I’m not sure if a couple of hours spent in the wonderful city of Oxford count towards making you ‘an Oxford man’ but dammit if Gatsby called himself one after a couple of months, I’m going to do it too! Seeking a little day trip holiday two of my flatmates and myself boarded a bus leaving from Victoria Coach Station to the historic college town. In just over an hour and a half we found ourselves in the gorgeous city of dreaming spires, and our cameras were immediately out.
Not knowing much about the city itself we did what I like to do best and walked. Soon we found ourselves lost down cobblestone alleys, trying to make old pumps work, exploring cute little boutiques and devouring a big ‘Dinch’ (our new term combining Lunch and Dinner in a similar vein to Brunch) in a great little pub.
The historic covered market offered up a number of different treats from food and drink (including a happy looking pig head in sunglasses that truly disgusted one of my; admittedly vegetarian, flatmates) to crafts and plants.
Our walking continued around various college campuses. We had coincidentally arrived on a graduating day for some (all?) of the colleges and the streets were filled with well dressed youth with black gowns and hats, as well as an assortment of coloured streamers and balloons. The juxtaposition of a young population in such an old city really hit me. You can’t miss signs of youth all around you in Oxford, especially with bikes chained to everything you could possibly think of.
Soon we found ourselves dropping down a rabbit hole in Alice’s Shop, which stocks everything you could ever want relating to Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland, the author studied and lived in the area for the majority of his life. Amongst some of the shops treats are tea sets, a fine collection of books, art work and jewellery. If my flatmate hadn’t been as obsessed with Alice as he, and had not decorated his room accordingly, I may have got something for myself. Perhaps another time.
It was by a sporting field and the Botanical Gardens that I had a sudden bout of hay fever kick in, but it wouldn’t spoil our afternoon. We wound up by a little river with punting boats on it and contemplated renting one. I was especially interested in two punt boats that had been converted to have paddle wheels on their side, sponson decks, wheel boxes and all. I would have loved to ride one.
Turning away from the river (slightly disappointed) we made our way back up the main street and stopped in at a great little games shop to pick up something fun to play at the new house. Often it seems like there’s not much to do when you’re not on a computer at home these days, so I thought some board games would be great. We ended up leaving with two, including a story generating set of dice that I hope to use to help smash creativity clogs. I may even post some of the stories to here.
We continued to debate punting as we found ourselves in The Grand Cafe, a coffee shop which resides in the space of England’s first coffee house. If there was one thing I found in Oxford it was that there seemed to be more coffee houses than pubs, especially compared to London. Perhaps that says something about the difference between the two cities. We settled in for afternoon tea, which included a beautiful Lady Gray tea which tasted almost like caramel, and scones with jam and cream, very traditional, and something I was yet to do in the UK.
It was decided at this point we would return to the river and take a punt. But as none of us trusted each other at punting ourselves (you can rent a boat for an hour for £18 if you’re willing to try your hand at it) we opted for the chauffeured version for £25 for half an hour. It was a smarter move. Partially because I sneezed every 6 minutes, and for the rest of the time it was incredibly relaxing. One of my flatmates was very cautious about being on the water in such a small boat, but his initial fears were swept away after seeing some ducks. Punting was a great way to see some different areas of Oxford, private lawns of colleges, gorgeous little bridges, and an abundance of wildlife (not just ducks.)
After our pleasant afternoon boating (which did feel almost Wind In The Willows) we headed back for the bus to return to London. Again I was impressed at how you can truly escape even if you only travel an hour or so away from the city centre. I think that’s my favourite thing about living in London.