The last stop on our trip was Oxford, England. My mom, who did her study abroad there during college, had some old friends in the area she wanted to visit so we spent our last week abroad wandering the English countryside, popping in to various local colleges and grounds, and exploring nearby villages.
A little history of Oxford – it was first occupied in Saxon times when Alfred the Great created a network of fortified towns across his kingdom. The settlement began with the foundations of St. Frideswide’s nunnery in the 8th century and was first mentioned in written records in the year 912. The University of Oxford was founded in the 12th century and is the oldest English-speaking university. Today, the university is made up of 38 colleges. In addition to hosting a significant student population and being an academic hub, the city’s main industries are publishing and car manufacturing.
Now, onto the fun!
Day 1: We slept in and then took it easy; enjoying a leisurely stroll through University Park where we ate fresh berries along the way and admired the fall colors. We also wandered through the downtown area and popped into the Pitt Rivers Museum where the archaeological and anthropological collections of the University of Oxford are on display.
| walking through University Park |
| beautiful afternoon stroll |
| wandering through downtown Oxford and side streets |
| Pitt Rivers Museum |
Day 2: We visited Magdalen College (pronounced “Maudlin”), walked their beautiful grounds, fed fallen chestnuts to the the deer in their park, gaped at their 213 year old tree, and then ducked inside the college to see their great hall / cafeteria.
From there we continued our tour around town before stopping at Christ Church to see their grounds, great hall, and cathedral. The cathedral was originally the church of Saint Frideswide’s Priory. The site is claimed to be the location of the abbey and the final resting place of Saint Frideswide (although this is debatable). Saint Frideswide, who I briefly mentioned at the beginning of this post, is the patron saint of Christ Church and of Oxford.
A few Harry Potter movie scenes were filmed at Christ Church – most notably the moment when Harry and the new first-years enter Hogwarts and are greeted by Professor McGonagall. This scene was shot on the 16th century staircase which leads up to the Great Hall. Christ Church’s Great Hall was replicated in the film studios to create the Great Hall in Hogwarts.
| entering Magdalen College |
| Magdalen College courtyard |
| exploring the grounds of Magdalen College |
| Magdalen College has a deer park! |
| more of Magdalen |
| look who we spotted… |
| Mom holding the chestnuts/buckeyes we fed the deer and oh look she made a new friend! |
| This tree is called “Magdalen Plane”. It is a scion of the hybrid tree planted in the botanic garden in 1666. This tree was planted in 1801, which makes it exactly 213 years old. |
| Magdalen’s hall / cafeteria |
| visiting Christ Church |
| inside the walls of Christ Church |
| the stairs leading to Christ Church’s Great Hall – they can be spotted in two Harry Potter films (the Sorcerers’s Stone and the Chamber of Secrets) |
| inside the Great Hall – which was used as a model for the Great Hall in Hogwarts |
| inside Christ Church’s beautiful cathedral |
| such neat carved details on the pews |
| stunning “Hope, Faith and Charity” stained glass window designed by Edward Burne-Jones |
| Saint Frideswide’s shrine – made in 1289, it’s the oldest monument in the cathedral |
Day 3: We hopped on a bus and took a took a little day trip out to Burford, a Cotswold village. There we walked along a few footpaths, visited their little church, lunched on the grounds, and fed the swans before bussing back to Oxford. Once there, we walked around the city to see more sites and architecture … like the shimmery Bridge of Sighs and my favorite little street of pastel houses.
| Burford village |
| walking along a footpath just outside Burford – you can see the village in the distance |
| Crossing my first stile! A stile is built along a footpath fence, wall, or hedge to prevent farm animals from moving from one enclosure to another while still allowing path users to use the route. Stiles are often steps, ladders, or very narrow gaps. |
| I may have squealed when we came across this…. just off the footpath – a World War II pillbox aka a concrete dug-in guard post. I read and watch so many things that are WWII related that it’s always exciting to see a piece of it in person. |
| Burford’s church (St. John the Baptist) |
| inside Burford’s church – the brass plate (bottom left) lay hidden under the floor for about 300 years. With its plea for a prayer for John’ s soul, it would certainly have been torn up during the Reformation of the Church of England. But, the brass was discovered in 1827 when work was being done on the building’s floor. |
| the church grounds |
| the quiet corner where we ate our sack lunch |
| wandering Burford – old almshouses/”poorhouse” (left), village streets (middle & right) |
| back in Oxford |
| walking around Oxford |
| the Bridge of Sighs |
| streets of Oxford – Hoyle’s Games, The Bear pub, and my favorite little row of pastel houses! |
Up next… more Oxford and the last of our European adventure!