The City of Dreaming Spires ~ Oxford

I was lucky enough to get a very cheap break in Oxford for a couple of nights, thanks to one of my Father’s friends, just a tenner for the room right in the city centre, and decided that a few days away prior to writing a Uni assignment would be ideal.

I arrived early Tuesday morning and set out just after 11am to explore. I have been to Oxford twice before, but they were very fleeting visits, so I was looking forward to the chance to photograph some of the colleges and sights that Oxford has to offer. It has the nickname ‘City of Dreaming Spires’ taken from the poem  ‘Thyrsis’ by Victorian poet, Matthew Arnold, which he wrote, after witnessing the stunning architecture of the university buildings.

My first port of call was the University of Oxford’s Botanic Garden, which I reached via the Christ Church Meadows, overlooking Christ Church. The Botanic Garden isn’t huge but it is so peaceful and beautifully laid out (http://www.botanic-garden.ox.ac.uk/) and the great thing about being in a very student orientated city, is that student discount is accepted almost everywhere, so entry cost me just £3.50.

The rest of the day was taken up with some general wandering, getting lost and challenging myself! I have an innate fear of heights, which I have touched upon before but having recently had four weeks hypnotherapy to cure me of my acrophobia, I have been gradually testing the waters, with reasonable success.

I knew there were several ‘towers’ in Oxford, open to the public, one of which I wanted to climb. The first I surveyed, the Carfax Tower, is a 23m-high belltower but was way too narrow for my liking should panic take over and I settled on the Saxon Tower at St Michael at the Northgate (http://www.smng.org.uk/wp/about/the-saxon-tower/). Apparently a far wider stairwell and less steep, I paid my £3 and began my ascent. I was pretty much ‘OK’ until I reached the third part of the climb when the stairs became quite open but after taking a few minutes to collect myself, I continued to the top, managed to open the door and step out onto the roof and the rather gusty wind blowing around me. I am so proud of getting up there, and was near to tears at what I had accomplished – it may sound silly but to those that suffer any phobia, will totally understand the emotional relief and jubilation!

 Refreshed after a decent night’s sleep, I planned on following a walk that I had printed off the internet, taking in most of the sights (http://www.oxfordcityguide.com/oxford-tourist-information/suggested-oxford-itineraries). Oxford University is a collegiate university, consisting of the central University and colleges. The central University is composed of academic departments and research centres, administrative departments, libraries, and museums. There are 38 colleges which are self-governing and financially independent institutions, which are related to the central University in a federal system. There are also six permanent private halls, which were founded by different Christian denominations and which still retain their Christian character. If you plan on visiting any of the Colleges, check that they are open and what is available to view – all differ daily! I managed to look around Balliol, Magdalen and Trinity College, using my concessionary student card for a slightly cheaper rate.

Oxford also has a diverse range of museums, I took some time out to see the Oxford Unversity Museum of Natural History – loads to see and touch, children and adults alike will love it! (http://www.oum.ox.ac.uk/) and adjoining it is the Pitt Rivers Museum, my favourite – full of curios, shrunken heads and other fun stuff (https://www.prm.ox.ac.uk/). Best of all – both are free to enter!

Oxford has many free guided walking tours and open-top bus tours, I choose to do a self-guided walk as I like to take my time, stop for food when I want and make the most of photo opportunities…..there is so much to see and do – The Bodleian Library Square, The Clarendon Building, Radcliffe Camera and the Sheldonian Theatre are just a few of the sights worth seeing!

And if you like books, then you must visit Blackwell’s, trading since 1879, it’s the largest academic and specialist bookseller in the UK, and boasts over three miles (5 km) of shelving. Alice’s shop is also worth a look around, based on Alice in Wonderland.  Alice was Alice Liddell, the 10-year-old daughter of Henry George Liddell, the dean of Christ Church and Lewis Carroll, real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, studied and taught at Christ Church, which is how the books came into being.  (http://lewiscarrollsociety.org.uk/pages/aboutcharlesdodgson/life/lifefamily.html)

 My final morning was spent at Christ Church Meadows, walking along the River, taking photographs and dodging some heavy rain showers (http://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/visiting-christ-church/meadow). I think it’s safe to say that Oxford is certainly one of my favourite cities here in the UK, my dream would be to sit my Ph.D. there…I live in hope!

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