This weekend my roommate has had a friend over visiting from studying abroad in Paris. As any good host would do, he gave her the grand ‘highlights’ tour of Oxford, including the Ashmolean Museum, the Covered Market, Christ Church, and the Bridge of Sighs. The weather has been beautiful this weekend—sunny and almost 60 degrees—and flowers are already beginning to bloom. This is Oxford at its best. After they got back from touring the city, she asked me: “Do you ever get used to it? Do you ever start just taking it for granted?” My answer was a resounding, “Never”.
Oxford is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been fortunate enough to visit, not mention live in. The city is a blend of age and modernity whose history reaches back over a thousand years. Merton College, one of the oldest in Oxford, is celebrating its 750th anniversary this year. That is not a typo; the college is seven and a half centuries old! Merton was teaching students before there were Europeans permanently settled in North America (well, except perhaps Vikings, but they didn’t stick around). I think part of Oxford’s charm is due to its primary building material: the honey-colored limestone native to the Midlands. If there is any masonry to be done, it is carved almost invariably in this local rock, which adds a certain degree of homogeneity throughout the city, which the various colleges, libraries, and private businesses then use in a myriad of creative ways. No two colleges look alike, but due to the common stone, they all seem to visually—as well as in actuality—be part of a coherent whole.
It’s hard to believe that I have now been a resident of Oxford for exactly five months, and that my time here is more than halfway complete. The time has absolutely flown by, and I’m sure it will only continue to rush by faster the closer I get to the end. In these past five months, I know I have barely scratched the surface of all there is to discover in this beautiful city. Every single day, I always notice something that I’ve never seen before; from interesting archways to beautiful parks to amusing gargoyles, there is always something new to discover. Some days, I decide to travel a random different route just to see what I find, and I am rarely disappointed. Oxford is after all an old city, and it has picked up plenty of treasures and eccentricities over the centuries. This magical city never ceases to surprise and delight me, and I look forward to discovering more of its secrets during my remaining four months here in this delightful town.