Town and Gown in Oxford, England

Posted May 18, 2009 by Kate Hamman

England-Oxford-RdclfCmra-DEF When it's time once again to put on your thinking cap, look to a city like Oxford for literary stimulation. This medieval university town has been home to many great writers who studied long hours, stopped for pints to relax, and bought pub fare for sustenance here. Come see where these masters of the English language spent much of their academic lives and walk amongst the town and gown of this historical city.

Bodleian Library: It's not surprising Oxford would have the second largest library in the U.K. Nor is it the least bit shocking it's housed in architecturally impressive buildings more than 500 years old. The Bodleian Library, whose stacks hold in excess of seven million volumes, is an outstanding resource for the written word. Guided tours give insight into both the massive collections and those literary folk who studied here, including Oscar Wilde, J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis. The standard one-hour tour costs £2.50 per person (about $3.85 U.S. dollars; see XE.com for current conversion rates) and covers sights such as the Duke Humfrey's medieval library and the 17th-century Convocation House and Court.

Eagle and Child: Years before their books were adapted into blockbuster films, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien would meet in this pub as part of a literary group known as "The Inklings." Rumor has it they even read from their works, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit. The "Bird and Baby," as it is affectionately called by locals, still caters to Oxford students discussing literature, but also welcomes anyone who wishes to pay their respects to the writers who once drank here. Grab a pint and take a peek at the memorabilia, which includes a plaque honoring the Inklings.

Oxford Covered Market: Serving as a place to buy goods for more than 1,000 years, the Covered Market in the heart of Oxford will take you back to Olde England. After you've admired the stalls of colorful fruits and vegetables at the greengrocer's, stop at the Oxford Cheese Company for a wedge of farmhouse cheddar or have your shoes resoled at the Oxford Cobbler. It doesn't cost a thing to browse, and you could spend days sifting through the plethora of specialty items. When your feet need a rest, grab a quick baguette with artisan crisps (British for potato chips) at mortons@work for under £4 or head home with a bag of tea from Cardews of Oxford.

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(Photo: Steve Geer)

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