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Oscar Wilde said, “But Venice, like Oxford, had kept the background for romance, and to the true romantic, background was everything, or almost everything.” William Butler Yeats said, “I wonder if anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful. One almost expects the people to sing instead of speaking. It is like an opera.” Recently Mr. Arnold and I were driving from the English countryside to the English coast. Since Oxford was near we decided to stop and waste the afternoon in Oxford, England. It turned out to be every bit and more of the poetic words of Oscar Wilde and William Butler Yeats.
Mr.Arnold and I really had no plan as we pulled into “the city of spires” or as British Poet Matthew Arnold put it “And that sweet city with her dreaming spires. She needs not June for beauty’s heightening”. As we parked the car we tried to make a quick decision of what we should do. We defaulted to sightseeing Oxford University. As we walked toward the University we crossed the Magdalen Bridge and when I saw the boats gently gliding on the River Cherwell and noticed the boats were for rent. I lost my mind! Overly-excited I told Mr.Arnold, I want that now! We immediately walked to the Magdalen Bridge Boathouse. There were several options for boat rental and Mr. Arnold choose a pedalo boat. A completely inappropriate choice for my really smashing- short dress, but once we were floating on the River Cherwell nothing mattered. Estaticaly laughing as we pedaled our boat named Captain Cook, as we emerged from under the Magdalen Bridge we were silly, silly, giddy. Big fat puffy bright white clouds filled the sky and intensified the brilliant blue. Ducks with colorful feathers glided alongside us as we watched the gleaming emerald river banks. I felt like I was in the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland, which made a lot of sense because we were sailing right past where Lewis Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland in 1865. It was so romantic Mr. Arnold and I looked like a box cover for a romantic comedy. People along the riverbank noticed our romantic euphoria and were laughing at us. We pedaled all the way out toward Isis (Oxfords name for the River Thames). On the way back to the boathouse we tossed bread into the river to feed the ducks and realized that it was time to feed ourselves.
Mr. Arnold remembered a suggestion someone had given him and so we decided to give it a try. We went in search of the suggested Turf Tavern which we were warned was well-hidden. We started our game of hide and seek with the use of google maps. As our shoes pounded the cobblestones, we noticed a sign on a well-worn brick building that said, St Helens Passage. A group of rambunctiously delighted people emerged from St Helen’s passageway and shouted at us “There’s a cool pub back there!”. We went in the direction the rowdy group guided us toward and knew we found it when there was a large sign that said “Bill Clinton… It is alleged that it was here at the Turf Tavern, that Bill Clinton, while here at Oxford University during the sixties, did not inhale whilst smoking illegal substances… what he does with cigars in his own time is his business”. After Mr. Arnold and I entered the low-beamed dark front bar area of the Turf Tavern and ordered a round of English Ale and wine, I noticed a well-worn pair of cowboy boots clicking on the wide floor planks. I looked up at the woman wearing the cowboy boots and asked her where she “got them boots”? Turns out she was an American from Idaho attending Oxford working toward her Ph.D. We talked so long one round turned into the next and the food we ordered just sat and got cold. As the sun sank lower into the sky Mr. Arnold and I remembered our original plan, to check out Oxford University.
We headed over to the Bodleian Library at Oxford University otherwise known as “Bodley” or “the Bod” to Oxford scholars. As the sky darkened a deep cloudy gray-blue the Library windows glowed with warm dramatic yellow light. We really were walking into a melodramatic scene from Harry Potter. As Mr. Arnold and I passed through the front doors of the Library we were transformed by a soothing peaceful silence. A brief conversation with the Librarian informed us that our visit was not possible due to timing. Really no disappointment at all. Oxford England deserved more time than an afternoon. I’m sure Mr. Arnold and I will see the Library on our next visit to Oxford.