Monday, 22 October 2012

Girly Weekend in Oxford

I had a lovely weekend with Janet in Oxford. We had said, months ago - while I was still having treatment - that when I was feeling better we would have a weekend away together. A bit of a girly one with shopping and cocktails and relaxation. Maybe a bit of culture too :-)

England's First Coffee House

Chaps in the Fudge Kitchen making chocolate fudge
I have only been there once before - so I was looking forward to going back there and exploring. We went on the train from Stafford which just took a couple of hours. When we emerged from Oxford station, blinking in the sunlight, we saw an Open-Topped Bus Tour stand.

We decided to start with that - so that we'd see all over Oxford and we could decided where we wanted to go and what we wanted to look at more closely! Once we'd managed to get the hang of the earphones - and found a seat that didn't deafen us - we enjoyed being driven around while listening to an expert on all the history and buildings. I remember her telling us where Mr Bean went to University and why Percy Bysshe Shelley got thrown out of his. (He wrote a pamphlet on Atheism)

 We stayed at the Randolph Hotel and check-in after our bus trip round the city. It was pretty nice, and Jan had been upgraded to a double room. Both the rooms were nice - hers was just a bit bigger. Once we'd dumped out bags we had a walk around. Went down to the Botanical Gardens, we thought it might be nice to have lunch in a cafe there. However - they didn't have one. The nice lady in the shop directed us to The Oxford Rendezvous, which was a lovely cafe. We had chicken wraps and gorgeous pancakes for sweet. J's were filled with cream and banana and mine had a melted Crunchie bar inside - and was covered in cream. It was after 3pm by the time we got out!

We had to do a bit more walking after that! In fact we found the Carfax Tower on the map and headed that way. It is the only remaining part of the 13th century St Martin's Church and for £2.30 you can go in and climb the 99 spiral steps to the top. This gave us amazing views over Oxford - we could see all the colleges and towers and spires. It was quite fun just looking down and seeing what was going on in the City centre. The pavement art. protests, buskers and charity collectors dressed as hedgehogs. It is a lively place!

We also had a look around the shopping centre (mainly because J needed a new battery for her watch!) We tried some free samples of fudge which were so delicious that we resolved to hunt down the shop where it was made - no matter how long it took us - tomorrow.

Morse Cocktail
 We returned to the hotel to have a bit of a rest and get changed for the evening. Our lunch had been so huge that we couldn't really face a heavy three-course dinner in the hotel. We had seen quite a few nice restaurants and pubs nearby - so we thought we'd try one of them. First however, we wanted to try out the hotel's famous Morse bar which has featured in Morse and Lewis ( their writer Colin Dexter still lives in Oxford). We decided to try the cocktails, J tried the Cheshire Cat (champagne and orange juice)and I went for the one they had invented - The Morse Champagne Cocktail, which involved apple brandy and vanilla with champagne.  I was very impressed when mine arrived with lemon rind wrapped all around the stem of the glass.

Then we tried to get in Jamie Oliver's Italian Restaurant - just so we could say we'd been there! The polite bouncer told us that we'd have to wait for 45 minutes - so we decided we weren't that bothered! So we chose one opposite which had an unusual pizza menu. Fire and Stone only made us wait 15 minutes - and let us wait in the bar! Much more civilised. The food was yummy - and my dessert was quite different. Crispy cinnamon dough sticks with some of J's honeycomb ice cream. Quite a tasty combination.

The next day we made it down to breakfast for 9am. it was in a gorgeous high-ceilinged room.
it had all the college plaques around the walls and the heaviest-looking mirror I've ever seen. There was a good selection of cereals, fruits, pastries and cheeses and cold meats. Then you could choose a hot cooked breakfast and toast. We were pretty full when we came outside at 10am and walked over the road to the Ashmolean Museum. We had a peaceful stroll round the exhibits before making out way up to the rooftop restaurant.We only wanted to look at the view from the outside terrace - but it was so nice up there we decided to have a coffee/hot chocolate and read the Sunday newspapers on offer. Very relaxing!

When we'd got our strength back we carried on with our trusty free bus map, to find the Bodlean Library. You know me - I can't resist a library!

Coming out in 2013!
However, as we approached the street where it was located, we saw that the road was closed off. There was a big crowd looking down there - but we had no idea what was going on. Then we saw some people in Victorian dress and shiny black carriages on the street. The double yellow lines were covered by soil. There were cameras on booms all over the place and catering tents and editing suites. They were making a film!

People still dress like this in Oxford you know...

One of the doors into the Bodlean Library
 During breaks in filming they let people through the streets - but you had to keep moving and couldn't linger!

Inner Courtyard of the Bodlean
 We got to the Bodlean and managed to get inside to look at the Dickens Exhibition and the shop at least. Were were stopped going into the courtyard by more filming.

It looked very intriguing - we'll have to look out for that next year.

Yummy scones :-)
 Later in the afternoon we had decided to have a cream tea. I had read about one place that was meant to be Chelsea Clinton's favourite place - the Grand Cafe on High Street. We found it - and it's window declared that it was the first coffee house in England. It was very quaint - lots of mirrors and high ceilings once again.
More wandering round the streets - we saw Oxford University's Korean Society putting on a demonstration of their drumming skills.

Then we sought out and found the Fudge Kitchen where we saw chocolate and seasalt fudge being mixed, melted and poured out onto a marble table to cool. We tasted a few more then bought some of the divine chocolate one we'd tried the day before.

Good job there isn't one near where we live - I'd be getting fatter by the day!

The only way to travel in Oxford

Pretty soon it was time to grab our bags from the hotel and catch our train back to Stafford after a fun weekend. It's nice to get away - but nice to go home again :-).
Jan in the Ashmolean Museum

The newly Refurbished Ashmolean

Jan outside the Ashmolean

Relaxing in the Famous Morse Bar

Logical Place to be

Inside the Grand Cafe

Up Among Oxford's Dreaming Spires

Even the taxis are educational in Oxford :-)

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