On our London trip, one of our goals was to actually spend time OUT of the city since we hardly ventured out when we were living there because we were so busy, and Evan wasn’t able to go with me to Oxford, Cambridge or Brighton. Our first day trip was to Oxford. We hopped on the Oxford Tube at Notting Hill Gate and less than two hours later, we were standing in the middle of Oxford’s High Street.
We started by going into the church right in the center of town and climbing up to a lookout point where we were able to see the whole city. Then we wandered by the Radcliffe Camera and the library, and stopped in at the Blackwell’s art and poster shop, where we bought a great poster of LA by eBoy. It had all sorts of LA landmarks, zombies, SWAT teams and more done up in a fun, colorful old-school arcade game style. The shop also had plenty of other cool posters, cards and books.
Christ Church College Quad
Then we went to visit Christ Church College, walked around town some more, and got gooey, warm and delicious cookies from Ben’s Cookies in the covered market. We also saw a whole, headless deer hanging from the wall. It was more than a little disturbing. There was also a goat in a similar position. We did, however, see some live deer in Magdalen College’s field, and had a nice walk around its pretty grounds, which are right on the river. It was too cold and rainy for punting, though.
My friend Janet invited us out to her neck of the woods — Bexleyheath — to see some of its sights, so we met her at the Eltham train station about 30 minutes outside of London, and went to visit Eltham Palace. The place is an Art Deco palace-turned war command center-turned historic site, built on the same spot as one of Henry VIII’s childhood home. It was rainy, so we didn’t get to tour the grounds and gardens much, but we did go through the many living rooms, bedrooms and funny exhibits on the family’s pet lemur, including not one, but two stuffed lemur dolls. We took along the free audio guides, but they proved excessively verbose. Though the segments would start off well and had plenty of interesting information, each room’s story seemed to last for ages. Thankfully, there were signs we could read, instead. I just wish the weather had been better and we could have had a picnic.
Me with my oil lantern in the Chiselhurst Caves
After our morning in Eltham, Janet brought us over to the Chiselhurst Caves, man-made caves in a hill that were started 4,000 years ago by the druids, then continued by the Romans and the Saxons. The caves were used to house 15,000 people during the WWII air raids, and they currently host frequent role-playing events, though in a separate section from the main tour. Stil, you can’t help but notice the LARPers dressed in everything from caveman to wizard costumes as you pull up to the small visitor’s center.
We paid for a tour, and descended into the caves with a big group of people and a guide. We grabbed lanterns, since most of the caves don’t have lighting, and started our tour through the cold stone walkways. We passed by the church, the stage, lots of spots for triple-decker bunk beds, a druid altar, a well and a hospital. The guide told us about what life in the caves was like during the war, its mining history and its quite honestly creepy ghost stories. They also took us by a “cave monster” on our way out!
Chiselhurst Cave Monster
It was great to see a part of London we’d never experienced and get to some tourist sites that we’d never read about in our guidebooks — and that some Londoners don’t even know about. Thanks, Janet!