Oxfordians we become!

We’re in our new home in Oxford! And it’s pouring down with rain outside (who would have thought?), but at least it has given me the chance to put pen to paper, so to speak. My last few days in Israel were lovely and hot (it got up to 40oC at one point). My sister and I went shopping, swimming and ate more humus and falafel and other generally delicious food than you can imagine. A highlight of the last days was a picture perfect sunset stroll at Caesarea. This serenely beautiful ancient city lies on the shores of the Mediterranean and was built around 20 BC by King Herod the Great (who as far as I can work out is mainly remembered for killing his family members and the odd rabbi or two). The last time I visited this historic site I was 11 years old. My memories from that time are all of vast ruins and scrambling through archways and caverns. I don’t remember there being vast numbers of high-end yuppie cafes, restaurants, pubs and shops nestled throughout the ancient ruins. Yet today that is likely the feature most visitors are likely to remember. Thankfully these have been tastefully merged into the sandstone walls of the old city and it is all beautiful indeed. If you are ever in the area I highly recommend a stroll down through the chariot racing arena to the amphitheatre and back before sitting and sipping hot apple cinnamon cider in the seaside cafes while watching the sunset paint all the ruins in pink and purple as it melts into the sea.

Alas the brief but lovely journey through Israel had to come to an end and at 2 am (!) I hugged my sister and Ami goodbye and headed for the airport. Now a word of warning for all those thinking of travelling to Israel: if you can, don’t fly out. The airport is horrid! It took me over two hours to get through passport control and to my gate. I showed my passport on seven separate occasions. I was asked the same series of probing questions regarding the contents of luggage by two separate people, which was then x-rayed and inspected anyway. And all this was at 3 am! There were so many people, shoving and pushing, yelling to, and gat, each other in ten thousand languages, and arguing about whether or not they were in line first or not. It was a total mess. Anyway I made it out and pretty much slept through the flight to London. And when I walked out into Gatwick airport my gorgeous boy was waiting for me. Yay! We got a bite to eat (I changed my last 70 shekels, which could have bought me six huge serves of falafel and humus in pita, for £9 and managed to by one average tuna sandwich and a small juice with it!) and then boarded the bus to Oxford.

Fifteen minutes into the bus ride (about the time the driver was telling us how badly congested the road out of London was) I nodded off and woke up just outside Oxford. As the bus inched its way into the city, I was craning to see out the window, to try and take it all in. “Holy shit, this is my new home”, I kept thinking. But the view from the window was good and the view from the ground even better. Oxford is really a beautiful city (in that quaint, typically English way) and thankfully we had a day and half of sunshine in which to explore it on foot. The city centre is a mish-mash of the new and the old: majestic historic buildings including some 40-odd colleges, churches, theatres, libraries and the like alternating with new shopping malls and leading brand name stores and copious numbers of restaurants (though depressingly only one ridiculously over-priced sushi train).

Traffic here is fairly busy but bicycles are plentiful (there are dedicated bike lanes throughout the city and it appears that there is a harmonious coexistence between drivers and cyclists – though this I will have to see for myself). The city is touristy, but it’s also clear that this is a multicultural place and that a great number of the foreign languages and accents belong to resident Oxfordians.

The loveliest thing in the city however is that there are simply kilometres of footpaths to amble along that will take you on a pleasant stroll by the river or through the countless meadows, groves, commons and fields (I’m pretty sure these are all the same thing) which surround the old city.

Oh and the pubs are really great too and they have the best names; “The Cock and Camel”, “The Eagle and Child”, “The Three Goats Heads”, “Far From The Madding Crowd” and our local “The Jolly Folly”. Speaking of local, our temporary dwelling for the next six weeks is quite pretty and newly renovated but kind of poky – e.g. you have to close one door before you can open another, and the bathroom opens onto the staircase, which is precariously steep and narrow. But at least we have lovely views out onto the park and Oxford canal behind the house. We also have a swimming pool at the end of the street and free tennis courts in the park. So my swim suit may yet see the light of day in this country (if it decides to get ‘proper’ hot – ha!).

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