I’ve never thought I was smart enough to attend Oxford, but I’ve always dreamed of visiting there! I did, and I loved it!Oxford is ancient. Classes were first held in the 11th century, with growth beginning in 1167. Most of the buildings are not that old, but they are truly antiquities.In a day and a half we (Traci and I) walked 10 miles, often on cobblestone streets. We had breakfast the first morning at The Grand Café, the oldest in England, with the fluffiest eggs ever. The next day we crossed the street to the Queen’s Lane Café, the second oldest in England. Yummy porridge and crumpets.So many highlights:
C. S. Lewis
We loved strolling the grounds of Magdalen College: where Lewis taught and wrote; where he punted on the Cherwell River; where he resided in the “new” building, built in the 1700’s. And then on to dinner at The Eagle and Child Pub, where Lewis, Tolkien and other Oxford authors dined and deliberated often in the Rabbit Room. The fish and chips were delish.
My biggest disappointment was that the libraries in the various colleges (there are 38 of them) were not open to the public. But I was more than compensated by a tour of the Bodleian Library, the main research library of the university.Founded in 1598 by Sir Thomas Bodley, it now houses more than 11 million volumes lining more than 120 miles of shelving. Our tour guide brought the history alive, and I had to be dragged out of the hall of ancient books (1500’s) that we were allowed to linger in briefly.
We stood at the place they were burned at the stake, a cross marking the spot in the middle of a busy thoroughfare. Around the corner was a large memorial spire, reminding passersby that something courageous occurred. But few stopped to remember.Bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley were martyred by Queen Mary for heresy in 1555. In 1556, the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer, who reluctantly followed his queen’s orders to recant his personal belief in Christ, recanted his recantation and was burned at the same spot.Whenever I am confronted with such courage and faith, in the past or today, I bow before God in humility and gratitude.
Evensong at Christ Church
One of the most magnificent buildings was the Christ Church Cathedral. We had walked all around it, through the Meadow and lavish gardens. Not wanting to pay the substantial price to go inside, we found another way.At 6 p.m. we entered for free, but for so much more. The choral Evensong service took me back to my childhood at All Saints Episcopal Church in Dallas. Such a worshipful ending to our day!One of my favorite authors, Dorothy Sayers, was one of the first women graduates of Oxford. I just ordered her Gaudy Night, based on her class reunion, and can’t wait to immerse myself in life at the University of Oxford.c 2011 Judy Douglass