There she was, reading, with her iPad in hand, earphones in her ears, at the corner of her bed, looking very comfortable in the new sweatshirt we had purchased for her during our tour of Oxford University with City Wonders. Not to play on words too much, the experience left us all to “wonder” if the University is in our daughter’s academic future.
Table of Contents
With features resembling every school boy’s dream of what they would want their history teacher to look like, Augusta our guide met us under the big clock on track 1, where a famous bronze statue of the beloved children’s character, Paddington Bear, sits. We were at Paddington Station ready to board the train to Oxford.
We were fortunate to have gotten four seats together, with a table between us, 2 and 2. Brenda and Bailey faced going backward, and I faced forward with our guide, to avoid any sort of motion sickness.
Pastoral Thames Valley
The train ride through the pastoral Thames Valley was nothing short of what you would imagine the scenery to be in a Thomas Hardy novel. It was within an hour of Central London and yet felt like many miles away and centuries apart. The hour ride gave Augusta ample time to brief us on what we were to expect throughout the day and the opportunity to introduce herself a little less formally, which made for a comfortable ride and set the tone for the day.
St. Martin’s Church
We entered the West Gate, near Carfax tower, the remains of 13th-century St.Martin’s Church, where the bells are rung on the quarters. I was last in Oxford nearly 30 years ago, and even though places such as these are hardly changed by time; it has, in fact, acclimated itself with the century it belongs to, which was not necessarily my impression the first time around.
Regarding time, interesting fact, there is something called Oxford Time, which runs 5 minutes behind. So 21:05 in London is 21:00 in Oxford. Before the rails, every village or town had different times, depending on where they were located on the Greenwich Meridian. The times I just mentioned are significant to Oxford, as the famous Christ Church Bell, Great Tom, rings 101 times, 1 for each of the original students of the college.
The Grand Cafe
Back to my impressions. Yes, there is a Starbucks located in town now, but there are still all the traditional pubs such as the Turf Tavern where they pride themselves as serving an“education in intoxication” since the 1381 and original coffee houses, the most renowned being The Grand Cafe, established in the 17th century and touts itself as being the first coffeehouse in all of England.
Girl on a bike
The stones were cobbled, yet she looked silky smooth on her bike. There were others, plenty of others, but none cooler than she. Indicative of a physically coordinated person, she crossed her right leg over the left while the bicycle was still moving, and stepped off on the left-hand side keeping in stride with the bikes motion, just in time for her to put it into an open spot. It was cold, so she had her scarf, which was long, navy, and thick, wrapped around twice over her matching three-quarter wool gabardine navy coat.
38 colleges in the University
This scene caught my daughter’s eyes, and sparked an interest as wanting to be one of those students on a bike one day. Inspired, she rushed toward possibly the most famous of the 38 colleges in the University, Christ Church College. This college graduated the most English Prime Ministers, a few Dukes, and most important to a little girl, Mr. Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Before entering, however, Augusta made Bailey wait a bit longer, and brought her inside a shop that exclusively sold “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” products. Which made Bailey even more excited to see the college that the writer attended, and places that may have inspired plots and characters in the famous book.
Dining Room in the movie adaptations of Harry Potter
As if “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” weren’t enough, there was the added value of stepping into the Christ Church Dining Room, which is the inspiration behind the Dining Room in the movie adaptations of the J.K. Rowling “Harry Potter Series”. With beamed ceilings, stained glass windows, and paintings of dignitaries of yore hanging on the walls, we felt as if we were part of a scene in one of the movies.
This was followed by a walk through the many other colleges. There was New College, which is only about 635 years old; Corpus Christi, which was one of the smaller ones; Merton, where J.R.R. Tolkien attended, and apparently had quite the penchant for walking the grounds speaking in “elvesism”. There was Magdalen (pronounced Maudlin) College, where one of my favorite writers, Oscar Wilde attended. Also, a graduate of Magdalen College is our daughter’s favorite author, C.S. Lewis.
The Chronicles of Narnia
“The Chronicles of Narnia” is Bailey’s favorite book series, and to top things off, Augusta brought us through a small alleyway, to a door which had a door knock and two decorative pieces, that resemble the images of characters in the books. She was ecstatic, to say the least.
Lawrence of Arabia
We also passed by Jesus College, where my favorite wanderer, T.E. Lawrence attended. I spent an extra second gazing upon the place and almost saying a prayer for a man that has been inspirational to me in my travels. Funny and appropriately enough, at the same time, I found myself praying for Peter O’Toole. Hard to imagine Lawrence as anybody but him.
We walked the beautiful pastoral grounds before making our last stop, and that was to purchase an Oxford sweatshirt for Bailey. Along with it, she picked up a small rock, put it in her pocket and when asked what it was for, she replied by telling us that she would return it when she comes back as a student one day.
We were guests of City Wonders. Thank you, Augusta and City Wonders for a fun and inspirational trip. All opinions our own.