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Return to Oxford! (Part 1)

Back to visit Oxford for the first time in 15 years… it’s been a big trip down Memory Lane! As many of my readers know, my Oxford Tearoom Mysteries are inspired by my time living and studying at Oxford. I was a student there in the early 1990’s and then remained living in Oxford for several years after I graduated – in fact, until my husband and I decided to emigrate Down Under.

We hadn’t been back to Oxford since we left so when we returned to the UK last month to visit family, we decided that we needed to make a long overdue trip…

Getting the train to Oxford from London’s Paddington Station

 

It was very surreal, actually, being back – in many ways, Oxford hadn’t changed much at all. The core University of Oxford buildings & colleges and historic city monuments have remained unchanged for hundreds of years – and will probably remain the same for hundreds more. For us, it really was like stepping back in time – I kept doing double-takes, half expecting to bump into my college friends around the street corners!

(Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great – typical grey English day! – so the pictures are all a bit dark & dreary but hope they still give you a flavour of the city!)

Carfax – Oxford city centre

 

Radcliffe Square with a view of University Church of St Mary the Virgin, and the beautiful wrought iron gate of All Souls College on the left…

 

The iconic Radcliffe Camera – one of the reading rooms of the university’s Bodleian Library

 

The Queen’s College on High Street

 

Cornmarket Street – the main pedestrianised shopping street in Oxford

 

 

Magdalen College, with its majestic Tower, where the Magdalen College Choir sing at dawn on May Morning… (as featured in Muffins and Mourning Tea ~ Oxford Tearoom Mysteries Book 5!)

 

Shepherd & Woodward – where I’d got my sub fusc and black academic gown!

 

Standing by the gate to the Sheldonian Theatre, with Hertford College’s famous “Bridge of Sighs” in the background

 

The Old Bank Hotel, which used to be a branch of Barclay’s Bank in my student days… (as featured in A Scone To Die For ~ Oxford Tearoom Mysteries Book 1!)

 

Merton College chapel seen from the Grove Walk

 

Oxford… City of Bicycles!

At the same time, there were also lots of little changes – we kept walking around, pointing at things and exclaiming, “Look! That used to be…. Oh no, that cafe is gone…! Hey! The Haagen Daz store is now Pret-A-Manger…”

We were really pleased, though, that many of our old haunts were still there – we grabbed lunch at one of our favourite restaurants, the Pizza Express housed in the old coaching inn dating back to the 12th Century (although it’s been repainted a weird pink colour…!)

But – hooray – they still had my favourite: Dough Balls! A Pizza Express classic, served with garlic butter… ah, I’ve been waiting 15 years for this moment!

And the pizzas were still just as HUGE and just as delicious! :-) I ordered my usual: “American Hot” – with pepperoni, hot green peppers, fresh red chilli, spicy sausage, tomato and buffalo mozzarella, finished with fresh parsley and chilli oil. YUM!!

Some other things about Oxford hadn’t changed either – things I don’t remember with such fondness – such as the millions of cobblestones on the streets! Cobblestones might be lovely to look at but they’re a nightmare to walk on, especially if you’re wearing high heels!

We finished the day off by visiting some of the colleges – many of them allow tourists in now for a small fee (although as Oxford alumni, we get in for free, of course) – and it was strange visiting them as a “outsider”. I felt a bit regretful that I hadn’t made more effort to visit all the colleges during my time there as a student. You always take things for granted, don’t you, and don’t appreciate them until too late!

Because of Oxford’s collegiate system, there is no central campus and as a student, your life really revolves around your own college where you eat, sleep, study and play. You might attend lectures or go to research labs and libraries in the departmental buildings – but mostly, you hang out at your own college and only visit the others if you have friends or a tutorial there.

So I’m ashamed to say that I’ve only been inside a handful of the other colleges, although I tried to make up for that this time by visiting a couple I’d never been in. They’re all unique and beautiful in their own way…

Balliol College – one of Oxford’s medieval colleges, established in 1263

 

Like most Oxford colleges, Balliol has its own chapel – fairly small compared to the grand chapels of colleges like Magdalen but still gorgeous!

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We didn’t have time to visit more than a couple of colleges – we would really have liked to do them all! And of course, there was the most important college of all – our own college, Christ Church. We saved that for our second day, together with Christ Church Meadow (check out Part 2 for the photos) – but we did wish we had more time, as you could spend hours just exploring the quaint little back lanes and quiet alleyways of Oxford. In a way, that is much more the heart of this university city than all the tourist hotspots – oh well, next time…!

Continued in Part 2

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10 Comments on "Return to Oxford! (Part 1)"

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Cozynookbks
Guest

Wow!! What great pictures. They’re spectacular-looking buildings even on a dreary day. Thank you for the tour. It will help me as I make my way through your Oxford tearoom mystery series. I just purchased the paperback of Tea With Milk and Murder. Looking forward to reading it.

Celia Fowler
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Beautiful pictures of Oxford — thank you for the tour. Now on to Part 2!

Catherine Chant
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I just discovered your books recently and love them! My husband is originally from Reading, England (moved to the US 22 years ago when we got married). I’ve been to Oxford once when we were dating, but would love to go back. Maybe next summer when we’re over to visit his parents. :-) Your photos bring back lots of memories. Looking forward to your new series.

Sharon Gariano
Guest

Great photos! I’ve seen some of the buildings in the BBC show “Lewis” but your photos are better. My husband and I so want to visit England someday. Maybe we’ll get a chance when the kids grow up. :)

Valerie
Guest

It’s always interesting visiting again after so long to see what’s changed, but fortunately so many of the University buildings are immortalized forevermore. Oxford looks beautiful, you’ve done a lovely job “painting” it with words in your books! Reminding me, Deborah Harkness’ “A Discovery of Witches” is a fantastic book, also partially set at Oxford. :)

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