We made it!
Part of: Graduate School in Oxford
Greetings from Oxford! I would have liked to post earlier but there is an administrative issue with our in-room internet access that won't be solved until mid-week. Argh. So this is written from an internet cafe, and will accordingly be picture-free, sadly.
Our trip went very smoothly - flights on time, good seats, smooth ride, no crashing, and arrived an hour ahead of schedule. Neither of us slept much, but the time passed fairly quickly anyway. We had a pleasant layover in Chicago and had some good traditional pizza. Heathrow was insane, as it always is, even at 6:00 AM, but we managed to collect all of our bags and get them to the right bus stop for Oxford.
The bus ride was smooth and fun; we chatted with the funny driver and David asked him all kinds of questions. The motorway was four lanes wide on each side and flowed well (the other side, into London, was all stopped up though!), and the countryside was beautiful.
From the bus station we took a black cab, and made it with no troubles to Wolfson. We got our key and went to check our new digs. Not impressive! It was a bit of shock just how old and ugly the place is. There is no shower, no dishwasher, no washing machine, and it smells funny. That's not to mention how ugly it is on the outside - unlike the gorgeous architecture that characterizes most of Oxford, our building was constructed in the sorry period in the '60s when concrete was the 'in' thing.
Then we discovered the issue with the internet, and began to miss our familiar home and kitties, and had moments of 'what in the world have we gotten ourselves into?'. But after a bit of necessary shopping, some unpacking, some dinner and a good long sleep (about 7pm-7am for me), things are looking much better this morning!
David got up early and went to take pictures in the grounds, where a very English mist was hovering over the river that our room overlooks. There were ducks and even a friendly cat wandering around. We had a good breakfast of tasty granola, then set off for a whole lot of walking, sightseeing and shopping. Our one tourist stop was at St. Michael's Tower, a Saxon church tower that's the oldest building in Oxford. We bought lots of necessities like a toaster, washing up liquid (British for "dish soap"), paper towels, paraphernalia to rig the bath into a shower, Pepsi Max, crumpets, HobNobs, etc.
For lunch we had a traditional Cornish pasty: a flaky pastry pocket filled with steak, potato, onion and carrot. Very tasty. We've came home for a bit of a break, received our first phone call (from Ron and Tina), struggled with the bath-shower conversion (David) and read some Harry Potter (me). The place is looking much more like home now, with my books and David's collection of electronics on the shelf, and Sarah's handmade quilt on our bed. And the view out our window is fantastic. A green lawn (on which some students were playing cricket this morning) leads up to the River Cherwell, which has ducks and swans and punt boats (like a Venetian gondola only square-ish).
It's now almost 7 and we're on our way back from Marks & Spencer's, a department/grocery store that I had missed very much since my time in Edinburgh. It has the best food (grocery-wise) anywhere. I am so enjoying the grocery stores here - it takes me back to my previous stay in the UK and all the fun, different foods I had enjoyed then. All the stores are small and cramped, however, and poor David has had just about enough of all the crowds!
And the prices are indeed as awful as advertised. This morning I read in my handbook that it is just expensive to live in Oxford as it is in London. Wow. Everything costs about the same number of pounds as it does in dollars - so then everything is 1.85 times more expensive! On the plus side, David will be earning in pounds soon (we hope very soon!) and it's teaching us to be more thrifty (never one of our strengths).
All in all, we are quite happy to be here. It's strange to be in a whole new place without a routine like work or school yet, but I think we will really feel at home here in no time. We already have made peace with our ugly flat (and just bought an air freshener).
Will write more in a day or two, and will post pictures next week when we have internet on our laptop. We are taking a ton!