20 – 24 April

University colleges, gorgeous meadows, and most importantly, Harry Potter. That’s right, HP. Oh and of course, J. R. R Tolkien and C. S Lewis chose to spend a fair hunk of time here to create their own magical stories. What more can you ask of a city? It’s magic central.

Lyndsay and I arrived on Saturday 20th April, bidding farewell (reluctantly) to the relative splendour of the Plaza in London and trading it in for an eventful and enjoyable few days at Oxford Backpackers. When I say eventful, I refer of course to the entertainment provided by a) the group of loud and inebriated Spanish girls we shared a dorm with on Saturday night and b) a late night fire evacuation on the Tuesday in which the firefighters arrived on foot (sans buckets), accompanied later by the fire truck. Luckily, all that was lost in both incidents was much sleep and nothing was lost to the flames….because it turned out to be a false alarm.

But anyway, let’s move past my grandma-level sleep requirements. First, the parks. Oxford is seriously stunning. My favourite spot was Christchurch Meadows, a rambling park filled with canals that join the Thames. On Saturday the sun was out and it was packed with people picnicking and punting around the canals with varying degrees of success. Just look at these photos. Gorgeous, right?

Christchurch Meadows
Cows!
A swan! In the canal!

Blenheim Palace was another outdoor wonder. We day-tripped out on Monday, and boy was it worth it! They have certainly done more with 100 acres than we have at home (no offence Mum, they have a much bigger staff). And that’s only the main gardens. In total there are 2000 acres of landscaped gardens. The palace and main surrounding gardens sprawl over manicured, plush lawns, winding along an enormous artificial lake that culminates in a waterfall dubbed the Cascades. Yes, they built their own personal waterfall. That is some serious landscaping. The lawns are no-go zones, although we tramped our way around to see the lovely themed gardens and bush-bashed through the fields. There were pheasants everywhere! There was even a miniature train, full-size maze and a butterfly house. Incredible. The palace is the historical home of the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, and the 11th lot still live there. It’s also where Winston Churchill was born and spent many of his school holidays. Not a bad place to call home, I must say.

Blenheim Palace
Now, onto Harry Potter. The Bodleian Library in Oxford is THE Hogwarts library. Hogwarts! In Oxford! And now I’ve been there (disclaimer: peered through the windows, because it’s not open to the public). The Divinity School is also the location for the Hogwarts infirmary (where Harry ends up every year after facing off with Voldy). It’s all connected underground to the Radcliffe Camera (absolutely no relation to Daniel Radcliffe). Very cool and magicky. To be honest, I always knew it was a mistake I had to go to Muggle school. Luckily I majored in potions (aka chemistry) at Muggle university and feel I could make up my magical knowledge relatively quickly. I mean, I already know so many of the spells. Right?? Rigghhhhtt?
Hogwarts Library – it’s real!
Radcliffe Camera
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