I feel smart just saying that I’m writing here in Oxford. It’s that kind of place. We are staying in a St. Hughes College dorm right in the heart of the city. Our friends Ronnie and Janine Morgan teach for Abilene Christian University in Texas and are in charge of the off-campus program here in Oxford. They have graciously given us a couple of empty rooms. The kids are thoroughly enjoying dorm life! I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.
We have walked the town and visited University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Trinity College, Radcliffe Camera, Christ Church College (Yeah, Harry Potter was filmed here), and numerous other colleges. There are incredible museums here as well. The Ashmolean Museum boasts an impressive collection of antiquities. The Natural History Museum has a Dodo bird and the most complete T-rex skeleton in the world. The Bodleian Library has amazing collections. And all these are free! Talk about encouraging learning! We fed the ducks in University Park and sat on the bench there dedicated to Tolkien. Apparently he liked to sit in the park at this bench along the Cherwell River under the willow trees. We think we found “Old Man Willow.”
We went to dinner one evening at the Eagle and Child pub, better known to locals as the Bird and Baby. It’s just a regular neighborhood pub but was made famous by a group of Oxford scholars who used to meet in the Rabbit Room for a bite and a pint each week. This group used to discuss their current writing projects (primarily narrative fiction) as well as politics and theology. Members of this group included J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and others. Fish and chips never tasted so smart.
One afternoon we took a leisurely walk around the grounds of Blenheim Palace just outside Oxford. The grounds were given to General John Churchill in thanks for the victories he won over the French back in 1704. The British government even gave him the funds to build the palace. That is some kind of thanks! It is an immense park. Sir Winston Churchill was born here, and we decided that he must have played in the tree where we rested. It is a beautiful setting.
Today we walked out to Port Meadow and strolled along the Thames River; they call it the Isis River here in Oxford. I’m not sure why. But the walk was very peaceful. We passed through meadows with cattle, lots of Mallard Ducks, and several canal boats. The canal boats are now “mobile” homes, but once they were functional cargo ships cruising the canal from London to Birmingham (135 miles). They are often colorfully painted and home to colorful people. Afterwards we passed the Oxford Castle and prison and later climbed the Saxon Tower, Oxford’s oldest building (AD 1040). Oxford is celebrating its 1,000th year. It’s not quite ancient, but 1,000 years is nothing to sneeze at.