1) Of all the excursions Paul and Christian had planned for me, I was looking forward to visiting Oxford most. Because I actually have a family connection there. Way back in the 1930s, my cousin Rhodes Dunlap was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, and I determined that we would find the college where he studied.
1a) An internet search before I left home revealed it to be St. Edmund Hall, also known as Teddy Hall, which is not one of those Oxford colleges anyone in American has ever heard of.
2) Christian arranged for first-class rail tickets for us, so we traveled in some comfort to Oxford. Leaving the station, I felt we had to swim our way through a sea of parked bicycles to get to the road.
3) And before I realized it, poof! We were in front of Teddy Hall! Christian had actually looked it up beforehand. Those boys have a genius for finding a destination by artless wandering. Alas, Teddy Hall wasn’t open to tourists.
4) I loved getting to experience Oxford as a small city, which helped me to visualize more clearly scenes from Nancy Mitford’s novels The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate.
5) We continued our meandering and stopped at a near-empty pub for a bottle elevenses.
6) Then we toured Magdalen College (which is pronounced maudlin, as in “You’re maudlin and full of self-pity. You’re magnificent”). Beautiful, austere, and deserted except for the tourists.
6a) It really is just as beautiful as it is in the movies.
7) So if the main event for me was tracking down Teddy Hall, for Christian it was a swish luncheon at Brasserie Blanc, a very discreet and subtle restaurant of slated-painted wainscoting and marvelous food and wine. I wish I had taken photos. As it was, I rose from the table in a semi-somnambulant state.
8) We passed an old haberdasher, which turned out to be the famous Walter’s of Oxford. Paul and Christian insisted that I purchase for myself a bow tie they saw in the window. While inside, I browsed through their selection of waistcoats and found something splendid to wear on the Queen Mary II: peacock blue satin embroidered with silver and blue peacock feathers.
8a) I kept imagining what it was like when cousin Rhodes shopped there; he must have.
9) Our promenade through Oxford ended up in an enormous bookstore, where I was most eager to attend to an Angry Ounce. Later I got so engrossed in a book that Paul had to text me that they were out on the street. Oops!
10) We then had a pint in an obscure-but-famous pub a few storefronts down. En route, I overheard a mother blessing out her young child in French (they were probably actually French, not academics raising their children bilingually), which just proved that no matter what it is, it sounds better in French.
11) By this time the mood was a bit subdued - and getting closer to train time - and I was allowed to pop into a shop to do a bit of Christmas shopping in advance. And then we retraced our steps through busy, picturesque Oxford for our train.
12) I remember jolly conversation and complimentary bags of chips in first class on the journey home.