Time travelling in Oxford

The beginnings of Oxford lie in the Saxon period when a princess and a nun, Frideswede, founded a monastery in the 8th century. Old ain't it! This is a view from the University Church of St Mary the Virgin (first recorded in the Domesday book in 1086- unbelievable) over Christ Church College, Oxford University. Oxford University has 38 colleges, 8 of which had been founded by the end of the 14th century. We climbed up an extremely narrow stone tower to get to the roof. It was quite gutsy of Hiie as she can't stand heights. Either can I much but the view was worth it. Many of the buildings are in very good condition considering how old they are. Unlike Salisbury Cathedral which is really worn and was a bit of a disappointment.

The silhouette is actually a statue. One of the colleges in medieval Oxford.

Exterior stonework on the 14th century gothic spire of The University Church, of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford. I was standing on the roof of the church when I took this picture and looking up was truly vertigo producing.

Taken from St Mary's spire. It's a great view. The building in front is a private reading room for the Bodleian library.

In the St John's college courtyard.

Fancy going back to the 12th century? Go to Oxford which is 99 kilometres north-west of London and an easy train ride. Everyone knows about Oxford, the medieval town famous for its university. Various well known luminaries- prime ministers, poets, politicians, even the Obama administration has 6 members- have all studied at Oxford.  I listen to a soul music show broadcast from Oxford. My mother tells me the english tv show 'Morse' is filmed there. Now I know what it's like.
It's a magical little town that is completely dominated by the university which lies in it's centre whose spires you can see everywhere. I don't think I'd like to live there though. It's too much of a university town. Though like London it seems to have a lot of live theatre and arts happening. Bath was the same. And it's probably like that all over England I imagine. I think it says a lot about a place- the level of creativity.

Beautiful decorative metalwork in Paddington station, London where you catch the train to Oxford from.

Walking's a good way to discover Oxford. 

Heaps of tourists were buzzing around on the day. You don't actually encounter that many 'real' english people. There were heaps of French and Spanish school groups.

Stone man popping out of a student window.

The gardens are really well kept and in traditional English style. Well actually it's not really english style here  it's really Italian/French style that had a huge influence on the english aristo's in the 18th century.

We only went to Oxford for a day and caught the train from London which takes about 1 hour. It was over 30 degrees on the day so it was pretty hot wandering around along with the throngs of tourists and tourist buses thronging the roads.  We still managed to have our cups of tea and coffee though in spite of the heat. That's addiction for you. We managed to cool down in the Ashmolean museum which has to be one of the greatest museums on earth. It's a beautiful building with a classical facade and portico, newly designed galleries and not too big in size to get to grips with the collections. The artworks are incredible. Just the most perfect examples of renaissance art you'll see in one room.

 Ashmolean museum, Oxford. One of the best galleries you'll ever visit.

 Here's one mannerist painting (can't remember the artist) that reminded me of our own times. This style is really common in  movies such as 'Avatar'. We're living in a mannerist time I think.

In the renaissance room. I was never that big a fan of high renaissance art really. I preferred the simplicity of early renaissance or medieval art. I found the classical influences took over but seeing them in real life I appreciate them a lot more. There's a softness and grace that isn't captured in the books. The tranquillity and sense of order and harmony in these paintings is incredible up close and personal.
 I just love the Della Robbia terracotta reliefs. Just blue and white and supremely beautiful. They are perfection.

The Virgin Mary's mantle was mostly painted in blue in paintings of her. Sometimes it was the semi precious stone lapis lazuli that was used as the basis of a blue paint. This doesn't look like it though.

We couldn't see everything as usual because you just can't absorb it after a while and it was too hot. I couldn't believe England got this hot but a tour guide told us they may have to have water restrictions in future. Join the club. Hyde Park in London was as dry as a bone. Lots of yellow grass. Reminded me of Australia. But the difference here is that the fountains are all still working and the ponds and lakes are filled with water. In Stockholm there's quite a few fountains that are of course spurting out water in profligate fashion and I feel kind of a guilty pleasure when I look at them after knowing how water is so scarce in Australia and other countries.

St John's college, Oxford.

St John's college, Oxford

We went into a couple of the colleges and sat on the lawns in the shade to get cool. You had to pay for some of them too, I suppose to keep up the gardens and maintain the buildings which would be an ongoing battle. I think some of the top universities have had some hard times financially in recent years though. Some of the Harry Potter movies had scenes filmed in some of the buildings and you can imagine it. It was pretty deserted in the university colleges as students were on holidays.

We saw this written on the footpath while we were walking. It really moved me. The other side of the picture perfect ideal Oxford. 

 Oxford seems to be a cycling town. But even in London I saw many cyclists willing to risk life and limb amongst the double decker buses. The Sheldonian theatre is in the background.

 Landscape looking very dry. Taken from the train on the way back to London. The soft light is so different to Australia. After seeing the landscape in real life I realised that all those english painters of the 18th and 19th century such as Turner were really accurate in their depictions of the landscape.

When we got back to the hotel in London I read an article in the Times magazine by Naomi Wolf who wrote 'The Beauty Myth' inspired, she says, by the sexism she experienced at Oxford in the 1980's which caused her to leave. She recently went back to finish her doctorate and says it's changed. Good.

More England reading: The English countryside


  1. I would like to exchange links with your site www.blogger.com
    Is this possible?

  2. To be honest I don't completely know what you mean by exchanging links. I don't put anyone elses links on my blog if that's what you mean. You can though link to a particular post at the end of that post. It says 'create a link'. I've never done it myself but you can try that?


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