Thursday, December 5, 2013
The day welcomes us with another glorious sunrise over Stratford-upon-Avon! The most beautiful things in this world are absolutely free, we just need to open our eyes to see it! Sister #10 will be taking us on a walking tour around the world famous university town-Oxford. We’ll visit the beautiful ancient medieval Gothic and Palladian style buildings that make up the some of the colleges surrounding the oldest university in England.
A one day trip to Oxford is only a short bus ride away from one of the five Park and Ride services run by the Oxfordshire County Council-it’s by far the most economical way to get there! They’re conveniently located on the Oxford ring road to the North, South, East and West. We arrived from the North (Birmingham direction) and used the Pear Tree location; it cost 1.50 GBP to park and 2.40 GBP (off peak) for the leisurely 15 minute bus ride to Oxford City Centre. The only thing to keep in mind is knowing when the last bus leaves from Oxford for the return to the Park and Ride. Other than that, you’ll have a stress free day of sightseeing!
We begin our walk at the corner of Broad St and Cornmarket St; the northern edge of the city centre where stands the Saxon Tower of St Michael; the oldest building in Oxford dating from AD 1000-50. For a fee, visitors can climb up to the roof of the tower for panoramic views of the city.
Cornmarket St runs north-south between Broad and High; it’s a auto-free/pedestrian only shopping street with many specialty retail shops, boutiques, cafes and more. There’s something for everyone!
We continue further south on Cornmarket and head into the Golden Cross Walk Shopping Centre that leads us to the historic Covered Market. Here you can find old world butcher shops, bakeries, fish purveyors, colorful fruit and produce markets, flowers, hand crafted soaps, cafes and more. You can literally spend hours here, the sights and smells are amazing! We shared a small bag of fresh made seasoned pork cracklings/scratchings from one of the butcher shops-divine morsels of crispy skin and fat!
We exit the Covered Market onto High St; locally the street is known as The High. This street is bustling with red double-decker buses, black taxis, students on bikes and of course more retail shopping!
From The High, we take Turl St up to Brasenose Lane. Turl is a narrow side road with small specialty shops amid rows of colorful buildings.
Brasenose Lane is a pedestrian only street that runs east-west between Turl St and Radcliffe Square. It is flanked by three colleges; Exeter, Lincoln and Brasenose.
The University Church of St Mary the Virgin has an entrance from Radcliffe Square by the Churchyard’s garden patio area.
Once you’re here, pay the 4 GBP to climb up to the top of the tower-before reaching the stairwell, take the time to look up and around to enjoy the stone carvings of the amazing gargoyles and grotesques clinging to the roof and walls of the building.
It takes 127 steps up the narrow medieval spiral staircase to get to the top of the tower-it’s well worth the effort! The uninterrupted views of Oxford’s skyline; from the city out to the surrounding countryside are spectacular!
The interior of the church is just as magnificent as the views from the tower! Walk up to the gallery for a view of the nave and then turn around and admire the gorgeous stain glass window of angels, prophets and patriarchs.
We exit University Church and slowly make our way from the south end of High St to the east side. Check out all the large ornate wooden doors of the various colleges along the way from University College to Examination School and Queen’s College.
We opt to take an afternoon tea break at The Grand Café; the site of the first coffee house in England per Samuel Pepy’s Diary, 1650.
Our walk continues east along High St to the Magdalen Bridge Boat House; from the 1st of February to the 30th of November, you can rent a punt for a quiet ride on the River Cherwell.
On High St, look up along the wall near the roofline of Magdalen College and you will see whimsical stone caricatures of people, gargoyles and other mythical creatures.
On the opposite side of the boathouse, you will see the Botanic Garden off Rose Ln.
We stay on Rose Lane and walk along the back of Meadow Cottage out towards Merton Field.
The path continues pass Merton College to Christ Church Meadow.
This short cut allows us to enter Christ Church from the rear of the building itself. Christ Church is known as “The House” by those who live there. It’s the largest and most visited of all Oxford colleges. The college has been used in the filming of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series as well as being the setting for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
The Great Hall and the grand open stairs leading to the hall will look very familiar to Harry Potter fans.
Take the time to walk through the Christ Church Cathedral and admire the nave, stained glass windows, soft wooden carvings and historic ceiling art.
We walk through the front garden to exit the main gate onto St Aldates.
We continue for a quick walk around the building to the War Memorial Garden.
We return to St Aldates and stop at Alice’s Shop to see all things pertaining to Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
We conclude our walk with the return to Turl St for a light dinner at Turl Street Kitchen before catching the bus back to the Pear Tree Park and Ride.
This short abbreviated tour of Oxford was great! There’s so much more to see and not enough daylight to see it all in one day. Always leave something for next time! Thanks to Sister #10 for leading the way!