Pretty Old Oxford

Oxford Travel Blog

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Yes I finally took one of those weekend mini-breaks that were the whole point of living in dreary London!  Cathy (my friend from work), her friend Nathan, and I all trooped off to Oxford for the weekend. 

We took an early(ish) train down & started by wandering through the Ashmolean Museum (the oldest museum in England) and going on a futile search for the information centre (turns out it has moved since the map I had was printed).  We spent the afternoon wandering the streets looking at all the old buildings, and we walked through the undercover market, then we headed to Christ Church College.  The fact that this rather old and beautiful college and cathedral has been fairly famous in its own right for many many years, seems to have been usurped by the fact that a couple of scenes from Harry Potter were filmed there.  The grounds & the buildings really are lovely, and it must be cool to study there (although the tourists tramping through might get a bit much).  But pop-culture lamentations aside, Cathy & I both love HP so we had a bit of a photo shoot in the great hall & the stairs leading up to it. 

On Saturday evening we undertook a bit of an Oxford pub-crawl.  Sophie, another girl we work with, grew up in Oxford, so she'd given us an annotated map of all the places we needed to see (or drink at).  We started with dinner at the Eagle & Child - apparently a popular watering hole for CS Lewis & JRR Tolkein (and affectionately called the 'Bird & Baby'); and we later found out that Keira Knightley often hangs out there, so really we're just ultra-cool.  Next we stopped at a place possibly called the White Horse (aren't they all?) which was tiny & rickety.  Then we followed Soph's map down dark cobbled alleys to a cute place called the Turf Tavern, which was also rather tiny (very low ceilings - not that that bothered me).  Here there was a rather long pause in our pub crawl because the atmosphere was good, the drinks were cheap and… they sold marshmallows that you could roast over the braziers out the back!  This, I have to say, is a genius idea.  We went through two packets of marshmallows and many rounds of drinks and Turf Tavern is now my new favourite pub.  When they finally kicked everyone out of there we hit a couple more boring places (well nothing was going to be exciting after the marshmallows) before heading back to the hostel (not exactly the highlight of Oxford, but it was a place to sleep).

Sunday we headed out of Oxford to Blenheim Palace - home of the Duke of Marlborough, with connections to the Spencer & Churchill families (as in Diana-Princess-of-Wales Spencer & Winston Churchill himself was born there).  They have ridiculously huge grounds, and the palace itself isn't too humble (and neither is the entry fee).  The lake and the gardens were just so peaceful and beautiful - there were daffodils etc starting to poke through and I'm sure it would be absolutely stunning in spring/summer.  Then we headed through the house, which is suitably large & full of old furniture & tapestries & family heirlooms.  They have a lovely big library that looks out over the water terraces in the gardens, and is full of wonderful old books - and has a pipe organ at one end (as one does).  Then we took ourselves over to the Pleasure Gardens, where they have a hedge maze and adventure playground and various other things happening! 

We headed back to Oxford hoping to visit the Bodleian Library (& get some good-looking ice-cream we'd seen at the market), but alas were foiled in both these attempts as apparently Oxford forgets that it's a tourist town and these things are all closed on Sundays.  (We also found that by Sat night there was no money left in the ATMs - literally.  We had to go to four banks, all with multiple ATMs, before we found one that actually would dispense cash).  So we ended the weekend with another pub dinner before heading back to London feeling much more cultured and rather worn out with all the walking.

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photo by: petit_gooroo