Although London is a wonderful city, its increasing globalization makes it harder to find the “England” I imagined growing up. So Tom and I ventured out of the city for two day-trips, one to Bath and one to Oxford. And we are sure glad we did.
Bath, held so much beauty that it seemed to glisten among the ideal green hillsides. It has almost always been a popular destination from the Roman era till today.
During the Roman era, the Romans constructed temples and bathhouses here because of its proximity to 3 natural springs. The ancient Roman baths have been excavated and remain the primary tourist attraction in the town.
Starting with the Roman baths, you can literally walk through the ages as you tour the town from the magnificent Medieval Abbey to the pervading Georgian architecture.
The whole town felt otherworldly and like one royal palace. The buildings were stately and so well-maintained that they looked new, and yet their style made it perfectly clear that they were not. Perhaps this is why the town made us feel like we were stepping back in time as opposed to looking back in time.
It left us nostalgic for a different era. And the fact that it was the hometown of Jane Austen added to the romanticism of the place.
Nevertheless, the architecture is deceptively “perfect.” The stylistic preference for symmetry and the simultaneous attempt to avoid additional taxes, led to painting on additional windows where none existed. At first glance, it isn’t noticeable, perhaps because our mind prefers to see the symmetry, even if it isn’t real.
And then there is Oxford, my personal favorite. It’s hard not to engage your imagination as you tour this town. Home to Oxford University and its 38 distinct colleges, you feel smarter just walking through the streets.
So many famous scholars and (particularly interesting to me as a literature major) literary giants have walked the same streets as they birthed in their minds fantastical lands such as Narnia, the Shire, Alice’s Wonderland, and more. Its meandering river, beautiful gardens, darling shops, awe-inspiring buildings, and thick atmosphere of scholarly tradition make it immediately clear how this town could have served their imaginations and prompted their literary efforts.
The absolute highlight of the day was our visit to The Eagle and Child pub. We sat in a small room at the back where J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and a few others, self-named the “Inklings,” met every Tuesday morning to discuss and critique each other’s writings.
Although Tom and I enjoy Tolkien and his Lord of the Rings trilogy, we have a special fondness for C.S. Lewis and his many writings (not just his Chronicles of Narnia, for which he is most widely known). We read many of his works together (such as The Screwtape Letters, The Problem of Pain, The Great Divorce, etc…) and discussed them while dating each other in high school. We continue to return to his writings today as a creatively uncommon source of common sense.
I could go on and on about Lewis, but I have asked my good friend, scholar, and philosophy professor, David Turner to do us the favor instead. He offers a much more intriguing take on Lewis; enjoy!
I'm Jaime. My husband is Tom. Suburbanites, backpackers, and expats...we've been them all!