My favourite time to be in Oxford – and this is true of most European cities – is Sunday morning. The city is almost entirely my own at that time, before the buses laden with day tourists pull into Gloucester Green and when the shops are still dark inside. This is the best time to see a busy city, while most residents and visitors are still in bed or maybe sleepily sipping at their morning tea.
It was not even 9 a.m. when I finished my walk this morning. It was only an hour, but in that time I could walk the cobbled paths and hear my own footsteps falling. I could devour the window display at Blackwell’s without being bumped into even once. I could admire the ancient stones that built this city, looming high above in spires and towers, and picture horse-drawn carts and carriages passing on the wide dusty avenue and imagine I could hear the rhythmic clopping of hooves, where today buses hum along on asphalt and leave the strong odour of diesel in their wake. The Oxford of early Sunday morning is how I imagine the daily Oxford of earlier times, when scholars could stroll along in long black robes, occupied with their thoughts and untroubled by large clumps of tourists obstructing their way.
I could hear a young couple whispering to each other as they passed on the other side of the street. Why were they whispering? Maybe they too felt the sacredness of early morning.
It is a wonderful time for reflection too. I was not thinking of sightseeing as I walked but I did take one photo when I noticed the irresistible way in which the low sun rays struck the light stone walls of the Radcliffe Camera while its lawn was still darkened with shadows.