On Oxford, Harry Potter, and a childhood friend / by Amanda Liew

“So this is where Mad Eye Moody changed Draco Malfoy into a ferret…”

Ah yes, Oxford. Known across the world as one of the most prestigious universities - filled with tradition and knowledge…and Harry Potter filming scenes. Thanks to Matt’s raving of how beautiful Oxford was (and how fun it was to sneak into the colleges pretending to be a student), I decided to go up and visit one of my lifelong friends, Margaret! Margaret and I used to car pool together on our way to 1st grade. We both have specific memories - Margaret remembers how my dad would always comb his hair in the mirror at a specific stop light, and I remembered my old yellow/pink/green cassette player that would make any hipster nowadays weak at the knees. Lucky for me, Margaret who is usually a Stanford student, is studying abroad in Oxford. I found some cheap train tickets to go up on Friday (round trip only £9!) and headed up straight after class.

Her house dean was taking them on a tour of all the Harry Potter film locations and was nice enough to let me join in! They gave me the Oxford Student ID of another Asian girl so I could get into the colleges without paying (yes, isn’t that strange? You have to pay to visit most of the 38 colleges!)

We first headed to the Cloisters where a few scenes/confrontations were filmed. The minute I stepped in, I knew I recognized it-

The courtyard in the middle also happened to be where Mad Eye Moody changes Draco Malfoy into a ferret. Margaret and I decided that a demonstration was needed hahah:

We then went into the Chapel (not in the movies, but beautiful nonetheless). There was an El Greco painting and a very different styled stained glass where the glass is painted rather than formed with small different colored pieces of glass - it obviously creates a very different effect.

As we walked to our next destination, we walked past the house of the man we discovered Haley’s comet (Edmund Haley) lived. See that white box at the top right hand corner? That’s where his telescope is!

At the Divinity School, we found the place where the Hogwarts Hospital was, and also where Professor McGonagal teaches Ron to dance for the ball!

Finally we snuck into Christ Church, one of the more famous colleges (and also one of the most beautiful)!
Honestly, how is it possible to go to a school this beautiful?

My favorite part of the whole trip was seeing the Great Hall!!! I couldn’t believe that the staff were setting up dinner for students - imagine how awesome that would be, to actually eat in the same Hogwarts hall…ok, so I admit it, I love Harry Potter. Have you figured that out yet?

We also got to see the staircase where the first year students are welcomed to Hogwarts!

We then went to yet another chapel (I swear there are a million beautiful churches in Europe - I have a feeling I’m going to be seeing a lot more as I keep traveling) that was playing some of the creepiest organ music possible. It was incredibly beautiful though, and much worth the visit.
After the tour finished, Margaret and I decided to climb St. Mary’s Tower. They actually had a sign warning “anyone with severe asthma, claustrophobia, or a cardiac condition” to not go up - we thought it was pretty funny at first until we started going up these tiny tiny steps too small for my already small feet. It was definitely a good thing I’m not claustrophobic or scared of heights - the stairwell was the most narrow thing I had been in! We finally did make it to the top, and the view was worth it

We then ended our incredibly long trek down the tower (which was actually much more difficult than going up - I was constantly convinced I’d fall down 8 flight of stairs) and had afternoon tea. Ohhh man, it was beyond delicious. We got scones with butter & jam, and each got some amazing vanilla tea. I can’t believe I’ve been in the UK for over a month now, and not had an official English Afternoon Tea!

The process was somehow so relaxing. I loved how everything had an intended use- each teacup with a strainer, and a smaller silver cup to put the strainer when you were done. Delicate cubes of brown and white sugar. It was too perfect.

Finally, we headed back to Margaret’s house, but decided to take a look at the Magdalen College across the street that- get this- has a deer park in the middle. Oh you know, just some casual deer to gaze at as we study…

It’s a little difficult to actually see the deer in this picture, but I promise they are there - right under the trees! Maybe squint a little bit :)

We spent the rest of the night relaxing, getting dinner, and catching up. I still find it amazing that Margaret’s and my life keep coming back together even after all these years! Who would have thought that two little girls carpooling together to school would one day be studying abroad in England? Life is so interesting sometimes, but I couldn’t be happier with how things are now!

This next weekend: Cardiff, Wales!