Sunday, 16 March 2014

An Oxford Adventure

(This is likely to be a very long post. You have been warned!)

As soon as I found out my university was running a trip to Oxford (aka the most beautiful city in the UK), I could not resist signing up, especially for the tiny price of £18. I wanted to make this a belated birthday trip with my three best friends at university (my birthday was last weekend) but sadly Jess and Bethan had prior engagements, so Rosie and I decided we'd embark on this trip together anyway.

For me, Oxford isn't just the most beautiful city I've ever been to, it is also, in my opinion, the literary capital of the UK. JRR Tolkien (author of my absolutely beloved "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy) and CS Lewis (author of the great "Chronicles of Narnia"), amongst other lesser known writers used to gather in an Oxford pub called The Eagle and Child to informally discuss their new plot lines and their group was called "The Inklings". Philip Pullman's protagonists in "His Dark Materials" Lyra and Will also lived in Oxford (albeit, separate Oxfords in alternate universes but I won't get into that because it tends to make me tear up a little), Lewis Carroll lectured at the university, and Alice Liddell was the daughter of an Oxford dean and was the namesake of Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" (another one of my absolute favourites). So as you can imagine, Rosie and I, as two Literature students were a little bit over excited when we arrived.

Unexpectedly for a mid-March day, the weather was glorious, which made this stunning city a real treat to explore. Our first stop, or rather the first thing we accidentally fell across when we were a little bit lost, was the architectural triumph that is the Radcliffe Camera.
Now I definitely don't claim to know a single thing about architecture so from an amateur's perspective, this building really is stunning. And HUGE. It's slightly hidden away off the main road, you turn a corner and suddenly this giant spectacle is towering above you. Definitely a "wow." moment. (side-note: in Oxford, there are bikes literally everywhere. Rosie and I got a little lost in our imaginations thinking about how wonderful it would be to attend this university and to ride a cute bike with a basket on the front filled with books and flowers.. *sigh* the dream.)

Next stop was the Bodliean Library, but sadly you had to pay for tours which were around an hour long, and on our tight schedule (we only had 5 hours to see the city) this wasn't possible. For the Harry Potter fans (not-so) hidden inside us, we were pretty gutted, as apparently the hospital wing scenes in the Harry Potter films were filmed in here, and other than the obvious pull of seeing a beautiful, huge library full of old books, this was the main reason we'd been keen to pay this place a visit.  

After this slight disappointment, we fell upon the Bridge of Sighs. I was lucky enough to see this bridge's sister in Venice last summer, so seeing it in Oxford brought back all of those memories. I couldn't resist getting a photo in front of it (although I was quite a way in front of it as the tourists behind me were all stood in the middle of the road and I didn't fancy taking my life into my hands and risking getting run over!).
I also really really loved the metalwork on this gate, another reason I'm stood here!

Next stop on this mission of Oxford exploration was the Botanic Gardens. I'd be lying if I said Rosie and I just wanted to visit here because of the attractive variety of flora and fauna. As beautiful as the collection of plants here is (..they even have a cannabis plant?!), the main reason we wanted to visit here was because of the bench made famous my Philip Pullman's Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry, and the relevance it has to their relationship. Some wonderful soul has carved "Lyra + Will" into the arm of the bench, and whilst I don't condone graffiti of any sort, I couldn't help but feel a little emotional when I saw it, and my arms were covered in goosebumps. Complete fangirl moment. And I felt ever so slightly ridiculous that these reactions were brought about because of a bench. (I am deliberately avoiding explaining why this bench is so pivotal as I don't want to spoil it for anyone who now wants to read it, and for Jess, one of my best friends who is reading them currently and the last thing I want is for the ending of the most beautiful books in the world to be ruined for her.)

The next (and last main) stop of our adventure was Christ Church College, an active college in the University of the Oxford. Fun fact: this college alone has produced 16 Prime Ministers. That's more than Cambridge University in its entirety has produced.  Pretty impressive huh? But you've probably guessed that  I have very little interest in the college's ability to produce names of consequence. We were here for one thing and one thing only. Harry Potter filming locations. To our utter dismay, the Great Hall (the inspiration for Hogwarts' own Great Hall) was closed to the public. Thankfully, at least the staircase leading up to it was open and we could take pictures in between occasional squealings of excitement, eg "Oh my god, oh my god, DANIEL RADCLIFFE HAS STOOD HERE". In the first film, this staircase is used when the first year students first enter Hogwarts and are awaiting sorting outside the Great Hall main doors. It is also used at the end of the film, when Ron and Hermione are stood on the balcony looking down onto a battered and bruised Harry who asks them how they are. You'll know what I mean when you see the photo.

And that concludes this absolute monster of a blog post about my visit to the beautiful Oxford. I'm going to end it with a few more photo  I took during the day of bits of pieces of the city that I thought were pretty (even if I had no idea what they were..). Thank you for reading if you've managed to get all the way down here!

Enjoy the rest of your day!