New Old City

        Finally out of London today: bused to Oxford. Gave my friend all of an hour to recover from jetlag before we left the city; he may be the first person to live here and not see Big Ben right away. The ride was long, but I got to see that England’s more than just London: it’s a lot of huge fields with sheep, too. On the way, I tried planning out remaining trips. Ideally, it looks like a different location every weekend and maybe even 8 countries, but that might get scaled back. Only sure thing: Running of the Bulls is a must, and I will run in it. Even if I have to quit my job, shorten my trip, or sublet my beautiful room, I’ll be at Pamplona.
        Oxford was definitely a college town. New College was “only” founded in the 14th century and was one of about 20 huge, prestigious schools in the town. We saw many people our age walking down the street in formal dress and carrying graduation hats, so I asked one if it was graduation. Apparently, students at all schools in Oxford have to dress up or they’re not allowed to take their final exams. These tests count for almost all of their grade, it’s not like that anywhere else in England, and the only reason I got for this inconvenient ritual was that “that’s the way it’s always been.” Glad I didn’t try going to school at Oxford…
        Even the pubs were historic. I drank in the Eagle and Child, the bar where J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis used to meet with friends to talk about their writings and throw a few back. We talked to some locals to find our way to The Turf, a popular bar from the 1300s hidden down an alleyway. It was basically an alley and a basement: odd-shaped “beer gardens” (bar courtyards) and then a room with low wooden ceilings that was barely big enough for the bar. Somebody had a beer-filled squirt gun; if not for the accents, I wouldn’t know I wasn’t in Cornell or some other college town in the States.
        So I made it out of and back into London in one piece. It was a welcome change of pace and price: buses didn’t seem as determined to run me over in Oxford, and this really may be the most expensive city in the world. A modest but healthy start to my extraLondon travels...

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