Day 26: Oxford Botanic Gardens

.Saturday of our second free travel weekend we decided to stay closer to home and take it easy. The previous two days were very hard on us, so we wanted a day with a little more relaxed pace. We headed out at about 10:15 to walk around the block to a place that serves brunch on weekends.

Gee’s Restaurant on Banbury Rd was close by and came highly recommended to us.

Inside, it looked like a converted green house.

The food was really good!

After brunch, we hopped on a bus and headed downtown. We got off at city centre and walked down to High Street.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I snagged a picture of this strangely-named store, “Fat Face.”

Then we walked down High Street until we go to the University of Oxford Botanic Garden on the River Cherwell. The Gardens were very beautiful and it was lovely to stroll through the gardens while everything was in bloom. It was also Alice’s Day (i.e. Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland), so there were lots of tents set up with fun things for kids to do. Lewis Carroll lived in Oxford, so it’s a fun celebration with a lot of local flavor.

The entrance is incredible.

Inside the gardens, they were amazing.

Some students were playing cricket in the field behind the botanic garden.

The kids also enjoyed the flowers.

And Erin took pictures of tons of flowers. I got a picture of her taking a picture. I thought it was very pretty.

Erin thought the lily pads in the pool were gorgeous.

James and Zeke enjoyed looking at the river and the ducks swimming by. Zeke enjoyed throwing rocks into it.

As we left the botanic garden, Micah fell asleep. We walked back up high street towards city centre and diverted into the covered market.

Inside the covered market, we got Ben’s Cookies, something everyone recommended to us. They were really good!

Back outside, Alice’s Day was in full swing. All the shops had Alice in Wonderland themed displays.

We did a bit more shopping at the official oxford clothing store, followed by some grocery shopping, and then hopped on the bus home.

We got back home around 4:00. The weather was in the high 60’s and sunny all day. It had been a really nice day.

We ate dinner together and then went to bed.

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Day 5: Tolkien Walking Tour and The Bodlein Library

Today James led a walking tour for the students around Oxford to sites that are of import to the life and work of J.R.R. Tolkien, famous author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The tour started at 9:30 AM and along the way, James told stories about the life of Tolkien, sharing his love of his favorite author with his students.

We started out our walking tour headed into the central part of Oxford, about 2 miles away. 12 out of 18 of the students participating on this study abroad trip went along on the tour.

Here’s a picture of our group of students outside of Merton College where Tolkien lectured on English Language and Literature from 1945-1959 when we he retired. (he also taught at Exeter college from 1925-1945 in Anglo-Saxon Literature)

Below is Magdalen College where C.S. Lewis taught. It was on the way to our next destination. Lewis and Tolkien were famously good friends.

We then walked to the Oxford Botanic Gardens which were an inspiration for Tolkien and his writings about various plants and nature.

Our next destination was the Bodlein Library where several Tolkien artifacts were on display. Below is a picture of the group in front of the Bodlein.

Below is what one of these letters looked like (though not the one on display today). Tolkien wrote illustrated letters to his children for 24 years detailing the doings of Father Christmas and the goings-on at the north pole, including the antics of a prank-loving polar bear.

After the Bodlein Library, we headed over to the famous pub, The Eagle and Child, or as Tolkien and Lewis called it, “The Bird and the Baby.” Here’s our group outside of the pub.

Here’s the group inside.

This room was where The Inklings met, where they would read aloud their works of fiction to each other.

Inside, we had a great lunch.

After the Eagle and Child, we hiked back up north, about a mile past our flat, to see Tolkien’s home wherein he wrote Lord of the Rings.

Next we continued our hike up north about another 1.6 miles to visit Wolvercote Cemetery where J.R.R. Tolkien and his wife Edith are buried. On the grave is Luthien and Beren, part of the myths he wrote about.

After this, we walked back from the cemetery about 2 miles to the flat. We got back just in time (2:30 PM) to head to our official walking tour of Oxford (not led by James, but rather some tour company).

We headed out, exhausted, to the city center of Oxford for the next tour.

We arrived and waited for our tour guide. And waited. And he never showed. Good thing we didn’t pay in advance. We decided to split up for the rest of the day, allowing the students to do whatever they wished.

So a small group of us decided to head back to the Bodlein, just down the street, and take a tour of the divinity school, which includes the oldest classroom in Oxford. Here we are entering the Bodlien.

And here we are in the inner court. The statue above is of King James, known most of all for The King James Bible Translation.

The tours were all sold out, so we purchased admission into the divinity school lecture hall / exam room. So we went inside of the divinity school and stood inside of the oldest classroom in Oxford, probably completed around 1280 AD. Coincidentally, it’s also the place where they filmed the infirmary scenes in Harry Potter.

Here’s James with the small group of students.

Zeke is really warming up to Jessica (and Collin, not pictured). They had several funny conversations.

We couldn’t go inside any of the libraries because they’re actually functioning libraries used by students, but Zeke wanted to see inside, so I lifted him up. I asked him what he saw. His response: “There is nothing scary inside there.”

After this, we were all exhausted and decided to walk back to the flat. Along the way we saw a phone booth and took Zeke’s picture inside of it.

Finally we got back home, made dinner, and then collapsed.

Zeke and Micah played out in the back gardens with the 3 yeard old daughter of ACU’s on-site coordinator. It was nice.

Shelley asked how many steps James tracked today and here it is below.

It was a long day. A good day, but a long one.