Sunday, February 25, 2007


I can now successfully cross off number 22 on my "Must Do in London" list, I went to Oxford and bought an Oxford University sweatshirt on Thursday. The train ride took longer than it did to get to Brighton but that might have something to do with the fact that it stopped at every station in between London Paddington and Oxford Station.

As is typical of the English weather, it was raining when I arrived in Oxford. Instead of doing the logical and well thought of approach to travel and asking for directions, I did the Bubble approach and just walked in one direction. But, in the end it turned out to be a blessing because I stumbled upon some markets where the elderly gentlemen who were tending the stalls were very chatty and happy to point out a few of the less touristy places worth visiting. One day really isn't enough time to spend in Oxford so I am going to have to go back again for the weekend sometime soon.

After talking with the Market people I wandered down into what they assured me was the right way into town. They are very proud of their Inspector Morse association and I had to take note of the Eagle and Child pub (also known as the Bird and Babe) as I walked past. Not sure if you get it where you are, but there is a new series starting here called "Lewis" in which Morse's Sergeant has been promoted and has his own Sergeant. Followers of the series will know that Morse died in the last episode (sorry to spoil it for you if you haven't seen it) and the market people were debating the merits of the new series.

There is something very appealing about Oxford. It has this homey small town feel, but you are instantly reminded of all of the history that surrounds the town and buildings every time you turn a corner. I liked it very much and could definitely see myself returning to teach there in the future. I loved the small cobblestone walkways, bicycles that lined the streets and the smell of academia as you pass each of the College buildings (and it's not just the smelly students).

Once I eventually found a Tourist Information Centre they directed me to the Bodliean Library which is the foremost library in Oxford. You can not borrow books from the library, only reference them and their oldest book dates back to the 14th Century which you can use still to this day. They also have manuscripts dating back before AD. It is amazing. The first part of the tour starts in the Divinity School which is the university's first examination room and where professors used to quiz their students in the 1600s on philosophy and astronomy. If you failed the professor's quizzes you were cast out of the course. The ceiling is the most interesting part where it has 455 different coat of arms for each person who worked on or were associated with the building of the room as well as the seals of the architects and stone masons. For those who have seen a Harry Potter film, this is where they film a lot of the Hogwarts scenes. Unfortunately you can't take any pictures of the library itself, only the Divinity School. There are over 7.5 million books in the library and more than 190kms of shelving. Imagine the poor person in charge of stock take and cataloguing each year. I helped my Aunty Lorraine at her school library once when I was 17 and that was enough for me. And I bet you can't use an electronic bar code swipey pen on these books!
After the Library tour I headed over the the University church, St Mary the Virgin. I've seen grander and more exciting churches in my time to be honest. But you can't knock the inviting nature of the main alcove. Inside was one of the university orchestra's practicing for their weekend performance. The whole orchestra playing beautifully but the string section was beautiful. People were coming in off the streets and sitting in the pews to listen to the impromptu performance.

It doesn't sound like I managed to do much in Oxford, and in all honesty I probably didn't, but my day flew past. Definitely scheduling another trip in the near future.

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