Going Places: You Don't Have To Be A Student To Get Something Out Of Oxford

Jun 29, 2017

What does an experienced travel guide do when he's on vacation? Why, he signs up for a guided tour, of course.

That's what KNKX travel expert Matthew Brumley did in Oxford, England, where he and his family have stopped on their summer vacation. He met Luke Makay, with Footprints Tours, who was nice enough to share some of his insights about Oxford and its famous university.

It's hard to ignore the history of this place. Certainly the architecture transports you back in time. So too does the list of alumni.

Oxford's Balliol College alone produced three British prime ministers, seven Archbishops of Canterbury, playwrights, historians. More recently Makay mentions alumnus Boris Johnson, former mayor of London and the current foreign secretary.

"The man who claimed, in the Beijing Olympics in 2008, that he was going to bring ping pong back to Britain," Makay said, also noting that Oxford was also home for a short time to former U.S. President Bill Clinton "who, of course, got into a little trouble at the Turf Tavern for, and I quote, smoking marijuana but not inhaling it."

Museums

The Museum of the History of Science houses the famous chalkboard where Albert Einstein wrote down the theory of cosmological relativity -- "the theory that the universe is expanding," Makay said. The chalkboard is one of the museum's most popular items.

At the Museum of Natural History, you can see the last dodo bird seen in existence.

"Today, all you can see of it are its original beak and feet," Makay said. "The rest is just a stuffed bird, unfortunately."

There are many more museums at Oxford, all worth exploring.

Pubs

Being a university town, Oxford has plenty of places to find a drink. Makay recommends three: The Bear Inn, which dates to 1242, the Turf Tavern, which he says was popular with Bill Clinton when he was here as a Rhodes Scholar, and The Eagle and Child.

"C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien used to go [to The Eagle and Child] to read out passages of their works as they were in the process of writing them," Makay says. They were part of a group of writers known as the Inklings.

Stay a While

How much time do you need to see everything? Probably more than you have. 

"Try spending a lifetime here," Makay said. "I've been here since about the year 2010, and in that time I feel like I still haven't completely learned everything I need to learn about Oxford. There's still so much more I want to do here."

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"Going Places" is 88.5's weekly exploration of travel.