Today we took a break from the hustle and bustle of the city and ventured out, by bus, to the lovely town of Oxford. It was about an hour and a half ride from Victoria Station to the city centre. Initially, some issues with online ticketing made me wary of the excursion, but we met a very nice and helpful bus driver who not only informed us on all the details the website failed to provide, but also a partial refund because we were overcharged. It was third-best display of customer service I’ve experienced in the UK, the first being our quick-footed guide at Heathrow upon our arrival; the second being the friendly associate of the owner of our flat in Edinburgh. Unfortunately, customer service doesn’t seem to be a top priority in jolly old England.
When we arrived in Oxford, we set off for Christ Church, one of the largest colleges in Oxford. Apparently a whole host of famous people attended the school, namely John Wesley (I guess we paid our dues as alumni from Southern Methodist University). However, we were there for another reason–it hosts the inspiration for the Great Hall of Hogwart’s in the Harry Potter movies as well as the main staircase where Professor McGonagall greets Harry and his friends upon their arrival. Pictures will be posted soon!
We had lunch at a sandwich shop in the covered market, a collection of pop-up shops that became permanent over the years. The shops sold a wide range of things from clothing to fresh meat. It wasn’t super impressive, but it was a quaint place to stop for a bite to eat.
Next on our list was the Ashmolean Museum. I know what you’re thinking: I thought she said she was done with museums. Well, so did I. Funny enough, Ali and I actually enjoyed this museum more than Snigdha, and, for the first time, we found ourselves slowing HER down. I liked it because it was more of a natural history museum rather than one full of art. Side note: one of the attendants asked me if we were from North America and then if I had heard of Pocahontas. Turns out they had Chief Powhatan’s mantle which was actually really cool. I found it funny though because the attendant thought I could possibly be Canadian (“North American”) and that she later confessed to me that she had always thought Pocahontas was just a story and had been surprised to discover she was a real person. Silly Brits! Clearly they don’t teach American history in schools.
Then, we ventured to a pub called The Eagle and Child– the locals call it The Bird and Baby (it took me a while, but I finally put two and two together…). This pub is important because it was where C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien, along with other members of The Inklings, would meet to discuss the books they were writing. It was cool to imagine those two grabbing a pint and having theological discussions which would later serve as material for their literary classics.
Our final stop was the Bodleian Library, the location of more scenes from Harry Potter: the Hogwarts infirmary and library. Unfortunately, it seems that the folks at Bodleian have caught wise and have raised the entry fee considerably, considering that it originally was free. Unwilling to fork over the admission fee for the tour of the library, we settled for a £1 self-guided tour of the Divinity School (where the infirmary scenes were). My favorite part of this part of our day was that we kept seeing college students walking out of the adjacent classrooms wearing mortarboard caps and gowns. Before we went into the Divinity School we ran into an old acquaintance from SMU who has spent the last year studying abroad in Oxford, which was an awesome random happenstance. She informed us that the students have to wear the caps and gowns during examinations. Silly Brits and their insistence on archaic traditions. Although, I’ll admit, it’s kind of cool. However, I think I’d find it a tidbit distracting.
Our country excursion nearing it’s end, we decided to head back to the bus station to catch a ride back home. Good thing we decided to head back when we did, too, because about three minutes from the station, we got caught in a tremendous downpour and had to walk the rest of the way in the pouring rain. Thankfully, Ali and I lived up to my Dad’s personal motto, and, in “anticipating” the coming showers, we had worn boots and brought along umbrellas and rain slickers–all came in handy. We rode the bus back to King’s Cross Station and ended our Harry Potter Day with a stop at Platform 9 3/4 (a display setup in the station in honor of the film). Once again, photos are pending.
Tonight we made our last homemade meal in our flat, a delicious mix-mash of ingredients because we had to get rid of our extra food. And now we are all hanging out in the flat watching Pride & Prejudice. Tomorrow is our last day in the UK. Tonight is our last night in this particular flat. In the morning we have to check into a hotel because we failed to book the correct amount of days with the flat owners. But, don’t feel bad for us. My Nana has blessed us with a room in a swanky concept hotel a few minutes walk away from our current location. We shall sleep and eat well, indeed.