The perks of living in London, is the ease at which you can head to some of the greatest European cities; Paris, Edinburgh, Brussels, Cambridge, Geneva or even Amsterdam. A book, camera, notebook and the perfect sized cosmetics bag, can be your best friend for the day. If you have a best friend, then of course, you can take them along for the journey as well. On Monday, I never ventured to the city lights of Paris or the deluxe port of Geneva, instead, it were to the more local and intellectually acclaimed city of Oxford.
Travel is not so much about where, but often about how and why and what becomes of the journey in its entirety. Hemingway wrote A Moveable Feast about his time in Paris whilst Life Of Pi were set in India, the Pacific Ocean; Tomatlán, Mexico and Toronto. Lewis Carroll on the other hand, wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, in Oxford and is set in ‘Wonderland’. I went on my adventures into the wonderland I saw as Oxford, where the gowns were flapping in the winds as students hurdled towards lectures and examinations, and I, with a camera around my wrist, notebook in my bag and coffee in my free hand, explored the crevices of a city.
In a city so notorious for the University, it were to no surprise that a bookshop, or in fact several bookshops would be on the agenda. Passing one without even a thought of going in for me, is a sin. It were Blackwell’s on Broad Street that enticed me with two floors of books, Alice In Wonderland notebooks, and racks of fancy wrapping paper, washi tape and Andy Warhol stickers. Spending at least an hour in the cinematic and fashion sections were a little shocking to me on realising, but with an extensive collection of BFI publications in this utopia, and with the lesser crowds I encounter in London, it were time, and money well spent. As for shopping in general, there is an eclectic mix of shops, from high-street chains, to independent boutiques and eateries.
Grand Universities and grand churches. Neo-classicaL, Gothic, Gothic Revival and Italianate architectural styes is what can be found. Among the palatial building, there are smaller but equally significant historical settings, including the Cornmarket Street Pret A Manger, of its facade, is a fifteenth century Grade II listed building. Radcliffe Camera (1737-48), the Sheldonian Theatre (1664-7) and Divinity School (1427-1488 & 1610-20) are but three of the most infamous buildings Oxford has to offer and to nobody’s surprise, the city has been adjudged, the ‘city of dreaming spires’.
Spires tower above, the windows gleam as light bounces and radiates. The stone contains wisdom and the walls are poised. The doors are solid and in the crevices and mouldings, lie intricate details and painted coat of arms. The names are Latin, the steps are worn and remain there with memories of scholars and twilight dances. As the architecture in itself, is a beauty, what unfortunately happens, is the flood of tourists who gather in a courtyard. Never have I ever been captured on so many iPads at once, as I attempted to escape the maze of lenses from a coach-load of tourists in The Divinity School courtyard. It is what is to be expected when the architecture stands tall and proud.
“I didn’t even have a clear idea of why I wanted to go to Oxford – apart from the fact I had fallen in love with the architecture. It certainly wasn’t out of some great sense of academic or intellectual achievement. In many ways, my education only began after I’d left university.”- Alan Bennett
“I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful. One almost expects the people to sing instead of speaking. It is all—the colleges I mean—like an opera.”- William Butler Yeats, in a letter to Letter to Katharine Tynan
The capabilities of what any one person can derive from a place, especially in such a short amount of time is incalculable. The only options, are to explore a destination for yourself.