The "Dreaming Spires" of Oxford
I’ll never forget that summer. The summer school was international, so there were students from all over the world there, although most were Americans. We met in small seminar groups twice a week where we had a wine allowance and got to drink wine during the discussions! There were two lectures a week – one on literature and one on politics. But the classroom isn't where I learned the most. The program planned outings for us to Blenheim Palace, Cambridge, Stratford, where we saw two Royal Shakespeare Company plays, and a high tea on someone’s country estate. A group of us went to London for the weekend and to Paris for another weekend.
I also wandered around Oxford on my own. For those who don’t know, Oxford University is actually a collection of many different colleges. So as you walk through the streets, there are colleges housed in different buildings, very old buildings (University College was established in 1249, Balliol in 1263, and Merton in 1264), each with their own chapel and housing, and sometimes their own parks. Magdalen College has a beautiful deer park, and I used to sit under a tree there to read. There are also two rivers that run through Oxford—the Thames (called The Isis as it winds through Oxford) and the Cherwell, where you’ll always find people punting or the sturdy lads of Oxford rowing. There’s also an amazing bookstore there, Blackwell’s Books. And one of the most wonderful sites in Oxford is the Oxford dons, or professors, walking down the cobbled streets, their black or burgundy robes flying behind them. And what would a first trip abroad be without a romance? I had a summer fling with a sexy black-haired, blue-eyed Canadian, who was getting his master’s degree at Exeter.
Rowers on the Cherwell River
At the end of the six weeks in Oxford, I wasn’t finished traveling. I flew from London to Stockholm and met family there. After a week in Sweden, I took off with my dad’s cousin’s son (is that a second cousin?) in his Volvo and we drove down through Denmark, Germany (or West Germany, as it was in those days), Austria, where we visited a girl I had met at the summer school, France, and Italy. Quite a journey for a first trip abroad!
That trip didn’t quell my desire to travel, rather it nourished it, and I absolutely fell in love with England. Since that trip, I have been back to Europe 4-5 times (I honestly can’t remember the actual number!) and visited other countries like Portugal and Greece. My most recent trip to Europe was five years ago, and I went with my husband and our two sons – quite a different experience. We went to Oxford, and I took them to Exeter College. As I walked under the front arches into the quad, I stood still and closed my eyes, remembering the first time I stood there as a young woman...a summer full of adventure in front of me.
Entryway to the Exeter Quad