Today was actually a free day where we got to choose to do whatever we wanted all day, where as the other days and trips had been planned out for us by our faculty leader. And we had decided to participate in something called Oxford Open Doors where some of the colleges that make up Oxford University were free to visit for certain times during the day. (For those of you who do not know, Oxford university is not one big school like High Point University, it is several small schools that work together but are at the same time separate. It is similar to how North Carolina and South Carolina are states in the US, but can do somethings themselves through state governments, although really that is too oversimplified, but hopefully you sort-of understand the idea.)
We had hoped to go to Christ’s Church, the college where parts of Harry Potter were filmed, but you had to register online and they were full. So instead we went to four other colleges, and one tower for free.
We started with Carfax Tower, which is a tall tower in Oxford that overlooks the city. There were some really great views from up there although it was rather small and felt crowded occasionally when everyone moved to one side. We then went to the Old County Court House for Oxfordshire down the street. There we got to sit in some old courtrooms and learned about some famous cases that happened there, as well as some idea as to how the British court system works, which sounds similar to the US’s system. We also went down underneath the court house to the holding cells for prisoners in the olden days (which ended up being larger than my bedroom) and walk down the tunnel to the prison steps and then turn around. It was much more informative and interesting than I had thought it would be. We also stopped by next door to the Castle Mound, but ended up not going in as it cost money.
Next we stopped by Primark, a local retail store, and bought some necessities we did not have time to get yesterday, like pillowcases. I also bought a cute over the shoulder purse, which i would suggest to people traveling overseas as they are small, easy to carry, and easy to watch so that people do not steal it. We then went to my new favorite place: Poundland.
Poundland is a magically place where everything costs a pound, but since they do not have tax on their goods (or the tax is factored into the price) everything is literally a pound. We got a lot of things like dish soap, sponges, candy, etc. and it all came exactly to pounds, no pence was needed. It was also very fast there and we were back out to look at colleges within 30 minutes. We did stop by the Covered Market to get some lunch and a bookstore called Blackwell’s to kill some time before actually going back to see colleges, but you get the point.
All Souls College, a postgraduate school in Oxford University, was our next stop. It had just opened when we arrived and so there were several people there all in line (or “queing”) to tour and see the campus. Therefore, we did not get to see the library, but we did go into the chapel, which was breathtaking. There were stained glass windows all around the walls, and at the far end was a huge collection of statues of important saints or church officials that were mounted into the wall. (I know that might sounds strange but it was very beautiful.) There was also an arch with golden angels cared into it and golden angels on the ceiling. It was amazing. We sat in the chapel for a good 15-20 minutes just looking at everything and taking it in.
Afterwards, we headed to Queen’s College and Magdalen College. Queen’s College was nice but no where near as exciting after having just seen All Souls. There chapel was still lovely and the stained glass was very detailed, but it was hard to compare it to what we had just seen down the street.
Magdalen College on the other hand, was completely different from All Souls and Queen’s College. It looked like you had entered a fairytale. The grounds were beautiful and lively. Their chapel, interestingly, had black and white stained glass at the back and color at the front, but still was not as nice as All Souls’s chapel, but I think it was still my over all favorite.
After entering the college you could go to their chapel or their gardens and then follow a path that went all the way, in a big circle, around their Water Garden where deer were being kept. I am not sure why they seemed to have a pasture for deer that they owned, but it was still amazing. There was also a river following the trail most of the way, where you could see more buildings for the college and students rowing boats. You could at some point go off the trail and view their other gardens, but the trail circuit was rather large so we chose not to, although I am sure they are spectacular.
We then headed back home for an uneventful evening of putting away groceries and eating at a shop called Posh Fish were Amy accidentally invented “Sugar Chips” (or french fries with sugar on them). We then went to bed excitedly awaiting to see Stonehenge the next day.
“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” -Scott Cameron