Travelouge Oxford City: ‘City of Dreaming Spires’

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From Surprised By Joy, by C.S. Lewis:

“My first taste of Oxford was comical enough. I had made no arrangements about quarters and, having no more luggage than I could carry in my hand, I sallied out of the railway station on foot to find either a lodging-house or a cheap hotel; all agog for “dreaming spires” and “last enchantments.” My first disappointment at what I saw could be dealt with. Towns always show their worst face to the railway. But as I walked on and on I became more bewildered. Could this succession of mean shops really be Oxford? But I still went on, always expecting the next turn to reveal the beauties, and reflecting that it was a much larger town than I had been led to suppose.

Only when it became obvious that there was very little town left ahead of me, that I was in fact getting to open country, did I turn round and look. There behind me, far away, never more beautiful since, was the fabled cluster of spires and towers. I had come out of the station on the wrong side and been all this time walking into what was even then the mean and sprawling suburb of Botley. I did not see to what extent this little adventure was an allegory of my whole life. I merely walked back to the station, somewhat footsore, took a hansom, and asked to be driven to “some place where I can get rooms for a week, please.”

The reality of traveling is often  much like Lewis’ journey to Oxford – your plans may not always happen as you hoped or expected, but some of the most wondering things in life happen unplanned.

Upon arriving to Oxford I was greeted with unfavourable weather, but if you let weather or a change in plans stop you from seeing and exploring, you would miss an opportunity to see new places and learn from those experiences.

When I arrived in Oxford it was pouring. Not a light drizzle but a down pour of rain… but I took my rain jacket and camera and set food on an adventure, a little lost, a little bewildered, curious and absolutely amazed at this city.

Another thing I should mention before I start this post is that C.S. Lewis is one of my favourite authors and part of the reason I wanted to visit this Oxford. His work of literature and writings on theology has challegened me and helped me understand Christianity in an way that’s simple. I encourage you to read Mere Chrisitanty or Chronicles of Naria as a starting point to the incredible writing Lewis has demonstrated over his life.

Bodleian Library, Broad Street

Radcliffe Camera, Radcliffe Square pictured in the background on the left.

C.S. Lewis in a letter of July, 1917:

“You can’t imagine how I have come to love Univ., especially since I left. Last Saturday evening when I was sleeping alone, I spent a long time wandering over it, into all sorts of parts where I had never been before, where the mullioned windows are dark with ivy that no one has bothered to cut since the war emptied the rooms they belong to.”

Hertford Bridge, New College Lane. Or Bridge of Sighs, made to reflect the famous bridge in Venice, Italy.

C.S. Lewis

Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.

            

C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia

One day, you will be old enough to start reading fairytales again.

Do you see Mr. Tumnus, do you see a Lion? Do you see the Inspiration that created the Chronicles of Narnia?

C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia

I am [in your world].’ said Aslan. ‘But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

In the evening, I made a new friend and had a drink at The Eagle and Child pub (commonly known as the Bird and Baby or simply just the Bird) in Oxford where the Inklings met informally. The Inklings was neither a club nor a literary society though it partook in both. The Inklings were literary enthusiasts who praised the value of narrative in fiction, and encouraged the writing of Fantasy.

In the morning, I walked around the city, again exploring by foot alone. The sun said good morning!

      

And the last Quote, because I’m thankful to have made a friend during my time in in Oxford. And thankful for my friends around the world.

C.S. Lewis in a letter of July, 1917:

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.

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Finding myself in nature. Expressing myself through art, writing and photography. Join me on this adventure!