Hamburg and Oxford – two very civilized cities!

Musings from the Road
It’s October 19th and I’ve been incommunicado for almost three weeks – probably the longest pause from my BLOG when I’m travelling. My apologies!
I have been wrestling with a kind of peculiar writer’s block – the words are there rustling around in my head, arranging and rearranging themselves but for an as yet undetermined reason, they refused to be put to paper. I say “they” as if they have a life of their own and indeed they do – I often feel that I’m simply the mechanism. Sometimes the words come out plodding and pedestrian, and sometimes they flow eloquently and even elegantly. The former are my own clumsy attempts and the latter – well who knows perhaps my muse comes to the forefront!

So, now an update! Hamburg was delightful – it is such a congenial city. The weather was perfect, Gudrun and I walked beside the canals (apparently Hamburg has more canals and bridges than Venice), shopped, lunched, caught up on each others lives and had long naps every afternoon. She’d been working too hard, I was drained from both the physical and emotional aftermath of moving Dad and so having a relaxed pace suited perfectly. 

We did however go to the Opera House – pulled out the glad rags and sparklies – to see a new Ballet by John Neumeier about Nijinsky. I was a bit lost at the beginning as the timeline was moving backwards and the dance was “modern” but gradually, slowly I fell under the spell of the story. Neumeier used modern dance and classical ballet to show how Nijinsky created a new athletic, emotional, more fluid style which of course today is what we are accustomed to. He was such a genius – tortured, complicated and charismatic but he completely transformed ballet in a few very short years and I found it intensely moving – surprisingly so.

One evening we had dinner in a Spanish restaurant and to my delight they had grilled Padron pimentos – I’d been completely addicted to them while walking the Camino last year. No doubt Gudrun thought I was crazy the way I went on and on about them but the owner was impressed enough to offer us LePanto brandy after dinner! Now if only we’d stopped a one….

We drove up to the North Sea for the day, brilliant sunshine until later in the afternoon when a heavy storm started glowering on the horizon. We walked a couple of miles and watched these clever buggy/para sail races. I gather they can go up to 130 km. an hour under the right circumstances – steering with the feet and handling the sails with the hands – wicked fun and I’d love to learn one day!

The North Sea with Gudrun.

And now onto the UK and Oxford. By the way – I STILL HATE HEATHROW!

I stayed with some other travel friends in their perfect Victorian townhouse – I had the most wonderful aerie with sloping roof – a few bumps on the noggin before I got the hang of it – on the third floor all to myself.We’ve met up in far away places but this was the first time I’d been to their home. Felicity and Ian are the perfect hosts in my opinion – a blend of leisurely rambles through the english countryside, explorations of the storied city of Oxford, stimulating conversations over good wines and plenty of quiet time to recharge. They actually need to be very careful or they’ll find they’ve acquired a permanent guest!

As the weather was once again perfect, we set off one morning, walking sticks in hand, across the Port Meadow.During WWII Canadian soldiers were bivouacked here and the British Army Engineers developed the expandable section bridge which was so effective in the latter part of the war. The original prototype still stands today and provides the pedestrian crossing across the river. 

Lunch was in the gardens of a country inn called “The Perch” surrounded by great willows and emerald green lawns. We ate quail eggs with celery salt, pan fried, perfect sole accompanied by a very respectable English white wine and something called “Eton Mess” for dessert. I really felt like I’d wandered into a novel of manners and manors – LOL!

Ian and Felicity having walked up an appetite.

Our host coming out to greet us.

The next day Ian took Felicity and I on a private tour of Christ Church College as he is an “old boy”. Stunningly beautiful with the mellow tones of the Cotswold stone buildings, the history stretching back six or eight hundred years and the aura of academic focus – real and imagined. It is also awfully nice to watch the “tourists” bunch about from the other side of the divide so to speak!

After all that architectural brilliance we repaired to “The Eagle and Child” or as the locals apparently call it “the Bird and Babe”, which was a favourite haunt of both C.S. Lewis AND J.R.R. Tolkien!!! Absolutely thrilling to plant my butt on the same musty banquette as two of my most loved authors!

I could imagine living in either Hamburg or Oxford…..

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