Posts Tagged ‘train travel’

In search of Inspector Lewis

April 25, 2011

Looking for Inspector Lewis? Or perhaps Morse – I confess I never watched much of Morse, he was just so depressing. At least Lewis has that cute Hathaway as contrast. Whichever detective is on your list of favorites, you can find him around almost any corner in Oxford.

It’s easy to spend a day in Oxford on your way to the Cotswolds, but it’s just as easy to take the train out from London for a day. The journey from Paddington station is not quite an hour – be sure to get a train that doesn’t stop, otherwise you’ll have to change at Reading. Trains are frequent – every 15 minutes or so – which always astounds those of us from the West coast, where people are just discovering that public transportation might be a good thing. You can search times and fares on the National Rail site.

Take a bus from the station into the city center, and head for a morning stroll through the University of Oxford Botanic Garden, designed and planted by 1633 – a yew tree, more than 360 years old, is still there. We visited on a hot midsummer day, so appreciated the cooling effect of a garden, but really, a garden is good to visit any time.

Additional hot spots in the city: any Tolkien fan will want to stop by the Eagle and Child pub – a local review gives it good marks. And you can always look up film locations for Inspector Lewis and Morse, plus Harry Potter and loads more movies television.

Scads of walking tours satisfy almost anyone’s interest, but you don’t have to join someone’s group to tour, you can do it yourself. We picked up a brochure at the information office on Broad Street, and, as we walked around the streets I read off the interesting bits.

We’d stopped on Merton Street – still covered in streamers and not a few beer bottles from graduation parties the night before – and as I read the entry about Corpus Christi College, a man stopped and listened. Then he said, “That’s my college – would you like to see it?” So, Sir Tim Lankester, President of Corpus Christi College (recently retired) took us through the college, including the 16th-century library (we almost lost Leighton there) and into the college’s gardens where no tourist goes.

And, as an example of never really being far from home, when he found out we were from Seattle, he mentioned he’d been there in the 1960s. He wanted to know if we still had that “awful great raised freeway” above the waterfront. Fifty years later, we still haven’t escaped from the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Trains and trains and trains

August 23, 2009

Just back from Portland and the Farwest Show and, of course, we took the train. The Seattle-Portland trip on Amtrak Cascades is lovely and relaxing from the moment we step into the station.

Portland station's ceiling

Portland station's ceiling

Stepping into the Portland station is stepping back in time—motifs on the ceiling, marble arches and ceiling fans. In Seattle, King Street station is still undergoing renovation, as it has been doing for at least 15 years. When will it be finished? They’ve opened up an area of white marblelike walls that looks appropriately old, but the dropped acoustic ceiling still covers the original beauty. There’s one gap where you can see through all the way up, accompanied by a sign that shows you what’s to come. Some day.

In London, we love the organized chaos of stations such as Paddington—everyone is going in a different direction, and yet all movement seems choreographed. We stand in a crowd watching the letters and numbers flip by on the big board until our platform is announced, then off we go to find decent seats and wait for the tea trolley.

Smaller train stations around England provide charming anecdotes. In Taunton one year, a polished steam engine came puffing through. At the station in Cheltenham two summers ago, a Spitfire flew over us; it had just performed at Proms the night before at Sudeley Castle.

Not all train stations are as enjoyable.  Gare du Nord makes me nervous. How will I feel in Rome?