As an avid Harry Potter fan, one thing I knew I could not leave England without doing was visiting the Christ Church at Oxford University! Conveniently, IFSA-Butler provided a trip to Oxford as one of our excursions, allowing me the opportunity to see where some of the film series was shot! The experience was made even more authentic due to a graduation ceremony that was taking place at the time of our visit, because many of the people walking around were actually wearing black robes! While I am sad to say that this is the closest to Hogwarts I will probably ever get, it was definitely an awesome experience! The Christ Church is home to the Great Hall (inspiring the set in the movie) as well as the Hogwarts staircase where professor McGonagall first greets Harry and his fellow first-years!
While the Harry Potter associations were my original inspiration for visiting the English University, the rest of the campus and town had their own draws as well. All of the buildings are simply beautiful, evoking a sense of majesty that radiates throughout the area. There is also a downtown section full of quaint pubs and dozens of shops and cafes, making for a truly lovely afternoon! I decided that if I ever wind up going to graduate school, I am going to make sure I get into a program at Oxford!
Following the tour of Oxford, our program took us to Blenheim Palace, just a short 10 minute drive away. It started to rain right as we got on the bus but by the time we got to the palace the grey rain turned into a beautiful sun shower. When we got to the palace gates I was in pure awe as the most beautiful rainbow I have ever seen was perfectly arched above the castle gardens! It was truly a scene from a postcard or movie, and a visual image that will stick with me forever! (Unfortunately, it was not captured on camera with quite the same beauty, fleeting moment I suppose!)
I had honestly not known what Blenheim Palace was before I left for the excursion, but it was definitely a great place to see! It is the palace in which Winston Churchill was born, as he had royal family connections. Every room was amazingly decorated , with works of art and gold trim lining making for a truly regal display. My favorite part of the palace was actually just outside of it, as the gardens and waterfalls surrounding it were breathtaking. I have discovered since being here that one of the things I love most about England is how green the grass is, and seeing miles on miles of beautifully lush gardens and fields surrounding this amazing palace was just another reminder of how lovely the sights in London can truly be. While I may not have visited the palace on my own, I am so grateful that my program took us there, and would definitely recommend it to others visiting the area! I will leave off with a picture of the beautiful palace – what a magnificent day it was!