Friday, September 16, 2016

Oxford - Day 4

Thursday, September 15, 2016
A friend once asked me why I like to travel. I responded that it makes me feel like I am "Alice in Wonderland." When I board the plane to a new destination, I am, in essence, going through the little garden door and entering a different and exciting world filled with interesting people and unique experiences.
Today I actually got to see the "little garden door" and to see the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's enduring story. More about that later.
This morning we rode a bus about an hour to Oxford, which was founded in the 7th century and is home to the oldest university in the English speaking world. Oxford University is actually a collection of 38 colleges scattered throughout the town, the oldest dating to 1167. There are about 22,000 students; 12,000 undergrads who are mostly from the UK and 10,000 graduate students who are mostly internationals.
With only a day, we concentrated our visit to one, Christ Church College. It was founded in 1524 by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Henry VIII's chancellor. It is the largest and most prestigious of Oxford's colleges.
We began our tour in the quad, a grassy field surrounded by college buildings.
The tall tower which holds a 7-ton bell was designed by Christopher Wren.
We entered the building up the "Harry Potter staircase" where some scenes were filmed.
Then into the college's famous dining hall which serves 200 students 3 meals a day. The dining hall was never actually used in the films but was the model for them.
Portraits of esteemed alumni line the walls, including one of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church.
A stained glass window is a testament to Lewis Carroll.
He was actually Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who taught math at Oxford where he met young Alice Liddell, the dean's daughter and real-life inspiration for his book. They lived at the college and Carroll would arrive in the morning through the little gate, almost always late. An image of Alice is on the left upper window and Carroll is on the right and throughout the windows are characters from the story. Below Alice is an image of her from the book, and Carroll has a dodo bird, because Dodo was his nickname.
We proceeded to the residence halls where all students have single rooms, many with in suite baths.
In 1930 students were no longer allowed to bring personal servants, which freed up more rooms. Students are able to stay here for the entire 3,  5, or 7 years of a program. Tuition is 27,000 pounds for a 3 year degree granting program.
We toured 3 gardens, which also provided inspiration for Carroll's novel.
Alice and Carroll played croquet here, the only sport with a ball allowed in the park.
We toured another park near the church.

We came upon a jabberwocky tree that is 400 years old.
The tree is massive and I couldn't get it all in a photo. And it has such interesting pods.
Finally we toured Christ Church Cathedral. Built in the 12th century, it's one of the oldest buildings in Oxford.
For 400 years it was a monastery church.
Afterwards we had lunch and were on our own to explore the city. Sydney and I teamed up with two other women, Sally from Hilton Head and Dee from San Diego, and headed to the covered market.
A fun place to visit but not much to buy. Then we just walked around, pass some great wooden doors
and saw the Hertford College bridge, also known as the "Bridge of Sighs."
Although it is nicknamed after the Rialto Bridge in Venice, it is only similar in design and just connects two buildings. Sydney decided to do more shopping and the other two and I tried to get into see some other buildings, but it didn't work out. 
So we decided to go to the top of the Carfax Tower.
It was 99 steps up narrow windy stairs,
but it was worth the views.

It was only 2.50 pounds and very few people were doing it.
We walked some more, seeing the exterior of other iconic buildings such as the Bodleian Library,
the Radcliffe Camera, once a medical library and now a reading room,
and The Ashmolean Museum.
We walked back to the bus, stopping for coffee and a treat on the way, and arrived back at the hotel at 6 pm.
Had a delightful dinner with 4 other new women friends tonight which didn't end until almost 9. Another great day.

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