You know how I usually ramble about nature, getting off the beaten path, traveling as a local, skipping the biggest attractions and that kind of stuff ? Well, I do believe in that, but I did the complete opposite in my trip to Oxford in England.
I’d always wanted to go to that city, and it wasn’t to “travel as a local” or even to “travel” at all for that matter. I wanted to go because HARRY POTTER, HIS DARK MATERIALS, ALICE IN WONDERLAND and, last but not least, LORD OF THE RINGS.
Wait … have I told you that I loved books ? You might have guessed it if you’ve been reading me for a while, since I can’t resist slipping references here and there. Actually, I feel no shame in saying that I’m a huge book nerd, and that books were the reason I went to Oxford.
I didn’t hide my condition while in Oxford either. I actually had a map of Lyra’s Oxford (from His Dark Materials), and I used it instead of the official map to get around. You’ll be happy to know that things were pretty much where they were supposed to be, and I hardly got lost!
I apologize for those that don’t care about books, but you can still follow this book nerd map, it’ll take you through the main highlights of Oxford. If that still doesn’t appeal to you, check out that awesome story !
Without further ado, come along with me on my book nerd tour of Oxford.
One of the things I was really looking for was the skull with the hole in it that Lyra finds in a museum in His Dark Materials. It seemed to me that it would be a pretty good proof that the story actually happened (no?). In the books, the museum is described as “full of stuffed animals and skeletons”, so my first stop was the Museum of Natural History.
Once I got in, I saw the doors of the Pitt Rivers Museum on the other side of the room, just like described in the book, so I went in there.
I’m going to cut the suspense short, although these two museums are amazing and contain a good number of skulls, I didn’t find the one Lyra did find in there, but the search was not over …
Still, these museums do have a place in my book nerd tour of Oxford. Aside from the very “Jurassik Park” feel, there was also an Alice in Wonderland showcase. I’m not too fond of stuffed animal, as you can guess, but I can’t deny that this museum was fascinating (and perfect for kids too, I might add).
My next stop was the Museum of the History of Science. Although I thought at this point that I was not going to find my precious skull (I had also gone through the Ashmolean Museum in between), I went in anyway. After seeing a blackboard with Einstein’s writing on it and Lewis Carroll’s camera, my eyes quickly swept the last shelf of the last floor, and I froze.
My next stop on the map is the very famous Bodleian Library, aka Hogwarts’ Library. I couldn’t get in there sadly, because of the crazy entrance fee, but I got into the entrance hall that was used to film the Infirmary, and I was left to just feel insanely jealous of everybody passing me by to get into the actual library.
Let’s move on and walk through Broad Street, one of the main streets of Oxford, towards our next stop. On the way, you’ll notice the shops full of geeky souvenirs. I think Oxford knows pretty well what kind of traveler is coming here.
The Covered Market is briefly mentioned in His Dark Materials, but it’s also today the cheapest place to get a meal, so enjoy! You’ll notice the Alice in Wonderland delicious looking cakes in passing …
Turn into St Aldate’s street, but before the main event, let’s make a quick detour in Pembroke Street for the Story Museum. Before reaching the entrance, you’ll see the Alice in Wonderland red booth.
The Story Museum was closed when I got there, but I hear it’s a really great experience for book lovers. Still, my detour was not completely useless, because when I looked up from my fake map I noticed the lights above the door …
And now we’re ready for the one, the only, Christ Church College. Just to think that Lewis Carroll, Tolkien and CS Lewis all walked through these halls at some point, is seriously mind blowing for me. Plus, Jordan College in His Dark Materials is actually this college, and, last but certainly not least, the staircase, the dining hall, and some parts of the quad were used in the Harry Potter movies.
To conclude the tour, and the day, I wanted to bring you to the Botanic Garden. I don’t want to spoil people, but those who read His Dark Materials know how big and heart breaking a part it plays. So I wandered in there, went first through the glass houses where I found a few carnivorous plants, which is always fun.
Turns out, the bench was not hard to find. Contrary to the skull that I had to chase through all the museums in town, I was obviously not the only one who had come here to make the story come true.
Here is my book nerd map to guide you through the tour :
One last thing : There’s another big treasure in Wolvercote.
You can access this village by walking for less than one hour along the beautiful canal walk starting in Oxford.
Once you’re there, search for the cemetery. And pay homage to the greatest fantasy writer of all time.