Remembering Oxford: Port Meadow and Binsey

IMG_4215I recently spent the last month studying in Oxford. I moved my life from the US and put it in Oxford for a month and it was one of the most rewarding times of my life. One of the courses I was taking was a literature course which focused on literature based or inspired by Oxford. The first book we read was Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.

Its hard to see the connection between Wonderland and Oxford and its very complicated to explain but a quick explanation would be that in Wonderland time stops and everyone is the same age forever, Alice forever being 7. This can be compared to college because often times the people there are going to be forever between the ages of 18-22. The time stops there. Carroll an Oxford professor took the inspiration of time “stopping” at the Oxford Universities and turned it into a story.IMG_4211

IMG_4282The story behind Alice in Wonderland is that one day  Carroll, Henry Liddell and his daughters the Liddell Sisters were punting down the Thames. Alice one of the Liddell sisters asked Carroll to tell them a story while they were punting through Port Meadow, a local common in Oxford. It was there that Alice in Wonderland was born.

Now that you are caught up on how Wonderland relates to Ports Meadow and Binsey, I can finally get into what to expect when you are there. Port Meadow and Binsey are about a 3 mile walk from Summertown which is about 2 miles outside of the city center. Port Meadow has been a grazing area for Oxfordians cattle and horses since ancient times.

IMG_4264I previously posted about this area the day after I went because I was in awe of the beauty that surrounded it. When you walk into Port Meadow, all you hear is nature. If you look around you, you are surrounded by lush green grass with the occasional puddle. There are some worn paths that lead to the river Thames where you can see boats anchored along the shore and old bridges helping you get to the other side.

IMG_4250If you cross one of those bridges it will lead you to a path that will lead you to a tiny village called Binsey. Binsey only has a total of 9 buildings. 6 cottages, St. Margaret’s Church, with St. Margaret’s Well and the Perch Inn. My professor took us to the Perch Inn where we sipped on delicious cups of hot chocolate, observed a wedding reception, and discussed the mysteries of Alice In Wonderland.

If you ever find yourself in Oxford and its a beautiful day I would definitely check out Port Meadow and Binsey.IMG_4281

xx

Ashley

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Remembering Oxford: The Colleges

I really miss Oxford, like to the point where I’m homesick for it. I figured the best way to tackle this homesickness is to write about it! I decided to create this mini-series to not only gush about one of my favorite places in the world but also to share my knowledge of the city in case you ever find yourself there!

A major part of the trip to Oxford was visiting each of the colleges that make up Oxford University. Often times we could connect a specific college of Oxford to one of the books we read for my literature course. (We read Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, Jude the Obscure, Persuasion, Brideshead Revisited and Antony and Cleopatra in a month) There are 38 colleges that make up Oxford University. I visited 11 of them.

 

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The 11 I had the opportunity of touring consisted of All Souls College, Balliol College, Christ Church, Hertford College, Keble College, Magdalen College, Mansfield College, New College, Oriel College, St. John’s College, Trinity College.

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The colleges of Oxford are unique in the sense that they are all built in the same quadrangle shape. What this means is that there is a wall in the shape of a square or rectangle. Inside of these walls are the colleges quad or greens. No one is allow on the greens unless they are a student or faculty. Inside this wall consists of a building that is in the shape of a rectangle or square. That building is the dorms where the students stay. The actual dorms themselves are stacked on top of each other with no hallways in between so you just take the stairs to your door to get into your room. Inside the quadrangle also consists of the college’s church, academic buildings and dining hall.

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The rooms and buildings above were used as models for Hogwarts Great Hall, outdoor areas, and the Grand Staircase!

 

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What I came to realize over the course of many visits to each of the colleges is that they all look very similar mostly because they were all built around the same time. Now I really appreciated everything that I got to see on this trip but after the 8 college I began to grow tired of seeing buildings that all look the same. A tip for someone who is visiting Oxford and wants to see the colleges, hit the major ones that people have most likely heard of.

Christ College

New College

Hertford College 

Trinity College 

 

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No matter what college you get the opportunity to see, keep in mind that they are a place where students study and live and therefore be respectful of the students and the space.

 

xx

Ashley

Where In The World Have I Been?

Hey there old friend. Bet you thought I forgot about you. I didn’t I was just experiencing something outside the internet for once.

If you don’t know I’ve been living in Oxford for the past month. It was probably one of the biggest life changing moments I’ve had in my short life of 19 years. This is what I’ve been up to this past month.

This was home

 

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I visited multiple places

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I went out
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A lot…

 
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I saw two local bands at my local bar

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One of who I might be working with

 

 

& I met a boy…

 

Who I’m not quite ready to share but just know he made me happy

 

xx

Ashley

 

 

PS: I’ll be back to regular postings this week

 

5 Things I’ve Learned From Oxford…So Far

I have been in Oxford a little over a week now and boy have I learned a lot. Yes I am learning a lot in my classes but I’m talking social norms. This is what I’ve learned.

 

1) All pubs close by 11.

This one was shocker to me. I’m from a college town and most bars and pubs are open until 1. Here all the pubs serve their last drink at 11 and push people out by 11:15. Good for the bartenders, not good for the consumers. The only exceptions would be the bar/club scenes that have far too many tourists there.

 

2) Students do not use backpacks.

The biggest no in the book at Oxford, is not using a backpack. Use a messenger bag or don’t use any bag at all. I guess backpacks cramp the Oxonian style?

 

3) Shorts must be worn with tights

The first sunny day I had here it was about 70 degrees, which in New England means the shorts and sandals are broken out. That is not the case here. Everyone will be in pants and if they wear shorts, black tights will be worn under them. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the color black and tights but its a little too dark to wear on a sunny day.

 

4) Cars, Buses and Bikes do not stop for pedestrians.

The one really known thing about the United Kingdom is that they drive on the other side of the road. I knew that coming in. I did not know that cars, buses, and bikes have the right away over humans. Yes that means that a car can/will continue driving if you try to cross the street and you will potentially get hit if thats the case.

 

5) People can just tell your American

I’m not quite sure how they can tell, I try to blend in as much as possible but still they find me and boy do they make it known that they know I’m an American. I’ve gotten screamed American out a car window while driving by. My personal favorite would be when a group of boys chanted USA! USA! while I walked to class.

 

Night Out & Falling In Love

I fall in love fast and hard. I don’t actually fall in love, its more like I am charmed easily. Its a good and bad thing. Friday was no exception to me falling in love. After a long day of classes my friends and I decided that a night out on the town was exactly what we needed. After a quick change we all grabbed the bus to the city center.

As soon as we got there hunger began to kick in. We had forgotten about dinner. Luckily, the White Horse pub had an open seat, gin, and fish and chips. After a quick meal we began to walk the streets looking for the busiest pub. We quickly found the Turf Tavern, a pub famous for two things. The former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke set the Guinness World Record for consuming a yard of ale in 11 seconds, AND Bill Clinton apparently smoked but “did not inhale.” Sure Bill, whatever you say.

After enjoying some more gin&tonic my friends and I began to look for another pub. We were disappointed to discovered that many were crowded with middle aged adults and not students. We wandered for another 1/2 hour until the Dew Drop, what I consider my local pub was brought up. “It’s open til 11 and is guaranteed to be fun.” I stated. With that we were on our way.

 

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Another gin&tonic and we were set discussing past boyfriends. I began to notice that many people were leaving and it was getting late, we had to be up for London at 9:30. I mentioned that we should head out and with that we brought our drinks up to the bar. Enter the falling in love.

Blondie (the bartender who I have fallen for) was washing glasses when I sat mine down. “Sorry we are here so late” I said with a small smile. “Don’t worry about it we don’t close for another half hour” he said, his accent dripping. Somehow I was able to divert the conversation to asking him where he lives. He explained that he was living up the street but only here for another month before heading back to what I believe was the University of Bristol. I explained I was doing the same but heading back to the States. From there the conversation seemed to flow, him asking about the drinking age and explaining how Germans drink beer like water and me excitedly telling him how I’m attending Octoberfest.

I’m not quite sure how our conversation end and picked up again with the brunette but somehow it did. Brunette asked us how our night was and we vented how we didn’t really know where to go out. “Oh, so you need someone to show you around? I have Thursday off, I can do it” he stated. “That would be perfect.” my friend exclaimed. “I’m Ashley, you should probably know our names” I said holding out my hand. “Patch” he said smiling. “I won’t remember them now but I’m sure I’ll see you girls before Thursday” he chuckled. We all blushed, laughed and nodded. It was then when Patch got called back to work.”Thanks again” we said waving goodbye. “Cheers” I heard a voice. I turned around to see Blondie washing glasses once again. “Cheers” I said back. “Oh wait, I’m not sure if you say it back to the person who said it” I rambled. He chuckled and smiled. I blushed and died inside.

Love has struck me and I have plans Thursday.

I love England.

 

xx

Ashley

 

 

 

Movie Moments

I have officially been in Oxford for 5 days and I can easily say I am in love with this city. I haven’t found the words that describe how I feel when I am here and I’m not sure if I ever will, but for now I must live in the moment and absorb as much as I can.

Since Thursday I have been on the go from Oxford University to London. Thursday was our first day of classes so nerves kicked in the night before. I am taking a religion course and a literature course, one with a British professor and one with the professor I came over with. The religion class is discussion based which I really enjoy because its interesting to hear everyone’s view on religion. The literature course is with my professor from home and all the students on the trip. We ended up taking a tour around Oxford to become more familiar with the city and the different colleges. We had the opportunity to go up to the top of the tower at the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin. The view was absolutely incredible. I didn’t even care that it was raining while I was at the top.

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After classes we got ready to go to a”barbecue” that our host university threw for us. We had to dress up and then walk a few streets up to the main building. About 7 of us began our walk to the school. Thankfully it hadn’t rained since the afternoon so the walk was dry up until my movie moment. I was walking along enjoying my surroundings when a red double decker comes speeding up the street and drives straight through a puddle I was walking next to. *SPLASH* The water covered me. For a split second I was devastated that my robin egg blue dress was soaked but then I began to laugh, after all wasn’t that the movie moment every girl wanted to experience in England beside the poster scene from “Love Actually”.

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The dinner ended up being a four course meal with no barbecue but it was nice to dress up and enjoy some wine. Following that dinner we wanted to check out the local pub again and get drinks so a group of girls and I sat around a coffee table drinking gin&tonics, chattering about how wonderful it is here and whispering about the adorable bartenders that we had met the last time we came to the pub.

If you haven’t caught on by now I have a feeling the local pub is going to be a theme in my trip.

 

xx

Ashley