Oxford, Windsor, and Roald Dahl

Yay for three day weekends! After we had so much going on in August, we took it easy after getting home from Norway in September. It was necessary and appreciated. However, Derek and I don’t sit still for long, so this past weekend we took off for Oxford. 
IMG_4088Oxford is a beautiful town. I was breathing in autumn and scholastic learning and dreaming of my days back at university. Once we had packed ourselves up for the weekend and driven an hour and a half and found parking it was midday. We found a quick lunch and popped into the Ashmolean Archeology museum. We hurried through the museum to make it in time for a free walking tour. IMG_4066We’ve done this type of thing before – they’re free, but tips are expected and very well-earned. Our “free” tour guides have consistently been much better than the guides on the tours we’ve paid for in advance. This was no exception. Derek and I could have wandered around the town and the university by ourselves, but we would have been hesitant to poke our noses into too many little courtyards and we would have missed out on a lot of information. For example, here are some fun facts:
Oxford is a big university compared to most in the UK, but a huge portion of the students are graduates. I think the split was something like 11,000 undergrads and 10,000 grad students.
IMG_4137The students are split up into colleges – you apply to Oxford University as a whole and are then placed into one of the colleges where you live and attend classes. Christ Church is one, Trinity is another, All Souls is a third. Christ Church is probably the most famous.
A few Harry Potter scenes were filmed in the Divinity School (the hospital scenes in The Chamber of Secrets).IMG_4071The Christ Church Dining Hall inspired the set for Hogwarts’ Great Hall. Unfortunately for us it was closed the day we were there. Below the Christ Church Dining Hall is the central building with the multiple spires.
IMG_4091There are fierce rivalries between the colleges, but the fiercest rivalry is between the scholars and the townspeople. It’s a town and gown rivalry.
This rivalry has resulted in all of the university students fleeing the town at one point and 23 of them being killed at another point (in like, the 1600s).
IMG_4139The Radcliffe Camera (camera means room in Latin).
IMG_4079Part of the Bodleian Library.
Oxford is named for the OXen that FORDed the river. Not so posh sounding now, is it? Note the flag – an ox over a river:IMG_4100 After the tour most things were closing down, but we walked around a bit more of the university then went into the Museum of Natural History.
IMG_4114IMG_4117IMG_4111Before heading out of town we saw Oxford’s castle. Here Derek and Daughter are climbing up the old motte-and-bailey part of the castle.
IMG_4142We stayed the night in Great Missenden, a little town where Roald Dahl lived. We actually stayed at a place where he ate regularly and where Bill Murray ate when he was there researching for Fantastic Mr. Fox. It was really great food too. Breakfast and dinner. I think I had the best scrambled eggs of my life that morning. And scrambled eggs don’t usually have a huge variance of taste, which makes that statement that much more impressive.
We started the morning by walking down to the Roald Dahl Story Center. It’s a small museum, but both Derek and I grew up on Roald Dahl books so it was really exciting to learn more about Roald Dahl and his life.
IMG_4154We listened to a story time and saw Roald’s writing chair.
IMG_4172We learned about how Roald helped do some taste testing for Cadbury as a school boy (inspiration for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, don’t you think?).IMG_4147We also found out how tall we each are as compared to characters in the books.Height Roald Dahl Collage(In case you’re interested Daughter is the same height as Badger from Fantastic Mr. Fox, Derek and Danny’s father match up, and you can call me the Vicar of NIbbleswicke.)
IMG_4181We saw the petrol station that inspired Danny, Champion of the World (above) and stopped by Roald Dahl’s grave (note the BFG footprints leading down from the tree!).
IMG_4189One of my favorite things we saw was a list of words written by Roald to use in the BFG. Words like whoppsy-whiffling and snozzcumber. So imaginative! I love it. I love the BFG and Revolting Rhymes and The Vicar of NIbbleswicke and Matilda. And The Twits and George’s Marvellous Medicine, and, and…
We find we’re happier with our three day weekends if we still take one of our days to be at home and to rest and not out and about trying to see the world. It cuts our time short, but it always feels worth it when we’re not scrambling and exhausted as the week begins. So we headed back on Saturday, but first we saw Windsor Castle.Windsor CollageAs we were driving up to Windsor we caught a glimpse of it from across a river. It. Is. Massive. I mean, Warwick Castle is a pretty big, largely intact castle, but Windsor blows it out of the water.IMG_4190 I think because Windsor has been continually lived in (more or less) since the 1100s which means more has been added on to it therefore it has grown and grown. There’s only so much to see though, because the queen actually lives there now. And she was there the same day as us! Or at least, her flag was flying which is supposed to mean she’s “in.”
IMG_4210We saw the most amazing doll house and the state apartments, but photography isn’t allowed in either exhibit, so you’ll have to be happy checking out the websites if you want.
We also saw the marker for King Henry VIII, Jane Seymour and Charles I’s tombs in St. George’s Chapel. These are some important historical figures and monarchs! Only the best at Windsor, I guess.  IMG_4197We were super close to Eton College, but decided to just appreciate the view from Windsor. IMG_4221A bit of a tangent – on Wenesday and Thursday of last week we had horrible (quintessential) British weather with pouring rain and a dramatic drop in temperature. Thankfully, blissfully, our days out on Friday and Saturday were lovely. After seeing all of Windsor we headed back home, stopping on the way to do some shopping (I finally bought a Cath Kidston bag!) and feeling extra grateful for our nice weather.

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One thought on “Oxford, Windsor, and Roald Dahl

  1. Pingback: Cambridge | Our Second City

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