When planning my trip I knew I wanted to see one of the "big" universities over there, be it Oxford or Cambridge. When making the decision, I decided to see Oxford simply because I had lived in Oxford for 6years. If you don't know me, that last sentence makes so little sense. Anyway, I hopped on a train and went. This train journey was actually pretty boring. On previous ones I had the combination of a guidebook and novel to keep me busy - when not looking out the window - but this time I had none. I had already finished the 1(unread) book I managed to bring with me on the trip and I didn't have a guidebook for Oxford. In fact, all I had was a 1page photocopy of a small map with a few "places of interest." It didn't take me long to memorize, nor did it do much in terms of "organizing" the day. I was actually pleased with that... an opportunity to just walk around and see what was there.
Once in Oxford I managed to find my way toward the city center. I didn't get too far when it started to rain - fiercely. Though I had an umbrella I didn't want to deal with the rain, so I stepped into a bookstore. And was there a while. An hour maybe? I couldn't help myself. I ended up buying 3books (3-for-2deal!), which ended up being good because I finished 2 of them during the last 4days of my journey.
After the rain ceased I stumbled upon the Museum of the History of Science. It's basically an old building filled with floors of old gadgets and instruments. Consider yourself to be a geek? You'd love it.
As I was leaving I saw a whole bunch of people walking through this little alleyway, so I decided to follow. It took me to Radcliffe Square, which I'm pretty sure I would have missed if I hadn't just followed like a lemming. It's a really pretty quad area with a library (!) (... for students only) and not a single "modern" building in sight. On one side was the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, which I was able to enter. I believe the church was the first official building of Oxford University.
I exited on the non-Radcliffe Square side, which I believe led me to High St. Here I really got to see many of the colleges. Well, I could see them from the street. It was actually a pretty confusing experience because you can't tell what is open to the public and what is not. To be fair, that wasn't so much of an issue this day because exams were in session so most colleges were closed. At this point it was early afternoon, maybe 1pm, so a lot of people were coming to/from lunch, and this is when I saw students. And I got giddy. Why? Because the students were all in academic dress. I knew they could wear them whenever the liked, but it's required at examinations. Women were wearing white blouses with black pants or skirts (with black tights) and a black tie. Men were wearing a white shirt, black suit, and a white BOW TIE. I fell in love with the bow tie. And then on top of that they all wore (short) black gowns. As a student I'm pretty sure I would have hated that, but now that I'm passed it I propose we bring it back and make all students look that damn scholastic.
Despite exams, Christ Church, one of the largest colleges at Oxford, was open. Holler. The place is gorgeous, but there are some things to note. One, it houses England's smallest cathedral. Not that it's tiny per se, but compared to St. Paul's it's nothing. Two, Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) both went and taught at Christ Church, and it was there where he got the inspiration for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and the sequel Through the Looking-Glass. Did you know Alice was a real girl (Pinocchio-style)? Three - and most importantly - parts of Harry Potter (versions 1 and 2) were filmed on the campus. I'm pretty sure that had I been there with LB I would have dorked out. Anyway, the Great Hall scenes from the movies were actually filmed in their dining hall. The hall the students/faculty actually eat in. Color me green. It's smaller than the movie implies, but it's all there: The vaulted ceilings, long rows of tables, head table perpendicular to the others, etc. LOVE. Somewhat off topic, but I'm currently watching all of the HP movies with friends in preparation for the final installment. We have only watched the first 2so far, but I've had to restrain myself from proclaiming "I've been there!" during random scenes. The Great Hall scenes are obvious, but some others, especially the outdoor corridors, are Christ Church as well. This whole HP thing made the admission charge well worth it.
Across the street from the college is Alice's Shop - originally The Old Sheep Shop, where the real Alice (see point 2above) used to buy her candy. I was excited to enter an old-style-candy shop. Lies. It's now just a junk shrine to Alice.
I'm not sure exactly how much more time I spend in Oxford, but I walked around a bit and then found a fountain, sat down, and started to read one of my books. Good times.
The train home - though packed - was uneventful.
I was pretty museumed-out by this point in the trip, but it was a Friday night and I wanted to do something, so I decided to check out the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is open until 10pm on Fridays. It's description sounded kind of lame and boring, so I was just going to write it off, but they had alcohol and music at night, so I thought it might be interesting. I. LOVED. IT. I didn't even see a fraction of the exhibits in the 2hours I was there. At the main entrance they have this breathtaking glass chandelier, made only more beautiful by the evening's events: low lighting, DJ, and a bar. I stayed in that area for a while just because of the "vibe." On the opposite side of the museum they had a dining area where the entertainment was 2jazz violinists (backed-up by piano and drums). SO COOL. I then ventured to look at the art. I saw some of Rodin's sculptures and Raphael's Cartoons (LARGE drawings he used to plan his tapestries for the Sistine Chapel). At times, I would be completely alone wandering into these cavernous rooms. It was such a neat experience, if not a bit creepy. More than once, as it approached 10pm, I had thoughts of being trapped in over night. Honestly, it sounds enticing if I weren't alone. Anyway, if you can make it to the V&A at night, I highly recommend it.
Up next: What time is it?