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!
9/12/2013 11:12:00 pm
Hi both, so glad you're enjoying the UK stage of your trip. I actually live about 5 miles from Bath and still find it a fascinating place even after knowing and visiting it for 50+ years! I am also a devotee of both J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and have visited the Eagle & Child in Oxford (what a great feeling to be where so much happened). Have fun and stay safe guys.
9/13/2013 12:00:39 am
Reminds me of my favorite C.S. Lewis quote from Mere Christianity: “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next...It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth “thrown in”: aim at earth and you will get neither.” May we all follow the example of Clive Staples and aim at heaven! Thanks for directing us upward, Tom and Jaime. Thrilled you got to Bath and Oxford!
9/13/2013 12:11:35 am
OK, this makes me want to go there! Thanks Dave for your insights into C.S. Lewis' writings!
9/13/2013 02:15:16 am
Love Love Love this! So happy to see you and Tom enjoying yourselves so much! I'm with Becky, next stop Bath and Oxford!
9/13/2013 02:28:14 am
That is so cool! I love you added the additional information about C.S. Lewis. The pictures are beautiful and so youse guys! Looking forward to the next round. Drink a pint for me!
9/13/2013 02:13:41 pm
Hope you are enjoying England, like Randy & I did in 2007. I went looking for Elizabeth I and had a very hard time finding her, other than Westminster Abbey. However, I was told on my return (blast it), that she can be found at Hampden Court. Also, there is a neat flea market type affair in Covent Gardens on Tuesdays (may have changed) found some unique and inexpensive items there. Enjoyed the Victoria Albert Museum more than the Brittish Museum? except for the Rosetta Stone-that is awesome! Truth is, Randy & I are completely jealous and wish you the very best time of your lives! Can't wait to see your next installment! P.S. this is the only place in the world I've been so you won't get any more suggestions from me! Be safe sweet friend.
9/14/2013 09:45:14 am
Glad you guys are going before Kay and I to explore England. We are planning to be there hopefully next summer. Love reading your travel blog!
9/14/2013 09:58:06 am
9/17/2013 04:11:07 am
Below is friend, Eileen Griffith's recommended "must see" places, on her return from Spain:
9/21/2013 07:15:43 pm
Hi Kay! Thanks so much for the recommendations. We will be in Spain in October and November! I hope you and Randy are well! Ciao!
9/28/2013 04:24:13 pm
You two are such great writers, I feel like I'm there with you!
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I'm Jaime. My husband is Tom. Suburbanites, backpackers, and expats...we've been them all!