FINALLY! The stars have aligned and combined my patience with my computer’s slowness (last night involved the back-end of an update that took 20 minutes or more to complete when I turned my computer on), and actually remembering to put the photos someplace I would be able to get to them. Basically, I’ve been failing at doing this post for so long, and the time has finally arrived. I hope I don’t muck it up.
We made the plan to go to Oxford because the Boy’s Sister (the Sister from hereon out) had just completed school there, and she hadn’t seen her nieces in quite a long time. Also, it’s a lovely little city that would allow us to show the girls something that wasn’t London, and to have a good look at the countryside on our way there. So we took the Oxford Tube (slightly cheaper than the train, has a bathroom, free wifi, and drops you off in the city center, with lots of departure times), and made our way the short trip north.
First stop was visiting the Sister’s college. It’s not one of the big ones, and so normally tourists can’t just go in, but we got to see their buildings and quad, and it was so perfectly lovely. Exactly what you’d imagine the inside of Oxford to look like.
We then went and visited a few of my favorite sites in Oxford – the Bodleian and the Bridge of Sighs. The Bod *(as it’s known) holds a special place in my heart after I spent two weeks in Oxford as part of a study abroad program in graduate school. I got to do a behind-the-scenes tour, and even requested some of its books. There are tours and exhibits available to the public, so even if you’re not doing major research that would require use of the Bodleian’s collection, you can go in and see what it’s like inside. Spoiler alert: it’s beautiful.
The Bridge of Sighs is a skyway joining two buildings that people decided looked like the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, but it turns out looks more like the Rialto Bridge in that same city, but whatever. Neither here nor there. The interesting part of this photo is the students in formal academic gowns and party hats. It turns out we were there during a stretch of finals and when a student finished their last finals, their friends would show up with hats, confetti, shaving cream, champagne, silly string, etc. Anything to relieve the tension and celebrate the moment of achievement. We ran into evidence of these celebrations throughout the city that day. It was highly amusing.
Our next stop was lunch, since we had arrived at noonish. The Sister recommended a place not far called Turl Street Kitchen. This is exactly the kind of place that the Boy and I love to eat at, because they do locally sourced food and drinks. I enjoyed an asparagus risotto that was creamy and delicious. The Boy had lamb because he’s prejudiced against American lambs, and likes to imagine that the English ones are fresher and had more enjoyable lives romping around English fields. Whatever. I tried a little, and it was quite good. As were the English beers we ordered (we had so many fun local beers while we were there that I gained a couple levels on “God Save the Queen” on Untappd. We also ordered a jug of Elderflower cordial for the girls, and tried our best to make sure they didn’t chug it all the moment it was served. Highly recommended.
After lunch, we had to make a choice about which museum to visit since many of the places close at 5 during the week. We chose the Ashmolean Museum (despite it not being the one to have a dodo, or shrunken heads), because it was free, and close, and because the Boy was really interested in their collections. There is a lot of art, and that’s across a variety of specialties – pottery, musical instruments, maps, glass, sculpture, textiles. And from all over the world. There was even a musical performance happening in one of the upper galleries while we were there. Of most interest to the girls was the exhibit on the lowest level about preservation, restoration, and identification of art pieces. Definitely worth the trip, and even though we were there for about 2 hours, that was all the girls could handle.
Our last major tourist-y stop was the Christ Church Meadow. The meadow is literally a meadow, but has lovely gardens, and walking paths that takes one down to the river. We figured this might be a good place for the girls to run around and get out some of their energy. It was also just a nice place to relax and walk and talk – something that isn’t quite as easy to do in a museum. I loved being down by the river and seeing various rowers come by on their shells.
We walked back into town, and could not for the life of us manage to find a restaurant in which to eat dinner that wasn’t a chain, but was also open. So we walked along the high street for seemed like forever, until we crossed the River Cherwell, and the Sister went “Aha! I know a tapas place nearby that’s good,” and that’s how we found ourselves sitting on cushions in the fun little Moroccan/Spanish restaurant that is Kazbar. It turns out that tapas are a great thing to eat when you have picky children in your party, because while not everything on the menu will be to their liking, there are going to be lots of things they will like (if all else fails, patatas bravas will succeed). Plus, we were able to say, “Try just a small bite of this,” with some other dish, and they wouldn’t be able to complain about having to finish a whole plate, because there actually only would be enough for one bite per person. It was a perfect meal with which to end our Oxford outing.
We hugged the Sister goodbye, made promises about keeping in touch, and caught our bus back to London-town on St Clement’s Street only a few blocks away. Perfect! It was a very rainy evening, but we’d had so much fun, and the weather had managed to hold for our day trip, that we couldn’t really complain.
Has anyone else been to Oxford before? I’ve spent loads of time there, but these were just the favorites from this particular trip. What other day trips have people done from London? We considered doing Stonehenge as well (I’ve never been!!!) but there’s just so much to do in London, that we filled our entire time. Thankfully, if we head back, I think it will be on our list. Or at least I’ll MAKE it be on our list.