Friday, December 16, 2016

Oxford 2015: A stroll down memory lane...

NYC/Queen Mary 2/Oxford/Paris 2015 Travel Highlight Blog
Oxford 2015: A stroll down memory lane...
July 22-23, 2015

A quick train trip from Southampton had us in glorious, old, magical, Oxford. I lived here when I was in Grade 7 ("Year 8") and it was a major blast from the past to return. I was surprised how well I remembered a few key places, and also how odd it was how small and quaint Oxford felt as compared to my memories of its size. We lived in a part of North Oxford called Summertown, and I remember it felt a long ways to go all the way downtown. As it turns out, it's not really all that far! I also felt like downtown used to be a HUGE area... and it's sortof only a few blocks long and a few blocks wide. Very funny to see this and compare it to my memories. My favourite part was visiting places I remember so well and having the memories flood back in. What a special experience, and I was so glad to share it with my parents and with Michal.

We at first got settled in a grad-studenty place we were renting from some random college. Yep, seems like the full Oxford experience!

Literally the most Oxford-y shot ever

A stroll into town via the... Oxford University Engineering Building!!!! I sent my first ever email from that building!!
This was the one Engineering building

And this was the other one, a little more memorable to me. I think my Dad's office was in one and the computer lab in the other, if I remember correctly.
WOW look at the main street of Oxford!! Wandering Woodstock Rd and Banbury Road sure was familiar. My family and I used to walk from our house down to my Dad's office on weekends, go for picnics... etc. Awesome times.

It was already a bit of a long day getting in on the boat and so, so we took a wander and saw the main downtown area and the famous Magdalen College.

Again, another VERY Oxford-y sign
We haven't been around too too long, just since 1654
And of course, I instantly honed in on the local old-fashioned sweet shop
Punting!! I remember doing this once, it was hard to control the boat!
Little Oxford laneways

Magnificient Magdalen College
The Bodleian Library!

The coat of arms of Oxford University -- this is a famous design on millions of campus sweatshirts in existence!

A perfect time to come see Magdalen College, in the "magic hour" when it glows. :)

Good times!!
Fun to show Michal all of these places I grew up.

We had dinner at a new place (lots of new restaurants here in the last 20 years) and had a good chat and a nice walk. My parents went to bed and Michal and I headed out to go wander the streets a bit further. I found my old burger place where I used to go with my buddy Kristjan. We couldn't really afford meat that year as the British pound was so strong against the Canadian dollar (and all for the best, as this is the time where Mad Cow Disease was discovered in Britain!) But, nonetheless, I do remember Kristjan's parents kindly giving us money for burgers at this place (as the Norwegian Kroner was much stronger against the British Pound, plus his parents were awesome). That was always a treat and I remember the few burgers we got there VERY VERY well. Amazing the things you remember... anyway it was still there, exactly as it has always been. I was sad that it was unfortunately already closed, but it sure was awesome to see it.

For some reason I didn't take a photo of the burger place, it is called "Peppers Burgers" on Walton St. I *instantly* remembered it, and the burger we used to get. There were three "hot" burgers, I forget the name of #1 and #2, but the hottest one, #3, was called "White Shark". As teenage boys you're always trying to prove your badassery, so I feel like we always used to go for either #2 or the White Shark one if we were feeling particularly brave that day. Aww what a great place. It was such a pleasure to see it still there, with the same exact menu (I feel like it is literally the SAME menu), 21 years later. Wow. I was sad we didn't get to eat one, since they were closed, but it sure was awesome to see this place again.

Michal and I went to a little pub and then walked back to our place near Green Templeton College.

The next morning we headed downtown to go to see the Covered Market, and do some more wandering in the City Centre. The walk down Woodstock Road was very familiar, though dotted with a few more fancy food places than I remember. I stopped to get a fancy coffee from a food truck, just to feed my San Francisco cultural necessity.

This was insane to see as well. The ODEON theatre in downtown Oxford is where I won tickets to go see the movie "The Mask" and LOVED IT (especially the Visual Effects, obviously!) This is also the place I went for my first-ever real "First Date"!!! I will always remember, the movie choice was either Bad Boys with Will Smith which was 18+ and we were too young to see, or... yeah... the remake of The Brady Bunch Movie. Ugh. So I, unfortunately, had to take my date to The Brady Bunch Movie. Haha, oh the memories.

The Oxford Covered Market also still looks EXACTLY the same as it did 21 years ago. I remember there was a fishing store in there I was particularly psyched about as they sold a "fishing slingshot" which I was always keen to get (and won one, finally, at some Boy Scout Raffle we did). Fishermen in Oxford seemed to use these to shoot bait out on the water when fishing -- I just wanted to get one so I could slingshot stuff at singposts and cars and live up to my Dennis The Menace/Bart Simpson-like ideals.

SOOOO MANY FUN Oxford University souvenier stores!!!! Ahh I remember these :)
Some fun "Very Short Introduction" books at the Oxford University Press store.

Another VERY Oxford photo
"Silence please" hahaha

The Bodleian Library

And as always, England delivers on the crazy chip flavours
From here we took the bus up to Summertown to go wander in my old neighbourhood. This was particularly memorable and very fun (and only a little sad) to go visit. I really, really enjoyed it and was very happy to take Michal around my old main street. It was so fun and so weird to be there. The shops had mostly changed, though there were a few that were similar. Sadly, my old Chicken and Chips place was gone, and replaced by some fancy homewares stores. But, the Barclay's Bank where my Dad famously "meowed" at an old lady that was telling us off for riding our bikes on the sidewalk (long story, ask me another time... haha) was still there in all its glory. We wandered the main street in Summertown on Banbury Road for some time, and then walked roughly on my old bike route to school, past the Ferry Pool where I used to go swimming often (and once found a 5 pound note in a locker!), past Norma's old school (Cherwell) and to my old school (Frideswide Middle School).

The turn off of Banbury Road towards Middle Way onto South Parade. Wow. My fish & chips shop used to be around here somewhere, and the old Co-op Grocery store (where we bought Ice Cream that tasted like soap -- "but it's cheap!", and where I used to buy entire boxes of Mr. Kipling's mince pies and eat all of them) was also gone.

Memory lane!!!!!
The place I used to go swimming all the time

We then arrived at Frideswide Middle School... now officially merged with The Cherwell School! That was surprising to see. There were some workers in there doing some maintenance, so the doors were actually open. We asked if we could wander inside. It was sooooo cool to go in there. What a strange feeling and reminder of the past.

Outside the main gate -- I don't remember this gate being there before.
The front entrance!! This was the other side of where my "home room" was -- I was on the other side of the building through a walkway. I believe I may still have stashed my bike here during the days after riding into school, I can't remember if I dropped it on this side or the other side. Anyway, so so so cool that the building was still here, exactly as I remember it.
The hallway in the front door and along to the right to the library
The random enclosed hallway along to the "newer" classrooms, I think? I think my homeroom was along that way.
Closeup of the library
The.... tiny library!!! In my mind this was WAY bigger, and had 2 floors in it?! I guess not! So wild.
Along the hallway to the gym
The gym!
This was crazy as I acted in a school play that was in this gym, a wartime drama and I was some sort of American, I think. I feel like I remember wearing a hat and I had some lines to do in an American accent.
So fun to be here. This was the hallway to the gym again. I remember the lunchroom was down that way too -- I usually brought in my own lunch, but sometimes got to buy it. It was always weird British stuff: toad-in-the-hole, shepherd's pie, etc. I for some reason strongly remember some sort of jelly-filled doughnut they had for dessert. Haha. The chess club also met back there -- I went a few times but I was TERRIBLE at it. Also my French class was in that wing of the school, and I remember my French teacher and the students all laughing at my French-Canadian accent and how I said things so differently than Parisian French. The Computer class was somewhere to the left, the place where I wrote a QuickBasic "Fruit Machine" program and knew for sure I loved Computers. I remember the Science class where we learned the Periodic Table (in Grade 7!) and got to light bunsen burners and drop pure sodium and pure potassium into water and watch it explode... oh so cool. I remember on the other side of the school, my English class where we read Animal Farm and made fake companies with other students so we could practice writing "Letters of Complaint" to each other (SO BRITISH). I remember our main classroom had a computer in it and it was in the early days of text-to-speech. Of course, we made it say as many swear words as we knew at that age. :)
The main pitch of the track-and-field area. I remember only ever running 100m at home in Canada, and was quite good at it. I remember here they had a 200m race, and I gave it a shot and did incredibly well. With all the biking I was doing to school and so on, it sure was fun to be good at sports for the only time in my life!
Farewell, old friend.
We then met up with my parents and headed back to Summertown to Middle Way to go see our old home, #26 Middle Way. It also, amazingly, looked just about exactly the same as 21 years prior.

The corner of South Parade and Middle Way, where our friends the Shah's used to own a newsagent and I used to buy penny sweets from them. The corner used to be the Post Office, where I made lots of friends with the staff as I used to go there a lot to buy stamps and also, of course, lots of penny sweets.

There was a tennis court back here which I practiced on a couple of times way back.
Look!! Our old house!!!!!!!!!!!
This was SO fun to be here.
My bedroom was the tiny closet at the top of the stairs. Looks like they finally converted it into a shower!!! That's about all it really had space for!
Against that far wall was where I spent a formative year learning how to install computer parts and program in QuickBasic.

Dad looking into the backyard from the neighbour's driveway
This is the most meaningful image to me, believe it or not. "Our" sweet sweet cat named Kipper, who was technically a neighbour's cat but loved us more I'd like to believe, used to jump through this gate when he was coming over to spend time with us. I would be on the other side of the gate, and call his name "Kipper!" and he would sometime launch off the ground and wiggle through one of these small fence squares, down to our side of the gate, and then come into the house. Once we left the window open and he came in anyway, and put his entire face into a bowl of cream my Mom was whipping. It was all over his whiskers and it was HILARIOUS. Oh, what a sweet cat.
Our little backyard.
From here we went on the classic walk from our house to Wolvercote, a place where I used to go to Sea Scouts while in England.

We took a nice long walk and it was great, walking past some old familiar roads, and onto the little Scout Island we used to have our meetings on and launch some boat trips from.

My OTHER old favourite Fish and Chip shop is now also something else :(

Funny ducks

Ahh yes, another British sign

The walk along to the Godstow Lock

The Godstow Lock!! I had to walk over this to get to the Scout Island. We went to go take a look.
Ahh, our old storage shed! I think we used to store some of the boats in there.

And after a nice long walk, we went back to The Trout pub (which is now most certainly a fancy "gastropub" -- England sure has turned it up a notch in the food dept. since we lived here!)

A great spot to sit along the water and relax.
Michal, of course, ordered an Elderflower drink.

Eton Mess may be my favourite thing ever.
And so concludes our very short and very awesome visit to Oxford! Action-packed, full of extremely memorable old memories, and a truly lovely and fantastic place to share with Michal.

We bid adieu to my parents who were off to London the next day, and we headed to London to go catch the Eurostar to Paris. Old-fashioned British penny sweets in-hand, of course.

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