Fall in love this Valentine’s Day in Oxford.
Paris is infamously known as the “city of love.” I cannot deny that I have experienced my fair share of fantasies involving sitting by the Seine with a loved one, drinking champagne, and watching the sun set over the Notre Dame. I think that Oxford, however, is the city of dreams. Oxford was the first city that I completely fell in love with and I am not sure that I have ever gotten over that particular feeling. I lived and studied in Oxford for a month when I was seventeen and my whole world expanded during that time. Maybe I felt exhilarated because I was in Europe during the summer without my parents, and the possibility of a “good time” seemed endless.
At first, much like falling in love, Oxford completely mystified me. I was instantly drawn to the incredible architecture the area provided: Oxford is absolutely beautiful! The city has towering monuments, spinning pillars, one of the oldest and grandest libraries in Europe (The Bodleian), a diverse range of chapels, and contains all of the refined Oxford colleges. Most of Oxford’s streets comprise of intertwining alleyways and sometimes have cobblestones, which are quite easy to stumble on. As I walked around Oxford, I was constantly forced to look up. I saw gargoyles from buildings or stain glass from churches, which mixed seamlessly with the blue summer sky. After only a day in Oxford, I could not get enough. I had experienced a place so unlike that of Southern California, and I loved the city because it was simply and purely unique. I absolutely needed to see more. I resolved to explore the town as much as I could before I left, to drink from the wealth of cafes it offered, to run every morning parallel to the beautiful structures, and to allow myself to delve willingly and head first into a new part of my life.
I ate incredible food while in Oxford: meat pies with mashed potatoes and peas, the best cookies in the world (yes, they were that good) from Ben’s Cookies, scones with clotted cream from Queen Lane’s Teahouse, interesting Indian food, falafels from food trucks, and “Holy Cows” (ice cream in hot chocolate) from G&D’s. It wasn’t just the food that transformed my experience or the friends I made, but rather the city itself. In the mornings I would run along the river, next to cows, across the street from Christ Church where a scene from Harry Potter was filmed. Where does one get that experience in the United States? I saw Shakespeare plays in outdoor theaters and climbed the rooftops of buildings looking down on Oxford to reflect upon life. I read Saxon poetry on top of the oldest tower in Oxford, got lost in Blackwell’s bookstore, and went punting along a river. My life actually seemed like a surreal dream, but I wasn’t waking up. I think love is sort of like that. My time in Oxford felt too short and I certainly didn’t want to leave, but I still look back at the summer as one of the best and most transformative periods of my life.