breakfast, Brunch, dinner, Europe and the United Kingdom, Historical sites, history, Lunch, Museums, School, Travel, wine and drink, writing

Let the College Visits Begin: Oxford


We spent a half day in Oxford while on the way to Watford. We had the intention of visiting the Arboretum and touring the university, however those plans went a little awry. The drive to Oxford from Hampshire was relatively easy and truly lovely with the leaves along the motorway changing to their fall colors and the clouds set against a brilliant blue sky. Unfortunately that’s where the idyllic chapter of the story ends. The sat nav, confused once again, took us to an tiny alley with a tiny parking area in back of the Arboretum, rather than the garage we mapped on Google prior to heading out. This cost us some time and frustration, as well as a drive through an area restricted to busses and other public transportation. But that’s a story for another post.

Once parked in a legitimate public parking area and having breathed a sigh of relief that we didn’t die or damage the rental, we were able to salvage what was left of our time in Oxford. It really is a remarkable town, one that mixes a college vibe with centuries of history. It seemed that no matter where we visited, there was a story that could be connected to the place.

The front view of The Eagle and Child pub on St. Giles’
The Eagle and Child is famous for being a meeting place for English literary greats.

One such venue was The Eagle and Child pub on St. Giles’, billed as the famous watering hole for literary figures J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. From about 1933 through the 1950s, the writing group known as ‘The Inklings’ met in a private room in back of the pub. There, they would meet to discuss their works and writings over lunch and probably a pint. It is said that Lewis even passed out the manuscript for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe at The Eagle and Child, which was by them nicknamed The Bird and Baby. Today, mementos from The Inklings are still on display in the Rabbit Room. As the older kids began listening to a Christian band by the same name, they happened to find this pub on the Internet and hoped to pay it a visit on our trip to England.

The pub is decorated with references to Lewis’ and Tolkien’s writings, as well as actual souvenirs from their time.
Two of my four ‘inklings’

After visiting the pub, we walked less than a quarter mile to the university. The University of Oxford boasts not only cutting-edge research and a world-class education, but a long history as the oldest university in the English-speaking world. According to the University website, there’s no clear date of when the university was founded, though 1096 is the year used by other sources. The university rapidly grew as a learning institution over the course of the 12th century. Today, the University of Oxford has a student enrollment of approximately 24,000, with about 43 percent being international students. One day, maybe one of those will be one of mine. Emily fell in love with the college and the area; maybe one day she’ll add her name to the list of Oxford graduates. A parent can dream, right…

A famed Oxford structure: the Radcliffe Camera
The University of Oxford is famous for its stunning architecture.

As has become the theme with every city we visited in England, I wish we had more time to really soak in the vibrant, scholarly atmosphere of Oxford. I could swear that I felt my IQ rise a few points by just being on the campus. But even if the sat nav got us to the correct location the first try, a half day would not have been enough to really explore this amazing, historic seat of learning and its surrounding town.

For more information, sources used, and to plan a college tour, visit

There are also virtual tours if you can’t make it across the pond before applying.

Though I hope you’ll have the opportunity for a visit. Oxford is truly an interesting place. Happy trails!

A clever sign outside of the Jam Factory restaurant and bar.

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