Posts Tagged ‘Oxford’

Getting Out of London City Center: Oxford, Eltham and Chiselhurst

Oxford


Oxford

On our London trip, one of our goals was to actually spend time OUT of the city since we hardly ventured out when we were living there because we were so busy, and Evan wasn’t able to go with me to Oxford, Cambridge or Brighton. Our first day trip was to Oxford. We hopped on the Oxford Tube at Notting Hill Gate and less than two hours later, we were standing in the middle of Oxford’s High Street.


eBoy LA poster; photo from eBoy site

We started by going into the church right in the center of town and climbing up to a lookout point where we were able to see the whole city. Then we wandered by the Radcliffe Camera and the library, and stopped in at the Blackwell’s art and poster shop, where we bought a great poster of LA by eBoy. It had all sorts of LA landmarks, zombies, SWAT teams and more done up in a fun, colorful old-school arcade game style. The shop also had plenty of other cool posters, cards and books.


Christ Church College Quad

Then we went to visit Christ Church College, walked around town some more, and got gooey, warm and delicious cookies from Ben’s Cookies in the covered market. We also saw a whole, headless deer hanging from the wall. It was more than a little disturbing. There was also a goat in a similar position. We did, however, see some live deer in Magdalen College’s field, and had a nice walk around its pretty grounds, which are right on the river. It was too cold and rainy for punting, though.

Eltham Palace

My friend Janet invited us out to her neck of the woods — Bexleyheath — to see some of its sights, so we met her at the Eltham train station about 30 minutes outside of London, and went to visit Eltham Palace. The place is an Art Deco palace-turned war command center-turned historic site, built on the same spot as one of Henry VIII’s childhood home. It was rainy, so we didn’t get to tour the grounds and gardens much, but we did go through the many living rooms, bedrooms and funny exhibits on the family’s pet lemur, including not one, but two stuffed lemur dolls. We took along the free audio guides, but they proved excessively verbose. Though the segments would start off well and had plenty of interesting information, each room’s story seemed to last for ages. Thankfully, there were signs we could read, instead. I just wish the weather had been better and we could have had a picnic.

Chiselhurst Caves


Me with my oil lantern in the Chiselhurst Caves

After our morning in Eltham, Janet brought us over to the Chiselhurst Caves, man-made caves in a hill that were started 4,000 years ago by the druids, then continued by the Romans and the Saxons. The caves were used to house 15,000 people during the WWII air raids, and they currently host frequent role-playing events, though in a separate section from the main tour. Stil, you can’t help but notice the LARPers dressed in everything from caveman to wizard costumes as you pull up to the small visitor’s center.

We paid for a tour, and descended into the caves with a big group of people and a guide. We grabbed lanterns, since most of the caves don’t have lighting, and started our tour through the cold stone walkways. We passed by the church, the stage, lots of spots for triple-decker bunk beds, a druid altar, a well and a hospital. The guide told us about what life in the caves was like during the war, its mining history and its quite honestly creepy ghost stories. They also took us by a “cave monster” on our way out!


Chiselhurst Cave Monster

It was great to see a part of London we’d never experienced and get to some tourist sites that we’d never read about in our guidebooks — and that some Londoners don’t even know about. Thanks, Janet!

Oxford Close Up

In Oxford today, I took some nice close-up pictures of architectural detail and reliefs. Check them out…

reader at balliol college
Reader at Balliol College

couple with a skull at Christ Church Cathedral
Couple with a skull at Christ Church Cathedral — they look, probably appropriately, distressed

angel playing lute
Angel playing lute at Christ Church Cathedral

donkey at university church
How did Donkey from Shrek make it onto University Church?

peace sign at university church
Giving the peace sign at University Church

Pan gracing a doorway
Golden Pan gracing a doorway

See the rest of my Oxford photos on Flickr.

An Afternoon in Oxford

Today I finally made it to Oxford for the day! I took the X90 bus, and got there in about an hour and forty minutes. I met up with friends (well, connections — I’d never met them before) and wandered around the city with them for a bit, then went out on my own to explore the many colleges, churches and gardens Oxford has to offer.

Christ Church college gardens
Christ Church College and gardens

I started with the obvious choice — Christ Church College, the biggest and most renowned of Oxford’s colleges. I got to go into the dining hall, a room full of historic portraits, excessively long tables and a giant pump bottle of Heinz ketchup. Yes, it’s still in use for students today, who all eat their meals in the hall — on Christ Church-imprinted plates, no less!I also checked out the large quad and the cathedral. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen so many churches crowded into a small town like at Oxford. Each college seems to have at least its own chapel, and there seem to be spires everywhere you look in the city.

The colleges also all seem to have their own beautifully manicured gardens, which are off-limits to visitors, and I could spy students picnicking, tanning and drinking beer beyond the gates in many of the colleges.

punts in oxford
Punts in Oxford

After Christ Church, I wandered into a few other colleges, then walked down to the river, where I watched people going punting. I would have loved to go, but I wasn’t going to try to manage a boat on my own or hire someone to push me along in my romantic ride for one. I considered just trying to make friends by asking strangers to hop in their boat, but I never got up my nerve. (For anyone who doesn’t know, Evan is out of town this weekend, so I was exploring on my own.)

After checking out the river, I walked down a long alleyway by Magdalen College and ended up walking under a replica of Venice’s Bridge of Sighs, which curiously just crosses over a street. This brought me to the concert hall and library. I could hear a concert going on, but it was well underway and the doors were shut.

oxford bridge of sighs
Bridge of Sighs

From there, I walked to the Radcliffe Camera and University Church, where I climbed the tower to get a view of the city.

radcliffe camera

View of the Radcliffe Camera from University Church tower

I walked around a bit more, back through the center of town, and went to check out “Oxford Castle,” which is apparently a center full of chain restaurants — quite disappointing.

The best parts of the day were definitely seeing all the gardens and Christ Church College, and climbing up the tower at University Church. Just walking around town was also really nice, since there are lots of beautiful buildings with ornate details and the weather was perfect. Some close-up shots are on their way!

You can check out all my photos on Flickr.