Friday, July 16, 2010

Day 16: Day Trip to Oxford

Oh, morning trains; they are so, so crowded! I was very happy to alight on the platform at Oxford this Friday morning, having stood in a very crowded train car for the duration of the trip from London Paddington.

Along with others of the librarian contingent, I went pretty much straight from the station to the Bodleian Library at the heart of the Univeristy of Oxford for the day's requisite library tour. Following that very interesting adventure, which included very old books, a much newer underground tunnel, and a bit of Harry Potter, some friends and I perused some new Alice in Wonderland-themed gargoyles outside the main library building before heading to a pub for lunch.

We wanted to head back over toward Christ Church after lunch, and on our walk there we encountered a very talkative Englishman named Jessie who, although he didn't try to sell them to us, was chatting to people about paintballing opportunities around England. (While this meeting may seem unimportant, it will come up again later.)

After a short stop in an Alice in Wonderland-themed gift shop, it was straight into Christ Church. The college was hosting noticeably more tourists than there were the last time I was there; apparently Harry Potter has increased in tourism popularity in the last five years. We took our time walking through the hall, where Christ Church students eat their meals and where scenes for the Great Hall in the Harry Potter films have been filmed. There are also some really great stained glass windows in the hall, which I enjoyed searching for Alice in Wonderland characters.

Next in Christ Church is its cathedral, a beautiful and quite old building in which Christ Church students still worship on Sundays. Their stained glass windows were simply stunning--so many amazing representations of angels and angels' wings, I really was beside myself. I can't wait to see Holly's pictures of them when she gets them uploaded to Flickr.

The weather was still gorgeous when we finished our tour through Christ Church, and in the meadows just adjoining the college's space the scene was very pastoral and very English:

We used the last of the good weather for walking through a topiaried rose garden abutting Magdalen College and the Botanic Gardens. Really, it isn't at all a wonder why England is so often associated with roses when you actually see the beautiful ones they have all over the place here:

The sky was beginning to get dark and cloudy when we hopped on to the hop on, hop off tour bus to take the city-wide tour past some of the other main sites and back to the train station. The train back to London was again rather full, although not nearly as packed as in the morning.

Then, lo and behold, who do we see standing just on the other side of the train compartment than Jessie, the English guy who chatted to us on one of the pedestrian streets earlier in the afternoon! One could definitely see why he would be good at sales, as he talked pretty much non-stop. He had lots of questions about the US, which he'd like to try living in for a while, and he talked a bit about himself as well. More than anything, he was really, really amusing. That, as it turns out, was very lucky for us, as our return train was a bit on the slow side due to some electrical issue or another. I don't think I've ever felt a delayed train ride go that quickly, especially after a busy and tiring day about some place so exciting as Oxford.

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