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Published: October 28th 2012
This is a library, and on top of it sits Britain's third largest dome.
I almost decided not to write about what was a mostly uneventful day in Oxford. It was, as the title suggests, oh so quiet. But I guess if you are one of the 18,000 Oxford University student intelligentsia in pursuit of academic excellence, then that is probably how you like it.
But nevertheless, Oxford is probably the most famous university town in the world, with lots of magnificent architecture and pristine lawns to gawk at, so I shall briefly regale you with my short visit to the hallowed town.
After almost five years living in England, a two-day work team-building exercise had finally drawn me down Oxford way. As we would be based on the outskirts of the town, I decided to come a day early to have a look around before the "team-building" commenced.
Along for the ride was my newly London-arrived Dutch colleague Auke. Having only moved to London from Amsterdam this year, this was to be his first venture beyond the confines of the M25.
While not a bad student in terms of grades, in terms of attitude and discipline, I was terrible. I hated studying. Coming from an Asian family, you study something with prestige
Hall Staircase, Christ Church College
Staircase leading up to the Great Hall - this actually did appear in Harry Potter.
like law or medicine or business, rather than something you actually enjoy. Something that will get you a good job.
Put it this way, I wasn't studying accounting and computer science because I was particularly interested in either subject.
In saying that, I think my parents would definitely have approved if I was studying anything
at Oxford University and it seems that there are a lot of proud Asian parents in various places around the world, judging from the swathes of Asian students (or what I can only assume were students, although a lot of them were probably tourists - the ones that didn't 'make it', like me) I saw while walking around town.
Keeping in tune with my recalcitrant attitude to study, it will probably surprise no-one that I showed up at Paddington Station hungover after a night out seeing off a friend heading back to New Zealand.
The only surprise was that my party-loving colleague Auke had not
been out the night before. Being Dutch, Auke is naturally very tall, so it was quite funny seeing him trying unsuccessfully to fit into the cramped train seating.
Anyway, that was probably the highlight of the just-over-one-hour train ride
Great Hall, Christ Church College
Where students gather to dine every day and where banquets are held on special occasions. Very Harry Potter.
and before we knew it, we were in Oxford.
After checking into our conveniently located but old and musty hotel just a stone's throw from the train station, it was time to explore a city so rich with tradition and history - by heading straight for the pub.
Right next to the bus station, Euro Bar seemed a little sketchy, but it served its purpose of providing football on a flat screen with cheaply-priced drinks. Liverpool were playing Arsenal at Anfield so I didn't really care too much for the result of this early-season fixture but found myself quite happy with Arsenal's 2-0 win, ensuring Liverpool's wretched start to the season continued.
Also continuing, was our tour of the city after the match.
Walking past Oxford Castle, our first stop is the largest and most celebrated of Oxford University's 39 colleges - Christ Church College.
I have always thought I would've made a better fist of studying if I had studied in surroundings like this - the grand buildings, the plush lawns, and the storied banquet hall - because it would seem an affront not to. This was the visual definition of academia.
After our visit we
make our way past Merton Field, where we witnessed the quintessential English scene; set against the old buildings of Merton College and backed by a meadow, on the manicured lawns of Merton Field on which squirrels ran free, was a game of cricket. All that was missing was some tea and scones, although I am sure there were probably a load of those in the pavilion.
From Magdalen College, we then walked back into the centre of town to where the Radcliffe Camera, Sheldonian Theatre, and the Bodleian Library resided. Unfortunately, the Bodleian Library was closed for a wedding - quite a nice setting I would imagine.
Across from the Sheldonian Theatre is the Bridge of Sighs, which behind lies a narrow alleyway that leads to the medieval Turf Tavern, where we enjoyed a late lunch. The Turf Tavern is allegedly where former US president Bill Clinton "did not inhale" while smoking pot during the sixties, when he was studying at the university. It is also where another former head of state - former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke - set world record by downing a yard of ale is just eleven seconds
. Only an Aussie...
We then walked
Peckwater Quad, Christ Church College
The buildings here, including the main library of the college, date from the eighteenth century.
around Oxford's medieval centre cum pedestrianised shopping area, including the main drag, Cornmarket Street.
Tired of walking, it was back to the hotel for short siesta before heading back out for a feed and a drink.
We probably would have gone into more colleges, but they all had admission fees that would start to add up after visiting a few. It also seemed to feel like once you've seen one college, you've seen them all. It was a shame though - Oxford's best bits are seemingly hidden behind old walls, only for the elite and the privileged.
For dinner, the Lonely Planet-recommended Bangkok House served up some Thai that was er, bang-on
, before we headed into town for a drink - only there didn't seem to be a single place open that seemed to have anything happening.
We pretty much walked the entire city centre two or three times looking for something, anything
. It was oh so quiet. We walked into what seemed like the only club in town and it was completely empty. And here we were thinking that there would be loads of students out for a good time. It was a Sunday, but still. As alluded
Oxford By Night
University College with a full-moon in the background - although there was nothing crazy happening here, like the rest of Oxford.
to earlier, the students here probably take their studies a little more seriously than most.
We found out later that Oxford students start their term later than most, which explained the dearth of students and activity.
So back to Euro Bar it was for a drink while watching some more football on the telly. Tired and hungover, I was quite happy to have an early one ahead of what was going to be a big week, while Auke was a little pissed he missed his party quota for the weekend.
Overall, while I thought Oxford was a nice enough place, I found it difficult not to compare it to that
other English university town of the similar stature - Cambridge
I think I definitely prefer Cambridge - the medieval part of Cambridge is more intact than Oxford's and the scenery during a punt down the River Cam is hard to beat.
But above all there seems to be things actually happening there.
Anyway, Oxford is done and I am now unexpectedly off to South East Asia next, and you'll read all about it right here - exciting times.
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