Cross the London borders
London is great, and it takes you years before you’ve seen and done all that is on offer. But that doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to ‘escape the London bubble’ once in a while. The central location and excellent transport connections make that London is the perfect departure location for a day trip to other places in the UK. Because even though it doesn’t seem that way when you live here for a while, there is an entire world outside of London, waiting for you to discover.
‘The City of Dreaming Spires’
An excellent city to travel to from London is the famous university town of Oxford. About 1,5hr by train or car (or 2 hours by coach if you’re on a budget), this city in Oxfordshire is home to the oldest university in the English-speaking world. ‘The City of Dreaming Spires’ as it’s called sometimes is a true treasure chest for the architectural lovers and photographers alike. Buildings show architectural styles from every period since the arrival of the Saxons. Traditions and elite is still very much alive in this part of the country.
Harry Potter at Christ Church College
Christ Church College is the most famous of the colleges. Not only was it considered the most aristocratic college of university, it’s decor and especially that of the Hall inspired architects and filmmakers alike. Both the University of Chicago and Cornell University boast an exact copy of the dining hall, and who hasn’t seen J.K. Rowling’s filmed Harry Potter series? Yes, the Great Hall in the movies was inspired by Christ Church College’s dining hall. When I joined a guided tour of Christ Church College back in 2012, I was stunned by the likeness of it. If I wouldn’t know better (The Great Hall scenes were filmed in the WB Studios in Watford), I would have really believed that I was walking around in The Great Hall of Hogwarts. Only the flying candles and magical creatures were missing from the scene.
Not only the dining hall is worth a visit, although it definitely is one of the highlights. The impressive cathedral with its choir, the inner courtyard, the library and the meadows are all part of Christ Church College. Note that some areas are closed sometimes without notice. During my last visit, the Hall was closed and I wish I had known before. Check Christ Church’s website for any known closures before your visit.
Alice’s tea party
From Christ Church it’s only a small sidestep to Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland. The idea of the girl who fell through the rabbit hole was actually inspired by the daughter of the Dean of Christchurch College. Lewis told Alice Liddell a story as they rowed down the River Thames and the girl begged him to write it down. We all know what happened next. The story and its sequel Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There became some of the greatest children’s classics.
When you cross the street from Christ Church College, you will find yourself standing in front of Alice’s Shop, a former candy shop where Alice Liddell used to buy sweets. In Through the Looking Glass, the shop featured as The Old Sheep Shop. In real life, you can buy all kinds of Alice in Wonderland goodies and memorabilia here.
And when in Alice’s town, why not head over to one of the tea houses for a tea party, good fashion and all hey?
Are we in Venice?!
The Bridge of Sighs. A name most are familiar with, but more in relation with the Italian city of love – Venice. There is however a bridge with exactly the same name in Oxford, and this one connects Hertford College with New College Lane. The second difference with it’s Venetian namesake is that there doesn’t run any water underneath it, but a street instead. No wonder that you will always see many tourists posing on New College Lane right in front of the bridge. The third, and most important difference with ‘his brother’ in Italy, is the look of the bridge. It was actually never modelled on its Venetian namesake. Makes it all quite confusing doesn’t it?
The Radcliffe Camera
One of the most iconic buildings of Oxford definitely is The Radcliffe Camera. This library which houses mainly English, theology and history books, was built between 1737 and 1749. I’ve always wondered how they fit bookcases into a round building like The Radcliffe Camera, but since it is only accessible by scholars and students I haven’t been able to uncover that secret.
Shopping in Oxford!
Oh yes, visiting all these memorable buildings and cultural delights always do make me crave for food. I also don’t mind shopping from time to time. Besides the restaurants, bars and shops in the main streets, I always love to visit the Covered Market which you can access through the High Street and Market Street. The market is exactly what it name implies – a covered one. The historic building, dating back to 1770’s, features many independent craft shops, food and market stalls.
Over to you! What’s your favorite day trip from London?