After spending some time in Birmingham, we jumped on the train again, this time to visit Oxford. This very English city has been on my bucket list for some time now, as Oxford was the home of Tolkien, one of my favourite authors and the creator of the Middle Earth universe.
I remember being 19 or 20 years old and falling in love forever whilst reading the Lord of The Rings and to this day, I always have my Annual Lord of the Rings weekend where I am allowed to watch all the movies and cook some food from the Hobbit Universe (lembas bread, anyone?).
It is only fair to admit that I had huge expectations of my time in Oxford and I wanted to enjoy every second, minute and hour of the day. However, things don’t always go as planned and something that I definitely have to learn is how to manage a bit better is my own frustration and tolerance to things going South.
After getting off the train, we had a quick snack and a coffee and got ready for the first big appointment of the day: a Tolkien themed guided tour. We were at the Carfax tower, a little earlier than anticipated and with our best smiles, ready to discover all the Tolkien spots around the city.
When the time came and no one showed up at the location, I knew something was wrong. A couple of phone calls later, the tour agency confirmed that they were not able to contact the guide and therefore, they had to cancel the tour.
They refunded us the money and apologised, but to be honest, I was so sad that I couldn’t care less. The tour company didn’t honour our booking, leaving me disappointed and fearing that I was in Oxford, but unable to visit the spots myself, as I hadn’t really looked for any information online trusting that they would show us around.
Listening to Gandalf to find Tolkien in Oxford
“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it is very difficult to find anyone”. (Gandalf in “The Hobbit”)
After spending some minutes of anger and annoyance (more minutes that I would like to admit, if I am honest!), I remembered how Gandalf and the Hobbits always spoke about adventure. A true Tolkien fan and follower of the Fellowship would never allow a set back from something so silly as a tour company not providing the promised service. Finding all the Tolkien related spots in Oxford was going to be my very own adventure, and figuring out how the city inspired him to write the books and come up with the characters.
It turned out to be a fantastic day in Oxford, discovering so many things and walking around until our feet hurt. We went to the Oxford buildings that saw Tolkien study his linguistics degree, we found his home where he wrote his books and the book shop that sponsored his first publications. We visited the pub that he used to go to with friends, we looked at some orc shaped sculptures that he saw every single day whilst living there…
The best possible end was to pay our respects at the cemetery where he is resting together with Edith, his wife. We walked almost an hour and a half to get there, just like Frodo, and I didn’t anticipate to be so emotional around his grave. The hour I spent reading messages and writings that other fans had left for him under little stones is one of my favourite life memories.
It almost felt like time stopped and it was just Tolkien and myself… to the point that a couple of tourists just left me completely alone, giving me space to feel the moment *thanks*. I am also so grateful for this picture that my husband took: my hair is in a mess and my posture is all wrong, but it is going to be one of my most precious treasures from now on.
Other spots in Oxford
I know that Oxford is so much more than Tolkien. The university has some magnificent buildings and the old city is something to stop and admire. We took some pictures in our walks, but didn’t spend much time reading or learning about the history and past. I guess that the purpose of my trip was something else and it is ok! <3
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