Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Toto, I don't think we're in Kensington and Chelsea anymore

 “ Do you KNOW how lucky you are to be living there?” My friend’s cousin (a Londoner) exclaimed when I told him my luxurious temporary address in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. I have become accustomed to the posh area, and the hustle and bustle of the city. It is a metropolitan area to be sure, full of chic clothing stores and fancy restaurants. After being here a few weeks, it feels like my new normal. That's why when our train arrived in Oxford this week, my senses were heightened to the differences in the neighborhood.
As we approached the school, images of Harry Potter floated through my mind. The buildings have a striking resemblance to Hogwarts, and the local students could pass for Harry Potter and Hermione in their formal examination attire. Many of us commented that we wear our most comfortable clothes during major examination, and I wondered what kind of impact that could have on testing. There is something classy and professional about dressing up for exams. Looking the part has always my confidence level increase, and I made a mental note to leave the sweats at home for Fall finals this year.
The Gothic and regal buildings transported me to a time long ago inside a quaint town, only to be outdone by the resplendent Botanical Gardens. How does anyone study here with the scenery? Obviously they do! Oxford blends over 700 years of tradition with current scholarly life. Most people used bikes to get everywhere, and the local shops invited us in with smells of delicious lunch foods, coffees, and signs offering discounts on pints. The vibe of the town suggested that everyone knew each other. Streets there could be crowded without feeling overrun or overly stimulating like Kensington and Chelsea. The university offered parks, ponds, flowers, and grass that appeared to dare anyone to walk on it. Moments from a local coffee shop you might find yourself at Christ Church Cathedral. A few steps later you are approaching the Veritas Forum. The best and brightest minds have walked through the hallways and one feels smarter for having walked on the same side of the street as these Prime Ministers, international leaders, Nobel Prize winners and authors.
If Oxford’s mood is described as “sleepy”,  Kensington and Chelsea can be described as “ caffeinated”.  While there are churches and charming structures in Kensington and Chelsea, it doesn’t feel as “old” as Oxford. In all fairness, the borough was created in on April 1st, 1965. Oxford has literally had centuries to become the spectacular place we visited last week.
A difference in Oxford is the lack of diversity in nationality and language. On my morning coffee searches, I am immersed in the novelty of accents, various skin colors and languages. I like to guess which languages are being spoken, and where people might be from. Living in this neighborhood has convinced me that saying, “ London is the world in one city” is absolutely correct. While Oxford will remain at the top of my London Best Moments list, nothing compares to the local neighborhood I have grown to cherish.

Home Sweet Home

Stunning Oxford

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