Incredible journeys inspired by Oxford

If there is one thing that I love as much as exploring the world, it’s probably reading. So I was extremely excited to discover that Oxford had been an inspiration for so many amazing books.

Cherry on top of the cake: it seems to have inspired especially epic journeys involving dangerous travels and incredible friendships. Follow me around Oxford and let’s all embark on a literary adventure!

1) Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling

Starting with the most famous, follow me on my Harry Potter filming locations journey! Can you associate these different photos with scenes from the movies?

The Divinity School at the Bodleian Library was used in the movies as Hogwarts’ Infirmary. Looking up, you might notice that letters are sculpted in the ceiling of this impressive room. These letters are the initials of all donators who allowed the construction of the building thanks to their generous donations.

While you are at the Bodleian Library, take a minute in the main entrance and have a look at the statue in front of the building. Reminding you of anyone? He is surely looking a lot like Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington, also known as Nearly Headless Nick!

New College Cloisters was used for one of the emblematic scene in Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire. Remember when Moody turns Malfoy into a ferret? Well, that was in that exact cloisters!

Now time to enter one of the most iconic Hogwarts location of all: the Great Hall! Even though a replica was created to film in studio, the original location is in Oxford. Just a look at the Christ Church College dining hall is enough to see the similitudes and be transported in the incredible School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

2. Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll also found his inspiration in Oxford to create Alice and its Wonderland. You can find reminders of this fact across the city like these miniatures in the Museum of Oxford.

Charles Lutwidge, Lewis Carroll’s real name, arrived in Oxford to study mathematics at Christ Church in the 1850s. If you wish to follow the White Rabbit down the rabbit-hole, heading to Christ Church Meadow is your strongest chance. Foggy and green, I easily understand how the inspiration came to Lewis Carroll!

Interesting anecdote, the real life Alice who inspired the story, named Alice Liddell, was the daughter of a Dean at Christ Church.

3) The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S Lewis

Another epic saga born in Oxford is The Chronicles of Narnia. C.S Lewis found his inspiration, according to my guide, when he left his college one night.

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He stumbled upon these three elements:

A lamp-post, a faun and a lion were all C.S. Lewis needed to bring the amazing world of Narnia to life! The lamp-post being the very first thing that Lucy sees when she goes through the wardrobe to Narnia, the faun being Mr Tumnus, the first character she meets, and the lion being the great Aslan himself of course.

4) The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkiens

Last but not least, Oxford also brought to life the incredible series of The Lord of The Rings. For most of his life, J. R. R. Tolkiens was a professor of English and Literature at Merton College. Having one of the oldest library in the UK, Tolkiens would have spent lots of time reading and studying there to prepare his books.

According to my guide, the twin towers of All Souls College in Oxford are supposed to have given him the inspiration for his second volume called the Two Towers.

So is it a coincidence that all those incredibly epic stories have been written or inspired by Oxford? I don’t think so! If you are experiencing some writer’s block or just want to get some inspiration, you might want to head to The Eagle & Child.

This pub used to host the Inklings, an Oxford writers’ group which included C.S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkiens, Charles Williams and Hugo Dyson. Meeting during lunchtimes at the back of the pub in a room known as the ‘Rabbit Room’, they would read and discuss various materials and manuscripts.

If you don’t feel like writing, it’s still a great place to have some nice food and think about life while feeling inspired by some of the finest writers of Oxford!

 

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Huge Thanks to Premium Walking Tour of Oxford for their great 2 hour-long free walking tour! Starting in front of Oxfam No.17 on Broad Street, at 11am and 2pm everyday, don’t hesitate!

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5 books that gave me the travel bug

I’m often surprised at how wanderlust suddenly hits me. From movies to conversations or even food, the drive to grab my backpack and go wonder is often difficult to fight. When I look back at my childhood trying to find out what might have started it all, it’s often books that come to my mind.

Here is a selection of five books that definitely gave me the travel bug and triggered long lasting obsessions for some places.

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Photo Credit: Debarshi Ray/Flickr

I. The adventures of Tintin by Hergé

From China to Peru, Tintin was to my eyes this amazing reporter and adventurer travelling across the globe to solve cases. My dad had the entire collection of albums and I remember spending hours and hours reading them as many times as I possibly could.

The great thing about the series was that being comic album it always felt like following the footsteps of the characters. In Tintin and the Temple of the Sun, I was totally transported to Peru. I could picture traveling with lamas and see myself climbing the Machu Picchu or meeting with the Incas.

The comics were also all about incredible friendships that Tintin developed during his adventures. I still remember how Tintin spent the entire album of Tintin in Tibet looking for Tchang, a young Chinese boy he had met in The Blue Lotus, after his plane crashed in the Himalayas.

Full of endearing characters, amazing destinations, and incredible adventures, The Adventures of Tintin sure had some flaws but overall it was a great collection to read as a kid.

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II) Disney’s Small World Library

If my parents weren’t sure yet that I would become a travel addict, they sure encouraged it by reading me Disney’s Small World Library books. Following Disney characters, these colourful illustrated books are each focused on a specific destination.

These books are basically travel guides for kids: a touch of culture here, a bit of food there, and showing you the famous landmarks of each place. Funny and entertaining, Disney largely contributed to the development of my travel to-do list.

These books established in me two long-lasting obsessions: one for Kenya and the other for the Chinese New Year. Indeed after following Goofy on his safari I couldn’t take the lions, zebras and giraffes out of my mind. More than that, I also developed a passion for Masai culture and East Africa in general.

Sometimes diving into stereotypes about countries too easily, this collection is still a great way for a kid to discover the world and spark wanderlust.

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III) City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende

Sent off to NYC to live with his grand-mother while his mum faces cancer treatment, Alexander Cold has no idea of what is awaiting him. Kate, his eccentric grandma reporter for a magazine, embarks him on an investigation through the Amazon rainforest to find what locals call the Beast.

City of the Beasts takes us through an epic adventure in the heart of the Amazon. Deep friendships, unexplored wilderness, and spiritism are all brought to us by Chilean author Isabel Allende.

This book is surely the one that made me fall in love with Amazonia. Both the difficulties faced by the characters to reach it, the amazing wildlife described and the quest of Alexander to find his spirit animal completely won me over.

It was one of this book that I just couldn’t close before having reached the very end of it. Well researched, it made me very curious about Amazonian culture and the concept of animal spirit. If you want to be transported to the Amazon in an intense quest, this book is definitely for you.

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IV. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

Behind this intriguing title hides a curious story. While London emerges from WWII, writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next subject. An unexpected letter from a man living in Guernsey is going to set up a series of correspondance between Juliet and various member of a literary club called the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  

After a few letters, Juliet decides to head to the island to meet her new friends and falls in love with the place. Through the description of the island landscapes and living conditions, I have to say that Juliet managed to make me fall in love with the place as well! The book left me with the certainty that I had to go explore Guernsey one day.

This book is a proof that reading can definitely broaden our horizon and give us the will to see what is described through her own eyes. I had never really gave a thought about going there before but after reading the book, Guernsey is now definitely on my travel wish list.

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V. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

From Oxford to the far North, the brave and young Lyra will take you on an epic adventure. When her friend Roger goes missing among many other children, Lyra decides to do everything in her power to get him back. Her trip will take her from Gypsy boats to talking armoured bears and she will face serious threats across the way.

Brilliantly written, this book is a chef d’oeuvre of children literature. Philip Pullman creates an entire world filled with daemons, witches, and multi-faceted vilains. All the steps of Lyra’s journey are described in such a way that I felt like I was living it all while reading the book.

The vivid description of this slightly different Oxford left me curious to discover the real one while the scene of the Aurora Borealis left me in deep awe. In term of traveling means, I have to admit that Lyra got me jealous: flying over the far north in an air balloon and running on the back of an armoured bear sounded like pretty cool way to explore the region!