Today, I touched down at Heathrow after a eight hour flight across the Atlantic from Chicago. We touched down early, so I was excited but a slight warning: apparently, three hour queues at LHR are common for customs if you don’t have an EU or UK passport. I finally got out of customs around 10AM or so and had to make my way to the Central Bus Station to get to Oxford. I could have withdrew money while at the airport, but I decided I would wait until I got to Oxford. The nice thing about Heathrow is that I could pay with card for my bus tickets so I didn’t have to take out money. It was 24 pounds for the trip to Oxford one way.
Getting my bus ticket was the part of the trip I was most nervous about and I ended up messing it up by getting a ticket that was much later than I actually needed to leave. I managed to get onto an earlier bus since going to Oxford is flexible, so this seems to usually be the case. After 11 hours of total travel and waiting time, I finally rolled into Oxford around noon. Toghrul was waiting for me at the bus stop which was really sweet. We walked back together to the house he was living in in Cowley. Surprisingly, it was as if Oxford hadn’t changed at all in the slightest since the last time I was here.
While most of our time was spent talking (we have a lot of catching up to do after not seeing each other for two years), we did eventually have to go scavenge for food. For lunch, we walked down to City Center and saw the Christmas Market that was there. All the gifts there looked very cute, but I’m a sucker for handmade crafts. It’s probably more of a tourist trap than anything, but it’s worth a go if you’ve never seen it. Very small though, overall. We ate at a small place called “A Taste of China” in the Covered Market where we had the Hot and Dry Noodles for 5 pounds. The place is so small, there were only two tables at which to sit if you wanted to eat at the Covered Market. I liked the noodles, but it’s very difficult to eat them without the presence of water. They definitely live up to their name of “Dry” noodles. The shops in the Covered Market had slightly changed since the last time I was here which was a surprise. I guess it really shouldn’t have been a surprise though. Things do change. Like, now there’s a Five Guys beside Tesco in City Center. Crazy.
For dinner, we did more walking around the city (this will probably be a trend), and ended up going to Jericho to get food. The place we went was called the “Old Bookbinders” because it used to be the home of the Oxford University Press. They now have a much nicer building that we passed by on our way to “Old Bookbinders” actually. Bookbinders is a pub, but the fare served is very un-pub-like. Usually, you’d expect more British food, but the menu was very French inspired. Toghrul got the beef bourguignon dish also known as “L’Etable” and I got the braised pork dish, or “La Porcherie”. Both had potatoes in some form and were served with vegetables and bread on the side. I really enjoyed my braised pork because I’ve been on some sort of binge for the Chinese version of braised pork. The Bourguignon was good too, especially if you like stews. It’s very much like a beef stew. The French style of cooking, however, causes it to have a slightly acidic aftertaste which made it difficult to eat after a while, at least for me. The braised pork dish had a more neutral flavor. The prices were a bit on the more expensive end, but would be comparable to the price I would expect at an okay restaurant for dinner in the US. Expect to pay around 13-15 pounds each depending on what you order here.
On the walk back, we were supposed to stop by G&D for a brownie sundae, but they are unfortunately closed for the holiday season already! That’s one downside to visiting Oxford during the holidays: everything starts to close since the students start to leave. In our disappointment, we walked to Tesco instead and bought the ingredients for a brownie sundae that I call “the poor student’s brownie sundae”. It was an unfortunate bust, but the conversation was good and the company, better. Guess we need to eat out while we can before the holidays truly hit.