Friday, 25 October 2013

Katie Goes To Oxford

It should say 'went' but for a title 'goes' looks better. Warning, extra long post.

I had never been to Oxford before yesterday, the only glimpses I had seen of the city was in Morse and Endeavour episodes, oh and the occasional film.

The day began at 6am, I haven't had to get up that early since June! But I was actually not tired, well until I boarded the coach I fell asleep. Getting to Victoria Coach station was a mission and a half. It took about 15 minutes to find the darn stop. I got settled in for the 2 hour journey and actually enjoyed the ride to the city.

When we finally got to the city, it immediately reminded of Bath, so many beige stone buildings, all impressive and it was so tempting just to stare at them all, but I was rather concerned with looking too much like a tourist. But that didn't stop me from preparing and getting maps for all the places I wanted to see. Looking back, I really wish I had got a map of the entire city as it was incredibly confusing trying to navigate. All the roads are a mile long and the turning seems to disappear into the distance. Saying all this I enjoyed the city, but next time I will not be bringing unnecessary umbrellas and maybe take a different bag, something less conspicuous. When I told the story of my day out to my parents they had great fun making fun of my rucksack.

My first stop was to the Pitts River museum of anthropology and world archaeology. Free admission and I thought close by to other places I wanted to see. It was such a bizarre place. It was right next to the mini natural museum, which was going through some sort of maintenance as most of the dinosaur exhibits were under some sheets. The Pitts River Museum is under one roof, three floor of collections of objects from many cultures, past and present.

Fascinating place! So many things to stare at, it was like looking into Indiana Jones' dream cupboard. Unfortunately it wasn't a quiet place, there were two schools visiting too, so wherever I turned there was a school child. I didn't spend long on the ground so I ventured to the higher floor as the view was impressive, made (hopefully) for some great photographs. I took my 35mm camera with me as I figured that there were some sights to photograph, in black and white. Apart from enjoying the exhibits on offer I was also trying to escape the museum staff members who seem to be intent on following me around the damn room. At first I thought it was because I had a camera but I saw other taking photographs then I thought they were just watching the school children but most of the time it was just me, looking. This is why my parents were laughing, they said I must have looked suspicious. Anyway, I tricked one staff member who was continuously following by taking my bag off and slowing drinking some water then putting lip balm on then as soon as they walked off, I got out the big camera. HAZAAR!

I was about to faint when I left the museum and went in search of some tea and food. As I was leaving I saw these amazing dinosaur footprints.

I had some tea and pancakes at The Rose then went in search, and I mean search for Alice's Shop. I managed to write quite a bit of a short story for a competition in The Rose. The tea was amazing, vanilla, and the cafe was so quiet I could settle into the writing.

The shop is so tiny but crammed full of Alice related delights! Books, mugs, bags, costumes and of course postcards! My weakness, postcards. Oxford is full of bookshop and postcards shop, oh and Oxford University shops. I had wanted to visit this shop for years and I wasn't disappointed. After stuffing my bag full of postcards and teabags I set off to the Bodleian Library.

My aunt and uncle had been to an exhibition at the Bodleian Library some months back and this, I suppose that this was the main reason for my day out. Plus its an immense library. What more could you ask for? The exhibition was; Magical Books: From Middle Ages to Middle-Earth. It was in a small darkened room, I assume because there was original material from authors on display. The main Oxford authors, C.S Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien had there work talked about along with the origins of the legend Arthur and the story of George and the Dragon. Aspects of magic, alchemy and other worlds were talked about, as well as maps of the universes these writers created. It was an amazing display, just wish I could have taken some photographs. The exhibition is on until 27th October, cutting it fine, but if you are in the area or can get to Oxford, go and have a look, its free too.

Of course I went crazy in the library shop, so many postcards!

After wondering around the library I walked along the historical Broad street again and had a look round one Blackwell's many shops, in particular, its bookshop. Blackwell's on Broad street has been serving academics, students and book lovers since 1879. So, you can see why I wanted to visit it. By the time I had finished at all these places it was time to hole up in a cafe.

I walked along all the long streets, staring into to half opened doors with intrigue until I found the fabled independent coffee specialist, The Missing Bean. On my journey to the cafe I was followed by a couple of 'typical' Oxford students, all the way. They were talking about something, I kept wanting to laugh but I resisted. That's something I observed. The population of Oxford seemed to be rather posh British students or American students.

After having to get a take away ice coffee, no space to sit as it was rather small and no seats, I went and visited the site of the first coffee shop in England, The Grand Cafe.

In true 'writer sits at a bar' fashion I did exactly that. I had some amazing tea, ceylon, to be precise and a very delicious sandwich. I sat at the bar for a few hours and I actually complete the short story I was working on. The bar stool was very uncomfortable but no matter I liked my surroundings.

While walking around the city at night, on my way to catch my bus, I happened upon the treasure trove of postcard shops. It was a Blackwells poster and art shop. It caught my eye because there were so many Tintin and Moomin delights in the window to lure me in. It was pure heaven!

After a long day of walking everywhere, I made it to the coach. I went straight to sleep while listing to an audiobook. I woke up an hour later, still travelling, not knowing what the hell I was listening to. It was disorientating. I had a great day but when I return to Oxford, I am bringing a detailed map of the city and looking at all the hundreds of colleges.

Have a look at the sights of Oxford here and all the places I visited have links (highlighted).

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