Hello lovely people, welcome back to another travel blog. An almost spontaneous trip, we (my flatmate and I) decide to go away for a long weekend trip. We wanted something not too far from London. It needed to have a different feel than when you live in London city. As we both haven’t seen this city before, we decided to go to #Oxford.
The journey started on a Friday. We caught the train at Paddington Station. It took us to Oxford in more or less one hour. We had to run as the train was about to leave, but luckily we made it. It was a busy morning on the train. Coincidentally there was a festival near Oxford. People with camping stuff were all taking the same train.
I didn’t realise Oxford was much smaller than London city, so I was expecting a station as big as you get in London. We were a bit confused when we stepped out of the train to realise Oxford Station was not at all as London. It took some time to adjust but happy it is less hectic than in London.
Rewley House University of Oxford
We booked this hotel in the historic centre, knowing it is not too far from the station. Rewley House is just 15 minutes away from the station by foot. It is on the corner of Wellington Square and St John Street. Inside joke, it is the same street we live very close to in London. Our home from home for the weekend. It is a fine room with a big bathroom. Perfect for the weekend. The only thing missing was a big fan or aircon. It was hot during the first night, so it was difficult to sleep with a small fan. We couldn’t check-in this morning, so we dropped our luggage to go and explore the city.
Gloucester Green Market
Just 10 min walking towards the city centre we found a food market, Gloucester Green Market, on Gloucester Street.
They had all kinds of delicious food, from Indian to Italian to Nepalese. We went for some tasty Indian comfort food and Momo dumplings.
Oxford Botanic Garden
After lunch, we went to the Oxford Botanic Garden. Finally, the sun came out. The Botanic Garden has different variants of plants and flowers you will find all over the garden and greenhouses. My favourite flower is the Rivendell. I call it “The dancing ballerina”. It is pretty no?
The Botanic Garden has some medicinal plants used for various diseases over centuries. In the greenhouses, you will find some tropical plants and flowers. Overall, we had a blast in the garden. I had a great time discovering new plants and flowers.
After the Botanic garden, we didn’t plan anything. We continued our exploration of the historic city centre. On the way, we got an avocado smoothie and a toothsome brownie at Taylor’s.
One thing I wanted from Oxford as a souvenir is a university shirt or hoodie. I know, it is a tiny bit tacky to buy these as a tourist, but who cares, it is the only time I can say I have been to the University in Oxford 😛
Turtle Bay Oxford
This evening we went for Caribean food at Turtle Bay. The food we had chosen seemed to be all fried, which was not all that for us. Luckily they had a happy hour for cocktails and some good music. We stayed till late and had fun chatting about life with some drinks.
Early start for me on Saturday as I woke up early because I couldn’t sleep. The first evening was just too hot. I am not complaining, because we had a fun day ahead. We bought some fruits at the supermarket, so basically, this was our breakfast.
University Church of St Mary the Virgin
For the best view of the historic centre of Oxford, go up to the tower of University Church. Buy a ticket for a time slot to get in the tower. You will get the most astonishing view of the city centre at almost 360 degrees. During the pandemic, you can’t stay too long. They will let people visit the tower in batches, which means you will have a time slot and have to come down when the timeslot finishes. Take pictures, but also enjoy the view.
After the 360 degrees view, we bought lunch at Gloucester Green Market again. This time we went for Sri Lankan and Chinese food. The Chinese dumplings were less tasty than the Nepalese dumplings I had the day before.
Harry Potter Tour
We missed the first few minutes of the tour because we were at the incorrect meeting point. Finally we found our group and our guide Peter (who turned out to be an outstanding guide). I haven’t been a Harry Potter fan, but I was up to do the tour and enjoy the day. After this tour, I am converted and ready to read all seven books. (Actually I already started reading while posting this blog)
We started at Shipstreet where you will find the oldest Church in Oxford, St Michael at the North Gate, from 1000 -1050. Opposite you will find an old strangely made house from 600 where at the moment you will find the Laird Hatters. You will recognise the building right away. A funny story Peter told us was about Robbing the daylight, window tax and the reason why it was built the way it was.
This tour is definitely worth your money. The guide was funny and he educated us as well. A lot of new facts about the author J.K. Rowling, her passion and knowledge for language. J.K. Rowling studied multiple languages at Oxford University. She had clever ways to use names in the Harry Potter series where she used her knowledge in Latin and French. A lot of the scenes from Harry Potter are inspired and taken from specific spots in Oxford. I didn’t know she had to struggle in life to get where she is now. She had so many rejections before someone finally wanted to publish her books. Now she is one of the most successful authors and pledges to give away 95% of her wealth to charity and funds for MS Research. The sorting hat ceremony in Harry Potter is inspired by the Latin speaking inauguration ceremony at Oxford University. Her favourite pub is The Turf Tavern. An old pub with a low ceiling where you will meet students from the University.
The tour took almost three hours, too much to tell all on this post. Just do one of the tours when you are in Oxford. It is definitely worth your money.
Another fun fact is that Alice from Alice in Wonderland is a real girl called Alice Liddell. Alice begged Lewis Carroll, her father, to write the story he used to entertain her during river trips.
Another famous author is C.S. Lewis, who wrote The Chronicles of Narnia. Some parts of Narnia has been inspired by scenes in the author’s life. He loved to go to the University church of St. Mary the Virgin. There is a side door that guides you to a side street as soon as you step out. Looking to your right, it will show you the lamppost you will see when the little girl enters the other world. On the opposite side of the exit, you will find two golden centaurs with a musical instrument above the door.
The Bodleian Library is the main research library and oldest library in Europe or now just of the UK I suppose. Some scenes of Harry Potter and other films were shot here or inspired by the interior inside.
J.R. R. Tolkien was a master of linguistics. He knew many languages and studied in Oxford as well. With his knowledge, he was able to create a new language for The Lord of the Rings.
At some point during the tour, we went to Covered Market. I had a chocolate cookie from the famous Ben’s Cookies. Another thing I had was gelato from the best in-store made gelato from iScream Gelateria. Lemon and Passionfruit gelato was divine. There are some niche shops in the market. I got some lapis lazuli earrings from jewellery in the market.
The last part of the tour was in Blackwell’s bookshop. It’s a bookstore with a huge basement and entire range of books. We got a discount from our guide if we bought any books.
In the evening, we went for dinner at The Nosebag Restaurant in St. Michael street with our neighbours in the hotel that we met during the walking tour. It is the opposite of Shipstreet. This restaurant was recommended to us by Peter, our tour guide.
The restaurant is known for its vegan and vegetarian options. During lunchtime, it is much busier. All the good stuff flies over the counter, so you will have to be early to find their specialities.
After this lovely evening together we went for an evening walk to see Oxford Castle & Prison. We were chatting away and completely missed our target.
Sunday, we had to check out at 10 am. Boohoo. We left our luggage in the hotel and we went for breakfast at Organic Deli Cafe, Groceries & Event Catering. They sell organic food. I had the Endurance Booster and Eggs Royal for breakfast. A great place to have a healthy breakfast. They even have a vegan English breakfast.
We booked a timeslot at Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology in the afternoon, so we explored and walked around in the city centre until then.
So happy that I could book a slot. Tip for you, book some things you would like to do way in advance. Even if they are for free, you will need to book a timeslot. Last minute is no option. I tried all musea, but could only find this one available on Sunday. Lesson learned.
A great way to explore the museum when you have limited time is to do the spotlight tour. It will show you 12 points of art over the whole museum. It is a great way to see the highlights of the museum. I was sad that we didn’t have time to see all paintings. Ashmolean holds a sublime collection of the Italian Renaissance. One piece of art that stuck in my mind was Paolo Uccello, The Hunt in the Forest.
We had some time left to walk through Christ Church Meadow. Beautiful to walk through the meadow and canal. At some point you will end up at the River Thames.
After all of this, we decide to have dinner in Oxford instead of at home. We went to Thaikhun. It has been the best decision ever, too bad they don’t have a chain in London. It is a Thai Street Food restaurant with all signature street food. The food was tasty. Happy we went for dinner in this place before heading home.
If you are still here, you made my day 🙂 at this point, it was already evening, so we were heading back to London. If you are planning to visit Oxford from London Paddington a ticket will cost around 33 GBP. All links on this post will guide you to the relevant websites. It will be easy to find more details or book a ticket via the links.
I had such a pleasant time. The company and people in Oxford were great.