You may find it weird to include a tip about Oxford's zealots in my pages. Well, I've done it for a reason: Oxford has an astonishingly large selection of zealots, and all of them are roaming Cornmarket Street. They won't annoy you personally if you don't stand still in front of them for more than a minute, so you can still visit the area for shopping or the like, but they are loudly presenting their world views whatever the weather.
It's interesting that there are not only Christian zealots in numerous kinds, but sometimes also Muslim zealots and even Atheist zealots. It's fun stopping for some time close by and listening to their theses. One black guy with a strong African English accent holding only a Bible in his hands tells passers-by day in, day out that Jesus has died for their sins, while an old man piles up loads of leaflets and brochures on a foldable table and underlines his message (basically the same as the one before) with drawings and pictures on a pinboard. The Muslims advertise Islam, the Atheists oppose all other opinions and try to convince passers-by that listening to the other zealots doesn't make sense as there is no such thing as God or Heaven and the like.
I will try to provide a more detailed description about the zealots later - they are, in such a high number on such a short stretch of street, unique to Oxford.
Famous for his book Alice in Wonderland he attended Christchurch college in Oxford. He developed a stammer it has been said only in adult company but there is no evidence to support this theory. He caricatured himself as the Dodo in Alices adventures in Wonderland which relates to the fact he had difficulty pronuncing his surname Dodgson. You will find the Dodo statue along with many other amusing faces & animals on the way to St Abingdons.
As you walk past the colleges its almost natural that you would look for the name of the college outside, but in Oxford it is only a coat of arms that identifies which college it is.
The wooden doors are very heavy and are often inset with a porters door. The main door is kept locked and it is the smaller door by which the students gain access it can be closed easily if there happens to be trouble.
I came here to visit an old friend that invited me to come and visit her, her husband and baby as well as baby no.2 (then) still to come. And she was telling me that her experience of actually living in Oxford, although very pleasant being the small town that it is, is that she deplored not being able to mix more with the university crowd and life. She says that most students will go to their university bars and not regular ones, keep to their university grounds most of the time and so on and so forth. In other words, she didn't like the segregation between the student body, and the rest of the inhabitants of Oxford. She felt left out of an aspect of her city that she would have loved to explore more.
Something that is quite remarkable, is of how many people travel everywhere by bicycle! Quite normal, you might say, since this is a university town. Yes, but the North American in me would tell you that even though many do the same at home, it is far from being in such great amounts. So definitely something to look up to! Something else that is quite remarkable is that they do not seem to be needing cadnesses...Something I would never dream of in my home city!
Great Britain may be famous for their love of queues, however the pub is the one place where all respect for queues are forgotten.
You somehow get yourself to the bar. You hold a tenner strategically in your hand, such that your bar maid can see it. You place your order. (Note: it seems that women always insist on paying for their own drinks or expect a guy to pay for their drink and men always pay in rounds...hmmm). You get your drink. You pay the price that you're told. There's no such thing as tipping in a pub, unless your bartender was particularly helpful or friendly, at which point you would more customarily offer to buy them a drink, which they could drink now or later, at that's usually just a half pint or so, unless you're particularly generous..
My mistake: I used to tip about 1-2 pounds for each drink, always going back for more (I never drink just one! haha). Until I met the man of my dream (again, haha) who told me otherwise.
So you can all learn from my mistake and don't bother looking around for a queue in a pub and don't bother tipping unless you really feel compelled.
Another fun, likely improbable, story regarding Hell's Passage goes like this:
A long, long time ago, when students of the university had a curfew to obey (which, of course, they didn't), students and proctors would set up a certain agreement. Many of the students, as opposed to studying, would frequent the Turf Tavern. There are two entrances/exists to the Turf which are particularly appropriate for a quick getaway. The agreement was that the proctor would always enter from the front (i.e. the one with the Bath Court hotel in it now) so that the students would station a look-out at that entrance (the back end of the Turf Tavern) and when the proctors would turn up, they would yell to the rest of the students in the pub and they would all 'run like hell' out the other entrance towards the Bridge of Sighs - hence, Hell's Passage.
Cute story, but likely rubbish.
The alley between Hertford's famous Bridge of Sighs (see picture) and The Turf Tavern is now called 'St. Helen's Passage', which is a sanitisation of the more traditional 'Hell's Passage' from earlier centuries. This is very similar to the sanitisation of what was formerly known as 'Gropecunte Lane' (referring to the prostitute who used to frequent the area, same as the Gropecunte Lane in London) to Magpie Lane.
Want an 'objective' view on pub ratings and critiques? Take a look at The Scholar's Guide to Oxford Pubs at http://www.oxford-info.com/Pubs.htm. An honest look at each of Oxford's historical, traditional and very much Oxonian pubs littered around the city. Personally, I agree wholeheartedly with the ratings, which are symbolized by little pints of beers! Definitely take a look at this site as it could be very helpful in designing your itinerary of pub crawls! :-)
If you're a student looking to come to Oxford, or a current Oxonian needing information, thestudentroom (popularly referred to as TSR), is a great Oxford website. They address all student needs, from places to club and party, pub ratings, restaurant critiques, college stereotypes, study stereotypes, admissions for graduates and undergraduates, for overseas students and local students, and more!
NOTE: TSR is not just focused on Oxford, but on Oxbridge and all other UK colleges. It's very much a UK based site for undergraduate students but it acts as a resource for almost everything, including technology, politics, religion, sex/health and relationships and more!
Daily Info is the go-to site for anything Oxford. Very similar to Craigslist in New York, Daily Info offers everything from accomodation (wanted and offered), sales of bikes, cars, clothes, etc, offering of services, jobs (wanted and offered), personal ads and local events! It's sort of a Time Out site for Oxford. Everything you'd want to know before visiting Oxford (or even while you're here!), you can find at dailyinfo.co.uk!
The guard's desk or porter's building of any college in Oxford is called the Lodge. This is where you ask about admissions fees, opening hours, visiting hours, tourist information, etc. It is located at the entrance of each college, right before you enter and you usually have to check in at the Lodge when visiting a college (unless otherwise stated).
Cycling in Oxford is a way of life. It's a city without an underground and limited buses that don't go into the city centre, hence the use of cycles to get around the vast, sprawling city.
When touring Oxford, please watch out for the hurtling bicycles down the cycling tracks. The cycling tracks are for the cyclists benefit, not yours, so watch out. You may also want to watch out for HGV drivers and other 4-wheeled vehicles illegally operating on the cycling tracks, even though they should not be there. So watch yourself around those white-line-down-the-middle-of-the-pavement type cycle paths! Keep to the pedestrian side of the pavement and you'll be alright!
The English love gardening. They can talk about their gardens, displaying knowledge that could do credit to a professional botanist. Their gardens are often real masterpieces of landscaping. In Oxford each college has its own gardens and a park with nicely mown lawns and trimmed hedges. (vide: New College and Wadham College gardens) And, even living in a flat, English people try to create a garden on the balcony. In the picture, my Oxford neighbour's patio with potted plants and a feeder for the birds. Isn't it lovely?
These Gargoyles adorn many of the old buildings in Oxford eg: Colleges and Churches. Obviously the idea was taken from the architecture in France.
I'm sure that I used to go out with some of these guys?.............. hahaha ;-)
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