While on my travel course last month, I was able to take a day trip from London to Oxford. While the primary attraction in Oxford was the two hour Harry Potter Walking tour, we also had five hours of free time to wander the quaint, beautiful area. What we came to learn was that Oxford has a history of Children’s Fantasy Literature, from C.S. Lewis to Lewis Carrol to one of the largest bookstores in the UK.
First up on the day’s agenda was Christ Church College (see above), notable for having many Harry Potter movie scenes filmed on its campus. Aside from the rewarding world though, the college has connections to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as Lewis Carrol is said to have been inspired to create the character of Alice after a little girl who resided at the college as her father worked at the school as an official.
Next up was lunch at the famous pub, “The Eagle and Child,” which has a history of attracting authors. Such is the case with Lewis Carrol and C.S. Lewis (author of the Chronicles of Narnia series) who would reportedly sit in the large back dining room and argue over manuscripts and discuss ideas. We got to have lunch in this historic room, and though pub food is not usually my first choice, they did have excellent chicken.
A good portion of the rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around, which inevitably led me to a bookshop (as usual). Blackwell’s is a huge bookstore in Oxford that originally started out so tiny that there was allegedly only room for the owner to hire one employee at a time, lest they be unable to move around the corner store. Over time it has expanded to become one of the largest bookstores in the UK, with multiple floors, a café and a subterranean level that encompasses thousands of books. Of course I headed straight to the YA and children’s literature section, and was delighted to find it was magnificently stocked. I completely freaked out over seeing all of the UK covers on my favorite titles, and could not help but burn with envy at how much prettier (I thought) they were than some of the US covers.
(Above, a bag that I will forever regret not buying).
Oxford was a storybook town that held a magical and ethereal feel the entire time we were there; it was unlike any other part of England we visited, and had it’s own magic and charm about it that I think I’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else in the world. Walking around the slippery streets, ancient clock towers and narrow alleyways, it’s easy to see how so many tales of fantasy were conceivedthere and how JK Rowling’s tales of the wizarding world add to the already rich tradition of Oxford’s relationship with children’s fantasy literature.
And now, some more pictures, because they’re too pretty not to share:
If you’re interested in learning more about Blackwell’s, click here.