I left London really early in the morning, when the heat of my breath was still making mist over the cold air. The city hasn’t woken up yet, workers started to clean the streets and the window’s shop. I was on Oxford Street and barely seeing any cars. Christmas ornamentation just started to decorate this lovely street.
It’s mid-October, my cellphone shows me it’s 6:50 am. I’m supposed to catch my bus at 7:20. I still have plenty of time although I would love to climb on a bus to warm me up a little and catch on some sleep. I look up at the street sign : Park Lane. A quick confirmation on my ticket and I nod to myself: “It’s here. Let’s just find the bus stop now”. There are plenty, they are everywhere. I go for the closest one. It must be here I guess.
I booked my ticket through megabus website. Their buses are bright purple with a big yellow fellow printed on it, it should be easy to find. And I wait. 7:10, no purple bus in sight. Maybe I’m at the wrong bus stop. Maybe it’s on the other side of the road. I bit my upper lip, wondering if I should leave or not. I finally go for it. I cross the road, pass through Marble Arch and continue on another street. There are even more bus stops here, but no purple. 7:18, it should be here in any second by now and I still have no clue where I’m suppose to wait. 7:19, there’s a bus written “Oxford Tube” on it. Could that be it?
I take a look at my ticket. There it is, at the bottom of it: deserved by Oxford Tube. Damn it! I just missed it! Sigh.
I walk to the stop, where the bus I was supposed to be on just left a few seconds ago. A look at the timetable tells me there is another one in 30 minutes, hopefully the driver will let me climb in. I spot a nearby bench and I sit, my shoulders shivering with cold. 7:50 and I am finally on my way to Oxford. I still have 6 hours to enjoy the most of Oxford. I hope that will be enough.
Christ Church Cathedral
Oxford is known for its history and for its stunning nearly millenial university, the oldest in Great Britain and one of the most prestigious in the world. Being nearly 500 years old, Oxford has always been a student town. It has been “home” of great writers such as Lewis Carroll and Jonathan Swift.
For me, Oxford is a place where Harry Potter’s Great Hall was inspired. And I can’t wait to see it. And as soon as I get off the bus, I walk directly to Christ Church Cathedral. It opens at 10:00, in a few minutes. There is already a waiting line. Some people are wearing Hufflepuff or Slytherin House scarves. I guess I’m not the only Harry Potter fan today.
Smile’s on, camera’s out, and I enter the university campus. I follow the crowd until I reach the staircase which can be seen in the first two Harry Potter movies. Everyone’s snapping photos of a basic marble staircase. I ain’t ashamed to say that I join them. It’s still early and there are not so many people which allow me to take a photo without anyone in it – okay, practically anyone.
Climbing up the staircase, I arrive in a room filled with four long tables and hundreds of seats. Paintings are hanging on the walls all around the room, paintings of well known people who studied at Oxford’s university, from philosophers to writers. This was J. K. Rowling’s inspiration for the Great Hall in the Harry Potter books.
I continue my visit, passing between the student’s residences and other campus pavillon, including the library that I’m craving to see but that I obviously can’t.
Wonder in Oxford Covered Market
Following my hungry belly, I head to the Covered Market to grab a bite. There are dozens of stalls all decorated. I walk in the alleys, mouth-watering at The Cake Shop’s cupcakes, craving for a Moo-Moo’s smoothie, heading to the David John Pies stall, passing in front of flowers, hats, butchers, and the Fromagerie.
The Oxford Covered Market is slightly hidden, there is only a sign pointing the direction, but it was worth walking through it. I go out on the street hungrier than I was when I entered the market.
Grab a Bite for Cheap at Mortons
Wondering in the streets, I spot a queue of students. Mortons. A sandwich bar. If they are all waiting to grab a bite there, it must be good and cheap. I join them in line.
Oxford’s Castle and Castle Mound
Oxford’s Castle was established in 1071. While it served as a palace, a battlefield and a prison, it now serves as a tourist attraction where you can learn more of its history. Not a chance I would miss that! I pay the fees for the tour that is about to start. For 45 minutes, I follow a woman who explains us what happened in the castle years ago and why it is now remembered.
After my tour, I head to the Castle Mound which is included in the ticket price. The view up there is really great. This is probably the highest point of Oxford so I can see some of the shops I have passed on before and, of course, a gorgeous view of the castle itself.
There are so many libraries in such a small town! I visited 3 of them and still didn’t feel like I had enough – alright I went in 4. Whenever I go in a library, I am always hit by the smell of freshly printed books – this perfume is my favourite! I feel my eyes widening with joy and the stars filling them. I feel my smile spreading across my face in a huge grin. This is my definition of paradise.
Unsurprisingly, there are dozens of Harry Potter’s books printed in different versions, the one for kids, with or without the coloring parts, and the one for teens – and adults. And there are the pieces of Lewis Carroll of course, his best-known Alice in Wonderland. I fight back the thought – sss – of buying a new book with a sad face and step outside in the cold air.
A Cup of Tea at Art Cafe
Feeling a little tired of my long day, I decided to grab a cup of tea at a charming cafe. I didn’t took me long to realise that I’ve walked passed one that fits my criteria a moment earlier. I return near the castle and stop at Art Cafe. Tea ordered, I sit and put out my book to relax and enjoy my time left in this city before hopping a bus out of Oxford, heading east to London.
Basically, that’s how I spent my day in Oxford. Missing my bus, going crazy-fan, visiting and learning, testing my resistance in bookshops, and finishing at a cozy cafe. Oxford is easy to walk through, and, being a student city has its advantages: you can find cheap food everywhere which makes it a perfect destination as a day trip on a budget from London.