We sped in a First Great Western train towards Oxford via Slough and Reading, passing through picturesque countryside, woolly green hills dotted with slate-roofed red brick houses; no water restrictions here; verdant pastures and flat crops under a vaulted cloud-filled sky. So different from drought-ravaged Australia.
We stayed at St Catherine’s student college and were surrounded by nature: geese, mallard ducks and water lilly ponds, which made up for the spartan lodgings. On our first day, I went with my American friend, Terri, on a walking tour of the city. The Italian tour guide showed us around some of the colleges, the Bodlerian Library, the Church and the quaint Turf Tavern where she was proud to point out the plaques celebrating Bob Hawke’s drinking prowess, and Bill Clinton’s experiments with drugs. She also showed us the cross in the main street marking the spot where martyrs were burnt at the stake during the Reformation.
Terri and I were inspired to return and explore some more the next day, especially the New College and the Ashmolean Museum.
In Australia, buildings that are 200 years’ old are considered ancient; even The New College here is from the fourteenth century!
The hanging baskets of flowers and the English-style gardens in the college grounds are indescribably beautiful. And even the fat bumblebees here are different from bees back home!