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Thursday, day four of our jaunt, was spent entirely in Oxford. We didn’t hold out much hope for the weather and Oxford was almost entirely surrounded by water.

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The paths to the River Isis (what the Thames is called as it flows through Oxford) that Mark and I had taken a couple of years earlier were under water as well. The fields behind the hotel were submerged and water was literally lapping at the edges of the hotel carpark!

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Despite our fears for the weather we were treated to a glorious winter day of clear blue sky. Also the centre of Oxford was high and dry! The building above is called the Radcliffe Camera.

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The Church of St Mary the Virgin. We had a little wander ourselves but knew that we would be taking a guided walk in the early afternoon.

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We decided to spend the morning visiting the Ashmolean Museum, and I’m glad we did.

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It is the world’s first university museum and it has an extensive collection, much bigger than I had imagined.

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The Ashmolean holds art and antiquities from all over the world.

2012-11-29 at 13-54-24Extensive porcelain collections.

2012-11-29 at 13-52-37Rooms filled with Dutch still lifes.

2012-11-29 at 13-43-19Modern art.

2012-11-29 at 13-37-14Impressionists.

2012-11-29 at 13-40-00Gorgeous pre-Raphaelite works.

2012-11-29 at 14-17-54An entire Egyptian temple.

2012-11-29 at 14-19-19Why bother traveling the world to see things when you can just drag it all back with you!

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We had a quick bite to eat before meeting our guide at 1pm. The guided walk lasted a couple of hours. This is the Martyrs’ Memorial, which commemorates the deaths in 1555 and 1556 of the Bishops of London and Worcester and the Archbishop of Canterbury, known as the Oxford Martyrs.

2012-11-29 at 15-05-20They were burned at the stake at this point in the middle of Broad Street, just around the corner from the memorial.

2012-11-29 at 15-27-32We called in briefly to the Oxford Natural History Museum to look at dinosaurs…

2012-11-29 at 15-29-39…and shrunken heads.

2012-11-29 at 15-58-39We visited New College, which is actually one of the oldest colleges of Oxford University.

2012-11-29 at 16-00-39In the grounds of the college are remains of the old city wall.

2012-11-29 at 16-04-06Some gargoyles.

2012-11-29 at 16-37-38Afterwards we walked past the Bodleian Library.

2012-11-29 at 12-27-30The Bridge of Sighs. Our tour ended back at the Radcliffe Camera.

2012-11-29 at 17-16-30Having had a taste of the Oxford Colleges, we decided to also visit Christ Church College and Cathedral.

2012-11-29 at 17-38-51Parts of the Harry Potter films were shot here, though we were becoming convinced that there were very few places in England where Harry Potter hadn’t been filmed.

2012-11-29 at 17-37-59Apparently this is the staircase they used in the films. I had better come clean and admit now that I have neither read the Harry Potter novels nor seen any of the films. It was a cultural phenomenon which passed me by entirely, despite being a teacher of English in the first decade of the twenty-first century. To be honest I did buy the final novel on the day it was released (only because I was passing the only bookstore in the world that day not to have a queue of Potter fans outside) and then spent the entire weekend reading it but really it made no sense as I had no idea who the characters were, bar what I had gleaned from student book reports over the years.

2012-11-29 at 17-42-55Did Harry Potter eat here? Maybe.

2012-11-29 at 17-40-37But lets ignore the dozen or so Prime Ministers, countless politicians, scientists, artists, writers, philosophers, composers who ate here too…and Einstein – where did Hermione sit??

2012-11-29 at 17-55-09We also went into Christ Church Cathedral, which is not only the chapel of the college but the cathedral of Oxford.

We had dinner that night in the hotel restaurant, which was pleasant and, more importantly, convenient after all the walking we had done that day!