October 3-6, 2019 – South-central England
Written by Jim
We are back home from our UK adventure, catching up on our blog.
When we first planned this trip, Diana had expressed interest in going to Oxford. The town is famous for its university and some of the world’s greatest scholars. I had a preconceived notion that it was loaded with scholars walking around in tweed jackets and button-down collars. That is, after all, where they got the name for the Oxford shirt, correct? That was my dress shirt of choice during my career, so maybe I could pick up a few deals on some snazzy threads while we were there. Boy, my assumptions were way off. Oxford was anything but a stuffed shirt. We discovered a city that was cosmopolitan, vibrant, and an all-out fun place to be.
As had become our mode of navigating a city with a motorhome, we researched ahead of time to find which park-and-ride lots allowed large vehicles. In the case of Oxford, we used the Redbridge lot on the south end of town. Hopping on the double-decker bus, we quickly scrambled up the stairs in hopes of securing a front seat. Bagsy! We plopped down behind the windshield and enjoyed the ride from the outskirts of town. Hang on!
What a ride! We were downtown in a flash.
Oxford University is not one centralized campus, but rather more than thirty independent colleges throughout the city. Our choice for a visit that day was Christ Church College, a rather famous place in its own right.
Upon entering the gates, we realized we were in a very special place. Was this a church or a college? That building towering in the background looked a lot like a cathedral to me. It actually wasn’t…but more on that in a minute. 🙂
For a split second, I thought we were at an agricultural school in Iowa. This was actually just the grounds department doing a little maintenance. John Deere has a huge presence in the UK, as it seemed that we saw their familiar green tractors wherever we went.
Check out that courtyard! This was actually supposed to be a cloister…or covered walkway…when it was started by Thomas Wolsey in 1525. You can see the beginnings of the arches on the walls and the pedestal bases that were meant to support the columns. At the opposite side of the courtyard sits Tom Tower, which houses the largest bell in Oxford…Great Tom. Weighing in at an impressive 12,500 pounds, it is also the loudest bell in town. The college rings it 101 times at 9:05 PM every single night…a 20 minute process… so no sense in hitting the pillow early. The 101 is for the original 100 students plus an extra one that was added for a bequest made in 1663. The five minutes past the hour signifies the fact that high noon occurs five minutes later than it does in Greenwich…the measuring point for time on Earth. Whew…I knew I would get a higher education by coming here!
And that cathedral-looking structure I referred to earlier? Well, the interior might look familiar, if you’ve ever seen a Harry Potter film…
The infamous dining hall! We weren’t able to get in, as it was being used by the students while we were there.
We also visited the chapel while we were on the campus.
This gorgeous building has seen its share of influential people over the years. Countless leaders, writers, academics, theologians have been here.
It was within these walls that John and Charles Wesley, founders of the Methodist Church, were ordained in the 18th century.
The stonework on the ceiling was outstanding….
…as were the carvings throughout the chapel.
From Christ Church, we went in search of lunch. One of our favorite grab and go items on our trip has been Pieminister meat pies, as they come in a gluten free version for yours truly. They are available in Tesco grocery stores.
Luckily, Oxford happens to have a Pieminister Pie Shop in their Covered Market.
Their gravy was even gluten free…a rarity! 😋 Downright delicious.
Once we were done in Oxford, we found our way back to our first campsite of the trip, Town Farm in Ivinghoe. It was there that we managed to shoehorn all of our belongings back into our suitcases for our trip back to the States. Once that was done, we put on our Oboz hikers and took one last foray through the sheep meadow to grab some dinner.
We answered the locals question as to why their sleepy pub saw so many foreigners. They are within walking distance to the closest campground to one of the UK’s largest RV rental companies! Worked for us!
One last stroll back home through the sheep poop and we were ready to roll.
The next morning, we bid farewell to our trusty Scout. We were thrilled to have made it back to Just Go without clipping a mirror on the narrow roads along our month-long journey. One of the other returning couples wasn’t so lucky, as their mirror was held together with duct tape. The first words out of the rental agent’s mouth was “is everyone ok?” We found Just Go to be a first class company and we highly recommend them.
And, right on cue, our favorite Uber driver Dhana pulled up to haul us back to our hotel near Heathrow! We prearranged our trip with him when he dropped us off at Just Go in early September.
Diana, Dhana and Jim. 🙂 Thank you so much for the excellent rides, advice and friendship, Dhana!
And our nice little surprise we spoke about in our last post? Well, what started out as a sour note ended up being an exclamation point. After arriving for our flight early the next morning, we were scheduled to fly out at 10:20. As first class lined up to board, an issue with the plane came up, causing a 3-1/2 hour flight delay while British Airways found us another 747. As we were sitting around in Starbucks, we overheard one of the other passengers mention an EU law that stated we would get a considerable sum of money back for our troubles “if the delay was longer than four hours.” She lamented ours was shorter, so we were out of luck. With my curiosity piqued, I went on a web search. There actually are different amounts of money for different lengths of delay, and the time is calculated in how late you arrive at your destination…not how late you depart. Being pushed into the afternoon allowed the prevailing winds to pick up over the Atlantic, causing us to arrive 4-1/2 hours late in Chicago. Long story short, we were each awarded €600, which covered most of our round trip fare. If you’ve ever been delayed on a flight originating in the EU, look into it…as there is no statute of limitation. In our case, Brexit hadn’t happened yet, so the UK was still in the EU. You have to request the compensation from the airline, as they aren’t required to automatically hand it out. The delay has to be caused by something within their control, such as a mechanical issue. We had the money within a few days of our return.
While that wraps up our trip to the UK and Ireland, we are going to do one more post on some of the unique differences we encountered on our trip, as opposed to our daily lives in the United States. We hope you will enjoy that one. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!