Dominus illuminatio mea

Anybody?

That’s latin for, The Lord is my Light and has been the Oxford University motto since the 1500s.

While there is no official founding date for Oxford University, there is evidence of teaching as early as 1096, making Oxford the oldest university in the English speaking world.  Theology was the original subject of the day, back in the day, and  lectures were held in the University Church of St Mary The Virgin before the Divinity School was built in the mid 1400s.  

Fun facts:  Oxford University is actually a body of 39 separate colleges, each with a student body of between 400 and 1000 or so.  The first of these colleges were established between 1249 and 1264 and remain active today.  They were/are University, Balliol, and Merton, with Merton officially being the oldest.  Today, all students pay an annual flat fee of 9,250 pounds to attend, no matter the college.

I so enjoyed my days visiting Oxford.  I must have walked miles and miles and miles and enjoyed a student led walking tour as well as a tour of the Bodleian Library, the second oldest library in the world, officially dating to 1602.  You didn’t think I could write about Oxford without droning on about its world famous library, did you?  Ha!  I’m a book nerd. Of course I’m going to drone on about “the Bod”.  Just be glad I’m not going to show you photos I took of all the trees, another of my nerdy interests.

The banner photo up top is of The Duke Humphrey’s Library (or Reading Room), part of the Bodleian.  The above photo is the Arts End of the Duke Humphrey’s.  Please note the very serious guard keeping a close eye on the entrance to Duke Humphrey’s ..and he isn’t the only one around. As with all the Bodleian buildings, this is still a working library used by students and scholars from around the world.  Books can never be checked out of the Bodleian.  One must read and or study them on location. 

The Bodleian contains approximately 13 million printed items (and is growing by 5,000 a week, but that is a different tale) and  is comprised of many buildings connected by tunnels and underground conveyor belts. While it’s official opening date is 1602, it incorporates an earlier library built by the University in the mid 1400s, Duke Humphrey’s, and before that, the University’s first purpose-built library was built in the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin in 1320.  There are hundreds of miles of shelf space on and off site.  OK.  enough about the Bodleian and it’s history though I could go on and on.  Instead, let’s take a look at some pretty pictures.  

Oops, more library…   This is the Radcliffe Camera and is part of the Bodleian.  Did you know the word camera is Latin and can mean a dark or gloomy room or chamber with light filtering in?  The reading rooms of the bodleian had large windows to allow light for reading as candles or lanterns were strictly not allowed due to fear of fire.  This building was built in the round so there would be light for reading throughout the day.

That’s the infamous and illusive, All Souls College on the right.  This is a college for post grads and accepts only an average of 2 students per year.  Their one word exams are famous, but were discontinued in very recent years.  IF an applicant made it far enough in the application process, he/she would face the dreaded one word exam where he/she would be given 2 hours and one word.  The prospective student was asked to build a response around the word.  No other instruction was given.  Past exam words have included the likes of, water, miracles, and innocence.  

Below you’ll see Oxford’s, Bridge of Sighs connecting the Old Hertford College on the left with the new Hertford College on the right.  Quite a difference in architecture between the colleges, huh?

The first bookshop opened by a member of the Blackwell family was in Oxford in 1846.  You can see it below in its original location though it has grown sideways, behind, and underground.  There are many Blackwell locations today, but this is the original…right across the street from the Bodleian.  🙂

And our last photo of Oxford, though I could share tons more, is of the street where JRR Tolkein lived when he taught at Merton College.  His house was down toward the end, with part of the college on the right.  

Alright, we must move on to The Cotswolds before we all run out of energy.  

After leaving Oxford, I moved on to the tiny village of Stanton in The Cotswolds. There are no stores or gas stations, cafes, nor even a little convenience shop in Stanton.  Only beautiful old golden Cotswold stone homes and converted buildings.  My kind of place.  I walked to my heart’s content over hill and dale in the bright sunshine for 3 days.

Many of you may have seen on Facebook my delightful AirBnb on Charity Farm called, Monk’s Retreat.  Boy, am I a country girl at heart.  I loved every minute of this tiny village and the many walks I took around the countryside.  

The photo below is one of the two streets in Stanton.  The buildings on the left were part of the old Manor with the thatched roof one being the former barn, I believe.

And this lovely home below marks the turning into the lane where my AirBnB on Charity Farm can be found.  Isn’t the golden Cotswold stone beautiful? And zoom in to see the roses climbing all over the face of the house!

Stanton’s church, The Church of St. Michael and All Angels dates to 1151 and is widely presumed to be built upon a Saxon church dating to 811, though the side you are seeing is the newer side due to its having to be rebuilt in the 15 or 1600s, I believe.

The next 3 photos are just a few of the ones I took while walking from village to village, often along The Cotswold Way, a rather well know walk in England.  During my stay, I was able to do all my walking right from my front door, another big advantage of having so many public pathways right at my fingertips.  Below is a shot I took on my way from Stanton to the village of Snowshill. To my mind, The Cotswolds are no North Yorkshire Dales, but they sure are nice.

And on a side note, I think The Cotswolds look an awful lot like Tolkein’s drawings of The Shire.  In fact, I walked through a village called, Buckland and on this trip I’ve realized many English Counties have the “shire” suffix.  For example, The Cotswolds are mainly in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, but also overlap into the counties of Worcestershire and Wiltshire. There are “-shires” all over the place.  I think I’m on to something…all you Hobbit and LOTR fans will know what I’m talking about.  

One of the many signposts showing the way.  So many paths criss cross though, I kept having to refer to my hiking app to stay on track.

Hmmmm.  I paused to consider before hopping the stile into this field.  Is this a version of a, Keep Out sign?  Or perhaps an, Enter At Your Own Risk sign? Or a, Grab Your Red Cape and Shout, Olé While Entering sign?  I chose door number B and kept an eye out for a big beast with horns all the while planning my escape route should one become necessary.  Fortunately none were encountered in either field thus marked.  Phew!

Alright, let’s move on to the final destination of this post, Bath.  I really enjoyed it and am glad I made room for it before heading to Glastonbury.

Bath in its Georgian heyday, was a place of decadence.  It was a place to See And Be Seen.  A place for a young lady to find a husband if she wasn’t able to secure one during the London Season.  Conversely, Bath was a place for a young gentleman to find a lady of good fortune and large dowry.  It was all about show and not so much about the reality behind the show.  My walking tour guide said it was the Las Vegas of its day.  Think, Bridgerton, much of which was filmed in Bath.

But! Before all that, there were the Romans.  Well actually, before the Romans were the Celts and who knows who was there before that.   

The original name of the city was “Aquae Sulis,” which means “the waters of Sulis” in Latin. Sulis was the name of the Celtic goddess of the hot springs, and the Roman settlers who arrived in Bath in the 1st century AD identified her with their own goddess, Minerva.

The Romans built the Baths that still stand today as a museum.  It was a whole Temple complex which included The Baths, not just the baths alone.  Below you can see the main bath which had a high arched roof over it at that time.  This roof kept the sun out so the green algae you see discoloring the water today, was not present in 70AD. 

Bath has 3 natural hot springs feeding the complex.  240,000-300,000 gallons of water rise daily at an average temperature of 115 degrees.  There are modern baths nearby offering soaks and treatments.

In addition to the Roman Baths and all the Georgian architecture, there is Bath Abbey pictured from its side below.

The North Parade Bridge across the River Avon and the weir in the river to prevent downstream flooding.  Jane Austen lived and wrote in Bath for a number of years.  The city center is on the left bank in the photo while her home was on the other side.  

Jane Austen wasn’t the only famous author to live in Bath.  Before the new Pump House was built, Mary Shelly had rooms very near the Abbey where it is said she had the nightmare which led to the writing of Frankenstein.

Are you still with me? 

That’s it for a glimpse into my visits to these three lovely places. 

I am currently in Glastonbury and will head to Avebury next, in search of the dragon, so stay tuned.

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Comments:

  • Paula

    September 8, 2023

    Margie,
    I hope you are enjoying your travels. Please keep us posted.
    Love
    Paula

    reply...
  • Kathy Minckler

    September 9, 2023

    This is wonderful and informative, Margie. Thank you so much for sharing!

    reply...
  • Taye

    September 9, 2023

    What a treat to read, Margie! It is early morning for you as I write this, and I picture you drinking coffee and contemplating second breakfast.
    Enjoy every second and thank you for bringing us along!

    reply...
  • Marcia Bronson

    September 9, 2023

    Thank you for sharing, I absolutely love your travelogues!

    reply...
  • Cassie B

    September 9, 2023

    Hi Margie – thanks for sharing your stories. I did a very similar trip to the same 3 places in May and loved the memories you brought up and your perspective and pics. I am headed back to Bath for the 3rd time this year in Oct with my mom as a precursor to our family trip to Ireland. I can’t wait to show her the town and the Roman Baths. I love following your adventures! Take Care! Cassie

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  • Tena

    September 9, 2023

    Gorgeous photos, as usual. Thanks for sharing them. I read a mystery quite awhile ago set in Bath and about the protagonist locating the actual site where Mary Shelley lived and wrote. I’ll have to look for that as I was intrigued by the plotting and the writing of it. I’m sure Glastonbury will provide more beautiful photos for all of us and inspiration for you. Happy travels!

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  • Tena

    September 9, 2023

    PS – That book is The Vault by Peter Lovesey. A good read. I’m glad I remembered it, because I’m going to add one of his to the Mystery Book Club reading list!

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  • Heather

    September 19, 2023

    You have certainly mastered the iphone photos…..these are beautiful. I’m sure all your readers appreciate the time and effort you put into your blogs as much as I do. Looks like an amazing trip! Enjoy your remaining time!

    reply...

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