Jenny and I had decided to spend the day in Oxford – the other one, the one without The Grove.
We were on a once-in-forever kind of vacation that included several days each in London and Paris. (Yes, we had a wonderful time, but by the end we were ready to come home to New Albany.)
While in London, we decided it would be fun to see the other Oxford, the university town an hour’s train ride from London.
We wondered if there would be similarities between the Oxford in England and the Oxford in Mississippi.
And Jenny is a huge Harry Potter fan, of both the books and the movies, and part of the original movie was filmed at Christ Church College, part of Oxford University.
Stepping on the train in London, we discovered we were not the only people who thought it would be fun to visit Oxford. The train (one leaves every 30 minutes) was packed with several hundred people. All of the seats were taken and travelers were standing in the aisles, much like on a subway at rush hour. Fortunately, enough people got off at a couple of intermediate stops that we were able to sit down for about half the trip.
Oxford is all about the university, just as ours is here in Mississippi. Downtown is busy with the usual college shops, and lots of places to eat.
As we walked the streets, we heard many languages. University courses are taught in English, but the 20,000 students from all over the world speak more than 120 native languages.
As we walked along, we discovered Blackwell’s Book Shop, which has several floors and a small café sprawled through several buildings. With its 100,000 volumes, it’s sort of a larger version of Square Books on the square in Mississippi.
A big difference in the appearance of the University of Oxford from Ole Miss is that its buildings are interspersed throughout the town. The town dates from the 8th century and the first classes were offered about 1200 A.D.
The university library, begun in 1426, with nearly 11 million books and manuscripts, is one of the largest academic libraries in the world.
Whether they realize it or not, the most well-known part of the university to Americans is Christ Church College, which was founded by King Henry VIII (the one who executed two wives) in 1532. It’s the home of the staircase where Professor McGonagall welcomed Harry Potter and his classmates to Hogwarts for the first time.
The staircase leads to The Hall, the center of college life with its great dining hall that inspired the appearance of Hogwarts’ dining hall and was faithfully recreated in a studio for filming. Students sit at long tables to eat every day, just as they did in the movie.
Oxford University has several meadows (park-like areas), including one where you can see a rare breed of cattle grazing, but it has no Grove.
The university wasn’t in a party mood anyway. It had just lost its major sporting event of the year – sort of the English version of the Egg Bowl – to its archrival, Cambridge.
Somehow being in a major funk about rowing was lost on us.
I guess you had to be there.
T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.