a TAPIF language assistant blog / un blog d’une assistante d’anglais

Like "So you think you can France?" Come join me at my new home, Katy on the Road!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Insider's England, Pt. 1: Woodcote & Oxford

After a far too early flight from Edinburgh to London, I headed (sans cellphone, remember?) to the Reading* station to visit my lovely friend Emily (who's been featured in many a blog post) and her family in their village, which is called Woodcote. I was very excited to see my friend, to meet her family, and see where she grew up! It's a really cool opportunity to not only meet friends from different countries/cultures but to also get to see them in the context that made them who they are.

I was also really excited to see some "real" England. I spent three weeks in London in 2007 (through the Texas Tech Honors College London Paris Program) and got to take several trips around the region (Glastonbury, Stonehenge, Salisbury, Canterbury, etc.). While it was a wonderful cultural and educational experience, I hadn't spent any time experiencing daily life in England. While talking with my friends Emily and Lottie throughout our time in Narbonne, they each invited me to their homes, and one night over a "family" dinner and a couple glasses of wine, we bought me some tickets to see them! And so the adventure began. :)

(It should be said that we also planned to go together (Emily, Em's little brother, Lottie, and myself) to the Harry Potter experience at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, but that unfortunately it did not work out. This is only important to mention in light of the tour disappointment in Edinburgh and, well, just remember it for later.)

Em's home is located in Oxfordshire, which is the county highlighted on this map, which I took straight from Wikipedia.

After finding Emily and I finding each other despite my lack of phone (imagine: Katy confusedly payphoning and then carrying a laptop around the street trying to get WiFi), I climbed into a left-side passenger seat for the first time in my life and we headed off to Woodcote.

Approximately 3 minutes after walking through the door, we were drinking tea and riding on Emily's gran's newly-acquired scooter.

Welcome to life in England! Tea in hand, naturally.

We headed out through Em's beautiful backyard to take her two dogs, Dottie and Fudge, on a walk through the woods.

friendly neighbors

also chickens

Emily's awesome woods that she grew up playing and hiking in, nbd.

May is Bluebell season in England; they were everywhere!

Emily's family home, which was formerly forge (blacksmith). It's beautiful!

Emily, Dottie, and Fudge in action

For my first night in Woodcote, Emily's family (her dad Matthew, mom Sarah, and little brother Patrick) took me to the historic Highwayman Inn (where Emily used to work) for a traditional pub meal. I had a fantastic meat pie and a chocolate dessert that was as beautiful as it was delicious. I loved getting to know her family! It was fun to tell stories of our Narbonne life (and our travels to Morocco and Spain) with them and to get to know more about Emily's life in England.

The next morning, Emily's parents suggested we go asparagus picking, so we got knives and headed down the road to the asparagus farm. I love this tiny Veggie Tales-esque sign which was the only indication of where the asparagus were (it was tiny and almost impossible to see from the road).

Em in action


This was a tough one...

Look how HUGE! We thought it was hilarious and decided to add it to our collection.


our prize asparagus vs. regular asparagus

Rapeseed was blooming everywhere... also, check out my requisite picture out the left-side passenger seat.

a little English countryside for ya 

Later that day, we headed to Oxford, which is only about half an hour away. You most likely know Oxford as home to Oxford University, the oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of England's two most prestigious universities (the other being Cambridge). Teaching at Oxford dates back to the 11th century. Nbd.

had to include the ol' double decker bus

The city is called the "city of dreaming spires" for all of the spires. It's really a beautiful city. The University is not just at one location; it's comprised of 38 colleges spread throughout the city. Some of the colleges include Christ Church College, Queen's College, New College, University College, Trinity College, etc. Emily's dad went to Queen's College, which happens to be one of the most well-known as well as the filming location for many Harry Potter scenes, so that's where we were headed. For a few hours a day, different colleges allow visitors. Unfortunately for us, right when we walked up, Queen's College was closing for the day due to a faculty member's funeral (which, obviously, was unfortunate for more than just us). Once again, my Harry Potter plans were thwarted. We figured it's just a sign I'll have to come back!

We headed to the Covered Market, which opened in 1774 and still runs today!

Ben's Cookies, a famous English cookie chain

When I made my American-style fresh-from-the-oven cookies for my friends back in February, Carmen declared that I had recreated Ben's Cookies (which I had never tried before). Mine were more gooey and Ben's were more fluffy, but they were delish!

standing outside the Tower of the Five Orders at the Bodleian, the Oxford University Library

grammar & history: one of many doors you could enter (This one would have been my top choice to enter.)

the entrance to the Divinity School, which we paid a whole pound to get into

Totally worth the £1... This is the lecture hall in the Divinity School, which was built in the 15th century. It was the first building actually built for the purpose of lecturing (or at least that still remains today).

The ceiling features bosses (stylized initials), but I forget whose initials they were, which is unfortunate.

Luckily for my Harry Potter deprived self, we discovered that the lecture hall in the Divinity School was also a filming location for HP: the infirmary!

the Radcliffe Camera

Hertford College's Bridge of Sighs

To console ourselves after being denied entrance to Queen's College, we headed the famous Turf Tavern, the oldest tavern in Oxford.

The roof is very low! We tucked ourselves into a corner and had a pint.

To avoid the rain (typical), we headed to a Waterstone's (like Barnes & Noble) and discussed our favorite books while waiting on Emily's boyfriend Cosmo. Emily and I are both readers and swapped recommendations while we lived in Narbonne.

old houses on the corner of Cornmarket Street and Ship Street

Christ Church College
(Isn't this just what you think of when you think England?!)

gardens around Christ Church College

more Christ Church College

Emily's mom treated us by sending us to the Ashmolean Museum, where we went for afternoon tea (along with Cosmo and two of his friends we ran into along the way, who were actually Oxford students)... It was both beautiful and delicious. After getting lost in the museum and finally making it to the dining room, we both chose cream tea, which is tea with a side of scone, jam, and clotted cream (which I had never even heard of). It was fantastic!

I drank Earl Grey with my scone. It was actually Emily and Lottie who got me hooked on drinking real (black) tea (and not just green tea as I'd been drinking before). I now love Earl Grey with milk! And look at the beautiful vintage china, to boot.

That night, her family treated me to a wonderful Italian meal in their home. It was so nice to be welcomed so warmly by my friend's family! They were lovely and invited me back again one day, and I'd love to take them up on the invitation. I'd also love to see them in Texas! (Emily, hint: COME TO TEXAS.) It was strange the next morning to go to the train station and hug my friend whom I'd spent eight months with and say goodbye. I love Emily's sense of adventure, love of laughter, and her making the best out of almost any situation. I miss her and look forward to seeing her again! (Emily, hint again: COME TO TEXAS!)

...and then, after being sad about saying goodbye, I saw this guy at the train station dressed as an alligator. Which I feel like Emily would have appreciated.

Thank you so much, Matthew, Sarah, Patrick, and of course, Emily! I loved seeing your piece of England. :)

And now, time to head north to visit Lottie and see another piece of England. Hopefully it won't take me another six months to blog it. :)

*Sounds like Red-ing not Reading, for my fellow 'mericans.