Weekends are for exploring
As long weekends go, spending it in Oxford is a great choice.
My monthly excursions still in 2018 have kept me close to home, allowing me to explore new parts of the UK. With the weather being forecast as a sunny Saturday, it was very much the perfect conditions to be outside exploring. Following my other long weekend to Cambridge earlier in the year, I wanted to ensure that I learnt as much about Oxford as I could. A bit of history gets my mind whirling away and when it is combined with a beautiful location, there is nothing else I prefer more.
With Oxford being a small city, much of what there is to see is very easy to get to by foot, perfect for a solo traveller such as myself. Walking is my new favourite activity, so with what there is to explore in Oxford being very centralised, there is no excuse for not using your feet to get around town. I had a plan of activities for the weekend, which I managed to achieve but what I enjoyed the most is what I learnt about the Oxford. It is one thing to visit museums, galleries or churches all of which are interesting but learning the history of a place and putting it into the context of what I am seeing is what makes exploring more worthwhile for me.
For Oxford, I stayed in a studio flat I found through Air BnB. My first experience of using Air BnB was on a trip to Hastings, and I wanted to use it again in order to allow myself the chance to cook dinner rather than spending money out. The flat had a nautical theme that I liked, making it feel like an actual home, even though it wasn’t mine. The owner was very helpful, and the instructions to access the flat were easy to follow, even though they only really made sense once I was there. The flat was only a ten-minute walk to the central areas of Oxford.
Places of interest
What I love doing on my travels at the moment is participating in free walking tours. I did one when exploring Edinburgh and I continued the trend in Oxford. My walking tour was with Wander Oxford Walking Tours led by a lovely woman called Lisa. As a local, she was passionate about Oxford. Many of the things she told us I would never have even come close to discovering myself.
The Divinity Hall of the Bodleian Library is where a scene from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was filmed. It only costs a few pounds to get in. Members of the Bodleian Library have to swear an oath in Latin every time they enter. As a read-only library, members of Bodleian do not pick there own books to read. Instead, they are seated and books brought to them. Inside Bodleian is the Duke Humfrey’s Library which is the library filmed for that of Hogwarts. Bodleian also has the right to a copy of every book in the English language.
Oxford’s main attraction. Built between 1737 and 1748, Radcliffe Camera is part of the Bodleian Library.
University Church of St Mary the Virgin
Like many colleges, Oriel is not open to the public. However, when we stood at the entrance as Lisa was telling us about Oriel one of the college staff kindly decided to let us into the dining hall. He talked about the history of the college and pointed out that all the colleges have their own dining hall, chapel, and library.
Museum of the History of Science
A chalkboard with equations written by Albert Einstein is displayed here. The board was used during three lectures he gave at the university in the 1930’s. Apparently, there was another chalkboard, which was erased by a cleaner. The remaining one is now housed within perspex to pretend such an accident.
Balliol and Trinity College
There are many stories to tell of the rivalry between these neighbouring colleges. One which I remember is that there is an archway connecting the colleges and down the years it has been the location for fights breaking out between students. This is where the term “arch-rivals” came from.
Just outside the Church of St Mary is a side path that inspired C.S.Lewis. One evening after one too many drinks he stumbled out of the church and saw a carving on a door. It looked like a lion. There was also a creature of some sort Carved into the doorframe. And a little further along the path towards the Radcliffe Camera was a lamppost. There we have the inspiration for The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.
Aside from what I discovered on the walking tour, I visited Oxford Castle. What remains are a tower, the prison cells and the moat. As a castle lover, I don’t pass up the opportunity to visit one. You can only walk around the tower and prison cells with a guide, something I appreciate more now. Our small group were taken to the top of the tower and given a few minutes to photography our surroundings.
Our guide told us tales about the treatment of the prisoners, which unfortunately was too much for one young visitor to hear as they started crying. The tour lasted about an hour and was enjoyable. A castle ticket also grants you access to walk to the top of the moat. The views are not as good as from the top of the tower but it was still good to be able to walk up the moat.
What this weekend in Oxford reminded me of, was the excitement of being a student. Hearing about the tales and history of the colleges actually made me wish that I could apply to one of these colleges to be a part of an institute with such grand and unique history. I loved my university experience don’t get me wrong but hearing about what a student experiences as part of college is what I’d imagine as traditional university life. Being reminded of that part of my life, when I was optimistic and excited by the opportunities and possibilities of whom I would meet and what I could turn out to be was a lovely feeling. It made me immerse myself in Oxford’s history and what it means to so many people across generations. This experience alone made my long weekend in Oxford memorable.
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