Don’t mess with Mother Nature … or Mother England

This weekend I learned yet another important lesson: Weather does not change.

In vain, I have taken the mild January/February weather in London as a sign that such mild weather was a sign of warmer times, less precipitation, perhaps even slight climate change.

And then Sunday happened.

I woke up in the wee hours of the morning (it was raining) to trek it up to the International Student House for a day trip to Oxford, Stratford and the Cotswolds.

“Maybe it will stop by the time we get there?” my friend asked me, looking out the window onto the A40.

“Excuse me,” asked a Chinese grad student to our tour guide, “Is it like this in Oxford too?”

Our tour guide’s response? Laughter.

Clearly we were in for a very wet, cold day.

As our day went on, the weather did not disappoint.

It did, however, disappoint our group hoping for a carefree jaunt in the English countryside.

One of Oxford University’s many colleges, located on a high street, is typically mixed with other buildings and storefronts.

While I did get to wander around Oxford – home to the famous university and its “colleges” (essentially residence halls that look like castles, or were castles at one point in time), it wasn’t the collegiate dream I’d anticipated.

It was cold. And wet.

We went to Oxford and were given a walking tour (in the rain).

We were able to see and learn about the university’s most-famous buildings, and were given an hour for free time. I was able to walk through Christ Church‘s gardens (which is a must-see for anyone with time to stroll – they are beautiful, and inspired many a poet and writer!), stopped in Alice’s Shop where Lewis Carroll found inspiration for his infamous tales, bought some Oxford University swag at the oldest store in the city and wander around the oldest museum in Britain (the Ashmolean).

Then the tour got interesting, and we stopped in one Cotswold “town” called Berford and one “settlement”/”hamlet” called Lower Slaughter.

Apart from the fact that no one really had any desire to leave the coach to wander around a random town for 15-30 minutes, each setting was quaint – exactly what picturesque towns in the English countryside should look like.

I even had the misfortune to pay £3 for a Cotswolds fruit tea I ordered in Berford while severely misjudging time, forcing myself to embarrassingly ask for a to-go cup and run back to the coach with a paper cup full of hot liquid, sans lid.

Shakespeare's grave in Holy Trinity Church has been stepped over and touched so many times by visitors the inscription is no longer visible.
Shakespeare’s grave in Holy Trinity Church has been stepped over and touched so many times by visitors the inscription is no longer visible.

Perhaps the most “indoor” activities of the day – away from the elements – were my tour of Anne Hathaway’s cottage and my pilgrimage to Shakespeare’s grave in Stratford.

Needless to say, as an English student each activity was worth far more than a respite from the rain.

Admittance to the house Shakespeare’s wife grew up in was included in our tour, and the historical guides were more than knowledgable about the Baird and his wife’s family history. The fee at Holy Trinity Church to see the Sanctuary (and the grave) was only 50p for students. It’s the cheapest rewarding experience I’ve had yet in England.

I walked where Shakespeare walked. I touched the font he was baptized in. I sat in the pew he sat in. The whole experience had a very meta, out-of-body vibe to it, which seemed to go well with the persistent rain.

Maybe the rain wasn’t so bad after all.




(For more photos from my trip to Oxford and the inside of Anne Hathaway’s cottage, visit!)