- Attractiveness including location, parks and water features
- Not too big to be overwhelming
- Activities include historic sights, outdoor entertainment and museums
- Transportation is convenient, (fun?) and much of it is walkable
- Lots of coffee shops
- I’d love to return and spend much more time
Oxford is full of zing! Everywhere you go students are zinging here and there to classes or meetings.
Cyclists zing through narrow, cobbled lanes, across meadows, along the canals and the Thames river. The river is also famous for rowing as did Lewis Carrol and no doubt many other famous authors and other famous people who studied at the world renowned university. Travel to, through and from is full of adventure and possibilities. The area also boasts many huge parks and the universities have green quads.
My last visit there began when I arrived by train and walked to a B & B and later in the week moved to one of the universities. It was a rich time and I wished I could have stayed longer. As I was there for a conference I could not explore much, but the little I did was rewarded with surprises. Steeped in academic history the ambiance of Oxford is unlike anywhere else I’ve ever visited.
It is full of all sorts of coffee shops, pubs and bookstores. One of my surprises was passing by the legendary ‘Eagle and Child’ where Lewis, Tolkien and others discussed their literary works.
Here’s a video about some places to visit if you ever go there and are keen on Lewis and Tolkien as I am. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jT-0LVCCNTc
And here is a two minute video about the Inklings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2loUswCfgoQ
For my 2 pence worth I can add to this clip what I learned this last year when reading, C.S. Lewis – A Life, Eclectic Genius, Reluctant Prophet by Alister McGrath; without the encouragement of Lewis, Tolkien would never have completed The Lord of the Rings.
My best Lewis memory came the day that I took a little time out of the conference on one of the only sunny afternoons we had. I explored Magdalen College where he had tutored for many years. (You may remember that scene from Shadowlands in which he is working with a student there.) At first I was disappointed as the only trace the college marked was a set of flower boxes outside his upstairs windows visible from a distance.
But somehow my feet led me to ‘Addison’s Walk’ which was a lovely place to stroll as it says in the video. Tree lined with a small stream flowing along it I desired to follow on and on, but needed to return to my conference. Conflicted about having to go back, I paused to read a plaque on a 15 foot high stone wall beside a wide iron gate which led into the great and ancient deer park.
This poem had me in tears in no time. In that moment God was speaking compassion to my heart about my yearning not only for sunshine, but also for the eternal summer we will one day have who look up now to the Bright and Morning Star.
WHAT THE BIRD SAID EARLY IN THE YEAR
I heard in Addison’s Walk a bird sing clear:
This year the summer will come true. This year. This year.
Winds will not strip the blossom from the apple trees
This year, nor want of rain destroy the peas.
This year time’s nature will no more defeat you,
Nor all the promised moments in their passing cheat you.
This time they will not lead you round and back
To Autumn, one year older, by the well-worn track.
This year, this year, as all these flowers foretell,
We shall escape the circle and undo the spell.
Often deceived, yet open once again your heart,
Quick, quick, quick, quick! – the gates are drawn apart.
Other famous people who I admire that have a connection with Oxford include Churchill, John Wesley, founder of Methodism, George MacDonald who was a friend of Lewis Carrol and Elizabeth Goudge. Elizabeth Goudge wrote a wonderful novel called Towers in the Mist about the city set in the time of Elizabeth I. Well worth a search and read.
(Of course there are hundreds of famous people who studied there and you can search the lists if you like: http://www.ox.ac.uk/about/oxford-people/famous-oxonians)
Although Oxford is overwhelming in size and all that there is to explore, it is to me a wonderful overwhelming! I would be delighted to visit again and to stay for year. Maybe someday.