At least it’s pretty, I guess. For £12 each, they should be.

We walked around Oxford for a while afterward, trying to soak up some of the imagined magic of this place with such a long history, but there really wasn’t anything to it. It was like any other college town.

Our illusions dashed, we went back to our little inn, The Talbot, for some puds. YUMMY!

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Sticky toffee on the top, double chocolate on the bottom. Both amazing.

What the little inn lacked in comfortable accommodations (broken bed, slanted floor), it made up for in food—as our breakfast the next morning was every bit as yummy as our desserts the night before.

I wouldn’t put Oxford on my list for any future trip to England, but I’m glad I went. Watching Nathan nearly skip through the cemetery toward Tolkien’s grave and then seeing the smile on his face once we got there made it worth the trip.

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