Our Oxford Adventure

Trip Start May 12, 2012
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Trip End Jun 06, 2012


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Friday, May 18, 2012

MORETON-IN-MARSH TO OXFORD - May 18, 2012

Signing out of the Acacia Bed and Breakfast in Moreton-in-Marsh after a lovely breakfast, we walked the two short blocks to the train station and caught the 9:45 train to Oxford, not a long trip.  We caught a taxi to the Heather House B&B where our landlady Vivian checked us in.  She told us that it was about a 20 minute walk into town so we left our luggage in the rooms and started to walk into town, eager to explore. The weather was starting to improve, and it soon got quite nice. 
 
There are quite a few colleges spread throughout the city of Oxford.  So we walked through some of the college areas looking at all the interesting architecture.  Groups of students dressed in caps and gowns were heading to various places, and we called out congratulations to them, thinking that they were going to graduation.  They explained that they were going to write their exams and that they had to dress in the gowns for that as well.  The length of the gown showed the year or the level of academic standing of the student.  We also noticed lots of bicycles everywhere - low cost student transportation. 

We walked all over the city, and picked up an Oxford City Guide at the tourist information centre.  We passed various famous museums and pubs that were the favorites of authors like DH Lawrence and JR Tolkein.   We couldn't get a table at the Eagle and Child Pub, but across the street we had no trouble getting a table at the Lamb and Flag, where we discovered Betty Scoggs bitter and a wheat ale made in the Cotswolds, which made Claudia very happy.  We had a light lunch there and then Karen and Roy headed off back to the B&B while Claudia and I walked around the city a bit more and discovered the covered market.  We finally had enough walking and started the long walk back to the B&B.  Our feet were really sore by the time we finally got back to our room. 

After a couple of hours rest we walked across the road to the Fir Tree Pub for a pint and ordered a homemade pizza.  We talked to the bar maid and learned that she was from Aldergrove BC.  Small world eh?   Karen and Roy decided to go back downtown for dinner and then attend a symphony concert, which they really enjoyed. 


DAY 2 in OXFORD - PUB CRAWL and PLAY - May 19, 2012

The next morning Karen told us that she had read in The Oxford Drinker, the local CAMRA newsletter, that the local group was having a mini bus pub crawl that day.  The meeting place was the Lamb and Flag pub so we decided to see if Roy and I could get in on that trip.  We headed off to the pub and waited for the mini bus to arrive, and found out that they only had six of the twelve seats spoken for, so we were welcomed along.  We each paid five pounds sterling towards the fuel and rental of the vehicle, and one of the men was the designated driver so all he could drink was lemonade all day.  We visited eight country pubs outside of Oxford and sampled lots of beers, so we were feeling quite happy when they drove us back to our B&B at the end of the day.  (When we got home, Roy wrote a trip report, including a list of beers consumed, which was published in the Victoria CAMRA news.

Claudia and Karen spent the day shopping and sightseeing at a leisurely pace (Claudia's feet were still sore for all the constant walking).  They visited the covered market where they bought some fruit, and watched talented bakers create elaborately decorated cakes, many themed for the Queen's Jubilee.  They found a shopping centre near the castle, where they each bought an inexpensive watch.  In the afternoon they attended a play at the Oxford Playhouse called Ladies in Lavender, starring Haley Mills.  It was beautifully acted and staged, and a real treat to see Haley Mills perform in person. They had excellent seats and enjoyed an ice cream treat at intermission.  Before catching the bus back to the B&B, they bought some English candy in a specialty shop, plus a take-out dinner at a deli.

Connecting again back at our B&B, all 4 of us walked a few blocks to a gastro pub for dinner, but the prices were very high so we picked up some take-out food (fish and chips and meat pie, of course!) and went back to our room for dinner.


DAY 3 in OXFORD - MUSEUM and CHRIST CHURCH COLLEGE - May 20, 2012

The next day we decided to visit the Ashmolean Museum, a world class museum in Oxford's downtown area and the oldest museum in the country.  Karen wanted to walk downtown but the rest of us took the bus down early and walked around past some different colleges before the museum opened.  We spent quite a bit of time in the Egypt section and early England history section of the museum - so much to look at.  We didn't even get to some of the floors, and only quickly glanced at the gallery side on the way to meet Roy and Karen in the lobby.  After 2 hours of doing the "museum shuffle", we were more than ready to put our feet up and have a snack in the museum cafeteria.  Lots more to see there on a future trip.

After that we walked to Christ Church College, made very popular as the location for parts of the Harry Potter movies, and did a self-guided tour after paying an admission fee. The large church was spectacular, with its high, arched and decorated ceilings, and beautiful carvings and stained glass windows.  The main draw was their "Hogwarts" dining room which is in active use by the college.  We also thought that some of the stairways, passageways and perhaps a fireplace or two were used in the Harry Potter films.  All lot of young Harry Potter fans were there to see it, and I overhear one teenage girl tell her friend on the stairway that this was the best day of her life!

We walked downtown again to find something for a late lunch; we ended up
at the Royal Blenheim Pub and ordered fish strips and beer - all the
essentials!


DAY 4 in OXFORD - MORE MUSEUMS & SIGHTSEEING - May 21, 2012

We had originally planned to spend the day visiting with a 3rd cousin of Claudia's who lives about an hour outside of Oxford.  Unfortunately they were tied up with a home decoration project, with trades people coming and going all day, so they had to cancel.  Our second plan was to take a local bus to Blenheim Palace and Woodstock for the day, but decided instead to stay in town, as we'd be traveling lots tomorrow.

So we took the bus to town and walked to the Oxford Natural History Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum, housed in 2 adjoining Victorian buildings.  The 2-story Natural History Museum had a glass ceiling, with the centre area rising right to the ceiling under very tall archways.  The second level was a mezzanine around the perimeter.  Each supporting column was made from a different stone, with the name and location of the rock carved in the footings and with different plants elaborately carved in each column's header.  There were also life-sized statues of famous scientists, including Charles Darwin (outside the museum there was an engraved monument commemorating the historic debate of Darwin's Origin of Species at this museum).  As impressive as the museum's building was, it was also filled with an amazing variety of items - everything from dinosaurs, fossils, human and animal skeletons, stuffed animals, birds, bugs, and butterflies, to minerals.  There were also informative displays and posters to read, explaining the evolution of life on earth through each of the ages.  Many were behind glass, but some were there to touch, helping to make learning a hands on experience. Excellent!

We waited until noon to gain access to the Pitt Rivers Anthropology Museum, accessed at the back of the Natural History museum.  It is filled with glass cases, each jammed full of collections of everything under the sun that pertains to mankind.  It is kept very dark to help preserve some of the more sensitive artifacts.  We viewed fabrics and clothing, weaving tools, needlework, pottery, jewelry, canoes, boats, musical instruments, religious artifiacts, art, cosmetics, tattooing implements, weapons, models of housing, and even shrunken heads, plus more.

All three museums (including the Ashmolean we saw yesterday) are very different from each other, but equally impressive and well worth seeing.  They were all free, but we made donations to show our appreciation.

We walked downtown again to find something for a late lunch at a coffee shop. We then split up, as Roy and Karen wanted to visit the library (although they found it closed). Claudia and Terry tried to go into Science History museum but find that closed too.  We decided to go back to the Christ Church College grounds and meadow, where we walked down a wide tree-lined dirt path leading from the front of the college, past gardens on the right, and cattle in a large meadow on the left, down to the Thames River.  We watched narrow boats, canoes and rowing skulls traveling, ducks hoping for a handout, and people walking along the river path.  

We then walked back to the college, then turned right angles past more college buildings.  There were many children from nearby schools dressed in white, receiving instruction and playing games of cricket.  The path passed the side of a botanical gardens before ending at the road back to our B&B.  With our feet very sore, but we had to walk quite a ways to the next bus stope before catching the bus the rest of the way.

After a rest, the 4 of us headed off to find a local pub for dinner.  After trying 5 or 6 pubs, some closed and some whose kitchens were closed on Mondays, we ended up at the Rusty Bicycle Pub.  Terry had chili pepper and squash soup with salad and cheese.  The rest of the evening was spent packing.



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