It's always fascinating to visit a destination for the second time. It's either better than you remember, or worse. In the case of Oxford, better. Being a smidgly 15 miles from Wantage, a village of around 11,327, it made for an easy trip. I had the pleasure of spoiling Lily (Diva Cat) for 2 weeks, plus Guinea Pigs, and Hedgehogs in Wantage with no shortage of antics. See all the adventures at GUINEA PIGS, A DIVA, & HEDGEHOGS.
England, I salute your public transportation. I swear every little village, parish, or wide spot in the footpath has bus or train service. So taking a day trip to Oxford meant relaxing on a plush bus, soaking in the countryside views and reminiscing about my 1st visit 10 years prior...to the month. But, damnit, where's the tea trolley?
*Oxford is home to 45 colleges *Home to Harry Potter film locations
*Queens Lane Coffee House-oldest continuous in Europe-est. 1654
*Home of "Manners Maketh The Man" *The Turf Tavern-est. 1381
*The King's Arms Tavern-Former drinking hole for Shakespeare
Having narrowed down my activity list to the top 5 gazillion sites, I launched into a crisp morning walking tour.
TRAVEL TIP: No need to pay the high fees at the tourist office; there's plenty of starving students (and faculty) offering small back street tours. I chose the New College walking tour. Founded in 1379 (nothing "new" here), this ancient institution (and film location of some Harry Potter films), just heaves history. It's smooth, worn stones, gorgeous chapel and grand dining room are filled with formality (DON'T walk on the grass), and steeped in more tradition than a strong cuppa tea. Intelligence oozes through the air; I guarantee a day trip will raise your IQ by at least 30 points.
Next was strolling through the University Church of Saint Mary The Virgin; say that 5 times. I partook Communion and lit a candle to honor my Mom. Sometimes I feel like she's smiling down on me proudly saying, "Have you lost your mind?!"..."Where did this free spirited child of mine come from?" 😀
Watch the adventure-DAY TRIPPIN' IN OXFORD ADVENTURE VIDEO
While Broad Street and High Street are the tourist hot spots, I urge you to stroll down the blackened-with-soot side streets, which look much as they would have centuries ago-minus buckets of sewage being thrown out windows & disease. This city scores high for walkability. Here in the USA, we would never, for an instant, tolerate soot stained stone walled streets and immediate whip out the power washers and sanitation machinery. I prefer the charm and authenticity of days gone by.
Feeling enlightened and "schmarter," I moseyed into the famous Blackwell's Bookshop to purchase an English book about life as a 19th century servant. Now, there's an eye-popping, jaw dropping look at every day life with different classes.
Making time for the big grand poohbah of the day, I google mapped it over to The Eagle & Child; home to the Inklings. "Who, you say?" Well, think J.R.R Tolkein, C.S. Lewis and others who met in this pub weekly to discuss (debate) ideas rattling around in their brainy heads. You know, ideas such as The Lord of
The Rings, Narnia, Hobbits, The Lion, Witch, and The Wardrobe, and Christian theology. You know boys have to have a little nickname for their clubs; thus, The Inklings. So if you're a fan, stop in, have lunch, pay tribute. While I was munching on half the menu, there was a delightful family from Colorado dining with their children who were obviously dedicated fans. Our American accents stood out like British woolen kilts on a tropical beach.
TRAVEL TIP: Go to the Eagle and Child! It'll give you bragging rights.
Having spent too much time swigging down hard cider, tea, lunch, cookies, a meat pie, strawberry scone, and I think there was a 2nd pint in there somewhere, I didn't make it to The Covered Market (est 1770's), so it remains on the list for a 3rd visit. Oh shucks! 😁
As the return bus glided along country roads, lined with grassy crops, I was the peaceful lady in row 7, window seat, soaking up the views; with a Mona Lisa smile, a bursting tummy, and a full heart. What a magical day. I'm anxious to get back and tell Lilly all about my adventures. Why yes, I do speak fluent feline.
Oxford is the perfect blend of the ancient and the new. Think reverent history, architecture, and educational institutions with their dark robes and tradition mixed with, well, entitled bicycle riding millennials, heads buried in their smart phones, ear buds, oblivious to how honored they are to receive an education. I'm generalizing...and showing my age. I'm sure many swell with gratitude and will go on to change our world for the better. I'm counting on those of you to keep this beloved city humming a Shakespearian tune long after I've flown the coop to Narnia.