11th till 13th of July, 2014
We were welcomed warmly by Louis, who we had co-surfed with us in Delhi. Read about our meeting here. We walked to the city centre and the boys enjoyed playing on a created beach, whilst we ate a hearty pub dinner at The Swan and Castle. Then a few quiet games before a well earned rest.
Saturday brought a full days adventuring in Oxford. Without this ancient 800 year old university town, there would be no “Lord or the Rings” or “Alice in Wonderland”. It is a backdrop for “Inspector Morse” and of course “Harry Potter”. It is home to the oldest university in the English-speaking world and its students/staff include 26 British Prime Ministers, at least 30 international leaders, 50 Nobel Prize winners, and 120 Olympic medal winners. Some of the names will surprise you such as; Tony Abbott (really?), Indira Ghandi, Bob Hawke, Bill Clinton, Nigella Lawson, Aung San Suu Kyi, William Morris, Sir Christopher Wren and Sir Walter Raleigh – to name but a few.
Our days walk started at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin. St Mary’s stands in the physical centre of the old walled City, and the university grew up around it. In medieval times scholars lived in houses with their teachers and the university had no buildings of its own, so it adopted St Mary’s as its centre. The church continued as a parish church, but by the early 13th century it had become the seat of university government, academic disputation, and the awarding of degrees.
Behind it is the famous and visually stunning Radcliffe Camera. Built in 1737–1749 in the English Palladian style to house a Science Library. Next to this is one of the oldest libraries in Europe, the Bodleian Library. This houses more than 11 million items and is the second largest library in Britain. It is the universities main research library so items cannot be borrowed and is known by the locals as “Bodley” or just “Bod”. We were fascinated with the sculptured faces in it’s main courtyard.
We then stopped for a snack outside the hidden Turf Tavern. It is one of oxfords oldest pubs and it’s foundations date to the 13th century although it’s bar area is 17th century. Some remains of the city wall run alongside the pub. We met a couple from Melbourne, Australia here. They were enjoying England but unhappy with the warm beer.
Then down the lane to the nearby Bridge of Sighs or Hertford Bridge. It joins two parts of Hertford College over New College Lane and its distinctive design makes it a city landmark.
We then had a leisurely long walk up Parks Road stopping to talk to and take some photos with graduate’s in full regalia.
We were heading for the famous Oxford Museum of Natural History. Founded in 1860 it is a wonderland for three little boys. The stunning neo-Gothic architecture along with the many weird and wonderful displays had our boys transfixed for several hours. They completed three of the museums worksheet trails and we still went onward to the attached Pitt Water Museum – equally fascinating and also free. Yes, we saw the livestream of the swifts in the tower, the dinosaur skeletons, the live hive of bees, the stuffed dodo and the list goes on.
Once on the other side and laden with a picnic lunch, we caught a bus down Abingdon road stopping to share our apples with a roadside herd of horses. Walking back towards the river, we stopped for lunch at Hinksey Park. It was nice to watch the children play with the locals, away from the tourist routes of Oxford. Then back to Folly bridge which crosses the Thames. The bridge is in two parts separated by an island. Before crossing, we decide to take a stroll along the tow path and watch people punting on the river. Then back across the bridge and past the crowded Head of the River Pub.
Finally a winding wander around the Christ church Collage area including a peak of Corpus Christi Collage. Back onto Merton Street, down Bear Lane and back around to the front of Christ Church Collage to enter via Toms Tower for Evensong at the Cathedral. (Sorry no photos inside the cathedral out of respect). Louis was there to meet us and we enjoyed a part of the ceremony before master Felix fell asleep and started snoring. So when there was a short lull in the mass, we left. There were some cool food trucks outside – these are becoming increasing popular in the UK. Then again to The Swan and Castle to give the boys some well earned dinner.
There we met up with Valentin, who had hosted us twice in Cluj Napoca, Romania. He is now working near Oxford and working towards immigrating to the UK. Louis rode his bike home and Valentin gallantly saw us onto the bus for the short ride home.
Sunday was a quiet morning of packing then Louis saw us on the train for the long journey to the Lakes District. In the meantime, Graham was heading to Liverpool, so we managed a brief encounter at Birmingham station before again heading off again on our own adventures.