A Few of my Favourite Things

Hello all! 

This week has flown by so quickly and it’s hard to believe that this time tomorrow I’ll be on a plane coming home.  I’m excited to be back but leaving is bittersweet since these past few days have been some of the best. Here are a few highlights: 

  

On Wednesday we went to the mini-cooper plant to learn about sustainability in action.


The plant was an eye opening experience as it’s not everyday one gets to spend a couple hours with 1,000 self-updating/repairing robots that stand approximately 9 feet tall with claws at the end for gripping, welding, fusing, etc.  It was like being in something out of War of the Worlds watching them work on the cars. They were clustered in groups of four in stations where they focused on one feature of the manufacturing process.  The robots would recognize the make and model of the car based on the parts they received and get to work. The little claws would pass within inches of each other but never touch because of motion sensors. It was creepy but fascinating. The plant is capable of producing between 700-900 cars per day and, despite having so many robots constantly at work, only employs 90 people to oversee their operations on the factory floor. 
 

My new robot pal. Don’t we pose well? Maybe she’ll make me a mini…


 

Just the girls and Austin Powers’s car.

  
After the mini-plant we got to enjoy a quiet afternoon and an unexpected trip through Port Meadow. On the opposite end of the development spectrum from the mini-plant, these 300 acres were a gift from Alfred the Great to the Freemen of Oxford and have not been ploughed in the last 4,000 years. The land was reserved for grazing livestock according to the Domesday Book of 1086.  This is how it has been used ever since. 

  

 Of course, as all good stories must (according to me) involve- there was an excellent meal to be shared amongst our horde. Nestled along the bangs of the River Thames, which borders the meadow, was a charming little place called the Perch.
 

We arrived just in time to miss the rain.

 
 

The view from our seats inside just after the rain.


 

My fantastic dinner: the fish plate


This darling appetizer is comprised of (moving clockwise starting with the pink stuff): crayfish cocktail, smoked mackerel pate, dill cured herring, and a salt cod cake.

The pate had an excellent smoky flavor and wasn’t too rich or salty. The herring was a bit different but had a nice texture. The cod cake and the crayfish were my favorites. With something so rich, who would have room for desert? 

  

Check out my desert! This is a St. Clements Mouse with lavendar shortbread- very sweet and citrusy and custard-y.


 

Look closer. Isn’t it the cutest? I love good presentation.


After dinner we all walked home together (this was a whole-group excursion) and we had the pleasure of seeing the meadows relaxed and quiet at dusk.

  

  

Met another English cow. The livestock is not particularly obliging to my offerings of friendship


 

Lawrence of Arabia’s house, which we passed on the walk there


This day taught me a lot about what I value most as a traveler. It’s fascinating to see where time and technology have maintained old structures and added to them to accomodate thousands of years of growth and history-sharing. It’s also incredibly moving to see a place that’s spent thousands of years staying the same and realizing that centuries of conquerers, monarchs, and passing laws have all left this patch of land and collectively agreed that it is enough just as it is and has always been. 

  
 Understanding the juxtaposition of what is maintained and built upon versus what is left alone valued for its simplicity is the key to grasping why this country is so revered (to me at least). I can marvel at the way the tubes rattle on below London while clutching my ratty kavu bag and wondering at the number of nationalities squeezed in the queu beside me and in the same day walk around ancient grounds left untouched by time that races around, above and below them. It’s a beautiful balance. 
I have a couple more posts from our jaunt to Scotland and another trip to London, but after that it’s homeward bound for us! 

So long for now!

  

 
  

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