Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The UK Files - Oxford

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The day after S joined us, we woke up in the morning with no particular plan of action. My aunt suggested that if we liked, we could hop around to see Oxford. The decision made, we got ready in a trice, and S, Puttachi and I set out. My aunt dropped us at the railway station, and we took the train to Oxford.

Green fields, striking yellow rapeseed fields, pretty houses, untidy backyards of pretty houses, flowering trees, and haphazard allotments flew past the windows, and the Thames followed us a good part of the way. Oxfordshire is supposed to be one of the prettier parts of the country.

On the way:
S: My cousin P studies in Oxford.
Me: What? The one working in the US?
S: Not anymore. She studies here.
Me: Why didn't you tell me?
S: I told you!
Me: No, you didn't - do you have her number?
S: No.
Me: Do you remember her father's number?
S: No.

Then followed a series of phone calls and messages trying to get hold of P's number.

Meanwhile, we reached Oxford, got off the train and exited the station.

We were equipped with a printout of Oxford City centre, courtesy my aunt who thinks of everything :O, and we stepped onto the roads , in the mostly beautiful buildings of Oxford.

Puttachi looked up and down, and made a very worldy-wise observation in an ostentatiously patient grandma tone: "Ondondu ooru ondondu thara iratte." (loose translation: every city is different)

We saw Oxford Castle, first, and the very distinctive and unusual mound outside it. Oxford Castle has a very gory history, but we didn't have the time nor the inclination to go in.

We decided to walk down High Street and walk back up Broad Street. (Did I tell you that city names are boringly same everywhere? Every town has a High Street, a Broad Street, a Queen's street, and a Church Street. Highly unimaginative. Some towns like Oxford's redeem themselves with a Boar's street, but that's about it, and I won't be surprised at all if a dozen towns in England have streets with the same name!)

We reached the most recognizable building of Oxford - the Radcliffe camera. We went into All Souls College, that looks like a medieval castle, had a look inside. We walked down High Street, and confirmed that Oxford is indeed one big college. Everywhere is a college,and most of it familiar. Christ church, St Mary's, Exeter, Magdalene - and brought to mind the numerous authors and scientists who've been associated with this place. I later heard that Richard Dawkins lives here, and also found out that Lewis Carroll's Alice's setting was Oxford-inspired. Then of course, Potter fans know that the Great hall of Hogwarts was filmed at Christ Church College's dining hall....

We chanced upon the Oxford museum on Blue Boar Street and popped in to have a look. It was a good thing to do, since I hadn't done my mandatory reading up about the place before I came here. Apparently, Oxford has been a university town since the 11th century! The museum also talked of Oxford's eminent citizens through the ages. There were some museum exhibits, and some nuggets of history too - an interesting place.

About this time, we got hungry, asked and found out that most of the restaurants are on Broad Street. So we deviated slightly from our plan, went straight to Broad Street, and chose a restaurant to have a sandwich. On most of our travels after this, lunch consisted of a sandwich/soup/bread/dessert/coffee, and usually I chose a cold egg and cress sandwich - it was inexplicably comfortable on my palate and stomach.

By this time, we had gotten hold of S's uncle's number, who gave us his daughter's number - we tried calling, but couldn't connect. Later, he called up again to tell us that he'd given us a wrong number - finally we got through - but to her voicemail.

By this time, we'd reached Magdalen college, but it had started drizzling. And it was very cold indeed. We wrapped ourselves up well, draped a sheet over Puttachi's stroller. Taking advantage of a slight lull in the rain, thought of going to the Botanical Gardens - just so that Puttachi could run around - the poor thing had been strapped in her stroller all day long while her parents looked at buildings. But just at that moment, Puttachi fell asleep, and the drizzle started again, so back we went, up Broad Street.

The famous Bridge of Sighs, or the Hertford bridge had to be seen, of course, after which we just ambled around, checking out narrow little lanes that (nearly) opened out into classrooms.

By that time, we'd found out which college S' cousin went to, and decided to try our luck there. By the biggest of coincidences, just as S went in and was asking at the reception, she came down the stairs to see S standing there - she who hadn't the slightest idea that we were even in the country. She had to rush to a class in five minutes, and so that is exactly the amount of time we could spend with her. It was 4 pm by then, and we went back to the station to catch a train back home.

Oxford is lovely. I've got to visit Cambridge next time. (Next time! :D)


Shammi said...

Next time you have GOT to visit Shropshire! It's one of the most beautiful counties in the UK. And Shrewsbury is a MUST-see too. :) Cambridge is like Oxford - the campus is pretty, the town is pretty... but the countryside is flat and boring.

Anu said...

could identify with most of what you say here... Oxford was beautiful... a town full of colleges, the countryside is so beautiful.

PeeVee said...

I luuuurved Oxford too!

Anonymous said...

"Ondondu ooru ondondu thara iratte." Lol!

amelia said...

This is a lovely description of Oxford, I've spent so much time there and you have certainly done it justice!

I suggest you visit Henley-on-Thames (incidentally my hometown)- it's almost like a mini Oxford, a beautiful town!

praneshachar said...

Oxford and Cambridge are two great places of learning and big Indian names are attached to these places luved your post which took me thro all that is in Oxford . Had a laugh on broad street, chrch stree queens street big street, etc.,
"Ondondu ooru Oondondu tara irutte"
well said puttachi for your age u r superb wish u gr8 gru8 furture

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