Oxford is a small city that punches above its weight in global influence thanks to the university and its many famous alumni and professors. A list like JRR Tolkien, Albert Einstein, CS Lewis, Joseph Heller, Bill Clinton, Graham Green, Tim Berners-Lee, Aldous Huxley, Indira Gandhi, Jonathan Swift, Edmund Halley, Oscar Wilde, and Edwin Hubble only begins to scratch the surface of famous Oxonians.
And because central Oxford is closed to cars (and because the city is filled with thousands of students all carrying hefty overdrafts), walking and cycling are the most popular ways of getting around.
All of which sets up one of my favorite Oxford activities – spotting future prime ministers and Nobel laureates as they flow past you in the streets. A good place to do this is outside the Christopher Wren designed Sheldonian Theater, where the 13 Emperors keep watchful (and wandering) eyes on all who pass.
Sometimes though, the people you see look less like future Wikipedia entries and more like the dodgy groundskeeper of a small college who becomes the prime suspect when students start disappearing and a new bed of out-of-season flowers suddenly appears.
The flow of students continues at all hours, and this reveals another reason why cycling is so popular in Oxford – you can always get home after a night at the pub. During my summer in Oxford, a friend told me how he used to take the train to his hometown, consume as many as 18 pints of ale with his old mates, catch the return train to Oxford, cycle the two miles back to college, and scale the wall after the gate had shut to avoid the wrath of the college porter. Anyone who can manage all of that has a bright future indeed.