British Charm and Dark Roads

We walked uphill ~ from the bus stop ~ in complete darkness, almost a mile. There are no street lights in rural England. Cars sped past at 60 km/hour as we trusted each step, just three feet from them. Slippery mud surrounded the narrow sidewalk and headlamps blinded instead of lighting our path back to the hotel grounds. Soon, after a prayer and a safety-first, cell phone-into-bra maneuver, it began to feel more like an adventure than a potentially deadly exercise in poor planning.


Limited visiting time at Oxford University was further limited by it being a Sunday evening. However, as pints know no such limits, we were pleased with the visit. Having set our priorities in order (no poor planning, here), the Turf Tavern offered a 13th century feel with low, wooden-beamed ceilings among multiple, multileveled rooms. crispy fish & chips, rump steak on ciabatta with horseradish mayonnaise and a pork pie (similar to a French pâté) with a chutney sauce provided sustenance and warmth from a cold day. The ladies (and gents) is located outside the main building, and naturally, and giving relevance to the challenges of the past, is cold. Cold to go, cold to wash and even the modern, environmentally-consciously installed hand-dryer blows cold.

Having finished our beers and within ten minutes of closing time, we managed to squeak into a section of the Bodleian Library ~ a small exhibition honoring John Radcliffe, Pharmacist and Philanthropist from the late 1600s. He died in 1714 after a successful career as physician to the royal family, among other achievements.  The goal:  Learn something at Oxford.  Check.  The time was 17:00 (5 p.m. to us) and time for another pint ~ as we determined it to be ~ as we walked by St Aldates Tavern, a Victorian pub conveniently located across the street from the H5 bus stop, where we would catch the X2 back to the bus stop a the bottom of the hill, where there are no street lamps.  In all honesty, though, I must confess that before this last beer, we did walk toward Christ Church; but that was closed, too.  It only seemed logical, then, to appeal to St Aldates for salvation.

From the bus and up the hill:  Milton Hill House Hotel is located at Milton Hill, Steventon, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England. These many locator details are a necessity.  It is off the beaten path.  But not too much ~ there’s a spa … with massage at just £38 for 70 minutes.  Translation:  “Yes, I would definitely like to schedule, please; how is 10 a.m. tomorrow?”  Comparison: a 58 US Dollar Groupon deal, maybe.

This hidden, 20-acre Georgian manor is 13 miles from Oxford (take the bus during daylight hours, or maybe rent a car). There is a garden house, which is off the main house, with just a short, yet, lovely walk near an Italian garden.  Most of the 120 hotel rooms are located there.  In the main house, we’ve found several tucked away comfy lounge-type rooms, like your living room ~ and family room ~ replete with desktop computers, a large tv, fireplace (for show), a bar, a restaurant, several terraces with outside seating, quiet areas, and because it’s used for corporate seminars, conferences, meetings and trainings, there are multiple 24/7 coffee stations throughout.  The indoor pool is heated, and the sauna is near the modest fitness center.

We are here for a three-day, international reading skills among adolescents meeting.  My husband is required to attend the meeting; I am required to make the most of my day, which as I’ve indicated, includes tomorrow’s massage.  I also know, now, that breakfast is on until half past nine.  I won’t miss it tomorrow. I can’t help but praise the British for their kindness and politeness ~ not just for making me breakfast this morning, despite my tardiness, but because we have been witness to many other examples of kindness, since our arrival in London a few days ago.  And, despite this trip not being our first to London/Rural England (the UK), we continue to discover its pleasures, its people and its pubs.


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Writing by Marnie Mitchell-Lister

DoubleU = W


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