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Posts Tagged ‘Brecon’

It’s been two years since I last visited Oxford, and four years since I moved there to begin my yearlong sojourn as a graduate student. In so many ways, I am very far from that (relatively) carefree, travel-filled, single student life.

However, there are certain times of the year where my body, almost on its own, seems to remember where I was and what I was doing at this time four years ago. Late August means my arrival in Oxford with two bulging suitcases; early November and early April both mean Paris; the first weekend in February always means Whitby. And so I’ve been thinking about where I was four Septembers ago – climbing onto a tour bus with a fresh-faced, excited crowd of ACU students, and heading off for a weekend in Wales.

We began with visits to Bath and Bristol, both somewhat known quantities to me since I’d been to them before. But after wandering Bath Abbey, touring a lovely Georgian home, and absorbing as much information as we could at the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol, we headed west to a new place: a charming, rambling old farmhouse-turned-hostel just outside the wee village of Brecon, tucked away in the hills of the Brecon Beacons.

Over the next two days, we did some hiking, some browsing in the village shops, some eating together in the hostel’s cozy dining area (I remember the hot apple crumble), and – my favorite – lots of just hanging out in the sunny front yard, with a view of these hills:

I held an unusual position with that group of students – as a 24-year-old grad student, working part-time for their study abroad program, I was not quite a faculty member, yet not quite a student. I’d just met the new crop of students (and was sharing a kitchen and bathroom with five of them, all male), so I was a little nervous about heading off with them for a whole weekend.

That weekend contains, in my memory, no earth-shattering moments – no deep revelations, no particularly surprising conversations. (Those would come later, usually late at night, often in the basement kitchen where we cooked and studied and washed dishes and became part of each other’s lives.) But I do remember walking to the village with Nick, down a dark road (only one streetlight for three miles), our way lit only by the flashlight he held, and meeting some other students at the village pub. We sat at picnic tables outside, and then we walked back together in twos and threes along the same dark lane, tipping our heads back every few feet to look at the stars.

Most of all I remember sitting on the hillside that evening, Moose stretched out beside me and Nathan sitting on my other side, the dampness soaking through our jeans as we watched the fog roll in over the hills. We talked of nothing in particular, still a bit shy with one another, still feeling our way into these friendships that had just begun. Inside the hostel, there was warmth and light, board games and laughter – and we eventually got up, stretched our stiff muscles and went in to join our friends.

But for that brief space of time (an hour? Two hours? An eon?), I remember sinking deeply into the green damp grass and the crisp night air and the warm, solid, safe presence of the two boys next to me. We were new housemates and even newer friends, but somehow, that quiet hour on the hillside five thousand miles from home forged a deep bond between us. And when we got up to go inside the hostel, I knew we had come home in an entirely different way.

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I’m finally back at my little house in Cowley, after two nights at the ACU houses that turned into five. I spent Wed. night over there as we were leaving early on Thursday, and crashed there on Friday night after we returned from Wales. And the weekend was just so chill, and so fun, that I couldn’t leave. I absolutely adore living in the basement with the boys (see previous post), and as the evenings stretch on I find it harder and harder to leave. I love sipping tea with them in the morning as they drink their coffee, joining in their outrageous travel plans, listening to them jam out on their guitars, and being a part of the cozy craziness that is dungeon life. I am quite glad to be back with sweet Lizzie tonight, though. (I needed a dose of femininity…and some non-pasta food. She was an angel, and made salmon and new potatoes for dinner.)

Here, finally, are a couple of photos from the trip, and a brief outline…

We left Oxford around 7 a.m. on Thursday, and drove to Bath, our first stop. I had been to Bath once before, on a frigid February day when I was nursing a bad cold. We quite enjoyed ourselves in spite of all that, but it was so much nicer this time. The weather was cloudy but quite pleasant, and we so enjoyed ourselves just walking around.

The boys and I visited beautiful Bath Abbey:

We found an incredible breakfast special – full English breakfast for 2.75 pounds – at a sidewalk cafe afterward, so took a mid-morning break:

From left, meet Moose, Bryce and Nick, three of my beloved basement boys. They’re mellow, sweet and fun, and they don’t seem to mind having a girl in their midst quite often. 🙂

We went from here to the Georgian House at Number One Royal Crescent, which is the only house on the block kept up in period style. The guides in each room were all charming little old ladies, quite knowledgeable about the house and its contents.

Darling Jacque and I wandered a bit after that and then got delicious fresh takeaway buns at Sally Lunn’s. Mmmmm. I have the recipe for that bread somewhere…must make some more soon.

Drove to Bristol and spent two hours going through the Empire and Commonwealth Museum. Quite fascinating, especially the current exhibit on slavery around the British Empire and the world. A bit of sensory overload, but some profoundly interesting stuff. And it’s amazing how much more interesting the history of Zimbabwe is now that I know someone from Zimbabwe. (That would be Mike, Jacque’s sweet boyfriend. He has some amazing stories.)

The rest of the pictures refuse to upload, so I’ll try again tomorrow and save the rest of the story for then. Happy Monday!

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