It was a dreamy, hot summer's day in Oxford when a little girl named Alice and her sisters went on a boat trip to Godstow, accompanied by a friendly College lecturer named Charles Dodgson. As they sat on the grass enjoying a picnic, Dodgson told a story about Alice, a white rabbit with a pocket watch, a ferocious Red Queen and playing card soldiers. The rest is history. Better known by his pen name of Lewis Carroll, Dodgson wrote down the story - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
Visitors to Oxford now eagerly follow in their footsteps. Many of the scenes portrayed in the story are actually based around places know to Alice and Lewis Carroll.
Alice was the daughter of the Dean of Christ Church College, and Lewis Carroll worked as a lecturer and tutor at that same college. It was Carroll's home from 1851 to his death in 1898.
Visitors can take a guided tour of the College and see the intriguing winding stair in the dining room, which is known as the Rabbit Hole. A portrait of the writer can be seen near the door, while Dean Liddell's portrait looks out over the High Table.
Carroll lived in rooms in the Cloister while writing Alice's Adventure in Wonderland. He worshipped daily in the adjacent Christ Church Cathedral, sitting in the Canons and Students stalls. Most Sundays, Alice Liddell would also sit in the pews while attending morning service.
Hiring a punt or a rowing boat is still a traditional way of spending a lazy afternoon on the River Isis. Punting requires some skill, which is why many people prefer a rowing boat or hire a guide. It takes about half an hour to travel down the river to Godstow.
Back in Oxford, it is only a couple of minutes walk across the road from Christ Church College to the shop where Alice used to buy her sweets and frequently flooded. It was owned by a little old lady with a bleating voice, immortalized as the old Sheep in a store where goods floated away on the water in Through the Looking Glass. Now known as Alice's Shop (photo at top of page), it is full of Alice in Wonderland memorabilia. There is still a distinct resemblance to the store Alice Liddell knew with its small leaden glass window panes and Victorian atmosphere.
A short walk down St. Aldgates is the Museum of Oxford with a fascinating display of Alice mementos, including the book of Crest she made as a child with Carroll's help. There is her Red Cross medal for fund raising efforts during the First World War and a biscuit tin given to her by Lewis Carroll to celebrate his 60th birthday.
Close by is the Museum of Natural History and the remains of the dodo which Carroll and Alice visited as well as the Mitre Pub, which was once owned by Alice's former governess. Interestingly she was said to be a formidable woman - and the person on whom Carroll based the Red Queen.
Fans of Alice are recommended to visit this town in July each year when the Story Museum co-ordinates a special celebration. Working with museums and organizations across the city, a series of free events (including naturally a Mad Hatter's tea party!) turn Oxford into Wonderland for one magical day.
Angela Youngman is a writer and journalist with numerous books linking travel and literary /film sites. She offers some insight into the inspirational factors of many renowned authors.
Her e-books offer an educated peek into some of these past legends, written with spirit and imagination. A resident of the U.K. she is well qualified to traverse the landscape and follow in the footsteps of these literary masters. Her books are available on Amazon.
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