Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I found my heart in Oxford: part two

Continued from Part One

I step on the bus, feeling like that toddler, full of energy and a sense of wonder. I’m going to Oxford! Finding a seat, I settle in and send a text: I’m on the bus! See you in a few hours!

“I am too! Only, I think I’m on the bus two hours behind you,” is the text I received. You see, this trip to Oxford was a twofold excitement packed day trip. Not only am I going to see one of the places I’ve wanderlusted over, but it is my second official meet up with this guy I’d been talking to for about a month.

An hour-and-a-half passes as I watch the changing landscape. It’s amazing how beautiful this country is. Of course me, from sunny southern California, where I’m surrounded by swaths of brown and yellow, the lush greens a luxury and constant reminder that I live in a desert populated with golf courses, I’m always in awe of how green the United Kingdom is. Before long the bus slows and signs for Oxfordshire become more frequent. Streets narrow and every turn is like I’m turning down a random road of history. The X5 bus twists into the Oxford terminal and everyone departs.

I’m no tourist. My camera is not around my neck while I consult maps of where I am. I pack light and move between people who gawk at the undeniable beauty. My greatest ability is to get lost and forever remember the roads taken to get back. But how lost can you get when Oxford is a grand total of seventeen square miles compared to my home town of roughly one-hundred-fifty square miles. Sure that area of Oxford contains 150k people but people you can navigate around.  And I do. I navigate through the crowd and make my way into the open market. I know I have two hours before A’s bus shows up.

The sights of old cities always enchant me. No matter where I go, what country I’m in (other than America) the juxtaposition of old and new gets me every time. Oxford is no different. Tall stone carved buildings that tower over an open market of Indian tapestries, carved wooden statues, and the smell of fresh kebabs which permeates the air from the taco truck style street vendor.  And while I don’t look like a tourist I’m always out of place. Today I get awkward stares from the vendors I assume because I’m overdressed. I’m always overdressed though, so I’m used to it. Leather leggings and a peacock coloured fitted dress seems right at home to me but in the land of sophistication and academia it must scream artist.

Wandering from the market to one of the lesser populated areas I find myself leaning against the wall where I start to sketch the church across the street. It’s beautiful the glass so meticulously crafted with each panel cut and set within an iron worked diamond pattern. The stone cut around each glass window with various depths of what looked like flower petals—stone which was at least an arms-length deep. Here bikes line the streets as the main mode of transportation and everywhere there are signs which read ‘for student access only’.

I turn my gaze upward towards a particularly high steeple and sketch the gothic architectural details when a flock of birds fly from a nearby rooftop. It takes me by surprise, not because it is frightening or anything, but because I stop and realise: I’m in Oxford. This is Oxford. I know I shouldn’t be all gaga over it but, I am. I put away my sketch book and take photos so I can paint them later. I want to live in the moment. To be present and enjoying the day, to burn into my memory the sights and sounds rather than to have my nose down and pen in hand.

My phone vibrates the text reads: I’m about 30 mins out! I smile and start walking towards the station, once more I am way too early. Instead of lingering I turn and wonder, finding a canal just a few steps away. It’s hidden a bit. The streets cross over with bridges made of stone or iron and trees hide the banks from view. Only the flats that butt against the canal’s edge have a view worth paying for. However, pedestrian paths run along every canal and this one just so happens to have benches dotting the canal’s edge. Sitting on the green painted bench I look over the gentle moving canal. I’m vibrating with energy as it hits me…it’s not just Oxford, I think it’s also that I’ve given myself permission to like someone. And he’s just about to show up.

Monday, July 29, 2013

I found my heart in Oxford: part one

It started as innocuous as an early morning phone call to the taxi company—being car less in England has yet to dismay my travel plans. With my hair still in a bun, wet from my ‘night before’ travel routine I dress and wait the 10 minute eternity for a car to show up. There is a car honk and I say goodbye to my host.

“Have a great day in my old stomping ground,” he said as I wave and run out the door. I am too excited. It’s Oxford. I get to go to Oxford.

The drive to the bus station is short but filled with conversation. I’m overflowing with glee. “It’s a beautiful day,” I say. “I hope the weather holds,” I say. The cab drivers smiles and asks where I’m from and an obligatory conversation of why are you here begins.

“Where are you off to today?” the man asks in a strong Ukrainian accent.


“What’s in Oxford?”


“Oh? What kind of research?”

“I’m an artist—I’m researching the town for a comic book I’m working on.”

With that simple statement his interest peaks. There is a barrage of questions thrown in my direction. All of which I answer until we turn into the National Express Coachway terminal. We exchange coins, I give five pounds and he returns fifty pence and we say our goodbyes. My ticket is printed and I’m ready to hop on the bus, only, I’m entirely too early. I take a seat in the airport style coachway. Apparently it was remodelled just before I moved to England. Everything is still new and shiny. People seated in birch and steel, modern moulded semi-uncomfortable chairs.

Putting in my headphones, I turn on Spotify and bounce my black leather and fur lined boot to the beat. Looking at my phone a whole three minutes had passed.  I check into Foursquare and tweet out, “I’m going on an adventure—Bilbo style!” Friends tweet me back. The X5 with Cambridge on the side of the bus rolls in, I know the bus going in the opposite direction to Oxford is not far behind. From within my bright mustard yellow purse I withdraw a small mirror and red lip stain. A little girl with braided pigtails looks up at me. She came from nowhere. I smile. She points to her lips with adorable petite fingers. I laugh, “You want me to put lipstick on you?”

The little girl nods and her pigtails bounce. I laugh, “I don’t think your mom would like that.” She points to her lips more. I glance up to see my bus pull in. “I’m sorry sweetie, I’ve got to go. My bus is here.” And with all of the energy a toddler can have she bounded away towards her mum.

I step on the bus, feeling like that toddler, full of energy and a sense of wonder. I’m going to Oxford! Finding a seat, I settle in and send a text:

I’m on the bus! See you in a few hours!