For years we've spent Christmas Eve with a family in Stockholm and hence have become close to their children even though the kids left home at various stages throughout our time at Immanuel. One of the daughters lives in Oxford and attends an incredibly vibrant church there, St Aldates. She invited us to come up to their Carols by Candlelight worship service on Sunday evening so we jumped at the chance to see more of this well-known academic city. We jumped on a train after church and arrived one hour later. After settling into our fine b&b where we were the only guests, we walked 15 minutes down the road to the church. What a lovely church this was! It had been renovated and whilst you could still see the original structure, they had made very creative use of the space, creating a real coziness in a large cathedral type sanctuary. The worship service was amazing. Helen read one of the scriptures and sang in the choir. Beautiful drums, strings, horns voices, singing of favorite carols, and readings well known at this time of year were a joy for us to behold. We enjoyed a delicious Indian meal afterwards and it was such fun to catch up with dear Helen in her home town.
Look at those fauns...Hello Mr. Tumnus! The light post in front of the Radcliffe camera seems oh so inspirational!
The next morning we awoke to a beautiful morning on the shortest day of the year. After a big and delicious made to order British breakfast, we ventured out on a two hour walk through the venerable buildings of Oxford. Stunning is not an overstatement! Stately, magnificent, historical are other words that came to mind! I decided if I had another life, I'd like to come back as a super smart person and study literature and writing here. A girl can dream, right?!
We enjoyed seeing the Bodileian Divinity School, no longer in use except for filming various scenes for Harry Potter films. The stunning ceiling was almost mesmerizing. The entire quad that surrounds the Bodileian was magnificent.
It was easy to feel the special atmosphere surrounding the various colleges. Everything was just so lovely and every once in awhile the view just took your breath away. Those spires really are dreamy.
In addition to the wonderful buildings that make up Oxford University, the town of Oxford is really charming as well. A covered market sells all manner of goods. The meat stalls were particularly eye catching. Almost makes me want to become a vegetarian! The cake shop was filled with incredibly artistic cakes and sweets. This rendition of Trinity College was breath-taking! Too good to eat! An old timbered building houses the most charming Pret A Manger we've seen to date! Lewis Carroll also holds a presence in Oxford. Did you know that he was a maths professor? Me neither! I loved this Alice in Wonderful themed Christmas tree in one of the shops.
The clear highlight of the day was tracking the footsteps of C.S. Lewis. We passed the door where Lewis is said to have been given the inspiration for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
We ended our tour at The Eagle and the Child, the pub where Lewis and Tolkien met every Tuesday morning to solve the world's problems! A letters signed by Lewis, Tolkien and others hangs on the wall. Photographs and other warm reminders of the presence of these erudite men in this town graced the pub.
The weather had turned dodgy and we were unprepared for the chilly wind and spattering of rain that was coming, so we bid farewell to Helen and made our way to the train station. One hour later we were back in London making our way to our flat, savoring the joy of our encounter with a city we've long heard about and had now experienced first hand.