Sunday, May 27, 2007

Day One: Rain

Today, we explored Oxford. In the rain. And by rain, I want it to be clear that I mean mist, downpour, drizzle, splash, and also blowing. All types. It was awesome.
And by awesome, I mean wet.
We started at about 11, because Bart and Tony had been good enough to inform us that Sunday hours are usually 11-4. So we began walking down the Cowley Road at 11, heading into town. Oxford's city centre is about 15 minutes from the apartment, so we had a nice walk before arriving at a cafe on High Street for brunch.
In England, breakfast includes baked beans. They're Heinz, from a can. We knew this, in the sense that we could read "beans" in the list of pork on the breakfast menu. You can get breakfasts that include toast, eggs, and coffee. All include pork, and if you choose most of them, more than one kind of pork. So I got toast, an egg, beans, and both sausage and bacon. Charles went all "budget" - which in Oxford means 9$ for breakfast - which included coffee but had only two types of pork. I think he read the "beans" on the menu, but didn't anticipate the way that the beans would overspread the plate and turn absolutely everything on it into "beans and..."
So breakfast was excellent, obviously. Salty, but excellent.
Onward: to the Rothermere American Institute. They hired an eminent architect to create the building, show it off in photos on their website, and are clearly very proud. I wonder, then, why the building is so hidden behind others that I couldn't see it at all! I did note the four separate entrances, all locked today. Tomorrow I will go check it out, and perhaps see the building instead of its neighbors. Because of the stealth-RAI, we didn't linger there. Instead, we walked past the garden and up to the top of St. Giles St.
St. Giles is a long, wide street that leads to the tourist areas and the main shopping district. We ducked behind it for a while, checking out Jericho (a hip neighborhood which looks as if it has the best restaurants), then walked down the road toward the Carfax Tower.
The Tower, the shopping, the coffee shops and other stores seem as though they're cute. I wouldn't know, because I can't see left or right when my rain hood is up. The sidewalk is very nice, though. Also, MacDonald's, KFC, and Starbucks are apparently colonizing England. Thought you'd want to know.
The Covered Market - once a butcher's row, now an arcade with little shops, including a chocolatier - was closed today. Closed as in: locked iron gates. So we bought a couple of pasties at a takeaway shop, picked up a french press at Starbucks, and started to swim back to the apartment. Along the way we observed a truly remarkable rambling rose at the Botanic Gardens. Also, punts on the river Isis (part of the Thames but in Oxford it has its own name. Bart and Tony tell us that this is typical of Oxford, which believes itself to exist in a unique universe) floated at a dock. This might have been inviting on a nicer day.
So: 11-4 was eventful. Since then, we've been laying about like polar bears after a narwhal feast. Fat and boring. Telly on, tea and biscuits, pasties for dinner. Pretty soon we'll fit right in. Unless Charles orders breakfast with "no Beans!!"

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