Monday, February 02, 2009

Tour Of Oxford

I decided to take a conducted tour to Oxford, Stratford-on-Avon and Moreton-on-Marsh. What I particularly appreciated about conducted tours in England is that they have really great guides who do have a considerable repertoire of knowledge about the places they take us to visit. Moreover this particular guide was extremely conscientious as well. As my appearance was more like a high school student, he took special care to ascertain that I knew my way to and from the station to my home and also confirmed that I knew which tube line I needed to take to return safely. Not to mention that he kept an eye out so I would not wander off and get lost.

Oxford is indeed “a city of dreaming spires”. Almost all the buildings except the modern constructions, are made out of a dusty yellow stone, which lends the city a drowsy air. The many cathedrals and edifices have tall spires which rise gracefully into the drifting clouds.

This University town has an “old-time” air about it, which even the modern chain stores and shopping centers along the main roads, have not been able to destroy.

First, we were taken to Christ church college, which was the education center for famous people like John Wesley, John Locke and William Penn and the writers W.H. Auden and Lewis Carroll as well as Albert Einstein.

Christ Church College is an old, enormous edifice made of gray stone covered with red and dark green ivy and creepers. The vast college grounds are covered in beautiful foliage. I sat down on a bench opposite the entrance near the grounds, and watched the tops of the trees mingle and become one with the misty horizon. The huge cathedral—the Christ Church is the center point around which this college developed. In the beginning only monks were educated, then as attitudes became more liberal, the number of students increased and the institution developed into the sprawling mansion it is now.

Contrary to past misconceptions of many of my friends, Oxford University is not just a large campus; it is a sizeable university town with a large network of roads, shopping malls, entertainment centres, restaurants, hotels and residential areas.

All the colleges there come under the Oxford University.

The Trinity College at Oxford and the famous Brasenose College were two other focal points in our tour. The architecture and historical significance of these institutions are fascinating.

The tourist bus glided through acres and acres of picturesque English countryside. I felt as is I had somehow slipped into the pages of an Enid Blyton fairytale.

On the way to Stratford, we stopped in a town called Moreton-in-Marsh, in the Cotswolds countryside. Here all the houses are made of Cotswold stone but these chunks of stone are not joined with cement or such material. The stones are so cleverly arranged that they all fit firmly like play-blocks, interlocking into each others shapes.

I enjoyed a delicious lunch of chopped country sausages on buttered, mashed potato with fried onion, salad and beans at an absolutely charming little inn near the bus station.

Finally we arrived in Stratford, Shakespeares birthplace. Walking up a cobble-stoned street I found myself in front of Shakespeare’s house. A two-storeyed, half-timbered, Tudor house with one gable. I could have hardly imagined the previous year, while writing my Shakepeare paper; that in a few months time I would be actually standing at his doorstep.

The house is really ancient and it’s indeed a credit to the British government to have kept it maintained and preserved so well to keep it from crumbling. The flagstones and foundations on the ground floor date back to Shakespeare’s time, the 16th century. The upper floor has been done up apparently to resemble what it may have looked like in his time. Glass cabinets displayed carefully preserved manuscripts, folios, household items and personal belonging of the poet and his family.

After signing my name along with a few comments in a gigantic book for visitors. I walked down to the river Avon. Filled with graceful white swans, colourful barges full of flowers and fruits, and boats full of tourists, I could hardly get a glimpse of the waters beneath. In some way I felt a trifle disappointed, I had wanted a calmer, less commercialized view.
I guess I missed the serenity.

I stepped back to Shakespear’s house and sat just looking at it for a long time, so that I could record and preserve the feeling somehow, deep within myself. But time seemed to run a marathon, and in a whirlwind of passing scenery I was back in London; solicitously cross-questioned by the avuncular guide who made doubly sure I would not get lost on the streets of London. A guided tour has time limits !

I dozed off, playing and replaying the events of the day in my mind and anticipating the much awaited trip to Cambridge, Wales, Bristol and Bath which were scheduled a day later.

[This is a guest post. The author, Madhurima Gupta, who was a student of English Literature in Jadavpur University, is now working as a successful animator. These are excerpts from email and letter which she wrote during her visit to England.]

1 Comment:

Hotel Management Essay said...

These historical places are still part of my to-visit-list. I know that one day I can also have my time of doing the trip. ;)

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