United Kingdom has its fair share of cities brimming with a rich history. As a traveler, you can be really spoilt for choice but Oxford was in my bucket list ever since I read Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, so I made a spontaneous decision to visit Oxford on a sunny summer day couple of weekends ago. There is a certain electricity about this University town; which slowly envelops you as you explore its many by lanes and architectural icons. If you are a lover of history, architecture and literature like me then Oxford should not be given a miss. Literature and learning is not restricted to the intimating walls of the University but breathes every living space of this endearing town.
In and around the High street
When I travel, I rarely make an itinerary or have a list to tick or even take a map, it is all about going where the road takes you. And Oxford in that sense is an excellent walking city which you can explore by walking around its periphery. The entire place is littered with beautiful architecture wonders, cosy gardens, a beautiful canal and a gurgling stream. Our first stop was the oldest Botanical garden of Britain–the Oxford Botanical Garden. With over 5,000 different variety of flora; the garden’s biodiversity can satiate even the most discerning of gardeners. There are also seven different glass houses, each with their own climactic condition from tropical desert to fernery. Interestingly, Lewis Carroll frequented this place and it served as an inspiration for Alice in Wonderland and you can find drawings and postcards around the garden that testifies this legacy.
Oxford’s main iconic building is the Radcliffe Camera. Built in 1737 and opened in April 1749, the Radcliffe Camera (pictured below) is an architectural spectacle set amidst the university. A part of the university, it houses the main undergraduate reading rooms. The Lower Reading Room is the home of Theology and English Literature whilst the Upper Reading Room is for History, Archaeology and Anthropology.
Oxford’s many colleges, built over the centuries is home to some of the most celebrated authors, like CS Lewis, Oscar Wilde and JRR Tolkien. If you fancy you can immerse yourself in the spirits of these laureate’s at the Eagle and Child pub. One of the oldest pubs which was opened in 1684. If you’re an architecture buff then Oxford’s various colleges have much to offer. Each college was built at different times throughout the Middle Ages, dating back to the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Whilst the oldest college, University College, goes back to 1249 the most recent college, Somerville College was built in 1879. Thus, there are over six hundred years of varying architectural styles to enjoy.
This town’s tryst popular culture is no news to anyone. Oxford has appeared in several films like Tomorrow Never Dies, 102 Dalmatians and of course Harry Potter–the Great Hall from the movie is the Bodleian Library (pictured above) the main research library of the university and also one of the oldest in Britain which houses over 11 million items. A true haven for a book geek like me! Adjacent to it is the Sheldonian Theatre, an academic theatre meant for concerts, lectures and university ceremonies but not drama. A picturesque theatre characterised by eight-sided cupola in the centre of the roof, accessible via a staircase leading to the dome over the main ceiling.
I’ve mentioned before that buildings like people tell a story and in each nook and cranny of this town you can find many unwritten and unsung stories. Truly, a traveler’s delight.