Sunday, September 9, 2012

Oxford, You're Taking My Breath Away

Sunday we had a free day to explore Oxford and really do whatever we wanted. Although we were all exhausted from being constantly being on the move and walking a lot as we explored Oxford and London, Sunday was the last day of Heritage Open Days when a number of British landmarks and cultural institutions are open to the public for exploration. That means that a lot of the Oxford University colleges were open for free, which we had to take advantage of. So, we set off on Sunday to explore Oxford and visit a number of the Oxford Open Door locations.

We started the day at Carfax Tower, which was a great way to see all of Oxford. 74 feet tall, we had to climb 99 steps to get to the top, which, as you can imagine, gave us an awesome view of Oxford. From one side we could see High Street and the rest of the city of Oxford, and from another side we could see into the country side. It was all breathtakingly beautiful. I've put some of my favorite pictures from Carfax tower in the following slideshow:

After Carfax Tower we went to the Old County Courthouse where we were able to sit in the chamber where all of Oxforshire's cases were tried as well as the chamber where the current Oxford City Council meets. We were also able to go in the tunnel under the courthouse that lead to the jail. We then moved on to the colleges of Oxford University. In case you weren't aware, there are 38 constituent colleges within Oxford University. So when you study at University, you must also be enrolled at one of these colleges such as All Souls College, Queen's College and Magdalen College, which are the colleges that we visited. 

When we arrived at All Souls College, a post graduate institution, there was a band playing, which made it a lively environment. There were a lot of people around, laying on the grass in the courtyard and taking photos. All Souls also has an amazing chapel with a beautiful arch and breathtaking artistry. Literally the first thing that I said when I walked in was "Oh wow." For a moment or two there weren't any words to describe it.  

We then went to Queen's College which was a much more sober affair, but beautiful in its own right, especially the ceiling of the Queen's College chapel. My favorite university that we visited, however, was Magdalen College (pronounced 'maudlin'--pronouncing it like Magdalene is a rookie mistake that we thankfully did not make). When we walked into the courtyard, the college looked like something out of a fairy tale, and there is a massive park/garden behind the buildings that was so serene and peaceful. Some of my favorite shots of the colleges can be seen below. As always, just click on the picture to see a larger version.

Every inch of Oxford seems to be covered in history, and as I walk down the street each day, I am amazed that I get to study here for the next few months. I'm blessed to have been able to take advantage of this opportunity and I intend to soak it all up while I am here.

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