It was a gloomy morning in Witney, after double-checking the rain jackets were packed, it was time to get the show on the road. Eloise was not at all concerned about the weather and insisted it was tutu day. After picking up Caroline, we arrived at the Pear Tree Park & Ride, just north of Oxford. From there it was a quick double-decker bus ride into the city. The UK’s #1 bus enthusiast, Eloise, was thrilled to ride up top with “Dadda” and was counting how many other cars were wearing hats (roof boxes).
As soon as we got off the bus we were surrounded by impressive looking buildings. There were plenty of Oxford and Harry Potter merchandise stores. Eloise was keen on her first wand, but we figured that would not be Lachlan friendly. After a discussion on which Hogwarts house she would be in, the consensus was Hufflepuff.
We walked down Broad Street past the Univerity of Oxford Balliol College, The Sheldonian Theatre and Clarendon Building before Eloise found a puddle outside Bodleian Library in front of the Bridge of Sighs that she fancied, lucky she had her wellies on.
The University of Oxford is a collegiate research university in Oxford, England. There is evidence of teaching as early as 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world’s second-oldest university in continuous operation. It grew rapidly from 1167 when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris. After disputes between students and Oxford townsfolk in 1209, some academics fled north-east to Cambridge where they established what became the University of Cambridge. The two English ancient universities share many common features and are jointly referred to as Oxbridge.
The bridge is often referred to as the Bridge of Sighs because of its supposed similarity to the better known Bridge of Sighs in Venice. There is a false legend saying that many decades ago, a survey of the health of students was taken, and as Hertford College’s students were the heaviest, the college closed off the bridge to force them to take the stairs, giving them extra exercise. However, if the bridge is not used, the students actually climb fewer stairs than if they do use the bridge
The five Aussies were admiring the University Church of St Mary the Virgin when all of a sudden two more Aussies appeared out of the wild at the Radcliffe Camera. When Eloise saw “Haz” and “Tm” round the corner she was so happy and could not contain her excitement.
The Radcliffe Camera (colloquially known as the “Rad Cam” or “The Camera”; from Latin camera, meaning ‘room’) is a building of Oxford University, England, designed by James Gibbs in neo-classical style and built in 1737–49 to house the Radcliffe Science Library. The library’s construction and maintenance was funded from the estate of John Radcliffe, a physician who left £40,000 upon his death in 1714. According to the terms of his will, construction only began in 1737, although the intervening period saw the complex purchase of the site. The exterior was complete in 1747 and the interior finished by 1748, although the library’s opening was delayed until 13 April 1749… The Camera was used as a location in the films Young Sherlock Holmes (1985).
After worrying weather this morning, it started to look like another glorious day. A perfect day for some punting. We worked our way down between Magdalen College and Oxford Botanic Garden to Magdalen Bridge and the River Cherwell. Hazel was full of fun facts as we explored the city she was born in. We put life jackets on the kids and the seven of us jumped into a punt. Luckily, Australia’s #1 punting master was present and happily took the quant and directed the positivity boat forwards.
Well, Liam tried to direct the positivity boat forwards, turns out punting is tricky, 1.623 trillion times more difficult than stand up paddleboarding.
A punt is a flat-bottomed boat with a square-cut bow, designed for use in small rivers or other shallow water. Punting is boating in a punt. The punter generally propels the punt by pushing against the river bed with a pole. A punt should not be confused with a gondola, a shallow draft vessel that is structurally different, and which is propelled by an oar rather than a [quant]. Punts were originally built as cargo boats or platforms for fowling and angling, but in modern times their use is almost exclusively confined to pleasure trips with passengers.
We got off to a somewhat solid start, we were not aware of the rivers speed limit but that was certainly down the priority list of current concerns. We punted under the Magdalen Bridge and around the corner before a current as strong as the top of the Niagara Falls tried to whisk us away. Tom had the “just in case” paddle and was put to full-time work. Through a combination of punting, the “just in case paddle” and blind luck we managed to work our way back up Niagra Falls and around the corner to safety, to the amusement of Sir Duckalot. Liam opted for the unconventional Darth Maul punting technique which consequentially got Hazel a bit wet, good thing we were on the positivity boat. We headed further upstream where there were glimmers of successful punting before making our way back to the docks. We were all exhausted from a mixture of hard yakka and being on high alert.
What Liam meant to say was: 2021 is the 400th anniversary of Oxford Botanic Garden, the oldest botanic garden in the UK, founded on July 25th 1621. Established as the Oxford Physic Garden for growing medicinal plants used to teach medical students, the Garden was the birthplace of botanical sciences at Oxford. It became known as the Oxford Botanic Garden in the 1830s to reflect its role in experimental botany.
We continued wandering around the city looking at the Oxford Colleges. There are 39 Oxford colleges, which are financially independent and self-governing, but relate to the central University in a kind of federal system. There are also six permanent private halls, which are similar to colleges except that they tend to be smaller, and were founded by particular Christian denominations. Almost every student at Oxford is a member of a college. Most colleges admit both graduate and undergraduate students.
We had earnt our lunch today, which we had at Comptoir Libanais. The food was as tasty as the restaurant was colourful.
After a delicious lunch, Eloise pleaded to “Tm” to change her nappy, which completely fell on deaf ears.
Christ Church College provided the location for many Harry Potter scenes. The staircase was used to film the famous entrance scene where Professor McGonagall meets Harry, Ron and Hermione. The staircase leads then up to the Tudor Great Dining Hall which was used as an inspiration for the great Hogwarts Dining Hall. The hallways of Christ Church were also used to film the scene in which Hermione shows Harry the Quidditch trophy his father won.
Meanwhile, Eloise was dreaming about her recent smooth and stress-free punting experience.
We took the opportunity of a sleepy Eloise and dashed back to Bodleian Library to visit the Divinity School, where silence was strongly encouraged.
The Divinity School is a medieval building and room in the Perpendicular style in Oxford, England, part of the University of Oxford. Built between 1427 and 1483, it is the oldest surviving purpose-built building for university use, specifically for lectures, oral exams and discussions on theology. It is no longer used for this purpose, although Oxford does offer degrees in Theology and Religion taught by its Faculty of Theology and Religion. The ceiling consists of very elaborate lierne vaulting with bosses (455 of them), designed by William Orchard in the 1480s. The building is physically attached to the Bodleian Library.
The gothic vaulted ceiling of the Divinity School was used as Hogwarts Infirmary in Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone. Additionally, in Goblet of Fire, the Divinity School got transformed into the room where Professor McGonagall teaches the Gryffindors how to dance in preparation for the Yule Ball.
To satisfy Tom’s love for towers, Tom and Liam quickly ran up the University Church of St Mary the Virgin to an impressive view across the city.
Eloise had farewell tears when “Haz” and “Tm” had to leave for their train back to London, she wanted them to have another sleepover. We finished the day with some more souvenir shopping which cheered her up. Super Mum picked up an Oxford University t-shirt and Liam invested in the largest Oxford dictionary he could find.
Eloise was just as excited about the bus ride back to the car.
When we arrived at the hotel, Eloise was thrilled they had restocked her favourite beverage of choice, mini milks, polishing off all four in a blink of an eye.
The kids were almost asleep on their standard late-night walk, when all of a sudden Sophie started making excited noises as a wild hedgehog crawled by.
Petrol update: We should have enough in the tank to get to our next mystery location, stay tuned for more fun and fake news. “Fuel demand should return to normal in coming days”, we are very much hoping that is the case.