If it seems like we were just in England, we were. All along we'd been planning to make it back to London, a place we've each been separately but wanted to visit together, and it just so happened that we planned our trips within two weeks of each other. But we weren't complaining--it was wonderful to be back in the United Kingdom, the land of porridge, to-go coffee, "please" and "thank you" (people are so polite), English books, and (fairly) easy communication. We had beautiful walking weather, and although allergies got the better of me our second day there, we had a wonderful time in London as well as in Oxford.
We loved the Airbnb we stayed at in London, in the Camden Town neighborhood. The hosts built a little cabin on their back patio, very cozy and with just enough room to sleep, make a cup of tea, and shower/use the toilet. (In fact, the shower and the toilet were all-in-one, a "wet room"--new to me, but efficient enough!) Camden Town is, shall we say, eclectic and a little rough around the edges (read: Mom and Dad, you wouldn't want to stay there). On Sunday morning they had a fantastic market by the canal with art, food stands with flavors from all over the world (we shared some Polish food and then ordered different types of fish sandwiches), and a really fun atmosphere. Speaking of diverse food, London is the perfect place to go to try a little bit of everything. After arriving fairly late in the evening our first night, we stopped in a beautiful restaurant close to our Airbnb, The Mango Shack, and had Caribbean food. Wonderful. We spent a good chunk of time (and change) at Westminster Abbey, where we also went to the 11:00 worship service/morning prayer, and then walked by the water, found books (used and new!), and enjoyed taking in the city together.
Our second full day in England, we took the train an hour west to Oxford. I've heard about Oxford for years from friends who have lived and studied there or taken short trips. My college friend Heather, who studied in Oxford during college, gave us some great ideas for what to do while we were there (thanks, Heather!). It was a wonderful day trip, which started off well with a pint and some lunch at The Eagle and Child, best known for C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien's time spent there with other literary friends. We enjoyed walking the small streets and gawking at the architecture, feeling smarter simply by virtue of the fact that we were in Oxford. We climbed the tower at the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin and saw Oxford from a different angle, and then had afternoon tea in their ultra-cramped but lovely cafe. I spent some still-saved Christmas money in the immense world-unto-itself that is Blackwell's book store, and we ended our afternoon by going punting (boating) on the river. For five pounds more, we avoided falling in and making fools of ourselves and had a kind university student chauffeur us around. The time spent on the river was quiet and so relaxing, probably one of my favorite memories of the whole trip.