Our first experience of life in Europe
was through the lens of student life at Oxford.
It wasn't a bad perspective to have.
We lived among the dreaming spires
and made friendships to last a lifetime.
I'll always be so grateful for the chance Tyler had to study there
(wow, what a privilege!)
and for the people that spent that time with us
reveling in the glory and tradition of such a fine place.
The Old Tom: This tiny pub hold a big place of my heart. Tyler and I had a standing date here every Sunday evening after church a St. Aldates finished next door. When the winter months came and everything seemed so cold in England, only a giant bowl of Pad Kee Mao could warm us up. Sit in the back on the patio in good weather for a treat. Expect to pay around £8 per person.
The Grand Cafe: This place claims to be the oldest coffee shop in England. Whether it's true or not, I can't say for sure- but I will say that it's a great place to stop during a cold day and have a cream tea. ("Cream tea:" pot of tea + scones with jam and clotted cream.)
The Covered Market: If you're in Oxford, spend a bit of time wandering through the covered market. You'll find gorgeous handmade cakes, butchers hanging feathered ducks & gooses from the ceiling, small stands grilling paninis, greasy spoons plating up English breakfasts, and my favorite milkshake stand- MooMoo's. (I promise you: I drank at least 100 when we lived there.) It's in the center of town- just off Cornmarket & High Street. If you don't see the entrance, ask anyone nearby to point you in the right direction. It's a bit hidden.
The Vaults & Garden Cafe: While the fresh fare at this small cafe is great, the view give this place an unfair advantage. Sit outside of the cafe on a sunny day for an upclose and personal view of the famous Oxford landmark, the Radcliffe Camera. It's my favorite Oxford building.
The Kings Arms: Legend has it, Shakespeare would stay at this inn on his way from Stratford-Upon-Avon to London. I'm not sure if that's true, but Hugh Grant will randomly be seen here and it is full of charming students most nights of the week.
The Eagle & Child: If you're a CS Lewis or Tolkien fan, you've probably already got this beloved pub on you "yes" list for visiting Oxford. This pub's "Rabbit Room" was the meeting place for Oxford famous writers, famously dubbed "The Inklings." The pub food is average, but it's special nonetheless. Plus, it's an easy location reach from Oxford's city center.
The Perch: If you have a a night in Oxford and are looking for something special to do, going to The Perch can be quite the treat. This historic pub is one of the nicer restaurants in the area that really does gourmet food. Rumour has it, the garden area was Lewis Carroll's inspiration for the Mad Hatters Tea Party. If you're up for a gorgeous walk in the English outdoors, the walk through Port Meadow to get there is pretty awesome. If not, call 001 Taxis for an easy ride out there. (If you do walk, I'd wear wellies or non-fussy shoes as the path can be a bit muddy.)
The Trout: Like The Perch, this is another fish-named pub located outside of Oxford with great food. The difference of the Trout is that it's a bit bigger, a bit less expensive, a bit more slick, and further away. The restaurant sits alongside a river and the patio on a pretty day is hard to beat. Expect glimpses of life in the Cotswolds- complete with friendly peacocks meandering around the property. Call 001 Taxis to arrange easy pick up/drop off from Oxford for your visit.
Moo Moos: When I lived in Oxford, I talked a lot about Moo Moos... because I went there so often. (Literally, every single day for weeks at a time.) I'd always get the same thing (coffee + oreo), but with several hundred options for mix-ins- the sky is the limit. Choose from any cookie, candy or cake ever made and make the combination of your dreams. Ferrero Rocher + Nutella? Banana + Peanut Butter + Brownie? Nerds? The world is your oyster, my friend. Find Moo Moo's in the Covered Market- just off the High Street and Haymarket. The market can be a bit tricky to find, so just ask any local to point you in the right direction.
Pie Minister: If you're looking for a great British bite, Pie Minister has great meat pies to do the trick. Located in the heart of the Covered Market, Pie Minister has a big selection of freshly made pies. Opt for yours to be served on mash ("mashed potatoes") with gravy (essential, really) and don't miss the crispy shallots on top. On a cold day, this combination is hard to beat. (I like the Heidi Pie or the Chicken of Aragon). Seating is limited, so you may have to share a table with someone or wait a bit.
Christ Church: This is one of the more famous of Oxford's forty colleges that make up the official University. Not only has it been historically loved for it's grand architecture including and famous alumni (including 13 Prime Ministers, the Wesley brothers & Lewis Carroll), but todays it is a mecca for Harry Potter fans for it's dining hall and film scenes. My favorite bit to watch out for is the stained glass window of Alice in Wonderland in the dining hall. Ask one of the security guards to point it out to you. Admission is £7.
Christ Church Meadow: Beside Christ Church sits a gorgeous garden and meadow that is worth exploring. Not only is it the "backyard" to some of the University's largest colleges (Christ Church & Merton), but it also runs alongside some fenced areas with livestock. Also, it's free for wandering. It's not hard to see how Lewis Carroll was inspired to create Alice's Adventures in Wonderland after exploring Christ Church and its meadow.
The Covered Market: With butcher shops stringing foul and game from their hooves as you walk alongside them, bakers creating amazing fondant recreations of famous landmarks and pie shops selling hot pies on mash- the covered market is something that is fun to do. Especially, if you show up to Oxford on a rainy day! It's covered and warm in there. You'll be able to meander through the shops and find a treat to buy some time, if needed. Plus, with small sandwich shops and fruit stands, it's a cheap way to feed yourself while you're there.
Blenheim Palace: If you have some time in Oxford, spend half a day out at the home of the Duke and Duchess of Malborough. You'll never regret it- as the home and gardens are truly amazing. Plus, you're ticket gets you a one-year admission back to the estate, which is great if you're spending extended time there. There's a fantastic cafe on-site, or pack a picnic to eat around the gardens. Getting to Blenheim is an easy 20 minute bus ride from Oxford (information here) or an easy cab ride.
Punting In Oxford: This long-standing Oxbridge (read: Oxford + Cambridge) tradition is something that you have to try on a sunny day... or fine, just a day that isn't raining. Imagine gondoliers of venice steering a boat down the canals... but a flatter boat and the use of a long stick rather than a paddle. Pack a picnic and a bottle of champagne and make a day of it. Go to Madgalen Bridge and rent boats below. (I blogged about our day punting here.)
Tea at the Randolph: If you have the afternoon free, this might be the perfect way to spend it... and some money. The glorious Randolph hotel has afternoon tea that includes all the bells and whistles.
I'll be honest: since I lived in Oxford, my expertise in where to stay is a bit... expensive. I only know of the "good hotels," so I apologise in advance for the hefty price tags. These four are all great places to stay.
Randolph Hotel: This is where the celebrities stay when they come to Oxford to speak. It's fancy and gorgeous and next door to the Ashmolean.
Old Bank Hotel: This hotel is located on the High Street in Oxford. You'll be able to be next to everything and close it anything you'd want to see. The restaurant, Quod, downstairs is pretty good, too.
The Old Parsonage Hotel: The sister hotel to Old Bank, this hotel one is a bit less slick and bit more quaint and rustic. With a cute stone fence surrounding the property and vintage bikes at the guests disposable, this is another great option for an Oxford hotel.
Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons: If money is no object, please stay at this Orient Express hotel that is often considered a jewel of the Cotswolds. And if you don't mind- send me the toiletries and mints off your pillow. Dining at the hotel's famous Michelin-starred restaurant is on my England to-do list.
*image by Noah Darnell