Pics up on flickr.
Decided on a whim to go to Oxford, the idea being that if I was this close and didn't go, I'd regret it terribly. Booked tickets & accommodation online (yay laptop & wifi!) and arrived with a day and a half in the city.
Not much was open on New Year's Day (don't people know there are tourists out there, demanding to be entertained & cultured at every available moment?!), so I went on a guided walking tour from the tourist office. It was nowhere near as good as the one at Bath - also not free, unlike Bath, but I suppose it will always come down to the quality of the individual guides and the dynamic of the group. (Mini lecture on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict? With no reference to Oxford? For real?!?) It was nice to go past some of the major landmarks, though, so I ignored the commentary and took photos.
The best part, and also the part where I left the group, was Magdalen College. Took some photos of amazing looking buildings & scenery. Pixels on flickr don't do it justice at all. Took a long walk around the gardens by the river where my feet nearly dropped off from being frozen. I'd turn a corner and see some remarkable view of a well trodden path lined with ancient trees along a stream. With ducks. You don't think scenes like that exist in real life. They're all stage managed by a set designer for a film or something. But there it was, in the freezing cold winter, these picture perfect paths.
The two pieces of information I did value from the guide were the locations of both Oscar Wilde's and C S Lewis's rooms while they were at the college. There are photos of both up on flickr.
And yet again, everything is so green! They have lawns! With grass! No level 3 water restrictions in Oxford, obviously.
This morning I went to Christ Church College & cathedral - equally picturesque. I started by taking a stroll down by the river, by the boat sheds, where two complete idiots were on the river doing rowing training. Honestly. I thought Oxford was for smart people!
Then I walked around the college. Highlights were: The Dining Hall with the unbelievable fluted ceiling, used for filming HP:PS and HP:CoS. I was going to stand outside the doors and pretend to be McGonnagal, but I could never convincingly pull off Gryffindor. (Ravenclaw. It's all about Ravenclaw. These are my people.) This is also the Lewis Carol college, so there are lots of little Alice in Wonderland bits. One of the stained glass windows has little pictures of the Alice characters in the corners! So cute!
Through to the cathedral, where there was the usual cathedral-y sort of stuff (how quickly one becomes jaded about such things), but I was very interested to note that it was the place where John and Charles Wesley were ordained! Very cool. I hummed a bit. Also interesting that they get a stone in the floor (getting one of those in a cathedral is rather like getting a star on the Hollywood walk of fame thingy) considering the C of E wasn't too happy with them at the time.
Massive courtyard/quadrangle which was apparently originally going to be covered as a cloister but never got finished. At this point the sun came out and I got some photos that didn't need the flash! Yay!
Moving through to the end of the visitor's walk, there was some looked-like-it-was-semi-officially-sanct
ioned chalk graffiti on the walls of one of the residence buildings. It was the only graffiti I've ever seen that involved detailed heraldic arms and Gothic fonts. It seems that whenever a college sporting team wins something major, the results and the crest go up on one of the panels for all to see. The most faded ones I could make out were from 1999.
Turning around from there you can see the college library. Well, I say you can see it (which is true if you're there), but even if you stand back to the wall there is no way it can be entirely captured in a camera viewfinder. I have a photo of a section of a college library. Would that all libraries were such palaces! But I could do without the "no visitors" sign at the front.
Took afternoon tea at one of the tea shops outside the college, next to "The Alice Shop" which stocks all manner of Alice in Wonderland merchandise. It's always so nice to use a teapot!
The afternoon was spent up two towers. Firstly Carfax tower, which has great views of the very many other towers and steeples in the skyline. There is no towering centrepiece to the Oxford skyline, just lots of similarly scaled magnificent points of interest.
Then I wandered around for a bit more & saw a sign on St Michael's church & tower saying that they had the door behind which Cranmer, Latimer & Ridley were imprisoned before their martyrdom. I had no idea such a thing still existed! (And I confess I had completely forgotten it had happened in Oxford). So up the tower I duly went, but spent most time on the platform now housing the door. I considered taking a self portrait to prove that I had indeed touched the door that held them, but decided that treating it as essentially a relic would be too ironic for words. It was a powerful reminder that these things I've learned in history - general history and church history - aren't just stories in books but actually happened to real people. And while they're not William Tyndale, these are my guys. Reformers who died rather than recant the protestant faith, the five solas. I can only hope and pray that I will stand as firm for that same gospel they died for.
It also reminded me that two days into the new year and I still hadn't read my Bible. So, St Michael's being a Church of England building, I took advantage of the regulation that states that all Anglican churches have to have a readily accessible Bible on display at all times. I read Galatians, keeping in mind the scandal of grace and the freedom I have in Christ. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Then I went to Broad Street where the place where they were all burned is marked on the street. There's no plaque or anything, just a cobblestone cross in the centre of the road. People walk & cycle over it every day. I suppose it's a good reminder to be had at Oxford, for those who care to remember it, of the radical and dangerous nature of what Jesus came for and the apostles preached. Come, Lord Jesus!
Then I went to pick up my pack from the hostel for my train back to London. Went to the station, got my ticket - dramas aplenty! There was a signal failure AND a plane crash on the train line. No trains were going through Oxford. After an hour's wait and nearly heading for the bus station, they started diverting London passengers on trains going to Birmingham! So now instead of getting to the hostel at 8pm I'll probably make it at 11.30. But at least I'll make it, and at least I'm not going to miss the connection tomorrow. I'm being thankful for such mercies.
ETA: Arrived safely in Paris. YAY!