I’ve had some bad luck in previous visits to Oxford. Flooding, restaurants out of cheese … but not this day. This day was perfect.
We drove in to one of the low-fee parking areas outside of Oxford, and rode the bus in to the center of town. It dropped us just down the street from the visitors centre, so we grabbed a coffee at a nearby Costas and waited here for the free Footprints walking tour of Oxford.
Right across from the theater is the Divinity School, which may be gorgeous on its own but was also the location of the hospital scenes in Harry Potter … so that makes it even cooler. Masses of incredible history is great, but Harry Potter is greater. We all know this.
A walk around the corner to the courtyard of the Bodleian Library. The guide lowered his voice and warned us to ‘shush‘. I think the exterior design here looks like nothing so much as stacks of books on relentlessly tidy shelves — what do you think?
Wander off a bit and see the Bridge of Sighs. Possibly named because it looks like the Bridge of Sighs in Venice. Or so named because it doesn’t really look like it at all, and everyone is sighing in frustration at the name.
One of those iconic Oxford views. I unashamedly stuck my hand through the gates to get this shot — free tour group wanderers were not welcome this day. This is All Souls, the postgraduate research college. All Terry Pratchett books become instantly funnier once you know more about All Souls. Now, where did I put my Mallard?
One of the oldest pubs in Oxford, dating from the thirteenth century, where the host was once famous for slicing off men’s ties and giving them a free beer in exchange. (Ladies were out of luck, one guesses.)
Zip on around to the expansive grounds of Christ Church. In the background, there, is the Great Hall, which inspired the Great Hall in Hogwarts — I’ll send you back again to our visit to the Harry Potter Studio. Because reality and history is great, like I said, but Harry Potter is better.
The beautiful Meadow building. I will not lie to you. I went home this day and looked up lifelong learning courses at Oxford. I was ready to sign up. I’ve been to colleges and universities up and down and side to side the US, but … Oxford. The only place better would be Hogwarts. Obviously.
And ended with our guide, fearless feet shown here, declaiming the dying words of the burning Cramner, who dripped his final bits of flesh at this spot in 1556. Sort of like this, but with more charm.
And then we had lunch! A happily cheese-rich lunch which restored our energy and recharged our vitality so that we could climb to the top of St. Mary’s tower (remember St. Mary’s from our walking tour?) and see Oxford from above.
Don’t let the sun dazzle you on the way down…
Our walking tour took two hours and was worth every penny. (Did I mention it was free?) We tipped our guide, who certainly danced for his supper, and thanked him kindly. We took a general walking tour, but topic-oriented tours are also available, from this or other tour operators — or you can download your own walking tour. Or if you don’t happen to be in driving distance of Oxford, check out this stunning online virtual tour.
Dear Oxford, I love you. Can I please live and study with you, somehow? Like, forever?