An hour's train ride north-west of London and listed in my book of travel inspiration, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, Oxford makes for a perfect day trip destination. This past Saturday morning, hoping for just that, Mike & I caught the 9:30am train from Paddington station to Oxford for some historic university town rambling. Coincidentally, our day trip was also graduation day for at least one of the colleges, adding just a dash of celebration to an otherwise serene day (not to mention a bunch of people in fur-lined black robes).
We started our day rambling away from the crowds at the train station and wound up at a small canal, our first glimpse of the canal culture in Oxford. We saw a mini locks system in action and some Oxford-style houseboats. The walk was short, though, and we quickly found ourselves amidst the crowds in the city centre.
We next stumbled upon Christ Church College and Cathedral, the largest university in Oxford and also where the Harry Potter series was filmed (though I'm not a huge fan of the films, I do enjoy pop culture icons). There were massive queues to get in, plus an admission fee, and being fairly crowd and admission fee averse, we opted against checking out the interior. We did, however, thoroughly enjoy the architecture and surrounding grounds.
At the far end of Christ Church College's grounds we found ourselves a lovely riverbank to relax on with our picnic and be entertained by the amateur punters trying to navigate the slight curves of the river. 'Punting' is a popular Oxford past-time and similar, at least visually, to gondoliering. Actually, I wonder why it's not called gondoliering or what the difference is between a gondola and a punt. Regardless, the activity is something one must do when visiting Oxford but something we passed on because it cost £20 per hour and looked difficult and this was supposed to be a relaxing day. Surprisingly, simply sitting on the riverbank, watching the punters, turned out to be one of the highlights of our day.
Another highlight of our trip was exploring the local historic pubs. We first enjoyed a pint at The Bear Inn which has been a local watering hole for Oxford students since the 13th century and has tie clippings from past students displayed on their walls and ceiling to prove it. The pub was super cute (as most pubs are) and moderately priced at £7 for two pints.
Our second pub was the Turf Tavern, well hidden but worth the hunt. Self-proclaimed as the oldest pub in Oxford, it had two lovely outdoor dining areas and was also moderately priced.
We ended our day with a picnic on the Oxford Cricket Grounds, watching a tennis match on the grass court during sunset. We grabbed the 8:30pm train back home and were surprisingly exhausted after such a relaxing day. Apparently, sun, heat, city rambling, rough sleeping (we had a nap on the riverbank), and good times proves to be quite tiring. We'll definitely be returning to Oxford and now that we're acquainted with the town's exterior our next trip will probably include museums, admission charging sights like Christ Church, and other sights that will take us inside. We might even try our hand at punting, though it's probably more fun just being a spectator.
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