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We continue with the tales of my trails through England with my good French friend, Jean-Marc Dublé. In this Part 2 of ” Our Man from the Roannais in England” we travel from London to the great city of learning – Oxford.
Slap bang in the middle of England, Oxford is a city of enviable fortune: stunning architecture, abundant gardens and riverways, academic excellence and cultural richness. In fact, a far cry from the oxen grazing ground after which it was named, ‘Oxen-ford’.
Today, it boasts 39 prestigious colleges; a University church and a city cathedral; the ancient Bodleian library; Wren’s Sheldonian theatre; and the iconic Radcliffe Camera. Add this to the bevy of prominent museums from the age-old Ashmolean to the oddities of Pitt Rivers, and on a visit to Oxford you may find your itinerary a little overwhelming.
Jean-Marc and I, of course, had to be a little selective – content to experience the ‘flavour’ of Oxford with its traditional and ancient Englishness. The beauty of Oxford was immediate, with the charcteristic splendour of this amazing city the many gargoyles high above gorge themselves on daily.
We strolled through the busy streets and marvelled at the ancient buildings and the incredible architecture, and enjoyed an early spring walk through Merton Field in Christ Church Meadow, along ‘Dead Man’s Walk’ (a medieval funeral walk) through to the Botanic Gardens near the River Cherwell, and up onto Magdalen Bridge. Here we stood looking across at the highly reputable, historic, and beautiful Magdalen College (founded in 1428). We even managed to look into the main quadrangle where many famous, historic figures had walked in years gone by, such as Samuel Pepys.
Returning gradually back to the city, we passed the equally famous colleges of Queens and All Souls’, and then dived down the narrow cobbled street passed Radcliffe Camera, and end up inside the Bodleian Library where there was a special exhibition of ancient illustrated religious books and scrolls. Not necessarily something we would have normally visited, but a fascinating surprise all the same – we spent an hour in the library, though!
We then passed the decorated, sculptured entrance and frontage of Wren’s Sheldonian Theatre.
There is no doubt, you could easily spend a few days or more in this fantastic city, discovering new aspects of its ancient and academic history every minute. Unfortunately we had no more than a few hours, before we had to head off to vistas new.
Our next stop (2-days) would be The Royal Forest of Dean in the Wye Valley.
Part 3 of “Our Man from the Roannais” series will follow shortly, with our walking adventures, in the remarkable Forest of Dean and stunning Wye Valley.