26 April 2011

wanderlusting after.... oxford

such blue skies

Would you like to take a little trip with me?

In July 2008, I studied in Oxford, England, and I fell head over heels in love with it. So for this wanderlusting post, I'm actually able to speak from experience instead of imaginative wishing! Let's travel through time and space to July in Oxford, a place I'm still wanderlusting after.


Oxford University is made up of several individual colleges, and we stayed in one of the oldest, Saint Edmund Hall. I was lucky to score a 17th-century room overlooking the main courtyard. It was nice to be able to fix cups of tea and stand looking out the window at the people coming and going, listening to the laughter bubbling up from the Buttery (the college's own built-in pub).

city of dreaming spires

Oxford is nicknamed "the city of dreaming spires," which I think is so poetic and fitting. I loved walking the winding Queen's Lane behind our college to take in such sights. It was quiet and empty, and I'd always find some new flower or alcove or other beautiful thing each day.

Contrary to stereotypes, the weather was also gorgeous for us. It rained literally only three days out of the six weeks we were there. I don't think I've ever felt more temperate air or seen bluer skies.

Spanning the end of Queen's Lane: the "Bridge of Sighs."


I loved the easy-going, quirky historic culture of Oxford after spending time in London. I admit I also loved the cheaper food. I became addicted to caramel slice, which is crumbly graham-y shortbread layered with gooey caramel and soft chocolate. I liked the bakeries' versions but to tell the truth, Sainsbury's grocery store slices remained number one in my book.

ryan and jen go to england

My other Oxford staple:  paninis. Queen's Lane Coffee House (the oldest coffee shop in Oxford, located at the corner of our college) had two-for-one panini specials at dinner time. No telling how many of these crispy,  buttery, cheesy sandwiches I scarfed while in Oxford.

queen's lane coffee house

A common sight: people (often giggling teenagers) punting down the little branches of this river.

piers nye

There are so many pretty meadows and gardens between all the colleges, each of them just begging for you to collapse in the fragrant grass and read and bask....

Danny Chapman

The historic Covered Market is a cool place to walk around (or watch bakers molding fondant over their cakes). My favorite institution there has to be Moo-Moo's Milkshakes. They will make you a milkshake with literally any sweet imaginable. I don't see it on the menu in this picture, but  I once got a blueberry muffin shake that blew me away.


This is Cornmarket Street. The summer I was there, gaggles of European school groups swarmed the streets with their matching backpacks, and (for whatever reason) staked out the fast food places after dark.



Cormarket's also home to the place that single-handedly bankrupted me while I was abroad (or so it seemed). I'd never been to a LUSH before and soon I couldn't stop myself from popping in nearly every day to try something new. Even now the distinctive "Lush scent" drifting from our Raleigh branch is enough to take me back to those days of fantastic-smelling poverty.

bodleian library

The beautiful Bodleian Library.

christ church

If you're a literature nerd, Oxford is a site of pilgrimage. Christ Church here produced alums like Lewis Carroll and W.H. Auden. Other colleges boasted the likes of J.R.R. Tolkein, C.S. Lewis, and other initialed writers (haha). Philip Pullman is from Oxford and it was inspiring to see so many sights from His Dark Materials series in person.

And I can't not mention that some scenes from Harry Potter were also filmed in the above building. We saw the Great Hall!

Climbing St. Mary church, which gave us a great view of the surrounding country.

dreaming spires II
oxford in minature
queens lane

Back home down Queen's Lane....

dave morris

Our libation of choice was often hard cider (a drink I recommend if you don't much like beer). I discovered I love pub culture: the warmth of the Buttery, darts and crisps and berry cider and bad TV.... or going out and about, meeting people from all over the place and talking and laughing through the night. Until it was time to hit up the kebab vans, of course.

brownie bear

We visited these fellows practically every night we went out. What were we thinking??  (Well, I guess our stomachs did the thinking for us.) Best fries ever.

But let's be a little more civilized now and take a stroll through the Oxford Botanic Garden. This is rumored to have been Tolkien's favorite tree:

Paul McKinley

livia b.

(GIANT lilypads and so many other wonders fill the greenhouses there.)


One night we walked to a faraway neighborhood just to get some good crepes (our splurge of choice, I must have had crepes at least 5 times over the summer).

lovely bridge

We then wandered through the University Parks and some secret meadows and then colorfully-painted neighborhoods until we were thoroughly and blissfully lost. I can't really think of a better way to get to know a town.

I loved those parks. The cool weather, warm sun, blue skies, and pretty grassy trails beckoned me to run there often. One time I saw a boatful of merry people drifting past that spindly bridge, as a man in the boat played "Blackbird" on his guitar.

The most adorable museum, filled with enchanting birds and beasts (including a stuffed dodo!)

a good idea

darrell godliman

I hope I've conveyed a taste of the Oxford I knew and loved! It was a rich experience, from the many Shakespeare plays we saw on peaceful blue evenings, to the hilarious septuagenarian professor with whom we shared a bathroom. There were kettle crisps, train rides, ten-second tea kettles, wooden spiral staircases, one last night of drinks in the cemetery, and so much to be found beyond the stone archways of Teddy Hall.

Thanks for coming along!

(Where noted above I've featured others' pictures to better illustrate my favorite Oxford things. As I've mentioned before I only had disposable cameras and a Holga while there, so my photo-taking was limited. But what photos I did take may all be found here if you're interested!)


1 comment:

  1. thanks for taking me! hopefully i will visit in the flesh one day.