Tuesday, November 9, 2010

In Search of Alice

Christ Church is one of the largest and most prestigious colleges at Oxford. It has a long history of producing well known graduates, including thirteen British Prime Ministers. Its formal name is "The Dean, Chapter and Students of the Cathedral Church of Christ in Oxford of the Foundation of King Henry the Eighth," so that should tell you something about how its students point their noses (slightly upward).

Christ Church is recognizable as the setting of several movies. Most recently, the Christ Church dining hall served as the setting of all of the Hogwarts dining room scenes in the Harry Potter movies.  We have not been inside yet to see if the candles actually float but we are planning a tour soon.

Another claim to fame is a student named Charles Dodgson that came to study mathematics at Christ Church in 1851. He wrote for the student newspaper and his editor soon gave him his writing name, Lewis Carroll.

A view of the Christ Church Cathedral

In 1856, Henry Liddell arrived as the new dean of Christ Church. Carroll befriended the dean's young family, including his daughter, Alice Liddell. Carroll would tell the children wonderful, imaginative stories during their frequent rowing trips. At the insistence of the children, Carroll finally wrote these stories down. The written descriptions of these adventures were eventually published as Alice in Wonderland.

The bell tower, Great Tom, was designed by guess who? Christopher Wren. The bell is rung 101 times at 9 p.m. Oxford time every night for the 100 original scholars of the college (plus one added in 1664).

Christ Church meadow is a beautiful area right in the heart of Oxford.  Although no history book will tell you this, you can just feel that the stories of the Mad Hatter and the Cheshire Cat were told for the first time in its fields and woods.  If you look closely, I'm sure you will see Alice bounding through the grass or perhaps even see the White Rabbit zip down a hole.  It is a magical place, after all!

Do you see the White Rabbit with his pocket watch?

The meadow is bordered by two rivers, the Thames (called the "Isis" in Oxford) and the Cherwell. These are the very same rivers that Carroll would take the dean's children down and tell them stories of the March Hare and the Queen of Hearts. Today, you can usually see the many rowing teams of the various colleges practicing their strokes.

The boat slips near the meadow house the boats when they are not in use. Each college has a slip with its coat of arms on the door. We hear that during the rowing competitions, the balconies are crowded with students sipping Pimms in their straw hats and cheering on their colleges...I can't wait!

Swans, geese and ducks are abundant in the river.  Once particular goose "fancied" me and decided to chase me a bit....this country girl wasn't having any new friendships with a goose!

Stop looking at me, swan!

The meadow also has a herd of British Longhorn cattle that roam most of the year. During the winter the hay from the meadow is bailed for their food while they stay at a farm outside of Oxford. We were expecting to see something that resembled a Texas Longhorn...but not quite.

Longhorn?  I think not.

The calves were cute, though

The views from the meadow looking back towards Christ Church are amazing:

We have not seen the White Rabbit (yet), but we continue to be amazed at all the beauty that surrounds us!

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