During my recent trip to Oxford, I hopped the train to London for a day (it’s only an hour’s ride each way). London is the first European city I ever visited (when I was 16, on a high school band trip), and while I find it a little overwhelming, I do love it.
From the house in North Oxford where I was staying, it’s a lovely walk to the train station along the canal.
For breakfast on the go, I snagged a bacon-and-egg baguette from On the Hoof, the best sandwich shop anywhere.
After a smooth ride in the quiet car (I adore train travel), I disembarked at Paddington Station, where I bought a large chai latte at Caffe Nero (combating jet lag with caffeine) and ran into an old friend:
Paddington Station boasts an entire Paddington Bear shop, full of stuffed animals, books and other Paddington merchandise. I had a delightful browse, and when I came down the escalator nearby, the bear himself was waiting for me.
After saying hello, I hopped on the Tube and rode over to Tower Hill, site of the Tower of London.
This fall, volunteers are planting 888,246 crimson ceramic poppies around the base of the Tower, one for every British fatality in World War I. The final poppy will be planted on Remembrance Day (Nov. 11), and the flowers will eventually be sold off for charity.
Even though the installation isn’t complete yet, the effect is truly stunning.
The jostling crowds at the railing detracted from the effect a little, but I still found myself getting choked up.
I walked around all four sides of the tower, snapping photos, and said hello to another old friend: Tower Bridge.
The bookshops along Charing Cross Road are legendary, and we talked each other into a couple of purchases (Gilead for her, The Handmaid’s Tale for me) before heading up the road to Foyles. Their new premises – five floors’ worth! – are rather dazzling.
We were a bit overwhelmed, but managed a tour of the fiction floor and the children’s area. I came away with a lovely edition of Sense and Sensibility and a copy of The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp, the new Eva Rice novel I’ve been dying to read.
From Foyles, we caught the Tube to King’s Cross Station, where I wanted to get my photo taken at Platform 9 3/4. Unfortunately, the queue was long, Caroline had a train to catch and I had another friend to meet – so we contented ourselves with walking by, then snapping a slightly blurred selfie.
London always feels like a mad dash – so many things to see and places to go, most of which seem to be across town from one another. This day was no exception – I made good use of my day pass on the Underground, and I was plenty tired by the time I got back to Oxford that night. But it was a wonderful day.