As we continue on our whirlwind trip to the UK, today I’m going to take you on our excursion to Oxford.
OH what a fun day- but the best parts happened outside of the actual college area. Of course, there are wonderful photos to share of the historic university and all of its many buildings, but some of our most interesting and humorous adventures today happened on the ‘fringes’ of our plan. Isn’t that how things usually go, though?
Again, our morning involved leaving our hotel and boarding the Tube during the crowded London rush hour, but this morning we rode from Monument to King’s Cross train station (you know, like King’s Cross in Harry Potter! And yes, there was a Harry Potter store AND a 9 3/4 – to which Lydia fan girled a little bit. I think I have a video for you about that)
The train took us to meet our guide for the day, Peter. He picked us up in his car and we drove toward Oxford. What a fun ride!! Truly, everyone needs to experience of riding on the other side of the car on the other side of the road!
Our first stop, and one of my favorites of the day, was a visit to author, speaker, and theologian, C.S. Lewis’ house, aka The Kilns. This place was lovely, as you can see. Flowers in the garden and a resident cat named Warnie (C.S. Lewis’ brother’s name). The house is used for college students to study and visit, as well as ‘groups’ to stay, so it was occupied while we were there, but one of the guests came out and talked to us about her studies and the house.
We also walked behind the house to Lewis’ little haven in the back. The pond, bomb shelter, and wood surrounding The Kilns’ in which he, Warnie, and Lewis’ wife, Joy, walked and talked. It was a lovely little space in the middle of an otherwise crowded subdivision. The quintessential English cottage. Seriously. Lovely windows, rose covered ways…beautiful.
After visiting the Kilns we traveled down the road a short distance and parked. Down a narrow lane through the wood, we came to a lovely and small old church called Holy Trinity Church in Headington, Oxford. We weren’t able to visit the inside of the church (which has stained glass windows representing Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia), but we did see Lewis’ grave. What a lovely, green, and quiet setting for this amazing man’s resting place.
From there we traveled to Oxford for lunch. As we walked through the streets, Peter told us about the Martyrs memorial in the middle of the street. A powerful statue memorializing the men who were burned on that spot for their faith.
To keep with the amazing historical trapse about Oxford, we ate at the Eagle and Child – meeting place of The Inklings! And we happen to get there early enough to sit in the actual booth amazing authors like CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien, sat in as they discussed literature, theology, and fantasy!!
The kids enjoyed Fish & Chips (their usual fare for the trip) and then we went off to explore the university.
Magdelen College was my favorite of the ones we visited. The cloister was beautiful, filled with blooms. In back was New College (new meaning built in the late 1700s :-). Lewis stayed here during his teaching at Oxford. A few photos down you will see the building. The window with the red flower under it is the room where Lewis stayed.
There is a bridge here that takes you on the famous Addison’s Walk – the beautiful woodland path that Tolkien, Lewis, and
some of their friends, walked. It was on one of these walks that Tolkien and Hugo Dyson talked to Lewis about Christianity in terms of Christ’s sacrifice being like the myths Lewis loved…except it was a ‘true myth’. Lewis’ journey of Christian faith came to a pinnacle at this point and propelled him into a new understanding of the Gospels and the faith he’d once shunned.
We also visited Christ Church with its amazing stained glass windows. Our tour of it was cut short by a wedding party. Lots of weddings happening in varoius places during our trip 🙂
After spending a little more time in Oxford, we traveled down the road a little way to a large cemetery where, after some searching (and sign following), we found the grave of JRR Tolkien. People had left their tributes to him in various forms. Coins, papers, even a quill and inkwell. The inscription on his grave was created by Tolkien’s son, Christopher, in a beautiful memorial for his parents and celebration of his father’s legacy.
We traveled back with Peter to his house and had the wonderful opportunity to meet an unforgettable character…Henry. Henry was the former head of Scotland Yard. A man with a big personality, he also happened to have a car owned by author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes. Oh my goodness, this man was hilarious. I might even venture to say meeting him was one of the highlights of the trip for me, Ben, and Lydia. His humor was fantastic, laced with thick sarcasm and a deep laugh.
On this theme, we ended our day back in London in search of 221B Baker Street. To Lydia’s delight, we found it!!
What a full day!!! So thankful for this quick trip to places some of our favorite authors visited.