A reader who won’t let me quit

The Carpenters on the Curbar Edge.
The Carpenters on the Curbar Edge.

I had an idea that I would do one more post on this blog about our last day in London and then close it out. But Judy V. made the sensible comment that the logical follow to my post on my favorite rugby matches would be the top five favorites in my other categories that I used to cheat on the question “What were the trip’s five best things?”

So Kathy and I have divided up the task of fulfilling Judy’s suggestion; I’ll do hikes and museums and Kathy will do plays and colleges/cathedrals/abbeys (that last category is further evidence of cheating).

So for hikes:

  1. Has to be the Curbar Edge. It’s in the Peak District of north England and goes along an edge overlooking two villages, woodlands, pastures and other farmlands. You share the trail with cattle, rock climbers and other hikers. It helped that we had clear, sunny weather.

    A narrow boat on the Oxford Canal.
    A narrow boat on the Oxford Canal.
  2. The walk along the Oxford Canal to Kidlington. One of our first walks after we arrived in Oxford. The route came out of a book that detailed the path all the way to Banbury. The eight miles to Kidlington and a stop at a pub gave us enough of the flavor of the canal to feel OK about not going farther. But we often walked along the canal to get into the central part of Oxford.
  3. Avebury stone circle. An ancient place with a stone circle around a rural village and a processional between more stones that leads to an mound built by unknowns, probably thousands of years ago.
  4. Oxford’s Port Meadows: The maps we had of Oxford showed that this meadow was near our flat. We made a loop out of it by walking back along the Thames River and we found one of our favorite pubs, The Perch in Binsey.
  5. To the Victoria Arms pub: Another walk in Oxfordshire, this one in the opposite direction of the Port Meadows but of course leading us to a pub, the Victoria Arms. Before you get there you pass through Oxofrd’s Univeristy Parks, past college playing fields and through the village of Old Marston.

These paths are made for walking and we average five or six miles a day, with our longest day the sprint marathon in London. A great way to see things and to stay in shape (sort of — we both gained a couple of pounds; too much Guinness and tea cakes).

Bridge over the Cherwell River on the way to the Victoria Arms pub.
Bridge over the Cherwell River on the way to the Victoria Arms pub.

The rest of Walton Street: Where we live

Walton Street and the Jericho Cafe.
Walton Street and the Jericho Cafe.

We have three choices for walking into Oxford’s city center or the train station: Woodstock Road (very busy), along the Oxford Canal (very serene) or Walton Street (just about right).

The Cooperative where we do most of our grocery shopping.
The Cooperative where we do most of our grocery shopping. The covered boxes on the lower left are for the daily newspapers: A choice of 12 each day, a newspaper addict’s heaven.

As reflected above, we usually choose to go back and forth on Walton. We do our everyday shopping there, visit the Post Office, stop for an occasional lunch or see a movie.

We live in the Jericho area of Oxford, a quiet residential sliver between Woodstock and the Canal, north of the main part of the city. It seems to have a large student population but also an established number of homes with children. Our building is across the street from a school.

Many bicycle riders use Walton Street, which I would prefer to Woodstock if I were riding. Truth is there are bicycles all over this university city. Wish I had brought mine.

It would be a longer walk to a supermarket where we could do all our food shopping in one place. Besides it being a longer walk, we have found that we enjoy the rare-in-America way of shopping where you buy bread in one place, coffee in another, vegetables and meat at a third. It makes for a more interesting neighborhood and shopping experience.

So here are some photos of where we have been living for the past six weeks and where we will be for the next two.

The friendly clerk at the deli where we buy our bread. You need to get there in the morning before they sell out.
The friendly clerk at the deli where we buy our bread. You need to get there in the morning before they sell out.
The closest shop for getting a newspaper, milk, Guinness and other essentials.
The closest shop for getting a newspaper, milk, Guinness and other essentials.
We live on the fourth floor of this building.
We live on the fourth floor of this building.

Roaming close to “home”

This is one of my favorite houses we pass on the way to our little grocery store.
This is one of my favorite houses we pass on the way to our little grocery store.

By Kathy

In recent days, in between our adventures farther afield, we’ve had a chance to wander our neighborhood a bit and sample a taste of the English life. Stone walls, pocked and darkened with time, abound. Church bells toll the hours. Traffic, confusingly coming from the “wrong direction,” whooshes along the main thoroughfares. But beyond those, on the narrow, winding residential streets, you can hear the mourning doves coo and the locals chat.

On our walks, we pass aged row houses of brick and stone, some covered in stucco painted in cheery pastels. Many have little gardens out front; many others are being repaired and restored. They are, after all, very old. Our flat is in a building that dates to the 1870s. Others are several more centuries old.

Beyond the hordes in the central city, we love the smaller scale and intimacy of this place barely a mile away. For groceries, we walk to the Co-op where we squeeze through crooked aisles to browse for the basics and a few delicacies crammed into every available niche. Along this street are small restaurants — Indian, of course, but Lebanese, Italian, Spanish and more. Pubs, too, quiet on weekdays, busy at night and on weekends. The post office is at the back of a little mini-mart stuffed with student fare (chips, pizza and the like) and an array of newspapers (they still read them here).

We pass other shoppers, strollers, moms and dads with kids, lots of folks breezing by on bikes.

The Oxford Canal is a short walk from our apartment.
The Oxford Canal is a short walk from our apartment.

Within a few blocks we can hook up with the Oxford Canal path, which we’ve explored only a little so far. Some people live in brightly decorated narrowboats along the water; you can rent some of the boats — we saw one young group partying under pirate flags. We went only a short way on our first outing, down to a wrought-iron bridge and a lock where the canal meets the Thames. We plan to visit the canal again soon, and walk miles up north following its trail. So many sorts of paths to follow here.