A Travellerspoint blog

Oxford, The City of Dreaming Spires

sunny 15 °C

On Thursday we were feeling a little bored so we decided to take a daytrip somewhere. We couldn't decide between Brighton or Oxford so I suggested that we use the magic 8 ball to make the decision for us. No im not crazy, but we had just watched Good Will Hunting and they had used it, and well it was sitting right there!! So we asked it about going to Brighton and it said absolutely not and then Oxford and it said yes..so off to Oxford we were! We packed a lunch for the day and took a bus to the Southampton Airport train station to take the next Virgin train to Edinburgh. Edinburgh you ask?? well thats where the train was ending, thought that was cool! Hopefully someday soon will we! Although Rich said there's no way we'l take the train, its an 8 hour train journey to Scotland and the flights are like £20 and much quicker.

Anyways, the Virgin trains are really comfy although a little busy for the easter holiday. We managed to get two seats together and I got a window seat thank god! The trip took about an hour and 15 mins and I just sat there and watched the english countryside go by. It was quite beautiful, very green and lotsa rolling fields of crops with old thatched cottages every mile or so in between. When you think of "cottage" an image of a couple bedrooms, small kitchen with a nice view of the lake if your lucky. These are not those type of cottages! I wonder why they call them that really because to my eyes they don't look like that at all! They're rather large houses that I guess could be dubbed "country homes" but most likely lived in full time.

We arrived in Oxford around noon and I was well excited! I mean it's such a historical place having been a home to royalty and scholars for 800 years. It has the oldest university in the English-speaking world! Famous authors such as J.R.R Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Oscar Wilde studied there.

It is known as the "city of dreaming spires", a term coined by Matthew Arnold in reference to the harmonious architecture of the university buildings.

We started walking from the station, which is really centrally located. Right outside the station the building are rather new-ish, theres the Oxford Uni Business school which is a pretty modern, but a rather cool looking building. Onwards we went walking into the main area of Oxford City. The buildings were amazing, exactly what I had pictured England to look like. Where I live it's more suburban so it's not quite the same. The buildings were all high and narrow looking and the street winding so you can see the wonderful structures on the next street before you've even got to the corners. I walked in awe as Rich smiled at me. He'd been to Oxford some years ago, and although he loves the city he was just enjoying my north american perspective of it.

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We came up to Corn Market Street which is a pedestrian only road lined with tons of shops and restaurants. At the end in the horizon was a part of Oxford uni. Just to clarify for eveyone, there are 39 self-governing colleges related to the university in a type of federal system. They call them colleges individually which confused me since at home uni's and colleges are two different things. Here college is also the last 2 years of highschool (which isnt mandatory!) but in this case college is basically a campus. In Oxford City there are two different Uni's, theres the University of Oxford which everyone is familiar with and then theres Oxford Brooks which use to be a polytechnical university. The history of Oxford university is one that is very long and interesting, a battle between "town and gown" as they say. Also, women have only been students since 1920 and since 1974 all but one of Oxford's colleges have turned unisex. Theres only one all women college left called St. Hilda's which apparently the women voted to keep exclusive.

Corn Market Street
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The first campus that we came upon was called Christ Church and St. Aldate's which is where 13 of the 25 British prime ministers that attended Oxford went. This a very elite college. All students that attend school here are called senior members as opposed to all other students at the 38 other colleges which are called junior members. It was humungous and ancient looking, almost like a castle! The grounds surrounding were massive, of course included a cricket field and various student halls and smaller cottages that I can only assume are classrooms. (of course I was as nosy as can be and peeped lol) I can't imagine what it would be like to attend this college with such a long history and so many damn tourists around snappig pictures of the place your studying!! I would think it would be fairly annoying. Thats the reason why alot of the colleges are closed to the public or only open between certain times. Oh and also the first Harry Potter movie was filmed at Christ Church college.

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As we were wondering the streets we came upon a plak on a wall that said Macdonald Hotels and then I looked up and saw a pretty impressive old building that's a hotel. That was pretty cool, hopefully a long lost rich or royal relative!!

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I found Oxford to be such a lovely city with surprises around every corner. From cobble stoned streets with pink and blue houses, to walking into an outdoor market and lastly, coming upon a wonderful inside market with cute little shops, food stalls and a wonderful little cafe called Chocology!! (The Covered Market as its called) I was in heaven! We visited Blackwell's Bookstore on Broad street which is quite famous! It's 127 years old and has been visited by the likes of Bill Clinton, Muhammed Ali, Stephen King, Mikhail Gorbachov, Maragret Thatcher and many more. They hold an impressive collection of books that are dated back to the 1700's! We went to look and they are all in cases and they also have on show some first edition books with the massive prices they fetch these days. Any book lover would be impressed with a visit to Blackwell's. It's in an old victorian house and must have like 6 floors. Apparently they excavated under the neighboring Trinity College Gardens and now lay claim to the largest single room devoted to book sales in Europe. The room is named the Norrington Room and its an impressive 10,000 Sq feet. The basement in Blackwell's is a academnic bookshop for Oxford University and has a very large collection of any subject you can conjure up.

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Rich also got word that there was a Krispy Kreme within Oxford somewhere. We ended up on a hunt for donuts lol. Since they don't have many Krispy Kreme stores over here and its fairly new it's still a fat novelty lol. I was even in awe when we happened up on it and found it be within a castle!! Only in England would that happen! The castle was only remnants I would guess from being bombed during some war (like so many things over here!) and had been built upon to house a restaurant and the krispy kreme shop.

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We had packed a lunch and so we found a cute little parkette beside a church and sat down on the benches and ate our lunch. It was nice to sit there and just watch the hustle and bustle of tourists snapping pics and students scurrying to classes. I tried to imagine what it must have been like a 100 years ago or even 300 years ago. Hard for me to do without veiwing pictures or a film since my generation is so far removed form that era! But I could still feel the vibe of the history and the wonderful buildings that surrounded me.

Today was the first time since coming to England that I really felt in awe of it. Canada is such a new country in comparison to so many other countries around the world that we miss out on such rich history. For instance, on the train we passed a WW2 pill box. Rich explained to me that during the war the soldiers would use it as shelter while in the field. It was old, rusty looking and smaller then I would have thought. But I sat there thinking wow thats pretty cool. We're on this train, passing through this feild that battles were fought on.

Of course I say all this because I haven't yet visited London. Which I'm sure will leave me speechless!! I flew into it but we haven't gone to sightsee there just yet. I'm waiting until I get a job and then we can go and celebrate. I'm looking forward to that immensely!!

So I will leave this entry with random photos of our trip to Oxford. I really loved the city. It's quite wonderful with so many beautiful old buildings that have such intricate detailing. It also gave me a bit of the travel bug to get out there and tour around the rest of England. I really want to see a massive castle!!! That I hope will be next on the list!

Here is a link to my msn space which has all the photos I took. This site gives me a limit for uploading pics which I've almost passed for this month.


This picture encapulates my love of doorways (started in thailand! lol) and historical buildings
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Funny design eh?
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Inside a courtyard at one of the colleges, I was in awe of the structure
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Walking down the cobbled stone road
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Library known as The Radcliffe or Oxford Camera - 1737
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Posted by ashleym66 03:31 Archived in United Kingdom

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