As the bus sped through the narrow country roads, we glimpsed green hills and lush fields of yellow.
Alan, our tour guide, later on explained that the beautiful yellow fields we were seeing were filled with flowers known as rapeseed—which is actually where canola oil is derived from.
I mused for a minute about how a beautiful flower could have such an ugly name.
I wanted so much to soak all the scenery in, but the consequences of not having slept for almost a whole day were beginning to show. I gave in and followed Maiko right into dreamland.
It was almost 3PM by the time we got to the final stop of our tour. I struggled to wake myself up as we got off the bus. I was still groggy and definitely tired.
Tour guide Alan must have gotten a refreshing nap because he seemed more energetic than usual as he guided as through the streets of Oxford toward our first stop.
Christ Church College, Oxford
The sight of the beautiful building before us immediately woke me from my stupor. I got my camera out and snapped pictures while Alan told us about the building before us.
Christ Church College, is one of the largest constituent college in Oxford University. Aside from having produced many notable graduates (13 British Prime Ministers according to my own research), the college is also known for its literary contributions.
The college is the setting for books such as Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, and Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Alan even pointed out the tree where Alice fell through when she followed the white rabbit. Alan also mentioned that the college has been used in the filming of many movies such as Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights (The Golden Compass) and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter.
My ears perked up at the mention of Harry Potter, and the last dredges of fatigue completely left my brain.
Alan wasn’t big on Harry Potter info (having never read or watched the series), but as he led us into Christ Church College, I recognized many of the locations they used to shoot the movies.
The first of these spots was the courtyard:
I also recognized the stairs that Harry Potter and his friends often used to go up to the various halls and rooms in Hogwarts.
It was hard to get a decent picture by the stairs as there were always people climbing up and down it.
This was also the stairway we used to go up to the most famous location used in the Harry Potter movies: The Hogwarts Dining Hall.
We followed a long queue of people into the dining hall. It was easy to spot fellow Harry Potter fans, as they were snapping the most pictures and posing beside every other dining hall chair.
Right as we entered we saw a picture of Charles Dodgson, a.k.a. Lewis Carroll, who wrote another favorite book: Alice in Wonderland
Seeing where they filmed the Hogwarts Dining Hall scene was an awesome experience.
We even got to see the table where Dumbledore and the other teachers sit during meal times.
I wish I could have had more time to compose better pictures of the dining hall, but we had to move on as there was still a long line of people waiting to get in before they closed the dining hall at 4pm, to prepare for the students’ dinner.
Maiko was so happy she got to see the “Hogwarts Dining Hall”, she practically bounced down the stairs.
After seeing the dining hall, Alan ushered us out into the beautiful Oxford cathedral cloisters.
We also went into the cathedral itself, and quietly snapped pictures.
The cathedral led down and out into a small souvenir/book shop. Naturally, they sold various Harry Potter books and items.
After touring Christ Church College and the Cathedral, Alan led us through the town of Oxford. He explained that Oxford University, was in fact made up of many different self- governing colleges and halls.
Alan said that Oxford is actually known as the “City of Dreaming Spires” in reference to the beautiful architecture that makes up the city. He pointed out various buildings of interest, though I can’t remember all their names.
I do, however, remember the Bodleian Library.
The Bodleian library is one of the oldest (and biggest) libraries in Europe, and is actually composed of several historic buildings such as the Divinity School, Convocation House and the Chancellor’s Court.
The library houses many rare books, manuscripts, archives, maps, music and a primary research collections. The Bodleian is one of the six libraries entitled to receive a copy of every book ever printed in the UK. According to my own research, the library is home to 7 million volumes, stored on over 110 miles of shelving.
After letting us gawk at the many buildings comprising the library and its surrounding areas, Alan led us toward the center of the town to the martyr’s memorial.
He pointed to the Ashmolean museum a few yards from where we stood and informed us that that’s where the bus was going to pick us up. Maiko and I, and another tour member, did a little “restroom stop” at the Ashmolean.
We had 45 minutes left before the end of the tour, so we proceeded toward the more commercial part of town where various stores and many shoppers could be found.
We saw a T-mobile store and remembered our little problem with our cellphones. We had brought our smartphones on the trip, in the hopes of using the data plan, but for some reason the web function wasn’t working correctly. We wanted to drop by the T-mobile store and ask for help but we had only 20 minutes left, and we didn’t want to get left behind.
A few minutes before 5:00pm, we headed to the spot where the bus was going to pick us up. A number of our tour group had already gathered there. When the bus came, we all boarded and Alan did a head count.
He realized that one person was missing from the tour. It was the Malaysian girl we had spoken with during lunch in the Cotswolds. She was also the same girl who had gone with us into the Ashmolean to look for the restroom.
Five minutes passed and Alan was beginning to worry. He called up the main office to ask for a contact number for the girl. Maiko turned to look through the back window and spotted her running toward the bus. We all clapped when she boarded and she thanked us for waiting.
As the bus made its way from Oxford toward London, Maiko and I napped–tired from the day’s walking.
When the bus neared London, Alan went around asking where everyone was staying so he could plot the drop off points.
Maiko and I wanted to do some grocery shopping so we could make our own lunch and breakfast for the next few days. We requested Alan to drop us off near a grocery store. We were the last ones off the bus, as Alan decided that Victoria was the best place for us to go. A Sainsbury’s grocery store was nearby, and right across it was the Victoria tube station, which would take us back to King’s Cross.
We shopped at Sainsbury’s for sandwich supplies, snacks, water and some fruits. It was a good thing I always carry around a foldable grocery bag as the water bottles were too heavy for plastic bags to carry.
For dinner, Maiko and I decided to try out Pret a Manger—an organic sandwich shop which we saw everywhere in London. Apparently they don’t sell anything that hasn’t been made the same day.
We bought tasty sandwiches, and had half of the milk chocolate that we had bought at Sainsbury’s.
Lugging all our groceries, we crossed the street toward Victoria tube station. We sat in the underground train, tired but happy.
The long, exciting day of touring Warwick Castle, Stratford-Upon-Avon, the Cotswolds and Oxford was the perfect cure for jetlag.
I fell into a dreamless sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
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