It’s been a nice day today.
When I hit the park shortly after 6am this morning the mist was rolling over the field and the sun was coming up. The sky was clear and it looked glorious.
Today seems a far cry from the weather that seemed intent on soaking every last inch of the UK yesterday, which was a bit of a shame – because it was a day that I’d been planning for a few months.
I had arranged back in August to meet up in Oxford with a couple of fellow bloggers – and regular readers may have seen them crop up from time to time in my comments.
Hayley has her own funky healthy vegan take on life and Slimming World (link) and Marjolein (who is Dutch and has recently moved to the UK – yay!) writes on a variety of health and other topics (link).
It takes around 40 minutes to get to Oxford on the train from Leamington – which oddly I’ve never done before. Although I’ve been to Oxford quite a few times, like many other places I’ve visited most of my previous visits were dictated by my mobility. In the past I drove there every time.
I usually parked near to a cafe in Summertown and didn’t move very far at all.
The parking nazis have descended on Oxford with a vengence lately though and pretty much everywhere has a slew of no parking signs. Consequently going by car is a nightmare – so the train makes a lot more sense.
So – shortly before 9am and a little damp from the rain I was standing at the train station in Leamington.
When it arrived I instantly noticed Mar in the window in front of me – and thankfully she had an empty seat next to her so we got to sit together and say our hellos on the journey (this was the very first time we’d met in person!) which was really cool.
Things seemed to be working out well from a timing perspective too as when we arrived in Oxford Hayley was patiently waiting for us at the gate.
You may have expected an event that was planned several months in advance to be one that was finely choreographed and organised down to the last minute.
However – this wasn’t the case at all – and we’d only really got a vague idea of what we wanted to do. Since none of us seemed like we were ready to make a decision about making a decision and it was a really cold and miserable day we soon ended up in the one place we could all agree on.
After a little ‘getting to know you’ session, a few cups of coffee and some visits to the loo we’d got a plan of action and headed off for the main attraction – which was the Great Hall at Christchurch.
As it happens BOTH of my companions are massive Harry Potter fans (apparently they’re Hufflepuffs – they’ve done tests to prove it and everything) and one had a secret weapon…
She came packing free entry to the great hall!!!
Unfortunately the clearly unlaid plans of mice and men should probably have been laid a little better… because it turned out that the great hall was shut until 2pm…
So instead we decided to mooch about elsewhere. Thankfully nearby was the Bodleian library – for which we also had free entry (at least to a small part of it).
After speaking to the lady on reception it turned out that with Mar’s pass we could all go into the Divinity School but no-where else.
The Divinity School is where Ron and ProfessorMcGonagall dance together in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – and the ceiling is seriously lovely.
Convocation House & Chancellor’s Court (which were just through that doorway) were however tantalisingly close, and when an extendable barrier was retracted we wandered forward to have a look – not knowing that this wasn’t allowed and that entry to these two rooms were part of the tour only.
Thankfully we were only kicked out after we’d had a good look around!
Convocation House was apparently a meeting chamber for the House of Commons during the English Civil War and later in the 1660s and 1680s.
Who knew? Not me thats for sure!
After Navigating the gift shop (where there were some frankly ridiculiously expensive pieces of furniture and cool magnifying glasses) we headed to eat lunch – which in all cases we’d individually made and packed.
Trying to find somewhere to eat for our combined dietary requirements seemed like it would probably cause serious stress – so we instead decided to surreptitiously munch our packed food in Cafe Nero over some hot drinks.
It was a good call – because the rain was showing no signs of stopping.
I once again nipped to the loo – and while I was away the next stop was decided. We’d visit the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology just down the road.
Now this is definitely my kind of place.
I love wandering around museums and staring at antiquities – particularly when they’re as lovely as some of the Chinese kimono embroidery on display.
How intricate are these?!
The contemporary Chinese art (revolutionary in it’s theme) was also quite interesting…
However I found myself drawn largely to the antiquities section of the museum. Their carved Roman wall reliefs were rather impressive, as were many of the sculptures.
However many things pale into insignificance when you’re faced with a giant bronzed Greek bottom.
Unlike much of the Roman era (who preferred to immortalise themselves in marble and stone) the Greek anatomy had taken on a sense of indomitable permanence that many of their latin counterparts had not.
Very few Roman men and women had heads, arms, legs (or indeed genitalia) still intact – yet this Greek bottom (and his special parts) were untouched by time, and as solid as the day he rolled out of the sculptor’s studio.
NOT as impressive though as the prices in the gift shop – which whilst cheaper than the chairs in the Bodleian were still no less ridiculous.
This is a £120 ‘hippy bag.’
Now I’ve known one or two hippies in my time and I’m pretty sure that none of them would have paid £120 for a bag to carry their lentils and Greenpeace flyers in.
Nope. Wouldn’t have happened….
Unsurprisingly I exited my second gift shop of the day without any gifts.
The next stop was now the Great Hall at Christchurch -which by now was both open and absolutely besieged by coachloads of Japanese tourists.
I’m sure that this is familiar to anyone that’s seen any of the Harry Potter films – and it’s practically impossible to not be just a little bit excited to have a look around it!
Oddly though I was waaaaaay more excited to have a look around the Cathederal next door to this – which is a seriously impressive building – and if I had any kind of itch to scratch with regard to stained glass then it was well and truly scratched by the time I’d had a look around there.
There was of course yet another gift shop nearby – and this time I came very very close to making an actual purchase…
In the end though £15 for a wooly hat with Oxford written on it was more than the tightly clamped down wallet in my pocket was willing to relinquish – and I popped it back where I’d originally found it…
It seemed that Harry Potter was basically a license to print money here – as almost half of the Christchurch gift shop (which I imagine a decade or so ago would have been almost exclusively Oxford University scarves and hats) was entirely devoted to Harry Potter memorabilia.
I wonder how many of these travel back to Japan?
Thousands I imagine!
I had no idea that the Japanese were so into Harry Potter!
Anyway – shortly after we exited the gift shop it was time to make our way to the station and catch our respective trains, which thankfully were all on time and came complete with places sit and natter (at least for me and Mar, since Hayley was travelling in the opposite direction) for the final leg of the journey.
By the time I got home and checked my stats for the day it seemed I’d walked quite a way around Oxford as well as back and forth from the trains I’d caught. My totals for the day showed a respectable 12.5 miles – and frankly when I hit the sack later that evening (after nodding off in my armchair) I slept like a log.
Here’s hoping that my hufflepuff blogger friends enjoyed themselves as much as I did.
We’re already abstractly talking (planning clearly is not our thing!) about where to go next…
Watch this space internet!