Oddly (or appropriately enough) a friend of mine sent me a photo over Facebook from when we were studying together at Oxford University. I’m not sure if she consciously or unconsciously sent that photo to me because it’s #ThrowBackThursday, but whatever the reason she decided to send it to me, it put a smile on my face as I thought about the memories we made wandering through ancient courtyards on our way to Jane Austen class (yes, I’m sorry it’s painfully cliché, but hey, I was an English major!).
So since I typically post a #throwbackthursday story about some outrageous experience I had on my travels, I thought I would tell you a story from my time living in Oxford.
I’m sure that everyone has moved to a new city and had to find your way home slightly inebriated and in unfamiliar surroundings. So you will understand my utter disorientation the first time I went to the Purple Turtle Bar and tried to find my way home after several drinks. Granted, I had a fabulous partner in crime to tag along with, but if I’m being honest neither one of us had a clue where we were.
I know, the way I’m describing it, it may sound like we were dropped into an alternate universe with no landmarks to guide us home (and if you’ve been to Oxford you know that that is definitely not the case), but you have to understand what the Purple Turtle Bar is.
Just like Vegas is constructed so that you enter windowless rooms filled with glitz and glam and you lose track of time and space, so too is the Purple Turtle Bar. Interestingly, this club is constructed underground in some of the old sewer pipelines running under the city of Oxford. Needless to say, once you enter, you’re in a maze of throbbing music, dizzying lights, and free flowing drinks.
It is like suddenly waking up in Alice in Wonderland.
For the sake of my dignity and your time, I will skip the part where we spent an unnecessary amount of time sampling drinks with unusual names and dancing until our legs were shaking (from exhaustion, not by choice!)
When we finally had had enough and exited the Wonderland sewer, it was the wee hours of the morning. So naturally, like any good college student, we went on a quest for the nearest kebap stand.
Surprise, surprise. England is cold in the summer.
The seconds we had expected to journey turned into minutes. The air was frosty and our heels were pinching our toes. For two Texans, apparently even an English summer was too harsh for outdoor activities.
Regardless, we ignored the chill and forged on. Perhaps the weather numbed our senses as well as our bodies, but it took us longer than it should have to notice that the streets were growing darker and the air was growing damp and chilly. Suddenly we looked up and realized that the lights of Oxford were far behind us, and we were wandering next to a canal headed out to who knows where. Around us the late night population had morphed into a haggard class or ne’er do wells and there we were in our clubbing attire tottering along in spiky heels. Recipe for disaster? I think so.
With that realization, we began to see things clearly. Our surprise had cut through the haze of alcohol and we stripped off our shoes and did an about face. Mind you, the fact that I removed my shoes was monumental for me. First of all, the pavement was freezing, and secondly I consider it a point of dignity to be able to wear your shoes for the duration of the evening.
However, in this situation I threw my pride to the side in favor of a quick exit. With our guards thrown up, we scuttled quickly back to the warm university lights. Not long after we had crossed the threshold back into the student ghetto we began to notice that we were on the receiving end of snickers and catcalls.
Yes, my friends, we were those girls. Those girls who were completely inappropriately dressed for the weather and who had succumbed to the pain of their stilettos.
But you know what? For the first time in my life I didn’t care. Perhaps that is the beauty of travel. When you are in unfamiliar surroundings, you are free to be whomever you please. I could be a party girl or I could be a university student, and it didn’t matter. What did matter was that I had partied in a sewer, gotten over my pride to walk barefoot through a new city, and survived the English climate.
And for that, I will always remember that night fondly.