What a perfect day in the city of the “dreaming spires”! For our visit to Oxford today we elected to follow the urgings of electronic roadside signs to use the Park and Ride system whereby you park on the outskirts of the city and take one of the frequent buses from there to the city centre. This worked most satisfactorily.
On our way to the tourist info office we were approached by two young college-type men touting for a two-hour “free” walking tour of the city and its colleges. We liked their style and were persuaded because it was the Tripadvisor #1-rated activity in Oxford. Before joining we noticed that there were plenty other such tours both “free” and paid. “free” means “make a donation” at the end. This has worked well for us in the past (Budapest). It turned out to be a good choice because the guide’s banter and amusing commentary were enjoyable. He showed us past a dozen or so of the centrally-located colleges and recommended several for exploration after the tour.
We learned about the trial and horrific executions of Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley, and Bishop Latimer on the order of Bloody Mary. They were burned at the stake by a particularly cruel method. The spot is marked by a stone cross in the pavement of a major street.
The guide also recommended a pub near the Bridge of Sighs which we visited at the end of the day. More on that later.
After the end of the tour we made a re-entry into the university Church of St Mary Virgin and climbed the tower to a wonderful view over the city, particularly the adjacent colleges and their quadrangles.
We visited Magdalen College (pronounced maudlin) for a walk through the grounds. I sure wish I could have spent my uni days in such a delightful environment. The college chapel had dramatically different stained glass windows. These were black and white rather than in colour as had been all previous ones we had seen. Here was even a Last Supper reproduction – much better than the faded original.
We then walked along the punting river adjacent to the Christchurch Meadows. It was a really pleasant walk along the winding paths beside the river. We saw lots of wildlife (squirrels, geese, swan) along the way, including people attempting to punt (apparently more difficult than it looks).
Back in the centre, we wandered over to the famous Ashmolean Museum, but it was closed, so we headed over to the pub mentioned earlier. This is the Turf Tavern, the former watering hole of a number of famous people, including Bob Hawke. We were told that the sculling record for a yard of ale (2.5 pints) that he set here in 1953 – 11 seconds, still stands.
Plants and animals