Monday, April 28, 2008

Top Tourism

I finally went on the Oxford tourbus today. Having explained pretty much all I knew to some friends who were visiting, I decided I really should know more about the subject I was vaguely waffling on about. I could point out where the funky gargoyles are on the High Street, and often arrange to meet people by the ‘market cross thingy’; I could list the really old colleges and some of the student traditions, but when it came to famous Oxford residents of the past, architectural snippets and answers to really quite simple questions, I was struggling!

It was quite expensive - £9.50 for a concession and £11.50 for an adult, which, coupled with the embarrassment of sitting on a tourbus in my own town, made me instantly want to dislike it. However, I must admit, it was actually really good. The standard ticket lasts for 24 hours, so you can hop on and off at leisure and use it as a normal bus service for central Oxford the next day if you time it well.

So, now that I have no excuse for being uneducated, let me share some interesting things I learnt. Then, at least, in my future moments of fumbling hesitation, I can refer people to this blog for proof that I once knew what I was talking about!

- The Radcliffe Infirmary was the first place to use penicillin.

- There is a postbox in North Oxford commemorating the creator of the English Dictionary.

- The market cross statue thing (still don’t know its name!) on St. Giles commemorates Protestant martyrs who were burnt as heretics. The fire from their death burnt the doors of nearby Balliol College.

- The poet Shelley was a reluctant Oxford student who was expelled for distributing an atheistic pamphlet, was frequently in trouble for playing pranks such as throwing acid on his tutors’ carpets and swapping babies in adjacent prams left outside shops!

- The not-so-pretty construction site area around the Westgate shopping centre was the site of a great archaeological find: the ruins of Greyfriar monks.

- The giant concrete building in the science area is supposed to resemble an ocean liner and won an architecture award in the 1960s. Whatever floats your boat…

No comments: