Our lack of posts recently was due to a rather large adventure to Europe. We spent a little over two weeks traveling throughout England, Ireland, and Belgium. Our primary purpose for the trip was due to a conference in Oxford, but we decided to turn it into an extended vacation. This post will focus on Oxford; however, we will add posts on our many adventures in Belgium, Ireland, and England later on.
Oxford. When we hear of Oxford we imagine cobbled streets, old historic buildings, a grassy knoll surrounded by beautiful medieval structures, ties and sweater vests, adorable Oxford shoes, leather satchels, and this impending sense of intelligence. The word “Oxford” brings to our minds a place that is almost enchanted in it’s quest for knowledge. We admit this was our preconceived notion, and surprisingly we were not disappointed. Although the campus was not all located in a centralized location with a massive quad in the middle of the university as we imagined, the rest of our ideas came to be quite true. Oxford is comprised of smaller colleges for specific studies that do in fact have quaint little quads, and everything is surrounded by beautiful historic buildings with roses and shrubs. There were, in fact, cobbled streets, medieval buildings, ties and preppy dress-ware, oxford shoes, leather satchels, and the feeling that you are in a unique and almost magical place. As well, there were little alleys that would jut off the main road, but were a part of a vast system connecting you to the entire town. Off of those little alleyways were small shops and pubs tucked away as depicted in films about industrial England. What we imagined was surprisingly true.
An unexpected part of Oxford, however, was the tourists. Apparently, Oxford is a happening place and bustling with tourists. The hoards of tourists were, of course, nothing like you experience in London, but there were definitely large groups of tourists not paying attention, and they would bump into you as they walked by haphazardly with their obnoxious “selfie sticks” (whoever created such an item-you are a financial genius, and we loathe you for creating yet another way for tourists to be obnoxious and not pay attention).
Getting back to the delights of the quaint, English town of Oxford-we quickly discovered that simply roaming the streets was a key part of sightseeing. The architecture is absolutely magnificent and created idyllic photo opportunities. Although we didn’t have time for a lot of sightseeing, we were able to go to several local restaurants and Christ Church Cathedral. Christ Church Cathedral was, of course, bustling with tourists, but the line and cost appeared to be worth it. We didn’t end up waiting in line for very long, and we were quickly inside, looking at the quad, several of the common areas of the college, and the cathedral. The cathedral was smaller than the stereotypical European cathedral, but equally as beautiful. The stain glass windows were particularly stunning. The exterior of the cathedral and the college were beautifully constructed in the medieval gothic style. While Christ Church College is well-known, there are many other colleges that display similar architecture.
We walked through Oriel College, the Bodleian Library, and by numerous other colleges and were similarly struck by the medieval architecture, with ivy growing up walls. One highlight was a statue in an alley rumored to be C.S. Lewis’s inspiration for his lovable character Mr. Tumnus from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Anther notable area we visited was Turf Tavern. Turf Tavern is down an alley way, which was off of a small pedestrian path. The twist and turns, although narrow, lead to a rather large bar. The decor had the pub feel and had plenty of space for groups to gather and hang out, or perhaps in Oxford to discuss intellectual things. The cask beer was quite delicious, once you get used to beer being warm.
Our last tourist stop was to the Ashmolean, which was, to our wallets’ relief-free! The museum has several floors and varied exhibits, allowing visitors diversity to meet their particular interests. The museum was well laid out and had enough exhibits to spend a whole afternoon there, or, since it is free, stop by and check out an exhibit here or there and still feel like you saw the museum. Overall, it is a very nice museum with plenty to check out and a highlight of Oxford.
Besides how well the presentation went (which was excellent), we enjoyed our stroll about Oxford. The streets lined with small specialty shops, the beautiful buildings, the little taverns filled with warmth and laughs, and the relaxed and friendly vibe of Oxford made us feel right at home. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Oxford and are looking forward to our return for the next conference in four years. Cheers!