Sunday, February 22, 2009

C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, and me: Do you have an Inkling what this is about?

Oxford, of course. Lewis and Tolkein were both members of a literay society at Oxford known as the Inklings. I'm not, but I do love their writing and I am in love with Oxford...does that count?

My husband works in Oxford and we had plans to meet some work colleagues on Saturday evening for dinner in the city. Since our home is about 40 minutes away and we knew it would be a late evening my husband suggested we make a weekend of it and spend the night in town. (Hey, we're empty nesters and we can do that now ya know!) Saturday was a spectacular day weather wise here, bright blue skies with lots of sunshine and pleasant temps. We took the scenic route rather than the motorway and drove thru some of the most picturesque little villages around. Little Milton is one of my favorites with its beautiful stone walls and cottages.

We stopped for lunch at a lovely country pub called The Mole Inn in Toot Baldon (no, I didn’t make that up). This is an absolutely picture perfect spot. Plunked down in the middle of some beautiful English countryside is this adorable pub that serves wonderful food. It was completely booked when we drove up but since it was a warm sunny day we said we’d sit in the garden and wait for a table. Everything is better when the sun is shining.

After lunch we made our way on into Oxford where my husband had booked a room for us in the very lovely, very unusual Malmaison Hotel in the heart of the city. Malmaison is unusual in that the building itself was an honest to goodness gaol (that's the 17th century spelling of the word 'jail' in case you aren't up on your 17th century spelling). The gaol sits beside what was Oxford Castle which had been a royal residence until the late 13th century. Oxford Castle itself was built in 1071 by order of William the Conqueror. If you're not familiar with William the Conqueror let me just tell you that he was one busy boy back in the day. I'm pretty sure he had his hand somehow on every castle that I've toured in England and the surrounding area, including parts of France (and we're talking a whole lot of castles here). Gradually the gaol grew to take over most of the site and today all that remains of the Castle is the mound and St. George’s Tower with it’s medieval crypt lying below.

Malmaison occupies a large part of the former prison block with converted jail cells now serving as guest rooms. Our room was in the ‘Corrections Wing’ and we had to pass thru the ‘Exercise yard’ to get there. There was a fantastic photo exhibit going on all around the property called Earth from the Air and we enjoyed wandering thru that during our stay.

After we got checked in we wandered around the streets of Oxford, taking pictures, admiring the beautiful architecture and magnificent buildings.

Later that evening we met our friends for a delicious dinner in the restaurant beside our hotel. It was good to meet two of my husband’s co-workers who I’ve heard a lot about but hadn’t met and also their wives. It was a fun evening and it was especially nice to just walk next door to our cell ­when dinner was over.

Sunday morning was a lot cooler and a little grayer but no rain so after breakfast we walked over to Christ Church, just one of the 30+ colleges that make up the University of Oxford, and one we’ve visited many times. If you’re a Harry Potter fan you’d recognize the dining hall in Christ Church because it served as the inspiration for the Hogwarts Dining Hall. Since we were in town on a Sunday we decided to attend their 10 o’clock church service. We’ve been inside the cathedral a number of times but never for an actual service. The cathedral choir is a real treat to hear in person and the building itself is magnificent with beautiful stained glass. We have been in countless cathedrals and churches all around Europe (just ask our kids!) and there is something about a truly beautiful church building that makes you want to come inside, to sit and be quiet and worship.

We both enjoyed our unexpected little getaway this weekend. We do feel like we've definitely taken advantage of the opportunity for travel and sightseeing in our 6 years here. I'm pretty sure though, that I could be here another 600 and not see all that England has to offer. I'm going to sign off now. I feel a sudden urge to re-read The Chronicles of Narnia .

Cheers, Joyce


  1. Hey! I've been to Oxford too! It was our first day on my first trip to the UK, so I was jet-lagged. But I still remember it vividly. Such a beautiful city, and the weather when we went was unseasonably warm (October).

    Did you go to the Eagle and Child pub? It's where the Inklings met every week. I'd tell you where it is, but I really have no idea. ;)

    It was pretty much an ordinary pub. We didn't get to sit where Tolkien & Lewis used to sit, but we still enjoyed it. And we nicked a menu. ;)

  2. Beautiful pictures!! The only part of England I've been to is around RAF Mildenhall and the roads inbetween there and the airports. I so loved being there, though, for my brief stays. We lived in Germany for four years on our 2nd Air Force tour and then my husband lives in Germany again on his 4th and final tour! Do you enjoy living over there, esp with your girls in college across the pond? My son lived in London for a year going to college and that was really strange for me (same time hubby lived in Germany)

    Have a wonderful afternoon and evening...I can't wait to explore the rest of your blog!

  3. Hello! Thank you for visiting my blog! Yours is WONDERFUL! I've never been to Europe, so I'll see it through your eyes! The history you have there is just amazing. I need to read up on just the basics. I know there isn't just one book out there, that would be impossible, but if you could recommend just a few to kind of get me through the basics. I love England and Ireland. And my burning question is this. For such small countries, how come they aren't overcrowded? You still have such beautiful countryside just left alone and tranquil. It's just so pretty.
    I've had quite a few comments on the teacups, I think I need to continue the post and do a few more. I do love getting them out and really looking at them and touching them.
    Thanks so much for your visit. I hope you drop in often!
    Have a great day! Karen

  4. Hi Joyce,
    I really enjoyed your post, the pictures that went along with it, and getting to hear about your lovely weekend. We haven't been to Oxford yet and a ton of other places for that matter. We try our best to sightsee as much as we can, but our children do get tired a lot quicker than we do.

    Have you been to Stone Henge? I imagine you have. I was told that it's not much to look at. Would you agree?

    Thanks for talking about your hobbies on my post yesterday. I enjoy those same things and don't have the time to give to each of them that I would like. I guess one day, right? I don't want to wish these days away though.

    I'll talk to you soon and have a blessed day.

  5. My apologies, but I just realized that I was not a follower. No wonder I had not seen your posts in a while. Duh!!! Chalk it up to "senioritis" or something like that. I am a nutcase for sure. I have had a crazy/busy month and I guess I just have not had good sense. Sorry. I wasn't ignoring you on purpose. Just one of my technological phupas or however you spell that word. LOL!!!
    Have a great week getting ready for the girls. Love & blessings from NC!