Today was Oxford Day, made possible by the wonderful Andrew, who'd rented a car to drive there.
Sven and I had had this conversation the night before, at his flat:
Me: "You do realize he's a better person than we are."
Sven: "Yeah. I know."
We had to pick up the car early, so we took the Tube to the rental place. Andrew hadn't been able to print his online confirmation. Apparently a computerized system isn't sufficient; they needed the printed confirmation. We had to walk to the local internet cafe so Andrew can print out the confirmation. While he and SP busied themselves, I got us all beverages from a local shop, served by a man wearing a Yankees baseball cap.
We got a comfy car and, with Andrew's snazzy portable GPS, Sven reading the map, and me sitting happily in the back seat, we headed out. We passed through North London, again through Highgate. I was happy because this is the neighborhood setting for Truly, Madly, Deeply, one of my favorite movies of all time ("I have rats; I'm in a mess.")
We passed under a huge, towering Victorian bridge built in 1893. It was majestic, unbelievably high over the road.
"That's Suicide Bridge," Andrew informed me.
"Ah. So that explains the chain-link they' installed..."
Traveling through the November countryside, I could easily have been convinced we were traveling through New Hampshire. I did have to remind myself not to panic when I'd forget and thought Andrew was driving into oncoming traffic. In the cities, it was worse, when he'd turn a corner and I had to stop from screaming to GET OVER TO THE RIGHT!!!!!!!!
We stopped at rest stops, where I amused myself by buying British snack foods like Cheddar Rounds (think round crackers that taste like Cheez-its). Andrew has a major chocolate addiction, which Sven and I are happy to enable; we were never without some fabulous Cadbury's product within reach.
We arrived in Oxford, city of spires, academia, Jude the Obscure, and horrific parking. Fortunately for us, Andrew is an amazing driver and managed to find us a spot. We went into an inside market, recommended by a friend of Sven's. Everything was there: homemade chocolate-chip cookies (thanks to Andrew for buying us some -- I loved my milk-chocolate and orange delight); clothing, cheese..
We turned a corner, and there was the butcher stand...complete with rows of dead brown rabbits hanging by their feet in a gruesome version of bunting.
"Look over here; over here!" chanted Andrew and Sven, waving their arms to distract me.
We decided it was time to leave.
We wandered through Oxford, which is apparently used to tourists, as evidenced by the various CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC signs in front of various buildings. We toyed with the idea of sitting in on a class, but figured we couldn't pull it off.
We did go to a church, which was beautiful. We resisted buying the mugs, and had a lovely time wandering around. We then headed through the streets, taking in the architecture, and heading down the high street looking at shops.
We were getting hungry so we stopped at a pub called Chequers, which served up some tasty vegetarian bangers and mash. Our next goal was the Natural History Museum, where Sven had been told there were shrunken heads. After driving down winding streets that were closed off at random, Andrew valiantly found a spot and decided to sit in the car and have a nap while Sven and I ran to the museum.
The museum was worth the trip if only for the building itself. Huge, Victorian, the kind of place you see in movies. Lots of skeletons and stuffed animals.
We finally found the cases containing pottery, weapons...and shrunken heads. It was fascinating, although I was disappointed to learn that people sometimes used sloth heads when humans weren't available.
I also felt sorry for the staff person who was in charge of the "Fabrics and Ropes" case. Yeah; I'm guessing some grad student got that plum assignment.
We returned to London to get ready for Avenue Q, which Sven and Andrew had seen but were taking me to. Sven and I had been singing the soundtrack to AQ for a couple of years, and I'd been jealous that he'd gotten to see it finally.
It was wonderful. Absolutely fantastic, entertaining, and just as great as I'd hoped it would be. We had great seats, and Andrew bought me ice cream during intermission. It was a perfect, perfect time.
Afterward, we decided to get a late supper. Here's the thing: London has changed a LOT since I'd lived there. A lot has to do with the changed liquor laws. London, ladies and gentlemen, has a night life now. A real night life that does not revolve around pubs and discos.
We walked through streets crowded, buzzing, with people out on the town. We finally found an upscale Thai restaurant that was very inviting and very busy. The tables were large and quasi-communal. allowing us the privacy of our conversation and the opportunity to people-watch. I was eating an amazing meal after an amazing show, and I realized: it had been a very long time since I'd been out with good friends on a good friend date. I'd become accustomed to eating almost all o of my meals alone, seeing all of my movies alone, going to coffee shops alone. Since Wednesday, I'd eaten almost all of my meals with company, and gone "home" to a flat where someone else also lived. I liked it. I was having fun, feeling like I belonged to something, and it was nice.
We took a bus back home, dropping Andrew off along the way. It had been a fabulous, fabulous day.