I love FREE! Who doesn’t love FREE! I love FREE so much that when something says FREE, and it’s not FREE, I get a little upset.

Such is the case when I attempted to tour certain colleges at Oxford University. Online some buildings like All Souls College and Corpus Christi College were listed as being free of charge for visitors to tour. So on my first day in Oxford, I go to All Souls College to take a tour of the campus, only to find that FREE means I don’t even get to enter the school building. I get access to two courtyards and a chapel (shown above). Granted, the chapel was beautiful, but it wasn’t the college. Each college I wandered up to had a cover charge to explore. The Bodleian Library required that you use a self-guide audio tour, and they charged for £2.50 for that. I was upset that the most I could get was courtyards and the outsides of buildings.

The longer I looked to find somewhere to explore, the more it felt like a money-making tourist machine. Even Christ Church cost £10 to get in if I wasn’t worshipping. Over all, the frustration from trying to be satisfied with “free” Oxford encouraged me to think that while beautiful, the university isn’t worth exploring unless you are willing to pay at least £15 to see it.

I ended up wandering through Christ Church Meadow and Botanical Gardens, which was much more satisfying. The grounds were extremely beautiful and calm, instead of the hustle and bustle of Oxford University.

If you wanted to explore Oxford University, you might be much happier than I was. The building are gorgeous, and I’m sure the insides are too. From what I observed, most buildings are only a few pounds each to enter. Here is a link to their website to check out more.

Interestingly enough, my favorite part about Oxford was the tower tour at the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin right in the middle of campus. It was a self-guided tour that cost £4 ($). The tour is first come, first serve, as only so many people can be at the top at once. I didn’t really think much of it until I climbed to the top and found a very narrow walkway around the outside of the tower.

The walkway has high stone railing for anyone afraid of heights (not that this assured a few people I observed). The path gave a fantastic view of the entire surrounding city. Unlike at the Oxford Castle, which I wrote previously about, the view of the city was mostly focused on the college buildings. The Radcliffe Camera and All Souls College offered picturesque scenery for photos.

The architecture of the tower itself is also wonderful. Classically gothic, the tower, as with the church itself, blends with the similar gothic architecture of most of the Oxford campus.

St. Mary’s Church and Tower should definitely be visited by all those who enjoy photography, scenic views, and great architecture. Be warned if you are afraid of heights, that this is entirely open to the elements and quite high up. To visit the church, click here to visit their website and check their hours.

(I take all my own pictures. I do not earn money for advertising)

When I left Salisbury, I had no idea that I was going towards one of the best towns around: Bath! The city was built to astound! The center of town sits between two rivers in a valley surrounded by seven hills. The architecture is consistent and pleasing to the eye. The whole town feels like it is a step back into the 17 hundreds. In a place covered by twisting alleys, open markets, and gothic abbeys, one can easily be enthralled for an entire day simply by walking around town.

That being said, my least favorite thing to see in Bath was the Fashion Museum. The museum showcases traditional dress in Bath starting in the 16 hundreds all the way up to modern day. Bath has always been a very fashionable city in England, and many people would come to Bath to see and buy some of the latest fashions. The entry ticket includes a free audio tour that provides lots of interesting information on how the clothes were made and what the designs symbolized.

All of this is really cool, but I do not think the museum was worth the price. The ticket cost a mere £8 ($11), otherwise I might not have gone. I am not particularly passionate about or interested in fashion, which is probably why it wasn’t as fulfilling as it could have been. If you are really interested in traditional fashion, this is definitely worth it. Otherwise I might skip this altogether.

My absolute favorite part of Bath was, of course, the Roman Baths. I almost skipped this place because the ticket price was so expensive (£16.50 or $23). Going into it, I didn’t expect much, just what you always see in photos online of the main bath (pictured above). However, the Roman Baths consisted of so much more!

When the Romans came to England, they viewed the natural hot spring in Bath as a holy place because it reminded them of Rome. That is why they built the Baths and temple next to the natural spring to form one big complex. They dedicated the temple to the goddess Minerva (Athena in Greece), and it became the social center of Bath.

After the Romans left, the Baths fell into disrepair. The city became popular again during the late 17th century and the 18th century. Bath became the number one vacation spot in England for the rich. The people would come to the Pump Room (you can still go today) and drink the water from the springs as it was said to have healing properties.

Today I was able to see the ruins of the ancient temple and walk into all of the sections of the Bath, including the cold pool, the woman’s bath, the men’s bath, and the various saunas. The Roman Baths also provide insight to how the romans lived while there as well as models of what the temple and baths would have looked in the Roman times. The ticket comes with a free audio tour, which provides a lot of the information I learned. They still let people taste the water should they be so inclined. I definitely tried it, and it tasted like straight copper to me.

As expensive as it is, the Roman Baths are worth every penny. I was amazed by the whole thing. I believe that they are an essential visit to any tour through England. For more information about either of these places, here are links to the Fashion Museum and the Roman Baths.

(I take all of my own photos)

How does one plan a trip to Europe? Where do you want to go? How to do you begin and end a trip like this? My multi-month trip started out in London for a few reasons: It was a large central city that was easy to get to. The people in London usually spoke English as a first language (helpful for people learning how to backpack abroad) And there are tons of things to see and do in the city. As it turned out, London…Continue Reading “London: The Best and the Worst”