Oxford and Cambridge (plus Blenheim Palace!)



Thanks to awesome school trips, I’ve now been to both Oxford and Cambridge, England’s two most prestigious universities. Both were really cool and I have no idea which one I’d rather go to if given the chance. Thankfully, I’ll never have to make that choice: Oxford and Cambridge are extremely selective and mostly take kids from England’s private schools. Both schools also require interviews as part of the application process and these interviews can be, from what I’ve heard, extremely terrifying and rigorous.  Both these universities are made up of different colleges with different specialities and you apply to these places directly. Oxford has 38 colleges and Cambridge has 31.

Both Oxford and Cambridge have that college town feel, though Oxford is a bit more rural than Cambridge. In Oxford, there’s beautiful fields all around the town, some with cows in them and a river runs through the center of the town as well. The other cool thing about Oxford is that they filmed a few scenes from Harry Potter here. The Hogwarts infirmary building is here and so is the staircase from the first movie (where the first years congregate before entering the hall to be sorted and Neville finds his toad).

Once we got to Oxford, we got a short walking tour around the city before getting a chance to explore on our own. After buying some Oxford sweatshirts (sorry ‘Cuse!), we walked around the city a little before deciding to have a late tea. It was delicious and a great way to end the day.

The bed where Churchill was born inside Blenheim Castle.

The bed where Churchill was born inside Blenheim Castle.

But I should mention that before we even got to Oxford, we made a quick stop to visit Blenheim Palace, located about 45 minutes outside Oxford. Blenheim Palace is owned by Winston Churchill’s family and Winston Churchill was born there, proposed to his wife there, and is buried there. It’s very ornate and beautiful and Churchill’s descendants still live there for part of the year but because of the expenses associated with maintaining these ancient castles, they open it to the public for the tourist season to earn additional revenue.



The following week, we traveled to Cambridge, which is both farther away and younger than Oxford. By the time we got there, we were all starving so our first stop was a pub for lunch. I had this great lunch tray type item with cheese, ham, an apple, two kinds of pickles and some warm, fresh bread. It was delicious and, while I don’t usually photograph my food, it was certainly photo-worthy.


Punting in Cambridge

After lunch, we walked around the town, bought Cambridge gear (have to be fair to both sides of the rivalry!) and then decided to go punting on the river. Punting is kind of similar to the gondolas in Venice in that you all sit on a flat boat and a guy pushes you around using a long pole. It was a gorgeous day and it was a lot of fun to see Cambridge from the river. They were actually filming a movie about Stephen Hawking (who attended Cambridge) while we were there and we saw quite a few cameras and movie vans around.

On the way back, there was an accident on the main highway and we had to take a round-about way back. After two hours on a cramped and hot bus, we were still 45 minutes or so from central London. We were given the option to either stay on the bus or get off and take a very long tube ride back. We ended up taking the tube and had to ride from Zone 4 all the way to the other side of Zone 1. For those not familiar with the London tube system, it was a really long ride (I’m gonna make a post about the Tube soon, I promise.)

But all in all, Oxford and Cambridge were both great trips that let me pretend, if only for a day, that I actually go to school here. I’ll have more posts about my trip to Brighton and other things I’m up to later this week.


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