And that sweet city with her dreaming spires . . .
I SPENT TWO BLISSFUL DAYS in my spiritual home last month, and even though a shocking number of years (43!) has somehow gone by since my first visit to Oxford, I wrote in my journal, “Still as timelessly beautiful and moving as the first time I saw it. The enchantment never fades.”
It was perfect September weather, sunny and lovely with a crisp autumnal edge to the air, and I stayed in my favorite hotel, the Old Parsonage, where I set Lucy and Sam’s tipsy tea party in The Walled Garden. It gave me great pleasure to donate a copy of the book to the hotel’s charming library, where you can lounge, dip into a delicious assortment of books, and have tea sent up, Jeeves-like, any time you desire. Taking a copy of the book back to its source, so to speak, was one of the most deeply satisfying things I’ve ever done.
I wandered Oxford’s beautiful streets and marveled at the things that change—and the things that don’t change. The ancient college buildings, of course, are a huge part of Oxford’s timeless charm, but I’m always surprised at how many other things remain the same—especially since I live in a city where whole blocks are being leveled almost daily to build new apartments or condos with commercial space below. But many of the restaurants I enjoyed on that very first trip to Oxford are still there—pretty much unchanged, pandemic and all. That would never happen where I live!
And there’s something about that sense of permanence that satisfies some deep part of my soul. There’s a little art supply store on Broad Street that I go to every time I’m in Oxford, and I can’t resist the gorgeous Waterstone’s, and, of course the temple of books that is Blackwell’s. Oxford is heaven for book lovers; I can barely restrain myself from buying one of everything—even books I already own–because they’ve been reissued in gorgeous new covers!
I even discovered a new place this time—the second floor café in Blackwell’s where I had a stiff cup of tea and amused myself by trying to draw some of the goofy heads atop the walls of the Sheldonian.
Radcliffe Square has to be one of the MOST beautiful squares in England—it never fails to take my breath away. I’ve taken a million photos of the Radcliffe Camera and I’m sure I’ll take a million more.
And for readers of The Walled Garden, here are a couple of important places from the book.
The corner where Lucy and Sam kiss near the Ashmolean
And the beautiful restaurant at the Old Parsonage where Lucy and Sam have tea
Towery city and branchy between towers;
Cuckoo-echoing, bell-swarmed, lark-charmed, rook-racked, river-rounded . . .
Ah, Oxford. Truly, for me, the enchantment never fades.
All photos my own